Being the 'Single Parent' Within a Relationship
How does one manage to raise a child on his or her own, yet still be in a committed relationship with the other parent? Like this.
A new way of life.
My 'husband' (common-law of seven years now) works in an industry that requires him being away for work. A lot. I knew this going into things with him, back when we were dating. But you know how it is—with lust at first sight, you don't see the possible hardships that await you. It was definitely hard saying goodbye each time he had to leave town for an extended period (usually a month or so). There were tears, and some heartache, but I grew to accept it more easily over time.
Blessings and hardships.
Fast forward a year and half later, we welcomed the birth of our first child, a beautiful little girl. We were thrown into parenthood, with no immediate family in town to assist with anything. We were stressed, exhausted, all the things new parents feel. But duty called, and off to work he went again, leaving me alone, not having a clue of what I was doing, for an entire month. No family nearby to lean on. No real close friends in the city to get support from. My little girl and I were on our own, and we just had to figure it out. It was a difficult adjustment to motherhood those first few months, but by six months in, I started to get a handle on it, and was feeling pretty proud of how I was managing. He would get back to town, stay about five to seven days, then leave again for a month, sometimes even longer. It just became our "normal," and we learned how to make do.
When our girl turned three years old, her baby sister made her debut into our family. Keep in mind, neither of our girls were planned pregnancies (oops) but of course, they became our two biggest blessings in life. My husband's work schedule was still the same at this point. So as our new arrival turned about three weeks old, he had to leave for work again, for another month, leaving me now with two little beings to look after. "Okay," I thought. "I've done this with one, I can do this with two." I pulled up my big girl panties and dove in. Well let me tell you... that first month, was the HARDEST month of my life. Going from one kid to two kids was FAR tougher, then going from zero kids to one kid (just based on my own experience). When he got home a month later, I fell into his arms and burst into tears. I had never felt so depleted, drained, and stressed. Having to maintain all the needs of a newborn and three-year old on my own, just about did me in. My spouse and I had also not been without our own personal struggles—our relationship had been hanging by a thread on more than one occasion over the years, which only added to my stress of running the parenting ship solo. The constant worrying of "is this the end, are we over?" was just too much to bear sometimes. But we kept plugging away at our relationship, and parenting our children.
The universe never throws you more stuff than you can handle.
Back in my early 30s, I was never certain about having children. It was one of those things where I could take it or leave it, and be fine either way. Well, our two amazing kiddos are now three and six years old, and I can not imagine my life without them. My husband has been away for about 90 percent of their life so far. I've been through everything with them—the hugs, the tears, the tantrums, the disciplining, the love, the laughter, the countless crying-in-the-middle-of-the-nights, the illnesses and hospital visits, the first steps, the first words, you name it. It has tested me to every degree imaginable. Its become an eye opening experience that's not only shown me my most loving side, but also my dark side, and the areas I too need to work on. This is definitely not just about being a mom, and focusing on shaping my kids to be decent human beings, but also about focusing on, and re-shaping, my own self. I saw an interview once with Dr. Shefali (international speaker/psychologist) who said something along the lines of "We are not here to teach children, they are here to teach US." That statement was like a brick upside the head to me. Children will test every damn button to the depths of your soul, that will reveal to yourself who you really are, what triggers you, and why. Having your partner away for the majority of all that, is incredibly difficult, when you have to bear the weight of all the good, bad, and ugly that comes up. Not just with your children, but also within yourself. It's a very delicate balancing act of doing your duties as a parent, but also looking inward, and doing a hell of a lot of self-reflection.
Keep growing, and looking forward.
Reflecting back on the last six years, I have grown a tremendous amount. Learning to juggle my own full-time day job, a three year old and six year old, maintaining a home, spending our weekends doing chores, running errands, and shuffling kids to their activities, has been the absolute biggest feat of my life. In fact, I'm not even quite sure how I got here, but I seem to be steering this ship on my own pretty damn well, considering. I've received many compliments over the years from co-workers and friends, that have commended me on my ability to take care of everything all on my own. I honestly don't even think about how difficult or commendable it is, until someone points it out to me. It's just become such a "normal" way of life for us, I don't really know any different. Now, it's not to say there aren't days I want to pull my f**king hair out if I hear one more "Mooommmm!!!!!" being screamed at me from across the house for something. But I then remind myself that I'm VERY lucky, blessed, and grateful to even be a mom, when there are so many out there that want to be, but are unable, or even more tragically, have lost their own child (my heart truly goes out to you).
My daughters know that daddy is always away at work, its just become their "normal" also. Right now, they seem to be managing pretty well with it. But will it have long term effects that may pop up as they get older? Perhaps, but only time will tell. As crappy and difficult as its been to have him away 90 percent of the time, it's actually given me a golden opportunity to really build my own special bond with them, as well as to really test myself—my strength, perseverance, and patience. I've nailed the first two—still working on the third. But hey, I know I'll get there, because the universe always has our backs, and will never throw us more than what we can handle. The fact that I'm here writing this story, is living proof :)