During the last few weeks of my husband’s life, I can vividly remember me saying to him, “I could never be a single mom.” I had been taking care of the family like a single mom due to his health issues, was feeling the stress and not liking it.
Little did I know that I would soon be a single parent.
I wish I could tell you I have miraculously become this fantastic single mom in the last few months, and that it’s been awesome. But that only happens in fairytales, and this is real life. I also wish I could tell you I knew all there is about raising children as a single parent, but I can’t because I’m still pretty new at this whole thing.
What I can say is I have even more respect for single parents than I did before. Plus, I’ve discovered I have more strength than I thought I had and God has blessed me with wonderful friends, co-workers and family that have helped me in ways I never even would have thought to ask for.
It’s tough being somewhere you don’t want to be. I don’t imagine anyone who has found herself raising children alone planned on things turning out that way. Even those who are divorced, even asked for a divorce, most likely didn’t plan on having children only to take care of those children alone.
I had planned on growing old with my husband and enjoying our grandchildren together. I had planned on him teaching our son what it is to be a man and showing our daughter how she should expect to be treated by a man.
Although I may not always be a single parent, the time my children had with their father here on this earth is already done, and that’s something in itself that can create resentment and anger in children who need their father, want their father. It can also cause the parent left behind to try to be two people, try to fulfill the role of both parents all on her own. With this as the backdrop of the parent-child relationship, no wonder a single-parent family might be stressed.
One thing I have learned quickly is that I am not super woman. It was hard enough trying to be super woman with a husband, so I’m not sure why I think I can do it now. I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to volunteering for things and to even limit my attendance of enjoyable church and family functions. I’ve first got to learn how to be me again in these newly found circumstances, or to figure out who “me” is again.
Although I’m really not in the position yet of giving out advice, I will share the worst and best things I think I’ve done in this new venture of parenthood with hopes that it helps someone else. The worst things I’ve done include expecting my 10-year-old son to understand what I’m going through. Although he is my oldest, he’s still just a kid and cannot/should not understand such an adult issue or what I’m missing.
I also sometimes forget that their loss is just as significant as mine. Yes, most children lose their parents, but it’s usually way past the age of 10 or 7. That’s tough stuff to deal with for mature adults, let alone for young children.
At first I tried to hide my grief from them to protect them. I wanted them to know everything was going to be okay, but they also need to know that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, and to miss their Daddy.
The best thing I’ve done is to be open and honest with them. I eventually came to the point where I shared some of my emotions with them. It sometimes upsets them, especially my little girl who just wants me to be happy, but they are so much more comfortable expressing their feelings with me because of that.
I also answer their questions as honestly as possible, which is something I’ve always done with them. Kids always handle the truth way better than some made up statement intended to protect them. I just have to remember to only answer the questions they ask and no more because there are times they don’t want to know anymore.
The greatest thing I’ve done, and I have to re-do every day, is to trust God with my future. Things haven’t turned out like I had planned, but God obviously had other ideas, and I’ve got to trust that He still has me in the palm of his hand, loves me and wants good things for me in my future.
I have to admit I don’t like being a single parent, not at all. Honestly, it’s the pits. I feel more lonely trying to parent alone than I do simply being alone. But that’s where I am and the only choice I have, as I see it, is to move forward and do the best I can. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids more than life itself, but parenthood was designed to be a partnership and going it alone simply isn’t natural.
I may not be single forever, but for the time being, that is my reality and a reality I must accept for what it is and trust God with. He allowed me to come to this place, so I’m sure he’ll get me through it. There may even be a point in this that I get sort of good at single parenting. Until then, I pray my mistakes will just make me and my family stronger.
Kimberly Gray is a resident of Nolan County. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .