I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on all the hard parts of being a single parent. I love my kids and that makes up for most of what is missing. But there are times when I really feel the weight of being alone. Like when I was sick a few weeks ago, miserably sick, and I still had to make three meals a day, carpool across town, change all the diapers, and everything else that a parent of three small children does. It's all me, all the time.
Being a single parent is also hard when, say, it's your birthday.
I turned the big 30 yesterday. I knew it was coming and I also knew that I hadn't made it through a birthday in the last three years without spending a good amount of time feeling sorry for myself and indulging in a few self pity tears. I spent some time prepping myself the night before: I will not be a sad sack on my birthday. I will not be a big cry baby on my birthday. I will not expect anything on my birthday. Rinse and repeat 20 times.
This week I am watching a friend's kids for five days (and four nights) - I've got FIVE kids in my care. So after a long night up with a crying kid missing home and missing her traveling parents, I woke up to a milestone birthday and a little self-pep-talk: Dude, it's no big deal - just another day.
It was a busy day. I almost, really almost, made it through the day without digging myself a hole and crawling in. Almost. Then, in the late afternoon, I checked Facebook where I found a long list of birthday greetings from friends and acquaintances. They were nice and it should have made me feel good, right? Instead, I cried.
People wished me a Happy day, a Special day, a day in which I was Spoiled and could Treat Myself, a day of Cake and Celebration. And they were all written in kindness of course, but the only thing I could think of as I read them through my tears was "Who's going to do all that?"
My kids are little, and they did give me birthday hugs and kisses, but it's a little beyond them to be making me cakes, planning celebrations, or even letting me treat myself to a midday nap. No, it went more like this:
- 6 AM Up with five hungry kids. Make breakfast - three different breakfasts so everyone would eat.
- Get myself and five kids dressed, hair fixed, teeth brushed, shoes on.
- Make lunches, pack bags, mediate a few conflicts, mop up spilled milk, fit carseats into car.
- Pack everyone into the car, pick up one more kid, carpool across town (1 hour and 15 minutes!), drop four kids off, feed remaining two kids yet another breakfast.
- Run errands to the bank, the grocery store, and make a Big Brother Big Sister donation.
- Clean up messes, make lunches and snacks, pay bills, pack kids back into the car and drive back across town to pick up 4 kids then drop 1 off (1 hour + 45 minutes).
- Get Esme ready for and to and from ballet, dinner for five kids, edit a few pictures for a client, clean up, pajamas, teeth brushing, scripture reading, prayers, story time, singing time, more drinks, more songs, one more story, put kids back in bed, put kids back in bed, put kids back in bed. 8 PM And the day is done. Happy Birthday.
So yes, I had a little afternoon breakdown. And I spent a little time wallowing in self pity and wishing I had someone to give me a present, a celebration, a cake, a break. I hate birthdays. I hate being 30. I hate feeling so alone sometimes, so overlooked.
Then it hit me: Who's job is it really to look out for me? Why, that would be Me again. I was entirely overlooking myself. Then I thought about how the day had unfolded (take another look at that list of things I did - and that, people, is the very condensed version of what really happened!!) and my birthday improved tenfold in an instant. Dude, I am SUPER MOM.
I am 30 years old and I can take care of FIVE kids all by myself. Not only that, but I did a good job too. I was too busy thinking about how I didn't even get a birthday card when I should have been patting myself on the back for putting five happy, healthy, well fed kids to bed last night. I made the world a better place for five kids yesterday and I can't think of anything more important I could have done on my 30th birthday.
And right about the time I wiped my own tears and kicked my own butt back out of the hole I'd been digging, my parents brought me a late dinner and a lamp shade I'd been coveting and I remembered how lucky I really am to have them around. Yes, I can do year 30 and I can do it well.