Sometimes single Mothering

As most of you are aware, the Big Guy works out of town..A LOT! Like several days of the week. Basically, that leaves me to Mother the girls all by myself. Honestly, when he comes home for a couple days..its like Christmas and Fourth of July all in one.Its chaotic and exciting  but it’s not routine.It’s like a great big Daddy tornado sweeps through the house.We love it.Believe me, I am ecstatic that he has a job at all and I look forward to him coming home the way most people look forward to the last day of their work week. But when it is over, I am left to pick up the emotional pieces ( and literally to clean up the house that the tornado hit); to soothe the crying, to bandage the heart wounds, to deal with girls missing their Daddy.Plus I get to do all the stuff all mothers get to do, I work from home, I clean,cook, do laundry, run the girls to and fro various activities, arrange play dates, bathe them, get ready for school, pick up from school, homework,pack snacks, sign permission slips and all the other obligatory school responsibilities,ballet, rehearsal, and on top of all of that…try and maintain my sanity.

So,when I got engaged in a Twitter debate with  a fellow tweep over a statement similar to this “just because your husband works out of town a lot does not make you a single mother.” Her viewpoint, being neither a single Mother, nor a woman whose husband is gone 5/7ths of the week, was that my disagreement with the statement was not right. In fact, she went as far as to tell me that I was not single mothering it…I was lonely.Which made me laugh because how the hell can I be lonely when I have 2 littles with me at all times of the day and night? Hell,I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself.I’m not lonely…most days.I’m too busy with all this mothering business that I do on my own to be lonely. She argued that I was married and the fact that he paid the bills made me not single mothering.Wow! Who knew the only qualification for being a father or co parenting is to pay some bills! I love a woman who has never walked a minute in my shoes telling me that my life is easy and I am just a lonely complainer. Yey, for her!

I really should have just stopped tweeting because honestly trying to explain it to her was like trying to talk to an ESL student in Pig Latin on Mars. I don’t know if she didn’t understand what I was trying to say or simply just didn’t care. I am going to say it was the latter.

Let’s be clear, I have the utmost respect for single mothers. I don’t know how you do it. You are seriously the hardest working women in the Mommy business. That being said, it’s no picnic having a husband who has had to take a job that takes him away from the house….always. It’s not occasional business trips.The weekly job, that is the business trip.Can you say commuter marriage? I am NOT a single mother because I am not single.I am married. That is true. But this is also true, I do all the mothering and daddying..5 days a week..by MYSELF! So, when this narrow minded broad, who doesn’t know me, doesn’t share my situation, doesn’t even listen to my explanation, tries to tell me that I have it easy because I am married, forgive me for wanting to punch her in her gullet. It was almost as ridiculous as having a single non child having person trying to give out parenting advice.

What are your thoughts?Do you sometimes single Mother? Are you a full time single mother? Do you think life would be easier if it were only sometimes? Or maybe it would be easier if it were full time?What qualifies it as being hard? Time spent doing it? Doing it alone? Isn’t mothering hard enough with all the Mommy guilt?Now, we have to prove how hard it is to other unsympathetic women?

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Comments (20)

Oh, girl. I hear you. Get ready, 'cause I'm gonna unload!

Six weeks after we adopted our son (our first), my husband took a job that was supposed to be 25%-ish travel. It turned into 99% travel. As in, he'd regularly "move" to Washington, DC, for a month at a time into a (sweet) corporate apartment (we lived on the other side of the country – in Arizona). The rest of the time, he was gone most weeks. Sometimes, he wouldn't make it home for the weekends b/c the flight was 5.5 hours and there is a 3 hour time difference b/n AZ and DC. There were a few stretches of 12-ish days on my own. When he did come home on a Friday, he's get in at midnight, jetlagged, and then leave again Sundaylate morning. Fun.

Occasionally, my son and I packed up and flew across the country to be with him. (That was the bonus – staying in sweet corporate apartments and having our airfare covered. The drawback: being stuck on a plane, alone, for 5.5 hours, with a baby that freaked out when he was held b/c of prior orphanage issues.)

The first six months home with my son were hell insofar as the little guy did NOT sleep more than half an hour at a time. Doing that alone – I mean sleep deprivation that I can't even describe – was hard. He didn't sleep at all during the day, either, and was up by 4 or 5 a.m. every day. Every day. I got 2-3 interrupted hours of sleep most nights. I didn't work at all at the time, thank goodness, but it was so hard. You can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" when the baby doesn't freaking sleep!

In what turned out to be a blessing, Hubby was laid of after exactly one year. Not so much a blessing at the time, as we were in the middle of our second adoption (with close to $20K in fees and travel expenses remaining) and were totally income-less, but he was offered an amazing job and was working 2.5 later…in California. (We were still in Arizona.)

Three days after we returned from picking up our daughter in Ethiopia, Hubby got on a plane to New York to start his new job. I was left at home, jet lagged to hell and back, with a very, very sick eight month old baby and our just-turned two year old son. My daughter ended up in the hospital, I was incredibly sick (I picked up some nasty stuff overseas that took months to go away), and I was literally beat to hell. For the following few months, my husband worked in Cali most weekdays while I was taking care of our family in AZ. That was rough, even harder than the previous year b/c I had two little ones and was sick. After a few months, we got an apartment in SoCal and I drove back and forth (eight hours each way) with the kids every few weeks. That was equally awesome.

(cont'd below – I wrote so damn much I was cut off!)

At some point, I couldn't do it anymore and so we moved permanently. He now travels anywhere from 25-50% of the time and I swear to God, when people tell me how crappy that must be, I tell them, "If you did what we did for almost two years, you'd think it was freaking awesome." Well, exactly one year after living here and having a semi-normal life where he's gone a quarter to half the time, I've decided it's still hard. It's not impossible like what we did before, but it's not easy, either. It's disruptive and difficult and tiring sometimes. Up until several months ago, I worked very little. Now I'm working a lot – from home – and "single parenting" it enough of the time to wish that he didn't travel.

A few of my single mom friends have said that when my husband is out of town, being an in-town, at-home parent is a harder gig. They get to go to work – outside the home, without the kids – and have some alone time. SAH or WAH moms don't, and when you're "on" 24/7, it can be a lot. I'm up very late, working, and then trying to work while taking care of the kids during the day.

I think anything can be difficult and I'm not of the opinion that one is harder than the other. Like you said, my single mom friends are my freaking inspiration. I'd never say that they have it easier b/c they get to go to work and be alone and I don't, but it was interesting to have that pointed out to me.

What I will say is that each of our unique circumstances can be very challenging for us individually, and I HATE it when someone gets into the "well, it's not *that* bad for you and here's why" thing. It's insulting and inconsiderate. Like you, I'm so grateful my hubby has a job (after going through a layoff when you're dependent on a single income, that gratitude runs deep) and I'm so grateful it allows us a *more* normal family life than his previous one.

But going it alone during the week? Like this week, when my hubby left on Sunday and won't be back until Friday and I'm really sick and both kids are sick and I want to cry? Yeah, it sucks. And it feels like single parenting.

I get it.

That is all. 🙂 (Apologies for my blog post on your blog post – it very clearly touched a nerve!)

Amen and I'm glad you finally explained that tweet. I don't think the term single parent applies to the marital status of the parent. It refers to the number of people parenting during that time frame. Before I entered the picture, my hubby was a single parent even though he was separated from his wife for 3 years. Separated, not divorced. So they were still married during this time. However she was not in the picture. He was a single parent. With him being in the military, I too am often a single parent. Why? Because I do the duties of both parents in his absence. As do you and any other single parent. The only difference is occasionally were are temporarily removed from that title when they return (or sometimes not).

If I were to post this on the military wives circuit, others would be pissed. Just because we've married doesn't mean our bunnies are always around to help and thus we do what we must for our kids.

Being married to a Marine military I'm often a single parenting. In fact having him here, like you said, is more like a fun holiday than having daddy here. Sucks, But it is what it is. Days, weeks, months at a time I wear the mom and dad hat {along with cook, maid, chauffeur, plumber, who knows what else} and I do it with no family or really close friends around. We don't live here so much by choice {although we did choose this lifestyle} uncle sam told us where to live and he doesn't seem to care if you have babysitters around. I've said it before, if i were divorced occasionally I'd get a weekend to myself! In my son's prek class the divorced parents were together far more than my husband and I were at school events.

And as far as emotionally, I had to tell my kids just this morning that daddy wasn't coming home when we thought he was that he was "extended" and having ot go somewhere else.

So married or not, I still single parent.

My blood is starting to boil now…….

I cannot imagine having my husband travel. He is an integral part of our parenting, and yes, I would feel like a "single" parent if he were gone most of the time. This sounds awful, but sometimes it might make things easier because we occasionally clash over parenting methodologies (his = princess gets what princess wants. mine = princess has to follow rules). My girlfriend's husband travels a lot and she feels like a single parent, too. So no, you're not the only one. I bet it is lonely. I can't imagine not cuddling up with my hubby at the end of the day and b#tching about work, telling him cute Lily stories, or just relaxing and reading nest to him in bed.

But heck, there are plenty of fathers who don't travel and who don't parent…they come home, flip on the TV and rot or watch sports all weekend long. Parenting is an effort, and one well worth it! I'm so grateful that my husband is a wonderful father and a wonderful, supportive spouse.

Man, I need to do something nice for him 🙂

I am a full time single mother and have been for many years. I've also been a married (sometimes single) mother. I will agree with her that being a single mother without a partner is 10 times harder then having a partner in life even if they do work a lot. BUT – I do not think it was right for her to judge you because she doesn't know your life or live your life.

I have a boyfriend now and we moved in together in February and let me tell you, even though he works 60 hours a week – just having that extra set of hands on occasion REALLY helps and makes things easier. Single motherhood is probably the hardest job out there. But that doesn't mean that you being mom/dad 5 days a week alone is easy.

Awesome post, Debi. You are a rockstar. And I agree with what you and the other commenters wrote above. This is not a contest. Nobody is going to win. And trying to trump one another with how hard we have it is silly.

My husband works incredibly long hours and I have also had the thought that I feel like a single mom sometimes. Though I do realize it is different in many ways (financial, emotional, etc.) you can't take away the fact that one person doing most of the parenting is one person doing most of the parenting. Alone. And it's challenging.

I still love my "job" but I am tired. I'm glad you spoke up and esp. to put a voice to what many military spouses feel. No they are not technically "single parents" but being alone 100% of the time while the spouse is deployed is it's very own challenge. Thank you for speaking up. You are awesomeness.

I was going to chime in but there are so many great ideas and points made here that I would just be repeating.
I did wonder if you are also a "single wife". It is hard to feel you are the only one doing the parenting but it is hard to also feel like you are the only one in the marriage too. (I have been there.)
So I went off subject. Sorry. You did mention he is not around a lot.
I also do have to say, my hubby is home most days by 6PM but flops in front of the TV (he has a long commute so he is tired) so for 12 years now, most days, I am a "single parent". But I am thankful he is around for me to fall back on and be a good role model for both the kids. He completes our family in ways I can't as a mother. I think sometimes we underestimate how important just having dad around is. My own father was pretty much a dead beat dad BUT he did teach me how to love and me moral even though he never went to my softball games or tickled me til I peed my pants.
I guess what I am saying is, I try not to see him as missing most days but I try to see the value in having a dad for my kids.
You all are going to hate me for sticking up for men. I hope I'm still part of the mommy/woman club. LOL.
I feel for you and glad you have the great ladies here to vent with. Best wishes!
And thank you military wives, I don't know how you do it but you do.

All good points..
I've been a single mother and also a single mother/wife, and while there's more work involved when you're actually single I think its harder when you're not.
I've never had a traveling spouse, but my ex is a deadbeat and my husband is disabled and when you're married part of you thinks that he should do some of it even if you know he's not going to. When you're single you know its all you.

I think you and I have had this conversation a time or two. My hubs comes home every night, about baby bedtime or shortly after and I have days when I complain about the single mothering.

I guess we need a new word. Is it solo mothering? Honestly, I in no way think I have as much to deal with as a TRUE single mama. My hubs does in fact pay bills, and every once and awhile, he might even put a dish in the dishwasher, so I am lucky. But I, like you, do a majority of the parenting on my own and it is EXHAUSTING.

Sure I get a break at night. He sweeps in, tries to bathe and pajama on his own (NEVER works) and puts her to bed. While he does this, I make dinner and then we eat, I clean, he decompresses from work and then it's basically time for me to pass out until the morning. I hardly call that co-parenting.

The 2 weekend days a week that he's home? I need to manage all his interactions with the baby because he knows nothing about the routine or her preferences. Not because he doesn't care but because they are developing by her and I and she get's confused when he comes in and changes things up. There is never a down time, there is never a moment of just zoning out while he does things for her. I am on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week NO MATTER what.

I assume a single mother feels this same way.

To the woman who was being a biznatch, she can stuff it. Anyone with a husband that works like yours does would feel the way you do. No, you're not a single mother. Yes, you're lucky that you have a support person to talk to, to sleep next to (sometimes) and to help you every so often, but that doesn't mean you don't have the right to bitch or feel overwhelmed once and awhile.

As another "solo mother" at times, I say we work hard, and no one can tell us we need to suck it up because REAL single mothers have it worse. We know that, and we're not trying to compare situations, but really, can we all just agree that this shit is hard sometimes and we just need to vent, no matter the situation?

Also, for the record, I personally AM lonely. I hang out with my wonderful daughter all day, but sometimes mama needs an adult.

I think you and I have had this conversation a time or two. My hubs comes home every night, about baby bedtime or shortly after and I have days when I complain about the single mothering.

I guess we need a new word. Is it solo mothering? Honestly, I in no way think I have as much to deal with as a TRUE single mama. My hubs does in fact pay bills, and every once and awhile, he might even put a dish in the dishwasher, so I am lucky. But I, like you, do a majority of the parenting on my own and it is EXHAUSTING.

Sure I get a break at night. He sweeps in, tries to bathe and pajama on his own (NEVER works) and puts her to bed. While he does this, I make dinner and then we eat, I clean, he decompresses from work and then it's basically time for me to pass out until the morning. I hardly call that co-parenting.

The 2 weekend days a week that he's home? I need to manage all his interactions with the baby because he knows nothing about the routine or her preferences. Not because he doesn't care but because they are developing by her and I and she get's confused when he comes in and changes things up. There is never a down time, there is never a moment of just zoning out while he does things for her. I am on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week NO MATTER what.

I assume a single mother feels this same way.

To the woman who was being a biznatch, she can stuff it. Anyone with a husband that works like yours does would feel the way you do. No, you're not a single mother. Yes, you're lucky that you have a support person to talk to, to sleep next to (sometimes) and to help you every so often, but that doesn't mean you don't have the right to bitch or feel overwhelmed once and awhile.

As another "solo mother" at times, I say we work hard, and no one can tell us we need to suck it up because REAL single mothers have it worse. We know that, and we're not trying to compare situations, but really, can we all just agree that this shit is hard sometimes and we just need to vent, no matter the situation?

Also, for the record, I personally AM lonely. I hang out with my wonderful daughter all day, but sometimes mama needs an adult.

My dad was in the military and was gone SO much. I had the utmost respect for my mom as she did what you are doing. The job of both parents. She'd have to pick up the pieces when he left again. She'd have to handle any issues with any of us on her own most of the time. Kudos to you and any mother out there that has to do it on her own some of the time, most of the time, or all of the time. 🙂

Yes, it is very hard. Our entire 17 year marriage, my husband has travelled.
It's what he does, global work.

Yes, it's hard.

But, once, I was quick to complain about it being like singleparent parenting, and a woman quickly reminded me, "except that you don't have to worry about losing the roof over your head."

Touche.

All I can say is…wow! The nerve some people have to judge others simply amazes me.

However, I give you HUUUUUUGE brownie points for hanging in there. Keep on doing what you do best and all else will fall into place. 🙂

Krista @ Not Mommy of the Year

I saw those tweets and wondered what was up. Then I sort of felt bad because I've been telling people that I'm "single parenting it" while my husband is tied up with football season (he's a high school coach) and isn't home almost at all while the child is awake, so I FEEL like I'm on my own. But, I guess I'm not. He's there if I need him, he helps pay the bills, he's there to kiss me goodnight (even if I'm half asleep.)
I guess I'm saying I see both sides of it and regardless of whether there's a ring on your finger or not, it's HARD when you're on your own with a child (children) day after day, night after night.

I can do this situation from many perspectives.
My father was in the military and then when he got out of the military he was a truck driver. So daddy wasn't there a lot! So did this make my mom a single mom…yes. She was a married single parent. I know my dad was supporting his family and I'm daddy's girl so take this in no way as me coming down on him. My mom took care of 4 kids, paid the bills, attended all school functions, and did everything else you listed. She was TIRED, and rightly so. She loved when my dad came home, but like you she had a mess to clean up emotionally and physically when a few days later he had to leave again.
Then there was the me that was a single mom…for 8 years. No man there to do anything. I did it all, I played both rolls and I was happy to do it. They were worth it. Then I met hubby….
Gosh I don't really know how to say this without making hubs sound like an ass, but my kids are my kids and I take care of them. Hmmm…that doesn't even sound right so I hope you get a little of what I'm trying to say. Anyway, I'm married, but I still do it all.
So does being married disqualify you from being a single mom…HELL NO!
It's hard, married, single or in between…it's not easy. We do what we have to do for our kids. Tell her non-knowing-non-parent self to shove it.

Ladies,
thank you all so much for your response to this piece. It is nice to know that there are so many of you out there who understand what I am going through. On the other hand,knowing how difficult this is to go through, I am sorry that you know first hand.
I think the consensus is that no matter what, when one person is doing the greater part of the parenting ( for whatever the reason) it is difficult and demanding.

I know I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who makes sacrifices to take care of us financially.But that doesn't stop me from feeling overwhelmed,overextended and exhausted.It is great to know that there is a sisterhood of support here, when and if I need.

Happy Mothering, my friends!

I'm late on this, sorry, i'm playing catch up.

I was a full time single mother for five years. I recently became a (sometimes) single mother for the past few months. Lemme tell you..it's a big difference. but not so much. lol. The big difference is you get someone to talk to on the phone and spend some time with, but in reality, that's it! Jesse isn't home 12 hours of the day..he's not out of town, but he isn't home, he's working, then when he comes home, he's too exhausted to do much other than shower and hit the sack. I'm married, but from the moment the alarm wakes up in the morning until I get my kiddo on the bus, I'm a single mother. From the moment my kiddo gets off the bus, until he's in bed sleeping, I'm a single mother. I do it all, clothing, feeding, bathing, cuddling his booboos, playing race car crash, and I'm occasionally a single mother in the middle of the night when the monsters come out of his closet and come after him. That being said, I do have help, but I can't expect to sit back and watch as he does it, for one, I'm a mother, and no one does it better than mommy, especially in the boo-boo business. And for two, My husband works. he's tired! He has his fun and plays with my son and takes care of him and helps him with the bath showing him the proper way to wash his package..but I'm hovering in the background, on call duty. Three, there are just SOME things around the house that mommy is unable to do, such as repairs, I'm inadequate with a tool. Mowing the lawn, I can do it, but I always seem to miss a spot, and he does it better, so he spends a lot of his time home doing things that I can't do, so I take care of the kiddo while he does his man thing. Things like that. We have income coming in, but it's still pretty much one sided because I'm out of a job, looking, but not biters. So I worry about bills just as much as when I was a full time single mother.

When I was a full time single mommy, I didn't have someone to talk to about it, except my mom or the online world, or whatever, but I still did the same stuff I do now. I'm a little less stressed and spazz about it, but I still do.

That is crap. Some women are just cray cray and have to be the martyrs so you feel sorry for them. You have it rough! And that doesn't deserve to be downplayed one bit on specifics.

You rock! And you keep the blog hopping while do everything else!

Hi 🙂

As a mother who has been in a similar situation……I can say "I feel your pain"! Seriously…..being alone with two little ones with no family support near by (the closest family member I had was 4 hours away) with a husband that was gone a couple days at a time for work….spending more than 70% of our time apart…..was beyond hard & very secluding.

I think what made it so hard was the fact that I am married – yet I was still all alone (yes the kids were there but kids aren't there for adult moral support and companionship…and the conversation etc. is not the same). That partnership that should exist in parenting just wasn't there…..

Ultimately we ended up sacraficing income so that we could be together….it was just too hard. That saying "Money can't buy time" kept replaying in my head….

I totally get what your saying! And I don't think anyone can really comment negatively until they've "walked a mile" in your shoes!

Have a great weekend with your little one's and your husband!

~Sarah

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