I always thought that being a mother was the single most challenging job I never actually signed up for…..until I became a single mom. Then the stakes were higher and the road steeper and the job harder.
Let’s back up. After 30 years of marriage, my life with my husband was no longer manageable. We had been in couples counseling and singles counseling, had a trial separation and finally, a final separation. I felt I had failed my marriage and my children and the road back to normalcy took years in coming.
My older two children, born when I was in my late twenties, were launched from the nest, working and living their adult lives when we separated. They were affected by the divorce, but not so much as my youngest, born when I was 41 and a “tween” when we separated. I think she took the full brunt of the fights, threats, and disintegration of her “so-called life.”
Fortunately, my good friend Rona (name changed) found me a position in her boss’s food bank, a non-profit sector of his business. Since one of my fields of interest was food/ nutrition, this was perfect. I even went back for a second degree in Nutrition Education during this time, a real confidence booster.
My youngest and I moved back to upstate New York, where I had first met Rona 25 years before, when my older two children and her older three children were in grammar school. (Rona also had a “late-life” baby and her older three were also on their own when she separated from her husband a few months before I moved in with my youngest.) Perfect set-up! Rona’s large house allowed the four of us room to breathe, with our own bedrooms and even an office for me.
We ate dinner together almost every night, unless one of us had a date, and we supported each other when one of us had a fight with our soon-to-be-ex-husbands. Rona would say, “When Jake calls, I won’t get angry.” And then he’d call and she’d get angry. Afterward, I would console her. When I needed a shoulder to cry on because of my travails with my ex, Rona was there. Fortunately, we were upset at different times! Actually, the best times were Friday nights, when Rhona made Sabbath dinner with the rest of us as helpers. The candles, the beautifully set dining room table, and the peace of that night helped sustained my daughter and me throughout the week.
As a single mom for 13 years, before my remarriage, I experienced many of the same steps one goes through after a death, as described by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1969 breakthrough book, On Death and Dying, which I read after my separation. My marriage had died and I grieved through: 1) denial and isolation (I can’t believe I’m getting divorced!); 2) anger (How dare he get away with no alimony for one year?) 3) bargaining (If only I had tried harder.); 4) depression (Divorce and menopause simultaneously led to a meltdown.); and 5) acceptance (OK, I need to move on with my life.)
By the time I met Alan, who became my second husband, I had surrendered to the idea that there were worse things than being single. My children were healthy, my youngest was entering adulthood and seemed to weather the storm of divorce better than I had, and I had found a new career as an editor, with substitute teaching and cooking classes on the side. My new husband was icing on the cake!
So when I celebrate Mother’s Day this year, it won’t be only for my mother (and grandmother); it will also be for all single mothers who are struggling to put their lives back together after divorce or widowhood. I have several single friends who raised their children “single-handedly” and I now know first hand what that is. So, I have permanently amended my belief about motherhood: The most difficult job I have ever tackled is being a single mom. My hat’s off to all of us!
Source for photo: http://www.celestecouturehats.com/?cp=1