Everything I thought I knew about parenting when there were two adults in the house went out the door with my ex back in 2020. Because single parenting is a new ballgame.
We got our Christmas tree this weekend. And it was a debacle because I wanted pre-cut and went to a place, it was cut your own, before I knew what was happening a guy was shoving a saw in my hand and the boys were running up a hill. It’s not a little hill. It’s a half mile completely up hill. Since doing this on my own I have always gotten a pre-cut tree so I’m trekking up the hill already nervous that this is going to go poorly.
We make it up the hill. We find the tree. I’m on the ground in kind of a nice outfit because I was expecting a pre-cut tree, and with my hair down. I have a lot of hair. Curly. Trees. Sap. It was a thing. So I’m sawing the tree. My son keeps trying to grab the saw to “help” and I’m like please stop because I’m going to cut off your finger by accident.
When I hear a male voice from above, “You need a hand?”
I emerge from the ground/tree. There is a very nice man and five children of various ages and a small wife all smiling down at me and my kids. He and his teenage son get the tree down within about ten seconds like freaking champs. And the family is circled around us and I’m thinking they are going to start singing a song from a the Sound of Music or something. They look picturesque and sort of whole in a way that a single mom covered in sap, crazy hair, may have been swearing at the tree, and her two twin boys…well don’t. If my sons and I would break into song it would be a song from Jungle Cruise. Because, man, we are just trying to survive.
We get the tree. Thanks to the very kind Von Trapp-esque family. The tree farm people seem to emerge out of the trees as we are dragging the tree out and take it from the boys and I and throw it on a tractor that brings it down the hill. They strap it to our car. I mean overall it was great service and all inclusive.
The hardest part was when we got home. Because then it’s just me. I set up the stand, and the boys helped me hose it off, and I drag it inside, and am wrestling with it to get it in the stand and upright. This of course is after I got if off the car.
So there I am, wrestling a tree. It was a lot fatter than it looked in the field. And I still had on my nice clothes. And I am in the damn thing. And I’m trying to drop it on center of the stand, then lean down and screw the screw things and then it kind slouches over when I think I’ve got it.
It happened then. One of my sons was standing on the other side of the fat tree. I thought he was watching his brother play a Switch game but he was apparently monitoring me quite intently. I made a noise- somewhere between a sigh/sob/groan of frustration.
It’s in those moments that- well you ever get those flashes of the most intense thoughts and emotions that sort of leak in? Like when I first got divorced I was angry, grieving, resentful all the time low level. I’m not anymore. But in those moments it comes through- a flash of all that hurt and pain and anger at having to do these moments alone. It’s quite visceral and unless you’ve experienced it rather difficult to describe.
But it’s important to name it. To write it. Because if there is one single parent out there who reads this and feels that and this normalizes it for you, then it’s for the best. We, as a society, do not talk about divorce and the repercussions of it and single parenting two and three years in because we are all just supposed to adapt and smile and post on social media pretending every moment is liquid gold.
But it’s not. Because when my son heard that sound I made he came around and looked at me concerned, “Are you okay Mama?” “Yeah baby, I am okay, some things are just really hard to do with one person, and this is one of them.” He looked more concerned even though I was trying to take deep breaths and smile and act okay. “Mommy should be here.” He said quietly. And I knew in that moment he was remembering the Von Trapps at the Christmas tree farm, and yearning for that for himself. And for me.
I had to be at my sisters within about twenty minutes, and they went with my ex that night.
I got the tree up. It’s still standing and mostly straight. But this is divorced single Mama life. Moments of utter punch in the gut raw parenthood while I’m standing there alone putting up the tree. Then I just carry that. Alone.
My kids see me. They see cracks in my invincible Mama armor because I am human and how can I not have moments where I let my feelings slip through?
Other then hugging my kids and telling them I love them there are not “happy endings” to these moments. I had to finish the tree and then move on with our day. But that was a hard one and I was not okay after that. I don’t want my ex here. The divorce was very necessary for many reasons. And I am better as an individual and as a parent without her. I am allowed to feel alone though and lonely. And I would have appreciated another person over five feet in the room helping me with the tree.
And my son saw this whole family and then saw me break a little bit.
And this is why parenting changed when I started doing it alone. This is why it became harder and I feel even more blind navigating it.
Since becoming a single parent I’ve done some research and what I found were alarming statistics including 63% of suicides are individuals from single parent households. The stress, the shame, and the loneliness of single parenting is real and of course it impacts the children in the homes. Study after study showed an increase in anxiety, depression, and substance abuse as well as poverty and welfare among single Moms. There are of course many postulations on these statistics but seeing as how I live it I want to throw my own in there.
We have to start talking about these moments. We have to bring them into the light and out of this horrible shaming mindset. Being a single parent and having vulnerability and having sad moments with our kids is okay, normal, and should be expected. Because it’s hard and there are no normalizing factors within our communities for single parents.
It was less than ten seconds. That interaction with my son while I was holding a sappy Christmas tree. I’ve had other moments like this. They are intimate and visceral and raw and they make me feel like the worst human and also the strongest and most resilient and most alone.
I have resources though. I have great friends & family who see me and support me and I engage in my own therapy and I have built and continue to build financial security for myself and my sons. I also am a strong person and I’m too damn stubborn to give up on anything but especially not on my sons and myself. But there are many parents out there who don’t have the resources and maybe are not as strong. This is for you. You are not alone. These painful moments happen to us all and you are allowed to feel that pain in the moment and you’re allowed to let your kids see you feel it too. Give yourself some grace and accept help from people who offer it. You are not alone.
988- Lifeline/Suicide hotline
Trans lifeline- 877-565-8860