Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Working Single Mom Season of Life

Well lovely readers, I am here. I am officially at the point I promised myself I would never be.

When I was young, I watched my own single mom juggle work and school and mothering and fathering. I watched her pinch pennies and suffer through week-long migraines and figure out how to fix stuff around the house and worry, always worry, about her kids. She struggled with insomnia and was beat back by disrespectful coworkers and missed every PTO meeting and she even sometimes cried. I watched her sacrifice peace, health, and her own personal goals so I could have a good life. I noticed and I appreciated and I was loved...at great expense to my mama.

Right around the time I realized babies were made mostly by choice, I promised myself if I ever had kids, I would make sure I was in a perfectly unbreakable, good, stable situation. Good, stable financial condition. Good, stable housing. Good, stable relationship. If I couldn't make those things happen, then no kids for me.

I was a silly little thing, wasn't I?

Once upon a time, Jen met a man, had kids, and planned a life for herself and her little family. About a decade later, that same Jen had to make a choice. She had to choose between self-respect and stability. Honesty and falsity. Divorce, and all the terrifying, expensive, messy things that come with it, or marriage to a man that made her feel trapped by her own needs. Jen, as we all know, chose self-respect, honesty, and divorce.

And I'm struggling. I'm struggling because a large piece of me wants to slam the door on that part of my life forever and run in the opposite direction for miles and miles until the ground under my feet is so unfamiliar I can no longer feel the sting of my own stupidity. Another part of me cries for familiarity, for something, anything, to resemble calm and contained and careful. Everything is so messy. I don't trust myself to make the right choices. I second guess everything. I struggle to trust those around me. Everything is new, or needs to be adjusted....my dreams and my goals are no different.

And I cannot run. I have these two beautiful dancing babies who need me now more than ever. Their relationship with me has become so critically and understandably needy. I can't slack. I can't disappear into the bottom of a beer can. I can't shout at and hit the man who disgraced me. I need to be on point 99.9% of the time, even when they are not around, because I'm the parent who puts them first. The pressure and isolation is suffocating....especially when combined with a distrust toward my own inclinations. Am I doing this right? Am I messing them up even more? Every time I give to one place, I take from another. Am I balanced? Is this ok?

And the rage. I have so much of it. It hits me out of nowhere, it seems...like when I drop a grocery bag on the ground and that jar of sauce I really needed breaks and my mind flashes to the memory of him carrying the grocery bags five at a time with no problem. Or when I feel my baby's forehead and it's so, so hot and I'm out of medicine, again, and I don't want to drag sick and sleeping babies out to the cold truck for a late-night trip to Walgreens. Or when my daughter tells me she is scared and I don't know what to tell her and I wish like hell there was another adult, someone who shared my love for this child, to help me come up with a solution for her pain. I curse him for making me choose between self-respect and stability, for putting me in this position, for his lies and false vows, for the loss of so many dreams, for the introduction of so many insecurities, for rejecting me in the most hurtful and harmful way a person can be rejected. I curse him for making me scared for my children. I curse him, but I still love him. I still appreciate him. I still hope he has a good day and that he one day wakes up and finds the strength to be the man I still somehow believe he can one day be.

Between curses and tears, surges of strength and pride in myself for making this work, and sheer exhaustion, I realized I needed to take steps to secure my future, however compromised and imperfect and uncertain that future may be.

But every time I give to one area of my life, I take from another.

I am both blessed and pained to say I started a new job this month. It's a corporate position, in a corporate office, surrounded by corporate coworkers and ruled over by corporate leaders. I make money for people. I make money doing things that do not, in my mind, positively affect the big picture of peace and prosperity for all. The job does not fit into the goals I had for my life. It does not align with my morals, my personal needs, my sense of satisfaction and pride. It is a paycheck. It challenges my mind and business skills. It challenges my ability to prioritize, and when I leave the house each morning and make the choice to put money ahead of time with my kids, it breaks my freaking heart. Why is this the only option? Why is this my only option? There's that rage again.

I'd swapped all my business casual clothes for flannel, you know. I'd purged my closet with so much hope and joy, knowing with certainty I would never need to dress to impress anyone other than myself ever again. Then last month, a week before my start date, I hauled over $100 in office wear from Goodwill into the house, plopped it all down on my bed, and sighed. Back here? I'm back here now, hm? How long are you going to do this, Jen? What happens if this becomes your new normal? What if you never achieve those dreams...or worse, what if you work this job so long you forget about your dreams entirely? What if this changes you into a different person, one who doesn't value the important things anymore?

So much fear. So much uncertainty. So much negative thinking.

I know this job is an opportunity....and I know this opportunity is something to be extremely grateful for. Most single moms don't get a fancy corporate job that financially allows for an in-home nanny and comes with the word "manager" attached to it. Many single moms are stuck taking whatever jobs they can get, sometimes multiple jobs, sometimes without benefits, or with horrific hours, or under horrific working conditions. I know this happens because my own mama worked one or two of those jobs. I am extremely blessed - the actions and work I'd done five years ago paved the way for where I am now. I proved my worth back when I was a younger corporate slave and consequently, I've been given a huge financial lead over most single working moms.

But that doesn't take away the sting in my eyes when I drive away from the two most important things in my life each morning. It doesn't keep my heart from racing with anger when my ex complains about how tired he is. It doesn't negate the pain I feel when I miss yet another one of my daughters' milestones. It doesn't soothe my doubts. It doesn't comfort me when someone I love dearly passes away and I remember that life is short, so, so short, and I am wasting it by sitting in this car, driving 90 minutes one way. For what? I scream it to myself, in my head, multiple times a day. For what, Jen? My rational side answers. You're in this position now, like it or not, so what are you going to do about it?

I'm gonna keep truckin'. I'm going to try and keep the faith that all of this, all of it, in its ugly, disgusting unfairness, is leading to something. I don't know what it is, and I don't even particularly believe it is a future set in stone, but I know it's coming. I know what I am doing now is preparing me for that future. And I know every day I spend allowing the rage to take over is another day wasted, another day I could be seeking the good, and the light, the calm. I am wasting my days by hating my days. And breaking that bad habit seems impossible. But I'm not giving up. Today I sang one of my favorite songs of all time on my way into work. Tomorrow I get to wear my new-to-me blue work dress. Thursday I get to work from a local coffee shop instead of driving into the office. My children love me. I have a beautiful dog. I found a great nanny. My friends are amazing. My ex-husband's been cool lately. My family, both biological and from my previous marriage, is rooting for me. I have this really incredible bearded man who's been talking to me for some time now....he reminds me of the big picture. He reminds me of my dreams. He makes me smile. What an incredibly lucky woman I am.

I had grand plans this month of sharing something homestead-ish and special with you, my treasured readers. Those plans will need to wait a little longer. I am keeping my head above water, but just barely, and my writing sits on a low rung now. I couldn't stay away tonight, though. I am sleepy and missing time with my kids as I type this, but I just had to. Words have been slithering around my head for weeks. It feels good to get them down...even though my kids will be getting to bed late. Every time I give to one area, I take from another.

My mama had to give to her career, and her chores, and the millions of other areas within her life. The funny part? I had no idea. She smiled brightly when she picked me up. She celebrated every holiday with joy. She danced and sang with me. I never wanted for anything. I had no idea that for my mama, to give to one area of her life, she had to take from another. I had no idea. No clue whatsoever. There's a lesson to be learned there, I'm sure of it. Maybe by the time I complete this season of my life, the season in which I am a working single mom, I'll have it figured out.

As always, and I truly do mean always, thank you so much for reading.


  1. My dearest daughter, I'm typing, can't see, damn teary eyes. The rage will not last. It will become dull, an ache you can ignore. The dream will remain intact. On the back burner, always waiting for the moment to launch like a explosive rocket. The girls will grow up, loving their momma like God, and they will flourish. Sponges, they will see what you do each day, be secure in their momma’s love, and develop strength which will serve them well. You are so strong. You are so resilient. You are perseverance, by definition. While, mind you, while you embrace daily joys – Daily Joys. So much we cannot control, yet so much we can. Those extra 15 min. you spend, time spent in the garden and with dancing feathers, those times when you attend a musical extravaganza at school, those are lifetime memories for your girls. LIFETIME. Hold your head high, my dear, for you are fighting the Good Fight. And your end game is going to be Magical.

  2. Jen,

    I am a year late to reading this and obviously much more water had flowed under the bridge. But your words were so heartfelt, honest and profound that I had to comment. Thank you for sharing this. The mess and hard stuff is so real--in your life and in so many others. But so are the blessings. Your moms words are beautiful as well.

    There is grace. There is hope. There are little joys, daily joys when we look. I pray that God is helping you to let go of the rage, that while understandable, does rob you as well.
    And as a pastor, I must say, I love the title of your blog--flawed and forgiven. By God's grace I'm glad you have discovered that to be true.
    Praying for you. Missing you. Greet the girls for me!
    Pr. Kendall