When the realization hit that I was going to be a single mom, I quickly feared my son’s life would somehow fall short of what he deserved; that I alone, wouldn’t be enough. Enough–what does that mean, exactly? Especially as it relates to motherhood? To me, it’s a comparison game. It is looking at myself as a mother and seeing how I stack up against other mothers. You know those mothers. The mothers with significant others that are always around, so loving and helpful; a true co-parent, a sidekick to take on this crazy-hard parenting thing together. The mothers that always have perfect hair, makeup and clothes (you mean, you actually got to shower today!?) with the children so perfectly dressed and suspiciously clean (serious side-eye).
For so long I wanted to be that well-groomed mother with her well-groomed child that brings homemade, organic snacks to play dates and makes crafts so stellar that they are worth selling on the internet for profit. I consistently held myself to society’s standard of the ideal mother. But that’s not reality. Or, at least not my reality.
Most days, I barely have the time to get dinner (i.e. frozen chicken nuggets and microwave macaroni and cheese) on the table because I worked for eight or so hours, spent an hour and a half in the store fighting with a three-year-old about which bundle of bananas I am going to buy; and no, kid, you can’t have that package of paper plates that you so desperately want. I routinely find myself with around 40 minutes left until bedtime, my child still needing a bath (probably way overdue), wanting to play trains, and I have no clean pajamas for him. Unless my son is rocking high-water sweatpants and a midriff-baring shirt to bed (why are you growing so fast, kid!?).
Surely I am failing my child, as he goes out into the world alongside other children that have moms that have the time to sew and bake and easily shuffle their brood between soccer games and piano lessons–probably doing it in heels, no less. I don’t have someone to help me take on my daily list of to-dos, so how do I prioritize the needs of my everyday life with my desire to be the perfect mother for my child? How can I even begin to compare to those other mothers when I’m doing this alone and lack the time to be everything I want to be for my child? Will my child notice a difference between his mom and those other moms? Will I be enough for my child?
It took me quite some time to let go of the fact that my son will grow up in a single-parent home. It took even longer to realize that not only will my child be okay, he will actually be happy, despite my lack of a co-parent and Super Mom abilities. How do I know this? While I may fall short in a lot of aspects of parenting (like the fact I can’t successfully make pancakes), there’s one thing I know I can do right; I can love. I can and do love my child with an unwavering force.
Point? Chill out on your comparison game, mama! In order for me to love effectively, I have learned that I absolutely have to cut myself some slack. I regularly have to admit to myself that I can’t do it all, especially as a single parent, and it is OKAY that I can’t do it all.
So, yes, dishes do stay in the sink because my son and I need to read that book for the third time. I won’t bake and decorate a three tier cake for the birthday party, but I sure know where to buy the cutest cupcakes that will make my child smile. And, no, my eyeliner wings won’t match today because I just don’t have the time to waste, but at least I have on makeup! I will not and cannot be like those other mothers, the ones I consistently compare myself to, and that is okay. Where I lack in abilities, I excel in love.
As my son gets older, he won’t remember the messy house, or the lackluster meals. Or, he at least won’t hold those things against me (fingers crossed, anyway). I think my son will remember that his mama always took time for him, put him first, loved him even when she had many other things she could and needed to do, especially as a single parent. He will remember a mama that tried her best. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that my child knows he is loved, and he is my priority. And that, I have come to learn, is enough. It’s enough for him, and it’s enough for me.
It is in a mother’s nature to want to be everything to our children. But our love IS everything. Being a good mother and raising a happy child is not about how many parents are in your household. It isn’t about where you rank on the motherhood scale. As long as you let love guide you through this crazy and beautiful parenthood ride, mama, I guarantee that you are enough.