Sometimes a wave of anxiety washes over me as images of my daughter suffering flood into my consciousness.
In these moments, I wish I were by her side. I wish things weren’t the way they are. I wish that separation wasn’t real, but it is.
There are times when I have trouble getting to sleep because I’m missing her sweet little snore at night. There are times when I wonder if she’s had a bad dream or woken up in the middle of the night looking for water.
And when she comes back to me and tells me she had a bad dream last night and she woke up thirsty, I say, “I know, I felt you. I woke up too! You were in my dream telling me all about it.”
“Really?” she says and she smiles and gives me a big hug. “Mommy, we’re so close,” she says. “Mommy, you’re my best friend, even though I know moms and dads aren’t really your friends, they’re your parents,” she says with a grin, her eyes drawing me in their oceanic depths.
I’m a single mother of an almost seven-year-old girl. I share joint custody with her father. We’ve had a 50/50 arrangement for almost four years.
I still have a hard time with it. I have a hard time sharing my child. I have a hard time giving her up every Sunday when it’s time for her to go to her dad’s.
Sometimes, when she leaves, I take a heaving breath. A part of me is desperate to have a bit of time alone. Sometimes, like this past week, she’s been following my every move like a gentle, giggly shadow. Suddenly, she leaves, and the house is very quiet—peacefully quiet, pin-drop quiet. I make a cup of tea and open the book that’s been flirting with me all week. I go to bed at any time I want, free of the burden of her bedtime routine. I sleep deeply without any late night wake-ups for water or an escort to the bathroom.
It’s nice for a day, that solo time. That I-can-do-whatever-I-want-in-this-space time as if I’m a teenager again and my parents have left me with an empty house full of junk food. It’s serene and self-nurturing to woo my I-can-do-whatever-I-want self.
It’s fulfilling—until it becomes lonely.
It turns to lonesomeness when the noises of the house suddenly become creepy creaks and eerie rattles. It becomes lonely when the walls feel too big and the ceilings too tall.
When I miss her, I feel what most of us fear: feeling alone. I fill my time with activities like writing to feed my soul and massage my spirit. Don’t get me wrong: it also fills the void of missing her. I take myself on dates to movies or cafes. I watch and sip and read and keep my mind occupied. I schedule adult dates and go out with friends—mostly single parents—when they have time, or when our schedules aren’t completely opposing each other. I sub for yoga classes. I do grad school homework. I clean the house. I keep doing as my mind and heart keep missing.
The introvert in me is content with spending time alone and enjoying doing things I love, but with a subtle nagging feeling that something is a bit empty.
Sometimes, I stop all the doing and just sit with that loneliness and longing. I’ve learned to treat it in a mindful way, as a sort of yoga practice. It’s in that space that I’ve started to allow myself to get swallowed whole. In the dark belly of the loneliness, I find the light of my longing hold a face of compassion, whispering to me words of courage and strength. Sometimes we don’t realize the gifts we have been given until we allow ourselves to get swallowed alive by our deepest fears and woes.
Five years ago, I wanted to escape this path; I was jealous that my ex found someone a month after we split—someone he met on a play-date and someone he is married to now.
Today, I am comfortable saying I feel a sense of loneliness when my daughter is spending the week with her father.
She does have a night in that week that she always spends with me so it’s not such a long stretch. I feel a sense of loneliness that my introverted self recognizes as a lacking, or a sense of incompleteness.
Today, I am comfortable saying I feel a sense of wholeness, completeness, and security when she’s sleeping in her bed in my house.
Today, I can say being a single mom is hard work—hard inner work.
Today, I can say that I am the strongest I’ve ever been, and I wouldn’t be this strong had I not been on this path—this single parent path.
Today, I can say to the universe, “Thank You! I think I understand now. I think I know why you blessed me with this beautiful gift that has made me dig into the dregs of my inner resources to find the bits of braveness I’d never had known existed.”
Today, I can say what we are given by this life has something to teach us.
Today, I can say that if we surrender to what we are given, we discover who we truly are—we see the beauty that contains itself in the stresses and strains.
There is so much beauty in there—inside of me, inside of you—whether we are a single parent or not.
And if we fear being a single parent, we should not. We should trust this magical force that we call life; it is so wise. We should trust it and know that it only gives us what it knows we’re ready for. This force is what we call life and it only gives gifts. It’s our job to see them as such. But the work of seeing isn’t always easy.
We should trust this force that has gifted us with the blessing of being a parent. It loves us. It has faith in us. The question we must ask is, “Do you have faith in ourselves?”
And you must know, my parent friend, that the universe has utter and total faith in you.
Author: Sarah Theresa
Image: Jeremy Beck/ Unsplash
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Khara-Jade Warren