Dear Single Mothers,

January 26, 2012

How do you do this?

I am on week three of four of solo parenting.
I’ve hit that wall in which I can still kind of handle it but I can’t handle the waffle getting stuck in the toaster.

Right now
the teething sleep deprivation
is so severe I’m not sure at all ever what I’m doing exactly.

Just getting him to school and then him to school and feeding and wiping and trying.

Then I want to throw the toaster and I follow that I’m losing it feeling with
of course
because look…



Just LOOK at what I have…



They are sooooo…


THEM, you know?



When I am solo, we all move down the totem pole, so to speak. No time for all of our needs or for the family utopia in my head to even come close to existing and I suppose this is good in the grander scheme of things

but it is still a constant tug at my heart.

I mean, the more the merrier and the more the less of me to go around
into all the many spaces in home and hearts.

Even when we grown ups are both here
it feels a little like being tied up
spinning ’round with rope wrapping

and tightening.

Just trying to get it all done, meet the needs inside too few hours that feel so long. I love them so much and I just can’t keep up.

I cried hard into my bed last night, harder than in a very long time and I swore at God like He was punishing me by way of Awake. I am only one me, I told Him. I cannot do this!

and then I picked up the crying baby and found calm and peace in her settling again and I had no choice but surrender. Absolutely no choice. I have been awake 44 hours of the last 48 and there is no other choice.

Is this what you know, Single Mother? Is your wisdom born in letting go?  In the acceptance that you are only one you and what you do is good?  I am astounded (ASTOUNDED) by the way you keep going.


{Just to be totally clear: I’m in no way saying that my life situation is the same as a single parent. I just so often think of single parents when my husband travels. I think of single parents with awe and complete respect, whether they are parenting alone by choice or not.}


Kate January 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

As a former single parent for the first 7 years of my sons life, I can answer this but the space between going at it alone by choice and alone by force is quite different. Never to discount what goes on in a home where one parent travels constantly, but the reality of working to support a child AND being the sole source of everything, 24/7, is a far different matter. I would imagine (because I don’t know) that when you look at the amount of time your spouse is gone, it can feel interminable. But from my perspective, there was no one else. So I sucked in my breath every morning and got out of bed; sometimes sick, often exhausted, sometimes without an ounce of joy in my heart. But I chose being alone with my son to protect him from what (and who) I couldn’t control. It must feel different on the inside of soloing while a spouse is away. You’re alone but you’re not. It’s just you but it’s not. There no one else but there still is but they’re not HERE and you are and it feels impossible. As a single parent by choice, you just know its you. And only you and it toughens you like forging steel, like pouring molten metal in a mold that you made yourself. Sometimes I don’t know how I managed 7 years of it, but I had some good fortune, some good people and a stubbornness that held me up. And I surrendered a lot. As we must.
Kate recently of the wild

Heather January 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

Hi you,

Yes. Wow. The whole resolve and molding thing. Forging steel. A painful, beautiful analogy and thing.

My questions in this post were more rhetorical, I guess. I was just thinking about single parents because I do a lot of that when Ryan is gone and whether it’s a choice or not, single parenting astounds me, truly. I am always in awe of it and respect single parents so completely for their resolve and hard work.

All that to say, I’m not comparing my occasional times alone to single parenting, just thinking out loud. I wanted to be sure you knew that so that I didn’t sound like a big clueless jerk. heh.

Kate January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

I worship single parents – they are amaaaazing. Since we are both dealing with the EJ teething sleep deprivation – here are my suggestions: Splash your face with cold water, often. Chew gum, the jaw movement keeps you awake. Write a list of your blessings and tape it to your wall. Thrust your head in the freezer, as often as necessary. Peppermint oil on your wrists, sniff often (for serious). Suck on peppermints too. A walk around the block. Family showers – the water wakes you up and the kiddos think it is fun fun fun. When your head feels like a million pounds, jump up and down and swing your arms a bit – get the ol’ blood pumping to survive 10 more minutes. If all else fails, lay yourself down on the living room floor, cover your body in goldfish crackers, then let your children crawl all over you and snack, while you doze off.
Kate recently posted..A new shopping experience…

Ashleigh Baker January 26, 2012 at 10:58 am

Oh Heather, yes, yes, the grace is found in those tiny and huge moments when you realize you are only one you and the bar lowers a bit and you realize that this, right here, is enough. I’ve been “situationally single”- husband deployed – for over two of my six years of mothering and the Very Best Thing is that realization that not being able to do it all is truly okay… even good? Freedom, that. It weaves itself into life beyond the solo parenting.

You can do this. It is just plain hard but you are breathing and they are breathing and you are strong. Heather the Brave, remember?

Tina January 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

I often reflect on the amazing job single mothers have when I have those moments in time too. You spoke it.
Tina recently posted..Just Write – Perspective

Jess January 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

When Jim was working away last year I would send him terrible texts in the middle of the night saying “I. Hate. This.” I think he was afraid to come home on Fridays! That season was incredibly difficult because no one slept, and when you aren’t sleeping everything else is 1,000x harder. I know that life for a single mom is unimaginably hard, but don’t minimize what you are going through either– HARD. I think it only got easier when I just gave up- like you said, all you can do is surrender. I pray you can find rest!
Jess recently posted..stepping carefully

Heather January 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I actually woke Ryan up last night with a phone call. heh. I yell-cried. Not AT him but just at It. I just couldn’t hold it together one more second. You know that thing that happens when every single time you doze off, you are woken. It’s not good for a person. heh. Thank you for letting me know you get it. It’s so good to be gotten.


Sarah January 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I was a single parent for four years, and wow. Sheer force of will to get everything done. School, work, kiddo, house, repeat. Being solo, knowing that I had to juggle my work schedule and my essay test because the kiddo was sick with (more) ear infections– taking a three year old with me everywhere… The biggest hurdle, however, was talking about it. I had made my choice– I had no right to complain. I had no right to accept help (when asked for, which I never did, and when offered). Once I was finally able to let my guard down, to talk about it, the whole shebang became easier.
Sarah recently posted..The Birthday Party Conundrum

Barb January 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

As a Single Mother By Choice (yes, I actually chose this) I can tell you that, yes, there are some ways in which it is hard. And there are some ways in which it is easy. But the truth of it that motherhood, parenthood, is hard no matter how many children you have and no matter how many hours in a day there are. I don’t know why we women think that because we become mothers everything is going to be blissful and easy all the time. Life wasn’t blissful and easy before we had kids. Life is hard. Accepting that it isn’t always easy makes it less hard. Does that make sense? So I guess, in some ways, yes, letting go and surrendering is part of it. Let go of the idea that the house has to be clean (you should see the pile of dried and crusted food in the corner by my 1-year-old’s high chair because I just sweep it all there and actually bend over toe sweep it all up just every 3 or 4 days). Let go of the idea that your hair has to be combed or that you have to shower more than once every 3 days. :) Let go of expecting your children to put on new clothes for school every day or sleep in pajamas rather than their clothes from school (or vice versa). It’s really just like parenting with two adults. You cut corners where you have to in order to maintain your sanity. Let them sleep in your bed. Let them watch TV. Let them dress themselves in completely mismatched backwards clothes. Parenting is hard and there are ebbs and flows of it, and right now you’re in the middle of a tough time. I have had those days. I have screamed at God or the universe or whatever many times. “How much more of this am I supposed to take?!” But there is something in that moment that helps you regroup and get through the next big deal. One day, sometimes one hour, at a time. Hang in there. The thing to remember when you’re in the middle of the really tough times is that it won’t last forever, that the rough patch will last a finite amount of time. And then something will change. Eventually.
Barb recently posted..Present in PJ’s and Swimsuits

Heather January 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

You know, Barb. I do understand that this gig is not easy. I don’t at all expect Easy. Two posts ago I wrote about how Hard motherhood is for all of us, no matter what our situation and in this post I’m doing what I was saying we all need to be able to do. To just say that we’re having a bad day and not have that seen as complaining or a comparison of some kind.

Sometimes we just need to say it. Not because it’s whining or wondering why it isn’t easy or setting too high of any kind of expectation, but because it’s just so good to be heard when there has been so little sleep in so many days.

And yes, the beauty in the moment of surrender is what we need. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that…but it’s always there and I am full of gratefulness.

Barb January 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I hear ya. I suppose my conversation style of writing didn’t come off very good, did it? I was just trying to speak as a single mother, just trying to say that YES it’s hard for us but it’s hard for everyone. Sometimes I need to learn to write less and just say “I’ve been there.” I didn’t mean to imply that you thought it should be easy. I was kind of speaking vaguely about how we all get overwhelmed and exhausted sometimes and how we are all sometimes surprised by our own exhaustion. So many of us put such high unrealistic expectations on ourselves as mothers. I was just trying to say that we’ve all been there and it’s okay to feel that way. I just didn’t say it right. This is why people read your blog. Your way with words is so much better than mine. I hope I didn’t offend. Love the blog. Love, love, love.
Barb recently posted..Present in PJ’s and Swimsuits

Heather January 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

You were fine, Barb! I have that same conversational tone to my written responses. You didn’t say it wrong. I probly assumed a couple of things in what you were saying, partially because of sleep-deprivation brain and partially just because the written word is tricky. I didn’t intend to sound defensive, just explanatory, but it’s so hard to tell. It’s all good. My apologies for making it seem like you needed to explain. :)

karla porter archer January 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

As both a former ‘married single mom’ and a former ‘single single mom’, I relate.

And to reuse your words from your last post: hurt is hurt. tough is tough. and lack of sleep is lack of sleep.

I always felt so isolated in my hurt and frustration. I hid it from my friends, from my readers, and was slowly dying inside. And in so many ways I also looked forward to the times when it was just me. I was on my own whether my ex was home or not.
But it was, in many ways, less stressful when I knew I had to rely on just myself. Knowing that there was an able bodied person who was *unwilling* to help, was even worse…

*holding your hand*

Elaine January 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I’m in the same boat a lot of the time, Heather. Although my kids are a bit older and I will say, it seems to be getting somewhat easier. Except at that witching hour(s) of 4-7. OHMYGAH. The sad thing? My husband is IN TOWN but working practically non-stop lately.

Just trying to say I can relate. A LOT.

So here’s some hugs and a few prayers too. We can all use them.
Elaine recently posted..Funky Town

Heather January 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I have so many friends in that situation it seems. The husband is there but unable to be THERE. I think that would be so confusing and unpredictable and frustrating. So yeah, we’re in it together, lady. Love you.

Cheairs January 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Oh…your words…once again a gift. My prayer for you today is that you are able to let go. That you can call a friend someone in your family and let them take the kids to school, wipe a nose, bring a meal, sweep the floor or unload the dishwasher. If you let go…they will come.

Single mom, mom with traveling partner, special needs mom, mom with a child in the hospital, mom going through a divorce, moms…. all moms…..we must let go…. to embrace and know that “what you(we) do it good”….that good is good enough….

And when we do that we can rest in the hands of others who will lift us and carry us. We can help the single mom, the mother who grieves, the mom whose partner is traveling. Because one day they will hold us. And that is good.

Thank you for once again bringing awareness. Awareness to the single mom or the the mom who has a partner who travels. A true gift to you give all through your writing!

Heather January 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm

You are so kind. So encouraging to me. I appreciate your words more than I can say. You know “I just don’t think I can do it anymore” so well and then you’re so graceful. Thank you.

Dawn January 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I think the same thing whenever my husband travels. It is hard when there is no break in sight. It makes me think that I should offer to help single mothers out more often. It can’t be easy.
Dawn recently posted..Family Mission Statement

Megan (FriedOkra) January 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Gosh. Your words take me right back to the months after my second was born, I had a husband (wonderful in every way, I hasten to assert!) who was working on his MBA, had 3 hours worth of commute time daily AND 50 hour weeks, when he wasn’t out of town, which he was, a lot. My bed got all cried/shrieked into, as well. And OH, did I ever shout and curse at God. I didn’t throw the toaster, but man, I did throw a lot of smaller, safer things. I truly didn’t believe I would survive. It was hard – like the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through hard. Some days it was only the fact that there was no one else to care for my kids that kept me from running away. But I did survive (skin of my teeth!), and it has done amazing work in both humbling and toughening me. I look back on it and I am just proud. (Is that bad?) Proud of how much I learned (to lean on God, to accept imperfection and lower my impossible standards, to let go a little. Or a lot.) I totally understand where you are. One moment at a time is all you have to manage. Little by little, this time will slip away, leaving you many cumulative moments stronger, and wiser and just … better.
Megan (FriedOkra) recently posted..WIWW: Black and Blues Without the Snooze

Heather January 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Dude. That’s a lot. It’s a comfort to me that you’re a fellow pillow shrieker :) I mean, not that I’m glad you had to do that…

Yes. The refining and humbling. Yes. Sometimes I sit around thinking “apparently I needed a lot of that.” :) And you know what? I’m grateful for it, even if it comes by way of turd gifts (as my friend Ellie would say) a whole lot of the time.

Thank you for your words.

Tiffany January 26, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I go crazy when my husband goes on his 10 day fishing trip each year. I bow to single parents who do it right.
Tiffany recently posted..Favorites from Pinterest

Renee Schuls-Jacobson January 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

So lovely! And so glad I have a pretty independent 12 year old. I couldn’t do it alone! I know it’s rough when the spouse travels, but at least he’s not leaving unwashed dishes in the sink. ;-)
Renee Schuls-Jacobson recently posted..Who Should Escape From Hell with El?

Gianna January 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

One time i caught myself complaining to my husband’s cousin who is a single mom about during Christmas season, I won’t see my husband for 6 weeks!
I stopped myself and felt stupid and said something dumb, like, “I guess I can of relate to you.”
But even that was stupid. Because we are in 2 different spots. She is a single mom with one baby (who I must say is pretty great) and I was a “single” mom for 6 weeks with 4 kids. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Gianna recently posted..Guest Post: Kim and Jason

Galit Breen January 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

You are stunning.

That is all.

Except, the surrender and the acceptance of what is? Is really good advice.

Galit Breen recently posted..Thunder Cake

Robbie January 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm

For the last 15 months my husband and I have lived in a commuter marriage. This is not by choice but necessity to keep a roof over our heads. For the first 10 months he was able to come home nearly every weekend. There were varying scenarios but majority of the time one of us had 2 school age kids and the other had our 4 year old. It was hard..unbelievably hard. I didn’t think it could get harder. For the last 5 months it has been JUST ME. He moved 1200 miles away for a job and has been able to visit twice for a total of 10 days. I don’t try to do it all. I try to make it through the day. I cry myself to sleep. I send angry texts. I fantasizing about running away. But I do whatever I must to make it through the day. And the next. And the one after that. It may not get better but you will get better at managing it. ((hugs))

Sarah Harris January 27, 2012 at 3:28 am

I personally think it can sometimes be more difficult to be married and just deal with extended periods of time where the other parent isn’t home. You are waiting for the time to pass and be over til the other one comes back and gives you a reprieve. When I became a single parent by divorce, there was no set time frame for when that may change so it was just easier to dive in and adjust because I had to create a new normal and live with it.
Everyone has excellent points!

Stephanie January 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

For 3 years, my husband spent every single weekend in different cities for work, and I was home alone, first with one kid, then pregnant with said child in tow, then with two kids. It was only 2 days out of every week, but I began to feel like a single parent on those weekends, because on the weekends, everyone else seemed to have the whole family together. It made me feel more on my own to see them, and it was much harder to find other moms to share the burden with, since most of them were having family time. It always made me wonder: how to single mothers do it? 7 days a week? Totally humbling.
Stephanie recently posted..when mom gets sick

Lara January 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

This was beautiful. I’m a single parent for a few days right now, too. I so hate it when my husband goes , and like you, I often wonder how those single moms do it.

And then I am glad that I don’t have to.
Lara recently posted..Six Questions

Adventures In Babywearing January 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Those photos are precious.

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Issa January 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I think it takes time to find the flow. To feel like everyone is getting at least most of their needs met. It will never be perfect, you know? So why expect it to be? I don’t think that even if he is gone for a week that you’d find that flow that you would if he were gone all the time. And Heather? You don’t need too. My mother told me something in the beginning of my separation that I will never forget. She said, if at night, they are all fed and you told them at least once that you loved them? Then it’s good enough. Housework can be done later. Anything can be done later. But them being fed and loved is all that matters in the end.

Good enough is okay. Nothing is permanent. I found my way eventually. Over time, especially as EJ ages you’ll find your way when he’s out of town.

ps. I adore you for the way you wrote this. So often when people compare their few days/week alone with kids to being a single parent, I get angry. Because it comes across kinda rude and judgy. You didn’t even have a hint of that. So thank you.

Laura February 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I love this. I’m currently “single” parenting, at the end of the fifth week of ten. He’s away for military training, & it’s been four years since he went away for this long. At that point I had a nursing baby, plus three other kids, and post-partum depression. In a new town. It was so hard, and I never thought I’d survive it (maybe the depression, which was only survived by the grace of God.) Now I have five kiddos, and none are nursing (but the two-year-old is a holy terror! and a daddy’s boy who is so very confused). I also have an almost-11-year old, who is so needy she may as well be nursing for the demands she asks. It’s so different this time, though. That newborn time, with nursing and no sleep is just so.very.exhausting. And I’m running every day (in the car, that is) to one school for the three oldest, and to & from preschool for the 4 year old, and trying to keep the two year old busy enough not to constantly miss his daddy, but he does. The running wears me out, but at least we’re not home much to mess things up! My giving-in has been accepting that I’m going to splurge on dinner out once a week, because I just can’t face cooking and dishes on a given night, after 3 different sets of homework (sometimes 4 if the preschooler has worksheets). Sounds kinda easy when I re-read the eating out part, but it’s not. was it you who posted the link to the HARD blog? I love it. We ALL have it hard. I love the way you write in this post that you think of single parents with awe, because I do, too. This sucks, but in a different way than it used to, but I’m surviving it. And I’m always so relieved to read/hear that I’m not alone in this! I love your blog, though I get very little time to read it, but I was catching up today in between batches of cookies I had to make for the school carnival…you feed my soul!

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