Upon saying vows and exchanging rings, no one envisions the day when the marriage ends. When parents meet their children for the first time and fall instantly in love, no one thinks that they may be a single parent one day.
No one plans for, or wants things like divorce or single parenthood to happen, and yet, despite our best intentions, they do.
When Ben & I mutually decided to end our marriage last year, I knew that life as I'd known it for the past 10 years was going to drastically change. What I didn't realize was just how much of an impact those changes were going to have.
I've always prided myself on being one who adapted well to change. If I can plan for it, I deal quite well. However, the dissolution of my marriage threw me into totally uncharted waters. When the day came for my daughters and I to pack up our home and move 5 hours away, it seemed, that I had everything together. Boxes were packed and marked with their contents, the moving van had been reserved. But, truth be told, I was just going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other. I focused on the things that I did have control over and never more than a few hours ahead.
When we had safely arrived back in my "hometown", I allowed myself time to adjust to my new surroundings and mourn the loss of my marriage, my friends, my way of life. The reality and finality of the choices I had made a few days or weeks earlier hadn't sunk in.
I mean, here I was, a new single parent of two young children. I was starting over at 32 years old. I had to re-establish myself in the working world after having been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years. I needed to find a new home for my children. We needed to establish new routines, a new sense of normal.
Having no other choice, I pulled myself up by the boot-straps and embraced this new-found reality. Within a month of having moved across the state, I had a new job and a new home. My daughters had started new schools and were making new friends. We were settling into new routines.
I struggle daily with how to be everything that my daughters need. Thankfully, they still have a very open & loving relationship with their father even though he is over a thousand miles away in a different state. I am also very thankful for the co-parenting relationship that Ben & I have when it comes to making decisions for our daughters. It is so great to have him in my corner. But, even with Ben, my parents, teachers and therapists helping, I still feel very much alone as I go about the daily tasks of raising my daughters to be great women in society. I struggle with finding the time to be an active participant in their lives. With a work schedule that is far less than ideal, I feel that we are almost like two ships passing in the sea. Whenever the girls see me put on my work clothes, they protest...my oldest saying how she wished I was home when they were and the youngest saying "NO!" and wrapping her adorable self around me. Saying that, "Mommy is doing this so that we can have the things that we need" only offers so much comfort. Everyone assures me that I'm a good mom, that the girls will understand one day and see the strength that I had and such...this, however, fails to console me on the worst days...the days when I barely see my children...the week that goes by without us sitting down to dinner together...the nights that pass without me tucking them in.
I try to cherish each and every moment that I have with my girls and make an effort to establish fun traditions for them. We have pizza & a movie nights, the girls each get "Mommy & Daughter Time" once every few months, we play Barbies, board games or Wii. It is my sincere hope that these will be the times that they remember and not the school functions that I couldn't attend orthe field trips I couldn't chaperone.
Oh, how the guilt eats away at me. I have a severe (and maybe permanent) case of the "would've, could've, should've". Pity parties are also common. How I didn't want this for myself or my children, that it's not fair that I'm doing this alone and struggling so much. Some days, I wish I could throw in the towel but I know this isn't an option.
At this point, all that I can do is attempt to move forward. To know that much living lives ahead and that things can only improve. While I feel stuck with how life is now, I also know that I am empowered to change things, I just need to decide what I want and how I'm going to get it. I will be honest and say that sometimes, that's too much of a concept for me to wrap my head around. Most days, I'm simply in survival mode.
I do know, however, that I want the best possible life for my daughters and that I will stop at nothing to make sure that it materializes. I want to be there for them and for them to feel that I was an active part of their lives, I want us to do things together, to make lasting memories, to laugh, cry, argue and hug. I just want us to "be".
When my daughters are grown and have lives of their own, I want them to look back and know that their mother loved them, that she overcame the odds and made a great life for herself and her children. I want them to be happy and well-adjusted.
While single parenthood was never among my long-term goals, I have learned to embrace my new role and continue to do my best for my children as they are my reason for living, for breathing.