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Sam went away for a couple of nights recently and I stayed home with Henry. Spending nights apart is nothing new, but this time was different. Henry’s canine teeth were coming through (parents who warned me about canines were oh so justified!). Because of that, he had high temperatures and a runny nose. He was grumpy which is unlike him, and he was awake every hour during the night for three nights in a row. I didn’t feel exhausted and I didn’t get frustrated with him because I knew the reason he was unsettled, I felt sympathetic, and I knew it wouldn’t last.
But here’s what I did do that weekend. I developed a whole new appreciation for single mothers.
There were times during the day that weren’t impossible, but they were tough. I didn’t have someone to pass Henry out of the shower to. I didn’t have someone to pin him down so I could change his nappy when he’d had a poo explosion and was trying to eat it. I didn’t have someone there to say “let me have a try” when he wouldn’t go to sleep. When he was awake every hour, it fell to me to comfort him because turn-taking wasn’t an option. He ended up with more Panadol on his face than in his mouth because I couldn’t hold his hands and open his mouth at the same time. When he started crying just as my dinner was ready, I wondered what time I'd actually get to eat it.
At many points, I savoured the one-on-one time I had with Henry during this particular weekend. But when Sam drove into the driveway upon his return, I could’ve kissed the ground he walked on.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not whinging that I had to look after my own child for a couple of days. I'm very capable of doing so, and am more than happy to do so. But it struck me that weekend how hard it would be raising Henry on my own, day in and day out, with absolutely no break.
Single mamas, you really are the underdog. You slog it out, often with no recognition for the amazing job you’re doing. You manage to be everything to your child – the disciplinarian and the peacekeeper; the talker and the listener; the provider and the keeper of the home. You are masters of multi-tasking. You are brilliant problem solvers. You attend your needs last, and most of the time, you have no choice in doing so. You say "no" to social invitations, not because you don't want to go, but because you can't. There are other things you say "no" to, not because you don't want them, but because you understand that sacrifices need to be made in order to give your child the life you want them to have.
I honestly don’t know how you manage to get through every day without having the breaks you no doubt need. I admire your courage, your independence and your perseverance, especially if being a single parent is not something you are by choice.
I hope you have people in your life that help, especially when you refuse to ask for it, which is usually when you need it the most. I hope that when your children are older they appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that went into raising them. I hope they realise the many sacrifices that were made in order for them to be nurtured and provided for. Most of all, I hope the rewarding parts of parenthood far outweigh the challenges and pressures you face.
There have been many days that you’ve doubted yourself; that you felt like you couldn’t keep going; that you felt like you weren’t a good mother. There will be many more. None of us are immune from that. But, on those days, just take a moment to look at your child, to really look at them. Then remind yourself that you did that… you raised that beautiful child, all on your own.
Single mamas, hats off to you! You are strong. You are capable. You are brave. For all that and more, you should be very proud.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.