Eight summers ago, my girls were only a couple of months old. My outings basically consisted of diaper-runs to Target and well-baby checks at the clinic, with a couple of family get-togethers here and there. Being the sleep-deprived Mom-zombie that I was that summer, I wasn’t concerned. The girls would be older the next summer, I kept reminding myself. Once they were able to walk, I could go places again without having to lug around two infant seats anymore. Once they weren’t nursing, I would be able to venture out for longer than an hour or two without needing to feed them or be a breast-pump-slave.
But then the next summer rolled around, and with that came new challenges. I was no less exhausted with one-year-old twins than I was with newborns. A trip to the park still took more time to prepare for than the actual event itself. My social life had become nonexistent, other than friends checking in here and there to make sure I was still alive. Don’t get me wrong – I love(d) being a mom. But I was becoming way too secluded and it wasn’t healthy for me.
By summer #3, I was ready. The kids were all finally old enough that I could travel with them, or take them camping for a weekend, or drive to the cities and go to the zoo. However, by this time my husband was working out of state and on the rare occasions where he was home, he didn’t want to do any of these things. He wanted to take his days off to relax. And taking the kids to do all these things by myself wasn’t much fun for me – fun outings equaled hard work. And so I waited for something to give. I mean, something had to give eventually, right? Either the husband would come around and start participating in family-fun-time, or the kids would get older and things would get easier to do on my own. And so I waited…
The last three summers have been fun, in general. The kids are older and we gave up on waiting for my husband to engage. I’ve become a master at family road trips and keeping the head-count at Valleyfair. We spend every sunny day we can at the beach, or the park, or visiting friends. By the time I finally decided it was time to get divorced, I had the single-Mom thing perfected to a science. And I loved it.
It wasn’t until this year that I came to a stark realization: after the years of learning how to be a single mom, I still hadn’t learned how to be a single woman. I had been so busy making sure that the kids were healthy and thriving, I had neglected to check in on myself. Yes, I had written and published a book and my writing career was finally taking off. But other than that, I hadn’t done a single damn thing for myself for as long as I could remember.
So, this summer, I decided to stop waiting. It started with little things, like getting my hair done on a regular basis and exercising daily. If I saw a dress I liked, I would buy it and not feel guilty. But I was still spending every second of my free time doing whatever the kids wanted to do. As of today, they haven’t seen their dad in almost half a year – if I didn’t make up for the time he should be investing in them, wouldn’t that make me a horrible parent, too?
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am one person. Yes, their dad isn’t around, but as one person I can still only do so much. I can’t give them all the time and love they should be receiving from two people. It’s okay to do everything that I can for them, and still take the time I need to be me.
So I stopped waiting. I’ve began buying the tickets for those concerts I’ve been waiting to see. I’ve met amazing new friends and made great memories. I’ve become a whole person again, with an identity outside of “Mom”. I’ve learned to have fun and trust that it isn’t necessary to feel guilty. A happy mom is a healthy mom, and I haven’t felt this happy or healthy in years.
My advice to anyone out there waiting – stop. Start living. Leaving your kids with a babysitter whom you trust for two nights a month does not make you a bad parent – it makes you a normal person. With a life. That involves adult conversations and time with friends. Being a single mom creates this atmosphere where it becomes much too easy to lose your identity. Find yourself again, and love yourself enough to know that having fun and enjoying time away is not something to feel guilty about. It is something to celebrate.
Because you’re totally worth it ❤️❤️❤️