I haven’t showered since Thanksgiving (yes, of 2011, smartasses). I showered that morning, then I took a pass the next day as the kidsters and I were just planning a day of bouncing around the greater suburban Philadelphia area visiting cousins. Then later that night … the cough.
The evil cough.
The ex took the kids yesterday (Saturday) so I spent the ENTIRE DAY on the couch, flipping channels, hacking my brains out and sleeping. Mostly sleeping. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with the amount of sleeping that I did.
Other than feeling miserable, I have to admit: I sort of enjoyed it. Mothers don’t get to have days like that. Mothers don’t get to just sink into a sick day and wallow in bad TV.
Score one point for being divorced. (Yeah, I feel your jealousy, married people.)
But let me tell you this: Being a single momma is not always as glamorous as it seems. It’s not all drinking tea and sitting around in the mismatched outfit you’ve had on since Friday night in a deliciously quiet house. It’s not all marathons of Ghost Adventures and Deadliest Catch and the Real Housewives. It’s not all hacking up your lungs in gorgeous, uninterrupted solitude.
Being a single momma is like being in a sorority (I think — I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been in one). A quiet sorority. A sorority that I think a lot of people want to spend very little time in. But let’s face it: Even if you get remarried and manage to score the whole white-picket-fence deal, you’ll always be a member of the Single Momma Sorority, even if you only have to pay dues a couple of times a year. Why? Because the dream of the Nuclear Family Under One Roof is now forever out of reach. Poof!
I love stealing a few naked minutes with another Single Momma. I don’t mean nude naked, I mean honest naked. When we get to talk about what it’s really like. When we get to talk about what the people in the Married World just do not understand. Because it is a different world. That is not to disparage my friends in the Married World, many of whom have been so kind and wonderful to me. That’s just to say that a Single Momma (and Single Daddies, too) are looking at the world through very different lenses.
I recently had to go to a court-ordered parenting class. In the county I live in, both parents have to attend one of these as part of the legal custody process during a divorce. I followed a man into the elevator and he asked what floor button he could hit for me. “Four,” I said.
“Aaah, parenting class,” he said with a bitter smile. “Me too. This is my ninth one in 16 years.”
“Whoa. Why so many?” I asked.
“You have to go back every time something changes with custody,” he said. “She keeps dragging me back to court. Just be sure to stay until the end, because sometimes they take attendance at the end and if you’re not there you won’t get credit.”
There were sign-in sheets at the entrance. The instructor wasn’t there yet. The man signed his name, looked around and headed out the door. (He never came back.) I signed in and looked around. It was possibly the saddest room I’ve even been in. There was no idle chatter. No one looked each other in the eye. There were professionals in business suits. There were people in jeans and sneakers. There were people with lots of tattoos. There were people who looked like they were a step away from being homeless. It was like the DMV — it didn’t matter what your station was in life, here everyone was going to sit together. Here we were all in the same category even if we’d rarely encounter each other in the world outside of this courthouse.
I was halfway tempted to go, “Hey, fellow single parents! Who wants to go out for a beer after class? Can anyone afford one?” And then we’d all laugh in the pathetic camaraderie of people who have been carrying a crushing load for too long. But I didn’t have it in me. I was sad, too.
My guess is that most people don’t think that they’re going to find themselves sitting in that room. No one wants to end up in that room. But there are many reasons that people end up there. And as much as I hated being there, I did get some validation that the ex and I are doing some things very right — apparently kids whose parents have “low conflict” divorces fare much better than those with “high conflict” divorces. So that was nice to hear. And it made me thankful that if we all have to walk through this hell — and that’s exactly what it is, even though I think it’s the best decision under the circumstances — at least it’s not as bad as it could be.
So listen, if you’re a Single Momma, I want to say this to you: I’m still figuring this whole thing out. I’m guessing you are, too. There are a lot of us walking around in the world. We’re going it alone in many ways. We’re often not part of a couple, we’re often not part of a family unit — people don’t always know how to relate to us. But our little sorority gets new members every day. Let’s not be afraid to use our voices, OK? It’s scary, isn’t it? I know, I’m scared, too. We don’t have a fall-back plan. A lot of us have significant financial issues. We have a lot of pain to deal with from broken marriages. We have kids to shepherd through life — kids who we want to feel secure, loved and peaceful, even when we don’t always feels those things ourselves. We want to love again but we’re terrified of doing it wrong. We feel like we’re in a place of transition, but we don’t know what we’re transitioning to … and that can feel very odd and slightly dangerous (hate to say) when you have kids in tow. We want to find a way to pick up the pieces and put them back together in a way that beautiful and fulfilling.
Let’s figure this mess out together, shall we? Let’s hold up our heads up when we can (it’s not always easy) and let’s not be afraid to lean on each other during the sad times. Let’s not be ashamed about being Single Mommas, even when you can feel people looking at you and trying to figure out what you did wrong to get in your position. Let’s do our best to be spectacular about the whole thing. Let’s accept what is, and find the blessings in all this.
And what are those blessings? Here are some that I count (because I can’t end on a bummer note):
- A friend of mine grew up in a divorced home. She always quotes Dr. Phil: “It’s better to come from a broken home than to live in one.” Yep.
- I suspect that my kids’ relationship with their dad is deeper than it otherwise would’ve been. He suspects this as well. (I know this is not the case for everyone, btw.)
- Re-awakening of my self to my own life. For years, my life did not belong to me. (I know that many mothers and wives feel this way.) It has been delicious to rediscover the world on my own terms again.
- Time. Yes, it’s the dirty, guilty little secret of the Single Momma. It can be nice to take a little break from mom duty from time to time. (See above paragraphs about wallowing in sickness.)
- Missing my kids. When they come back after being with their dad, I just want to roll them in butter and powdered sugar and eat them all up.
- Second chances. (Is that the title of a Jackie Collins novel? Should be …) Falling in love like a giddy teenager all over again is fecking cool. Finding out that I can be … pretty, or even … sexy (gasp!) at the ripe old age of pushing-40 is awesome.
- (Cover your eyes for this one, prudesome peeps.) Sex is fun again. Really, there were times in my life when it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to just go, “Eh … take it off the menu… I’m good.” Hee hee hee!
- I am the Lord Goddess of My Home. I am the Ultimate Supreme Authority in the Single Momma Townhouse. No one is second guessing me (you know, other than my kids).
- No excuses. Getting divorced is a great way to find out how messy you really are. When you live with someone, you can blame all the clutter and yuckiness on the other person. When you’re the only adult in the house, you find out that maybe you really are the one making a mess of the bathroom sink, even though you’re not the one making a mess of the garage. Then you have the opportunity to work on these things. Oh, joy.
- Sweet little texts from a sweet Irishman asking, “Are you feeling any better, my love?”
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to shower. Go forth and be clean, bitches. We will chat another time.