Ever been so consumed by daily schedules and family calendars that you could just lose it? As a single mom of six, you can imagine how many times I’ve been on the verge of insanity over the years. For me, my life is comprised of getting up each morning and ensuring my youngest gets out the door on time to catch her bus, then spending at least 45 minutes driving to work, working all day, then driving back home to pick up my son and get him to football practice 3-5 days a week. Then throw in a soccer practice at least once a week for the youngest. My weekends are typically spent driving to and attending football and/or soccer games, running household errands, and grocery shopping. If I’m lucky, and that’s a big IF, somewhere in the mix I get to enjoy some beach time, a concert, a date night, or girls night out with friends. Needless to say, my nerves are shot 96% of the time.
To make matters worse, the kids can’t not argue in the backseat because someone is touching the other. They can’t not mess with my radio. They can’t even say thanks mom, and act a little grateful for what I do for them. After all, here I am giving up my time to drive them around, and they have the audacity to get out and slam the door without even a thanks. The nerve! Well, even if they’re not grateful…I am. I am grateful that I get to do this for them and know that some day they’ll look back and appreciate that I was the one that was always there for them. I’m grateful that I get to set this example for them on how a parent shows up for their kids. You’ll hear me whine sometimes about how I’ve always wanted my person, my someone to help take some of the weight off of my shoulders; and when you’ve been doing it all alone as long as I have, you’d cry out for that too. But I whole-heartedly actually love being the one that gets to do it all. I loved going to my daughter’s color guard competitions, and traveling around the state to cheer her on. I love going to each football and soccer game and being a sideline parent. I especially love seeing the smiles on their faces when they get out of the car to go to these practices and events for things that truly make them happy. I love being able to finally give all of that to them, and taking pride in knowing that I did it all on my own.
Raising our children is not a chore. It is our privilege, and it is our responsibility to raise them and to do it right. Unfortunately, many of us are left to do this on our own, being both mom and dad. I don’t understand how parents can walk away and never look back, but they do, and far too often. Through the hard times, I never once thought about walking away and letting someone else raise my kids. Have I ever threatened my kids that I’d send them to live with their grandparents when they had me pulling my hair out…absolutely. But I would have never done it. I couldn’t imagine my kids being gone from me any longer than the span of a summer vacation or time away at church camp. I have detested my ex’s for years for walking out on my kids, and leaving me to handle it all on my own. But after watching my oldest daughter graduate from college last month, or sharing in a mother/daughter dance at my second oldest daughter’s wedding the week before that, I am glad that I got to raise them on my own. It was beyond rewarding watching my girls take these major steps in their lives and knowing that I alone helped get them there. I know that comes off extremely selfish because at the end of the day, kids truly need both parents, but at the same time, they needed stability and a rock. I had the privilege of being that for them when no one else would or could.
You may be a single parent too and struggling each day to make it all come together. Some days you may even feel like you have failed miserably. Trust me, I have had many of those days. But you haven’t. We don’t live cookie cutter lives. You don’t have to get home by 5pm and have dinner ready by 6pm, just because that’s what the neighbors do. Or because that is what we grew up watching families on TV do. At the end of the day, if everyone is alive, clean, fed, educated and healthy…you’ve succeeded. A friend of mine told me recently that I need to stop feeling like I need a man in my kids’ lives. That I need to step back and see how I have raised amazing kids and that they don’t want for anything, even a dad. He even went so far as to tell me that I’ve done an amazing job being both parents. For someone looking in at my life to step back, observe and comment with such encouragement and sincerity, was a great complement and much needed validation for all I’ve been doing.
They drive me crazy more often than not, but I have some pretty amazing kids. All with different personalities and attributes, and I can’t wait to see what they all become. I can’t help but laugh at their sarcasm and bluntness, or how they dance around the house to music when they’re supposed to be doing chores. We are close and are always there for each other. They may fight with each other, but if you mess with one, you get the whole gang. Lord knows that we butt heads often now that the majority are teens and young adults, but they are such great people. I am honored to be able to watch them grow into adults and see all they are going to do out in this world. The laughs, the smiles, and love that goes around (even when they try not to show it), makes all that goes in to raising them alone, worth it each and every day.
So, next time you’re stopped at a traffic light during shuttle service, and they’re driving you crazy, think about ten years from now when they have a D1 scholarship, are graduating with honors, getting married, or are introducing you to your first grandchild, and know that because of you and your sacrifices, they got there. Take a breath, take a little credit, and keep being the awesome and under-appreciated parent that you are. Remember…you’re doing more than just driving!