If you're flying solo with kiddos as a single parent, you can go ahead and close your browser now. You are already intimate with the packed cart I'm about to unload.
For the rest...do you know what it's like to be a single mom or dad? Grab some Redenbacher, 'cause I'm gonna tell you. Each person's story is a little different, I'll share mine.
The chore pile perpetually respawns.
- Mow and rake, pulverize and bag leaves.
- Jump the roof every fall and spring to degoop gutters and sweep ash from the fire chimney.
- Read do-it-yourself books to learn the skills, then lay tile, engineered flooring, toilets and sinks for two bathroom rebuilds.
- Razor slice and remove a thousand pounds of sloppin' carpet after the basement soaked in a sewer/rain bath.
- Lay 800 feet of floor. Planking down 16-foot sections of wood without help is a bear, especially while trying to keep my daughter entertained and outta the dust zone.*
- Plant and pull a garden each season. Fresh tomatoes, onions and spicy peppers are worth the labor.
- Change the oil in car, mower and snowblower.
- Paint every room in the house, twice.
- Strip and stain the deck, replace garage siding that ants attacked.
- Chainsaw a tree gone bad.
- Orchestrate a kitchen rebuild.
*On some of the larger projects, I found it worked best to start in the evening after 8:00, daughter in bed. Not uncommon to bang on a renovation till 1:00 am, then up and red-eyed at 6:00 for work.
The moments when one is the loneliest.
- Walking into parent parties and being the spouseless bandit.
- Leading a craft at Brownie Scouts, all girls and moms in the house.
- Church packed with married families, not another single parent in the crowd of 600.
- Quiet ceiling stare in bed at night.
Times when I play mom and dad, a man-mother.
- Fielding questions my daughter pops out of the blue about bras, stinky boys and curiosity about "The Pad" aisle at Target.
- Shopping for dresses and hair bows. Smile and a nod in the store when my daughter asks if daddy thinks a skirt is cute.
- Painting her nails, then fending off attacks when she comes at with a polish brush, wishing to turn my toes bright.
The daily grind, mundane to-dos balled up into a messy knot of hustle.
- Packing 100 school lunches. Planning, shopping and cooking dinner every night.
- Sweep, mop and toilet spraydown. Who keeps missing the throne and leaving the seat up?
- A dozen school fundraisers and waivers to sign.
- 45 minutes of homework each night, conferences and endless books.
- Keeping up on snowpants, school uniforms and missing socks. Taming shrinking pants before they reach level 10 highwaters.
- Haircuts, doctor appointments, booster shots, PTO at work when her mercury meets one hundred.
- Pay bills and taxes, organize investments and college savings.
- Shop and wrap gifts (they end up a mess and look like a blind person wrapped 'em), write cards for weddings, birthdays and babies being born.
Molding Pigtails so she doesn't turn out to be a bratty punk with pretty eyes.
- Church and Bible flybys, teaching her the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Delilah, Jesus and Bartholomew the disciple, too.
- Praying together, for us and others.
- Helping a friend and her little girls as her husband faded from cancer.
- Volunteering together, cooking spaghetti for those that are kicked down.
- Correction with a firm hand when needed. Yeah, I spanked when she was little, DHS be damned.
- Spending time with kid when she's acting out for attention.
We carve up fun time with a sharp knife.
- Ski the powder, 30 summer trips to the pool for kid lessons and water slides.
- 1,000 rounds of Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Trouble. Card games up the wazoo: Speed, Trash, War, Old Maid, Skip-Bo, Uno and a couple I think she made up.
- Bike rides, training for her first 5K, soccer and baseball in the backyard.
- Race and pace marathons for dad.
- Bench 200 pounds, pull-ups and curls until they hurt. No yoga.
- Scribble articles for a running magazine, blog about beards and cat-butt couches.
- Tea time, dress-up, playing school, airplane rides on my size 11s and dancing like fools to Raffi.
- Pretend castles forged from cardboard, blankets, stuffed animals and imagination.
- Babysitting our neighbor's guinea pig, Gizmo, for a week. Simply because I know there's nothing that will make Pigtails smile more right now.
True, there's a lot going on there. Multitasking, planning and occasional naps are needed to survive. But I'm also thankful and have it pretty good. I work a solid career that I enjoy. I'm only corralling one rugrat. We're both healthy and have fun together. Many single parents out there are raising several children, some of them with special needs. You have my respect, you're tough.
Single parents, may the Lord give you strength, Band-Aides and endless