I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole parenting thing for the past couple of days.
I’ve realized that even after over two years of doing it, I’m still not really used to this whole single mom thing. I sometimes wonder if I ever will be.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that my measure of what makes someone a “good” parent is based largely on my “before separation life”. The yardstick I use is that of a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. The expectations I have for my performance are based on unrealistic standards. Hell – I couldn’t meet those standards even when I WAS a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.
My core belief system hasn’t changed. I believe in treating my girls like independent human beings. I take the time to talk to them, rather than dictate. I encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and learning. I ask for respect, kindness and compassion in return. I work hard to help them believe in and love themselves.
None of those things have changed. It’s just that the path to getting there has altered. That doesn’t make me any less of a parent…it just makes me a different parent than I used to be. I went from stay-at-home mom to working single mom. That’s a huge change, no matter how you look at it. I can’t expect to still be able to crank out craft projects and home cooking every night after I’ve worked a full day at the office. I’m doing good if I can heat up leftovers and get everyone into bed before I collapse for the night.
But leftovers and a cluttered home do not a bad parent make.
I still have time for hugs and kisses and snuggles. I still have time for heart-to-heart talks. I still have time for “mommy-daughter sleepovers”, nacho & movie night, and girl’s days out. I just pray that these are the things they remember…and not that they wish that they could still spend all day, every day with mommy.
The guilt that I feel comes largely from the fact that I wasn’t able to make my marriage work. There were so many reasons for that…some of them firmly my responsibility. Yet other factors were completely in the hands of others. I think that there will always be a part of me that believes that giving up and walking away was the ultimate selfish act. That I should have found a way, for the sake of my precious girls, to make it work – no matter what. Because they would be so much happier if we were all one big happy family.
This is the place where I feel like I put my happiness ahead of theirs.
And that particular guilt will continue to haunt me for a long time to come.