Last week, little beast stood next to me as I put on my make-up for work and sobbed, "Mommy, I don't want you to go. We never see you. You're always studying. I miss you." I turned and let that sweet little six year crawl in my lap. I sighed. She was totally right.
Since April my life has been turned upside down by studying for my acupuncture board exams, because of that my beasts life is upside down as well. Our house is trashed, we've been eating crappy food, the sweet beasts have been shoved off on babysitters, friends, and their grandparents. Things have gotten so bad that when I offered to get them hot dogs for lunch one day my kids whined, "We are sick of junk food!"
At the beginning of my divorce I went to a child psychologist to figure out how to make the separation easier for my children. I remember her saying, "From this point on sometimes you will have to make decisions that are based not on what is best for your children, but what is best for YOU. These are some of the hardest choices you will have to make as a parent." I think that all parents go through this, but for a single parent, the choice to put your own needs in front of your children's are more complicated than for a married couple raising kids. Because I am the only adult in this house, I don't have another person to balance out these choices. There is no one to pick up the slack when I need to come first. There is no equal to me to take the kids to park, fix meals, clean house. There are amazing, loving, giving people that step in to help, but for my kids those people are second best to Mama, and since my amazing supporters don't live in our house, there is still a lot that doesn't get done.
Married parents can look to each for help. They can turn inward toward the family to solve problems and balance the adult needs with the children's needs. A single parent must look to the outside for support and sometimes they must put their children's need for things like healthy food, clean clothes, camp sign ups, and mommy time on hold for awhile. In a single parent home if the lone parent doesn't do it it doesn't get done. Many times picking up the slack falls to the kids and it becomes one more burden of being in a single parent home.
Don't get me wrong. I truly believe there are many amazing and good things about being a single parent. I'm not sure at this point if I would ever choose to try to raise my kids with someone else, but sometimes I wonder if that is me once again making the choice to do what is right for myself instead of my kids. I enjoy the freedom of single motherhood. I enjoy my independence. I appreciate not having to ever ask permission. Which is what started this whole studying thing in the beginning.
Six years ago, when I told the wuzband I wanted to go to acupuncture school he said, "No"! Once the marriage crumbled it became apparent that I was going to need make enough money to be able to support my beasts on my own. I signed up for acupuncture school. I needed no permission. For the five years I've been in school there have been sacrifices made by everyone involved, but especially by my kids.
When when my kids got out of school this June I told them simply, "This is going to be the summer of no summer. Mommy is studying for boards.Your summer is going to be TV and DS."
I often wonder when my children are older how they will view this time in their lives; these years of their mother leaving them five days a month to travel to another state and go to school while they are shuffled between grandparents, dad, and sitter. The hours and hours and days and days of mommy hidden in her room studying and paper writing. The stressed out, vacant eyed mommy, the horrible meals, and dirty house. All of us putting our lives on hold until, "Mommy's done with boards." (If I say that to them one more time they may just scratch my eyes out.)
Will this be what they sit across from their therapist and talk about in 20 years or so? Will they cry out words like "neglect" and "disregard"? Or will they be able to share memories of their of their mom working her ass off trying to make a life for the two people she cherishes the most? My hope is one day my sweet beasts will see that though the years I have spent in acupuncture school may have seemed to be totally mommy centered, I made the decision to go to school, not just for me, but for them as well. I worked my ass off, we sacrificed, and sacrificed, so that we could have the best life possible for us; our little unit of three, sailing through unchartered waters with Sassy Queenpin Mama at the helm, praying that in the end she chose what was right.