Single mom - what does that really mean? It's how I've defined myself most times over the last few years, and technically speaking it has been true at times. Single, unattached and a mom. However, I am now in a committed, long-term relationship, so is divorced mom more accurate? When I say the term single mom, does that give off the impression that I am parenting alone without my son's father in the picture? A point that is far from the truth, so what am I?
I have no problem admitting the fact that I am divorced. I'm not proud of it or happy about the fact that I did not succeed at something I hold so sacred, but nonetheless, I'm OK to say I'm divorced. However, divorced mom doesn't seem to capture the challenges, stresses, and pressures that come with being the lone parent at any one time. Somehow, the term single mom does a better job of painting the picture of my realities. It's not about sympathy. I've built a great life and am very lucky to have mine and my son's health. It's just this weird identity struggle I've had for a while about how best to define who I am in this moment.
Single mom accurately depicts how I feel a lot of the time because I am alone during the times I actually have to parent. For the times I need to discipline, do homework, have tough conversations, navigate hurt feelings, get to the bottom of behavior, I am the one and only parent in my son's presence. For me, single mom is all I've known for four and a half years.
With that experience, there are a few things I know for sure.
Time management and multi-tasking skills are taken to a whole new level.
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders at times, as do many other parents, single or not. What makes the single mom situation different is the missing live-in partner who can assist with certain tasks around the house, or managing daily life to do's like grocery shopping, cooking, shoveling snow and entertaining kids while taking an emergency work call.
Traditionally, moms take on more of the organization of a child's life, which often doesn't change in a divorced situation. I play traditional mom and dad roles in any given moment. My son looks to me to transform Transformers, which I am not particularly good at. Add to the list the making of appointments, arranging extracurricular activities, getting organized for school/camp, making sure weather appropriate attire is bought before stores sell out of sizing, and more. In my case, add a demanding corporate job, and I have to say I'm thankful my head is screwed on and I remember to put a shirt on every day. However, as proven in the next example, some things do get missed.
Who forgets to make not one, but two annual checkup appointments at the pediatrician? When I took my son for his five-year visit (at five and half years old, shhhh), his Dr. pointed out that he also hadn't had a four-year check-up. Oopsies. I will sometimes take a step back and acknowledge in amazement what I can juggle at any one time, but at other moments I fear I'm going to crack within those same circumstances.
How do I do it? Well, it's not always the cleanest separation of church and state (i.e. work and personal). Sometimes the two worlds collide in ways I don't consider optimal, but necessary and just fine. Like the time my son was too sick to go to school, no one could look after him and I had a meeting I could not miss. (An odd statement considering I'm not a heart surgeon and don't save lives for a living, but nonetheless, an important meeting.) In this circumstance, I had no choice but to mesh the two worlds together. I packed a lunch bag, a bag of tricks and off we went to my advertising agency to discuss something so important I can't even recall what it was. Our boardroom meeting was complete with my son at the head, headphones on and iPad in hand. At least he'll have plenty of experience marketing leading global brands before he can drive.
Priorities shift. It's not personal.
I value my friendships, my relationship, and my career. Above all else, I value and relish in every minute I get to have with my son. When you're restricted to 50 per cent of your child's life, it makes every moment of that 50 per cent that much more important. It's not that I don't want a girls' night. It's not that I don't want a date night. It's not that I want to say no to work-related evening functions and it's not that I'm being difficult in only giving two optional nights for plans that are a month away. It's that I love my son more than anything in this world and I just want all the time I can have with him. In fact, I want more. So when something comes up on my night, I will do all that I can to keep that quality time with my son.
The weight of the world is heavy. Permission to make mistakes will certainly lighten that load. With that in mind, it's important to remember this:
- Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
- Being a perfect parent is an enigma, whether you're single or married.
- Single parenthood is stressful and overwhelming, but it is also incredibly rewarding.
- Little things might slip through the cracks, but don't forget their size and scale and make sure your self-punishment truly fits the crime.
The greatest rewards in life are often the ones that pose the biggest challenges. And you know what? I'm proud of my single mom badge.
Kerry is a divorced mom of one amazing little boy, corporate marketer, and former group fitness instructor. Wine, food, fitness, baking and reality TV are her passions outside of parenting and work. She hopes to bring comfort to others going through divorce or single parenthood with her humour and honesty. Kerry is a regular contributor to Her Magazine.
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