There are some a-ha moments in life that leave you feeling like..OMG why didn’t I think of it that before? Why didn’t I see what’s right in front of me? Why didn’t I try to consider the situation from another person’s perspective? Today I had such a moment. You see friends, I thought I was at the end of my rapidly fraying rope this afternoon. My patience was disappearing along with my sanity. This was only 3/4 of the way through my husband’s business trip. I had been on my own with the kids for only three days.
Three full days though-a school party, an impromptu British tea party, a recital, a birthday party and so much in between these events. Piles of laundry, cooking and cleaning just to name a few basic chores in the mix. Entertaining the kids with swimming, blanket forts, games, Pokémon (so so much Pokémon). Breaking up cage match style fighting between the kids several times not to mention the bickering..his foot is touching me..she won’t stop look at me..goodness sake!! Bedtimes, bath bargains (ok, fine you can take the squirt gun in the bathtub, I give) and countless I’m hungry’s.
As I drove to the last event, a birthday party, I actually started to count how many hours until my husband’s return..52. Then we arrived at the party and within 15 minutes I was admonishing myself for those poor me thoughts I’d been having on the drive there. You see the party was thrown by a single father for his child. There was no switching gears for him, he runs in only one gear. We had both attended a mom and dad day celebration two days previously at school and it hadn’t penetrated my thick skull he’d come alone and represented. It was only as he greeted me at the party that it all dawned on me. There is no team divide and conquering, he is the WHOLE team. No one knew my thoughts but I felt so guilty for thinking them. You couldn’t do this for a 5 day stretch on your own without finding your sanity on the edge? This fella does it every day and will continue to.
I found myself wanting to talk to someone who does get it. Someone who lives it. I reached out to my friend Stacy Kelley and asked her for some real truths about what it’s like for HER.
How is Stacy described when you ask a friend of hers? I did ask another friend for her thoughts. She said she’s never seen a more loving mother. That in this day and age where so many of us are attached to our phones, Stacy will put hers in the cabinet for the day and just focus on being with her kids. That as a friend she will drop everything and be there for you because she loves you. She is generous, strong and loving.
She is also a mom, a single mom and a great one. If you want to understand what you don’t know anything about you talk to an expert..she is my Yoda on this subject. I wanted to try to understand what it’s like so I grabbed my light saber (aka phone) and talked to the wise one.
Let me share some details about her with you, she’s cool and cool with it! Stacy is a full time single mother to a 5 yr old and 3 yr old. She is also a full time student in graduate school. She has to be both mother and father..every day, no exceptions. There is no counting down the hours until back up arrives, she in her own words is “everything”. From the smallest details like brushing their hair to bigger ones like teaching her children to be kind and thoughtful good people, it’s on her. She makes all the decisions, the appointments, kisses every boo boo, does all the housework, manages everything. She IS Santa and the Tooth Fairy. It is all on her. All this while going to school. This is literally what she told me.
So I asked her some more questions maybe no one has ever asked. I want to share them with you because some of us don’t realize. Some of us haven’t had our a-ha moment yet. Some of you might be living it and can relate. Some of you might just want to hear what Yoda has to say…
So here goes:
What do you think is something about single parenthood that people don’t know?
“That’s a long list (laughs)! People don’t truly know how hard it is. It’s even more of a selfless position than being a mom in a partnership. I am the kid’s world and they are mine. Every single thing I do is for them.
When I don’t feel like doing dishes or laundry I have to because no one is here to help. People take for granted the little things they get help with that regains a little sanity. When the kids or I are having a bad day, I can’t pass them on to someone so I can get a break. It’s me alone.”
What obstacles do you face that you don’t ever say out loud?
“Something that I wouldn’t truly consider an obstacle but, something people don’t necessarily think about is that it can be a little isolating at times. Like when I was married, I would put the kids to bed and my husband and I would hang out. Well, when I put them to bed now it’s “me time”, not that I’m complaining about that (ha ha!). I study, catch up on laundry, trash TV or work on other household responsibilities like paying bills, etc…I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by my supportive tribe who are always ready to hang out or entertain me, but there is a part of me that doesn’t want to impose on their time with their family or spouses.”
Tell me something else some of us might not not realize:
I think some guys think just because you are a single mom you are desperate to find a dad for your kids. I’m sure some woman are, but I’d rather have a partner. I have also noticed with some of the kids programming how they present the idea of a family. I’ve typically seen a family presented as a father, mother and two children on the kid’s shows. I would love to see more diversity where obviously there is a mom (who isn’t a frazzled mess all the time or struggling somehow or tragic) and two kids or a dad with two kids, or partnerships where everyone is happy and the parents are killing it! If you really think about it, how many children’s cartoons or shows, depict single parenthood/non-traditional families in a very positive light or are acknowledged at all? The only one I can think of is Toy Story, the dad is not in any of the storyline in any of the Toy Story movies, “Andy” seems like a happy kid and all is well. I would love to see more stories were kids are in a situation of a one parent home, I personally feel like it would make a big difference in family transitions. I’m talking to you, Daniel Tiger!”
Tell me about the beautiful, special parts to single parenthood:
“I have discovered strength in myself that I didn’t know was there. I have found myself, I didn’t feel like there was a “me” for a very long time. Another special thing is that while I was already super tight with my kids being with them 24/7, we have gotten even closer. I didn’t think that was possible because I live for them anyways and I know I was their universe. There was something tragically poetic about my bond with them getting stronger-my fierce sense of trying to protect them from being hurt. Even now if I have a bad day or if someone isn’t nice to them I just want to hold them. Tuesday, I had a rough day and all I wanted to do that night was cuddle with them, they are my insane sanity.
We make the spontaneous moments fun too. You would be surprised how we can turn something so mundane as running errands together into a party! We entertain each other creatively and are a team. I laugh and smile a lot as a Mommy!
Another gratifying thing is knowing that I’m their person, I’ve never left them, disappointed them or hurt them and that’s great to know. They see me working hard. They know I am theirs without a doubt and they know 100% that everything I do is for them. Not because I tell them, but they see it and they feel it.”
Tell me about your favorite moments:
“My favorite moments are the little ones. When they want me to cuddle them, when we plan something fun to do together and seeing their faces light up. I used to feel sad about not having anyone to share those moments with me but I’ve learned that I get to be selfish and these moments are all mine.
When it comes to my daughter, a recent moment that I am happy about is seeing her flourishing and really coming into her own. She just finished VPK and she has nailed every performance at school, she did really well at her dance recital, she practices her routines without me telling her to. She’s always wanting to help me. I don’t know if it’s her age but I love it. It’s really nice to see her being who she is and knowing that I had something to do with it.
As for some favorite moments with my son, one would be truly getting into his little world with him and doing the things HE wants to do, that’s a big deal to him. It’s been pretty awesome to take in all of his learning moments, milestones and growth. He has a really funny and silly personality along with the sweetest little heart. I love the moments where he and I are laughing and playing and he randomly says “I wuv you Mommy”. It definitely makes me feel like I’m getting something right!”
Tell me something you think you do well..what do you pat yourself on back for?
“Something I think that I do well is just accepting them for who they are. I don’t try to change them, I correct them when they are wrong or going crazy but I have always just embrace their little personalities and have genuinely enjoyed getting to know them. Even when they were kicking in my belly!
And I think I do the obvious stuff well like take care of them and make sure that they know that I love them every day no matter what. I think I do a good job at setting an example for them in being kind and gracious. We decided as a family that if someone is not being nice and kind while visiting our house, they have to leave and it’s OK to tell them that.”
One last thing, if someone offered to help you with something to lighten your load, what would you choose?
“I think if someone offered to help me with anything it would be to help with housework. OMG, the laundry! And free babysitting and maybe an awesome guy that would pour me a glass of wine and rub my feet every night (laughs).”
Above is a photo of Stacy’s recent trash the dress photo shoot she did with a photographer. This shot, in particular, is one Stacy wanted because “It symbolizes me shedding my skin and looking to the future.”
I took away a lot from my conversation with Stacy. If you think your feet are sore sometimes, try walking that mile in someone else’s shoes. I want to try to focus on the little moments like she does, my own version of putting my phone in the cabinet. No matter what our family dynamic is we are allowed to feel frustrated and overwhelmed sometimes. After all, we as parents are doing the toughest, most important job there is..and I don’t know about you but I’m still waiting for my handbook that tells me what to do when I don’t know.
To any parents I say this: I hope your village is supporting you. I hope someone asks how you are today. I hope someone takes something magically off your full plate. I hope you find a way to carve out time to practice self care or just to veg, you deserve it!!
I also hope you are supporting your village right back. I hope you make the call too, check in with a friend and just say how is your day going? Give them a night off from cooking and ask that friend to join your family for dinner. Drop off wine, peanut M&M’s and a list of shows that they should check out tonight on Hulu..(sorry is this just a Stacy and I thing?). Babysit one night or join them at an event and be their plus one. This isn’t exclusive for friends that are single parents it’s simply exclusive to friendship. Friendship is saying “I’ve got your back, you don’t need to ask.”
As Stacy said to me so well ” I refer to my village as my “pack”. I have a tattoo of three elephants holding onto each other on my arm symbolizing the kids and I. I chose the elephant because they are fierce protectors of their young and the other females in the pack also take care of all the kids. They actually will form a circle around the babies to protect them. When I was going through my separation/divorce and post divorce, I have been very fortunate to have my best friends rally around us. They have gone above and beyond for us, loving my kids like their own. That means THE WORLD to me and got me through some hard times, just knowing I had the support and the kids were always loved and protected by my pack.”
I want to say thank you for that great dad I will keep anonymous, who without knowing it gave me an a-ha moment. I want to say another huge thank you to Stacy for being so open and answering each question I asked with such clarity and transparency. I might not be there to do the laundry or rub your feet but when you need that glass of wine you mentioned I got you 😉 and I’m sending you a foot spa for those sore deserving feet. Janet