There’s always this empty space that sits across from me.
Des on one side, my purse on the other and then there’s this hole that follows me everywhere, from the dinner table, to the bedroom, to those nights free of obligations when I actually want to talk about Des, his schooling progress, and what fun things he could do during the weekend.
That empty space is there when Des reads a word for the first time and there should be a witness, or he hits the baseball from a toss and there’s no echo to my clap.
That empty space haunts the kitchen as I cook for us, or the living room as we play Go Fish by ourselves. He doesn’t really eat much, so I always end up with leftovers, and every time I open the fridge there’s this stinking reminder, I’m alone.
I don’t have a partner in parenting. I don’t have someone who has my back, or someone’s back to have for that matter. I love that feeling, of sharing in love all the cool things the kiddo does.
There are the days when it feels like the whole world is caving in and I don’t even know why I do what I do with no appreciation, or reciprocity, or compensation. When I have to make every decision on my own. When there’s no one to consult about the mundane things like:
Do you want cochinita pibil or should we phone it in with pork chops? Can you swing by and pick up more applesauce for Des since I’ve already driven the interstate five times today? Can you get a new game for Desmond? He’s already mastered the spelling one.
That’s when I’m reminded that I’m a mother doing it on my own.
My heart feels pruned and shriveled like my fingers do when I’m in the water too long. My spirit is burnt like those sailors lost at sea with no shade, and when they’re fished out of the water, they’re mistaken for a net full of lobsters.
Some days I’m okay. Some days I’m great, and some days I’m miserable. That’s just how it goes. I’ve accepted that.
Like today, I feel like I can’t do this one more day. This. This “single mom I can still do it all” bullshit.
“Do you need help?” I sometimes get from friends.
“No, no I can do this. I’m about to turn a corner, I’m trusting that.” But, I’m freaking out because tuition is due and I had to put money into the house this last month. I’m on one income with a mortgage, insurance, car payment, gas, insurance and all the stuff that goes into home ownership. But I do it because I’m responsible and independent.
I’m trying to keep my body healthy, but I’m always tired. I try to learn new skills in my job, or a craft, or anything to keep my mind busy. I have to help keep Des’ body and mind growing healthy and raise him all on my own, worrying about fucking sharp knives on his feet with no body protection, and a father that needs someone else to show him how to be a decent person, though he’s still too selfish to try. I don’t have a co-parent in all this because he is so selfish and angry. It doesn’t help that his Psych major girlfriend thinks she knows everything about raising a child when she has none of her own, so her advice goes directly against my own ways of wanting to parent my child. So, I have to do the best I can on my custody weeks as if he does not have a father. I can do this, really I can, all on my own. But I’m exhausted.
This scenario is not natural or sustainable.
I understand why so many men glob on to the first woman who seems loyal and well off and willing to help. Statistics show that often divorced fathers will immediately remarry after their divorce because they are weak, or can’t do things on their own, or are afraid and need a nurturing woman to save them. I understand, because this is awful as a single mother at times. I am stronger than that to complain, or jump right into a scenario of needing saved, because I don’t need it.
I have no reason to be complaining about my circumstance. I don’t. But the truth is, this sucks.
Being a mother and single is like being air dropped into tundra with nothing more than a fleece jacket and a Swiss army knife. I’m getting to that point, where I don’t know how I’m going to survive this for the next however many years.
Every week, I lose him. This empty nest syndrome isn’t supposed to happen for fourteen more years. This is premature and wrong. He’s away for a whole week without as much as a peep, save 5 distracted minutes on Wednesday and a play date on Thursday. He lays his precious little head on a different pillow in a different zip code seven nights a week. I hate that. I hate it. I hate that I walk past his bedroom and play area and there’s no life, no sound, no mess, just gray. Vacant. Dead.
Nights are harder than days. Days are doable—I’m busy running around, but I always come home to an empty house.
I’m dating, but it’s so much different than before. I have no need to jump into co-habiting until the time is right. I don’t have a huge need to be financially supported or supportive of another adult, because my priority is my son. I make decisions about life with raising him in mind, not where my boyfriend might like to spend the next kid-free weekend at a sports game or at a house party. I’m too busy cleaning the house, taking care of myself, or planning what I can do with Des the next time I have him.
I really want to be neck deep in a steaming hot bath or getting a massage while knowing my son is tucked into his bed next to mine and I can give him a kiss on the cheek before I turn in. Instead I’m faced with figuring out how to strategically bypass any self help or personality growing activities because I’m not in the mood. I had to get up with Des extra early because he had a bad dream, or I had to run errands, clean the house and had to do work from home because something broke and I have no energy left.
My story is dark and twisty, and then luminous, and then ominous, and on top of that, I’m not just a regular gal and I never will be.
Who will want me? This life I lead? It’s never ending bitching and complaining because of an absent co-parent. It’s 100% and then 50% and then back to 100% again.
I’m too tired and old for this shit.
Where’s the steady hand and the eyes that have seen it all alongside me and still loves me?
These are the times I summon nostalgia and I think about married life for a moment, and I miss him. Wanting a life I envisioned with someone I can’t be with is a cruel joke—he’s dead, but not really dead, and he hates me, or at the very least wants to punish me. That’s what makes it excruciating sometimes.
Our relationship is dead, but he’s alive and well and is definitely fucking someone else or laughing over a glass of beer, telling someone about how much of a bitch his ex-wife is.
I just finished a full weekend of fun Halloween things and taking Des to a live Disney show. We played many games, cooked together, laughed and tickled each other. We learned to read new words.
It’s all my responsibility to clean and tend to everything as I start another day, pruned and burnt, with ironclad determination to make something of myself, even if there’s no one to celebrate with me as a parent all the things my son accomplishes.
Today may have been miserable, but maybe tomorrow will be an okay day, or even better, it’ll be a great day. Or, it’ll just be another awful day in the wonderful shit show that is my life.
This is a reimagined version tailored to my life from: