Hear This Truth

Parenting is hard. I don’t care if you’re a single mom, a partnered mom, a married mom, or something in between. Not one of us is handed a how-to manual when our children enter our lives. And even if you think you have this parenting thing down pat—so much so that you convince yourself to have another, there’s no guarantee that what worked with number one will work with number two.

I’m Nancy, and I’m mom to Marshall, who turned 10 this past May, and believe me when I say we’ve had our ups and downs. I tell people that I always loved Marshall but I didn’t like him till he turned about 4. Sure, I heard some gasps from the crowd, but those first years were difficult for me—trying to figure out how to incorporate this incredible, wonderful, temperamental, opinionated being into my solidly independent life was not easy. I was not handed an easy-going baby who cooed delightfully all day long. I was handed one who didn’t sleep, who has opinions (our Gymboree instructor joked that I must own every dinosaur and truck shirt ever made—well, yeah, if I wanted him to wear clothes, they’d better have dinosaurs and trucks on them), who challenges me on decisions I make (and sometimes he’s right), and who can melt my heart just be coming into my room each night to give me a hug goodnight.

And then comes the single part. Because it is a factor, just like being in a bad marriage or being part of a divorced family or being in love with your partner every day is a factor. The hardest thing for me about being a single mom is doing it all—not being able to say to someone else, this is what I don’t do well, can you please handle this? Marshall and I have similar temperaments and I tend to internalize, especially when he gets melodramatic. He of course feeds on this and can turn on the depressive, woe-is-me facade and make me nuts. It’s at times like that I’d like to be able to turn to someone else and says he’s all yours. And I’m sure there are times when Marshall wishes there were someone else he could turn to—someone he could convince that what he’s thinking is a good idea or someone he could talk to about how much I drive him crazy. We have friends and dads who are more than willing to listen and offer advice, but I don’t think he’s quite at that comfort level yet.

So that’s my truth of single motherhood. Its ups way outnumber the downs, but the downs can rock my world. I’m usually fine with being the only adult in my son’s life, but it would be nice to be able to do a hand-off on occasion. And we’re getting there. We talk about everything–and I mean everything–and that’s good thing. I keep the conversation going. And when I feel like I can’t handle a certain situation, I tell him that. And sometimes I walk out the front door and sit in the lobby of my building till I cool off. My super is very sympathetic. His daughter is 9, and even though he has a wife I’ve seen him go down to his office and just sigh.

Nancy Nisselbaum

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