I am a single mom. That sentence holds a lot of weight for me. I feel its heaviness, its sin and sadness and shame. However, I do not associate all of that loaded statement as a painful burden. Perhaps it is blind confidence or irrational optimism, but I feel my job, and the fact that I do it alone during 95% of my week, is monumental and heroic. It may be that egoism plays a part in the latter assessment.
When a Sinner Parents
Nonetheless, I will admit my heroism leans more toward the Iron Man or Dare Devil side of the spectrum. I can be a real jackass, and this is not conducive to parenting two boys, especially when you’re going solo. Every Tony Stark needs a Pepper Potts, but not everyone gets one.
Indeed, I am alone. There is no one there late at night to tell me to get over the pee on the bathroom floor because it’s normal my kids take a leak everywhere but actually in the toilet. There is no hand on my side as I lie in bed crying and cussing about my child’s hurts and awkward efforts to fit in at school. And, there is no husband to stand with me on the brink and say, “Hey, babe, it might be cockamamie to demand your son stop his outburst and cease hitting the wall while you are simultaneously losing your temper as you throw a pillow and yell, ‘Stop using violence to solve your problems.’”
(By the way, you should ask Google or Siri or whatever if ‘jackass’ is a swear word like I just did because I was wondering if it was really okay to put that term in a blog post. Oh, the fun you will have. Somehow I think this little digression further proves my point about my lack of parenting skills.)
The Cage of a Single Parent
On the other hand, going it alone means I don’t have to ask someone’s permission to change our bedtime routine. No one is there to complain when I pour an extra shot of vodka after bedtime. Not a peep can be heard when I make any decision — education, church, sports, diet — it’s all on me. It feels like freedom right up until the point my choices place bars all around me. A choice is an elimination that confines me to an outcome. Prison comes in many forms, and a single parent lives in the cage of her own determinations and compromises. I have no adult partner to share my load. I am a law unto myself, and there is ever rebellion in the land.
Yes, yes, I can hear it now. “Oh, all parents feel this way, not just the single ones.” Okay, I concede that parenting is difficult all the way around, and we all struggle and may have similar thoughts. Let’s do a thought experiment though if you are a married parent. Imagine going it alone for a while. What would change? Would you feel free or burdened? Would you doubt yourself more or less? Would you have more or less time? Who would you be accountable to? Who would be your backup plan when you just couldn’t take it anymore? Let me guess. You’d rather not go it alone. Why? Because it would suck, right?
It’s different to go it alone, and we all know it. Just read the statistics on the outcomes of children raised by a single parent. They make for a good bedtime story at the end of the day, that is if you like horror stories. Reading one of those stats publications from the government makes you think all your kids will have to look forward to is poverty, a lack of education, and possibly incarceration.
I find myself hoping for the best while setting very low expectations. Often I say to others, “Well, at this point, I hope they don’t go to prison.” I mean if they don’t break the law on a regular basis, won’t it be a surprise blessing they aren’t an albatross on society’s neck? On some days, like today for instance, when they have fist fights in my backseat and one says he hates me, on those days, I really, really think not becoming a career criminal is the highest goal we can manage.
The Reality of Mercy
However, maybe I’m going into over-confident Iron Man mode again when I say I don’t think anyone would accuse me of feeling sorry for myself in the divorced and single mom realm. I usually just suck it up, and when I can’t, I talk with my parents. They lift me up, keep the boys for a while, and say things like, “I don’t know what you should do. You and your sister never acted this way.” Then we laugh, and it feels better.
Still, it isn’t the same as living with another parent, and I guess my thoughts here might sound like whining for pointing that out. For me though, it’s a gut check. I like reality, and I think we all avoid it too often. The reality for me is that the odds are not in my favor as a single parent.
And there is another reality, “With God all things are possible.” Those two boys — polar opposites in appearance, character, and personality — have all the potential to beat the odds and become, dare I say it, law-abiding citizens and perhaps, just maybe, even more.
And if they don’t, that will also be okay. Judas had a mother, and what do you want to bet she loved him? You see, when I say that God makes all things possible, I don’t only mean that he can turn those boys into men, and even husbands, dads, and providers. With the grace of God, the true Lover of mankind, it is possible that I too can love them and be okay even if they do become a statistic. That is the real miracle. We are all the chief of sinners, and we all stand in His mercy.