The other night, I had a few friends over to what I consider to be my lovely new home. It's all mine. Paid for by me. Decorated by me. Infused 100% with my style, taste and spirit. When friends walk into my new home, they all say the same thing, "Now this house is so YOU." And it is.
As we laughed and talked late into the night, one of my deeply intuitive friends asked, "How are you? Are you really doing OK?"
"Yes.. I'm great," I replied enthusiastically.
"I know you are," he said. "But I sense a tiny bit of sadness in this house. A repressed sadness that you need to let out."
I felt the familiar choke in my throat and pushed it down. Because I was not going to allow myself to feel anymore sadness than my divorce had already caused me. I knew what the sadness was about and I was not yet ready to deal with it.
A few days later, another friend of mine commented on how beautiful my children were. "Thank you, they are, aren't they," I mused. "Just the other day, my daughter did the cutest thing..." then I trailed off. And I realized why I was so sad. As I had this realization, it took everything in me to hold back the tears.
These were stories I should have been sharing with my husband. The funny stories about the kids, the cute things they do together to make each other laugh, the uncanny way they look so similar yet are so completely different. The crazy things they say. The infuriating things they do. But he's no longer here. And I'm alone with nobody to share the stories with.
When my son pulls his sister around in a sleeping bag on the floor and they collapse into a fit full of giggles, there is nobody to share the moment with. When my daughter said, "I love you" to me for the first time in her baby voice, there was nobody there to witness it. On Saturday mornings when the 3 of us pile into my bed together with our arms wrapped around each other, I try to feel like a "family" but the truth is, I don't. There is a missing piece. A minus one. An incomplete puzzle. And it's then that I realize why my house holds that "tiny bit of sadness" still.
What does raising kids alone after divorce feel like? In one simple word...HARD.
There are some basic things that are ridiculously challenging for me to do with the kids because I'm doing it alone and don't have an extra set of hands. Like getting out of the car...
I have a toddler and a 5 year old and getting out of the car is a Herculean feat. Strap on the Ergo, get my daughter out of her car seat, strap her into the Ergo, find a place to stuff my money and keys (typically in my bra). Get my 5 year old out of his car seat, try to balance toddler while blocking my 5 year old from running into the ongoing traffic. Remember to bring both of their sippy cups, snacks and all other random items they will inevitably need in the 20 minutes we will be in said store or else full meltdowns will ensue. Find a shopping cart. Strap toddler in, argue with my 5 year old about why he can't stand up in the back of the cart. I am already 20 minutes into this adventure and I'm sweating bullets and haven't yet made it into the store. Or the Starbucks. Yes - It's the same process to get a chai tea latte. I don't want to get into how challenging it is once I get into the actual store and have to shop. Or buy the cup of coffee and add that to the balancing act. But let's just say that many a perfect stranger have out of sheer pity offered to hold my child, help me out to my car, or buy me a drink after witnessing how friggin hard it is.
One could argue that I could save these little outings for when my children are with their father. And I often do. But unfortunately my food shopping and errands don't always neatly line up on the days I don't have my kids. And for my own feelings of self-worth, I take these things on to prove to myself I CAN do this alone, even though it's hard.
At the end of the day, taking on a Starbucks run or a venture into Target isn't the hardest part of raising kids alone. It's the emotional support that is not there on a daily basis which is something all us moms need. There is nobody there to assure me I'm doing a good job as a mom. Nobody to hug me at the end of a particularly challenging day. Nobody to make sure I've eaten or taken care of myself once I get them to bed. Nobody to hold me when I crawl into bed at night utterly exhausted. But mainly, there is nobody to share the complete and utter joy and gratitude I feel in my heart that I was blessed with these two amazing creatures who call me mommy.
Yes, I know that one day I will no longer be alone. That these days of struggling will be a distant memory. But just for today, I will admit...it's really hard.