Nearly five years ago, my husband disappeared. He walked out on me and my children, only to reappear later and tell a judge that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with our kids, because they weren’t worth his time.
Even thinking about that day still haunts me, because even though he had been gone for quite a while by the time I stood facing him in court that day, hearing him say that his children were no longer worth his time, solidified that I would be left to forever raise our two kids on my own.
In truth, I wouldn’t have wanted someone with his issues raising my children anyway.
Still, single motherhood was hard. It wasn’t what I planned for when my kids came into this world, but it also wasn’t really something I could simply say “no thank you” to and walk away from. My kid’s other parent had already done that, and it left me with no choice but to grab a child in each hand, and keep moving forward.
There were children to raise, and I was the only one who was left to do it.
And thankfully, we made it. It wasn’t easy and it was a road paved with more struggles and tears than I’d like to admit, but it was also a road paved in strength and pride. Strength, because I had no other choice than to be strong; and pride, because somehow, I was making it.
But then something unexpected happened: I met someone new, and suddenly there were two more hands to help raise “our” children.
Now, several months into my second marriage, I’m not a single mom anymore. And yet, I can’t help but feel like I sometimes still am.
My new husband — well first off, I’m going to take a second to brag here and say that he is amazing. He tackles bedtimes and cleans up barf like he’s been doing it for years, and loves them deeper than I ever thought someone other than myself could love them. And with every “Daddy” that I hear my kids squeal, I fall even deeper in love with the man that is choosing to raise them.
I know that I’m blessed to have found someone who, unlike their birth father, values my children and the role he gets to play in their lives, but the truth is, we aren’t completely co-parenting yet and because of that, I feel lost.
Since he’s not yet legally my children’s father, and I have 8 years of parenting experience under my belt that he doesn’t have, there are a good number of things in the parenting department that for right now, still fall completely on me. I know that he is trying and willing to learn, but through no fault of his own he just isn’t there yet; which sometimes leaves me feeling like I am still a single mother, with a (very lovely) live-in nanny.
When I’m the only one who can legally make medical decisions for the kids, or sign documents as their guardian, I’m reminded yet again that my husband is not “really” our kids’ father. And when I’m required to be present for things that he can’t fill in on (like parent teacher conferences), or when I am the only one who has learned what to do for a middle-of-the-night fever and cough, I feel like I shoulder a much larger chunk of the responsibility when it comes to our kids’ care.
Even just knowing that I’m the only one who was there for the kids’ birth’s — and sole witness to the first years of their lives — leaves me feeling sad that my husband cannot at all relate to what our kids were like for much of their lives.
I’ve heard enough of my co-parenting friends complain about how out-of-touch their spouse is when it comes to certain aspects of parenting, that I understand this is not a situation unique only to me; but it doesn’t make me feel any less lost. I am used to parenting on my own, and now that I’m trying to do it with someone else, I’m not completely sure what I’m supposed to expect.
There is strength in being a single mother, and I found pride in building a life for myself and my children during those years. When I’d begin to feel lonely, or face something that seemed hard to overcome, I’d find unity in the single mothers around me, and I’d find comfort in knowing that I wasn’t the first woman to be doing it alone, and survive.
But I’m not them anymore.
I’m not a single mother — I have no right to claim the title — and therefore I don’t feel like I have the right to commiserate in my hardships with the women who are truly still doing it all alone. Yet at the same time, I do often find myself feeling alone when I’m facing parenting situations where my husband isn’t always able to parent as my partner yet. Our struggles aren’t the same as they are for my co-parenting friends, and because of that, they don’t understand what I’m going through either.
I wouldn’t change where I am, because I know that this transition is a blessing, and I’m certainly not complaining; but I’m just wondering, in the meantime, while I stand between the world of single parent and co-parent … who am I? Where can I find my tribe?
I’m not sure.
Single parent, co-parent, mom …
Whatever the case, I’m their mom — even if that’s all I know right now.