Day 16: In Praise of Single Parents. Or, Just Me.

Every Friday morning, with very few exceptions, my daughters and I get up and venture out to a nearby grocery store for doughnuts and coffee. When I tuck in the girls on Thursday night, usually I’ll say “Hooray! Tomorrow is broccoli day!” and one of them will say, “NOOOOO! DOUGHNUT DAY!” and then when my alarm goes off Friday morning, I’ll gently shake each of them awake, “It’s doughnut day – get up, get dressed.”

Traditions, yo.

Doughnut day was born of a time several years ago when the Ex, before he was the Ex, had to go out of town for several weeks for training and I was left at home to care for the kids on my own. I spent a lot of time planning meals, I remember (peanut butter pancakes, for example, was better in theory and didn’t really win over the crowd as I’d hoped), a lot of time organizing so I could have it all together.

But then.

The girls wouldn’t sleep. They’d give me such drama at bedtime. I was so exhausted by the end of the day, I just wanted them to want to rest too. Right around that time, I ran into our family doctor in the grocery store. She was buying her son a doughnut for staying in his bed all night – and that’s when it hit me: If bribery is acceptable for the doctor, it’s acceptable for me.

And thus doughnut day was born. “If you go to bed at bedtime without fuss all week,” I told the girls, “on Friday morning, we’ll go out for doughnuts.”

And they did.

So we did.

And we’ve been doing it almost every Friday since.

Now that single parenthood is a way of life and not just a temporary situation, I’ve found that bribery makes a lot less sense. However, I’m not always sure what the right answer is. I am torn at times between why should I give you something for doing what I’ve asked of you and I’ll buy you a pony if you will just throw the damn empty Capri Sun pouch in the trash!

Though I’ve yet to buy any large animals, my method seems to be somewhere in the middle – and that some days are better than others.

Parenthood, as a rule, is just…tough. Even under the best of circumstances, you’re still faced with all of the stupid battles people make up to terrify you into thinking you’re ruining your children – breastfeed versus bottle, stay at home parenting versus working outside the home, organic versus the regular old stuff that’s cheaper. If you believe what you read, we’re faced with countless ways each day that we an really really irrevocably damage our kids (Oh, you let your kid watch an hour of Nick Jr while you were cleaning your kitchen? You might as well just say sayonara to all those brain cells you just helped kill).

When you’ve got a partner in the home, you have someone to share the blame responsibility with. Someone to help lighten the load. Someone to watch the kids while you scrub the counters so you don’t rely on Dora and her creepy backpack to keep Junior entertained. Someone to take over when you’ve had a rough day and need just five minutes to yourself to regroup.

When you’re on your own, you don’t have that. And so you juggle.

Even if the other parent is still in the picture – if you’re the one doing the heavy lifting in your home, solo, yeah, you’re a single parent.

Since I’ve been on my own with the kids I’ve…

  • only been to book club once. I don’t want to take them to a sitter so I can go sit at a restaurant for several hours on a school night to talk about a book I might not have had time to read anyway.
  • learned to workout later in the day – working around the kids’ schedule rather than my own.
  • gotten better at cooking. I’m the only one doing it, I hardly every get a break, and if I’m going to eat my cooking all the time, I’d like it to be good.
  • learned that my definition of good cooking differs from the kids’. Spend time cooking to be met with a turned up nose? Way harsh, kids.
  • been the one to get up with the kids when they have bad dreams or comfort them when they can’t fall asleep. The 3:30 a.m. wake up call from Pumpkin the other night after she had a bad dream left me bleary eyed for most of the next day… her too. But, we’re in it together.
  • taken the brunt of their frustration for…well… everything. What’s more fun than an overtired child? Well, pretty much everything. As I said to a friend the other day, talking to a sleep deprived child sometimes is akin to negotiating with terrorists – treading lightly to avoid setting her off. Having no one else to pass that off to means that I’ve…
  • had to get better at counting to ten and keeping calm. Child upset about not being able to attend a party because another event is scheduled at the same time? Sure, tantrums are no fun to listen to, but, if I stop and listen – I know why she’s upset. It’s valid. I’d be upset too. By not reacting in kind, by keeping calm, we can navigate out of the funk a bit faster
  • gotten better at reading my children
  • had a lot of fun being ridiculous with my children – singing and dancing around the living room at the top of our lungs? YES PLEASE.
  • learned to choose my battles – not everything is a big deal
  • had to find ways to keep ourselves entertained without breaking the bank
  • tried to always keep my kiddos in the forefront of my thoughts when making decisions, particularly those that might affect them

I can’t speak for everyone, or for everyone’s experience – but I have noticed that I get down on myself quite a lot – arguments with the girls can leave me mopey. My overtired child told me the other day, “NOTHING YOU DO IS IMPORTANT!” and I felt gutted and cried because I’m trying so hard, working so hard and they don’t see it.

So for those of you who might need to hear it: You’re doing hard work. You’re doing a good job. What you’re doing is important. You’re doing the best you can with what you have. You can ask for help if you need it (and I’ll listen if you need to vent). They tell me the tough times get easier and they’re already getting easier than they were so I imagine maybe, just maybe, they’ll keep getting easier. Television won’t break your children. And neither will a doughnut a week. Don’t take it personally if your kids don’t see the value in what you’re doing  – but know that they will realize some day how much you care, how much you love them, and maybe they’ll realize your struggle and maybe they won’t. You’re raising good people. Being a single parent doesn’t mean that your kids are gonna be broken relationship-phobic hooligans (Y’all, I just really wanted to say “hooligans”).

The day-to-day stuff falls on my shoulders and sometimes I get tired. Years ago, necessity made me create a new doughnut day tradition, these days necessity has taught me more useful things.

We’ll all be okay.

Now hand me the remote and pass the doughnuts.




About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.

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