My husband has been incredibly busy over the last several weeks and hasn’t spent much time at home. Each night as I’ve prepared dinner, washed the dishes, given the baths, checked the homework, tucked the children in their beds, stepped on the Legos and sprayed Shout on the skid marks, I’ve sighed continuously and rolled my eyes and been a big pitiful baby about the whole thing.
“Being a single mother sucks,” I thought to myself as the boy smeared ketchup on his white shirt and the girl simultaneously screamed that there was a spider in the bathtub. “I need help.”
As I exhaled deeply and climbed the stairs for the 300th time today, I thought of my single friends and my friends whose husbands often work long hours, and I suddenly felt very guilty for complaining because my husband is only temporarily absent.
“She’s so strong,” I thought of a friend who solely parents two boys because her husband dumped her for his secretary in such a cliché and douche bag kind of way.
“I don’t know how she does it,” I thought of another with three children under the age of 5 whose husband works 16 hour days.
And then I thought of someone that I’d never thought of before.
Never, until tonight, did I think of my mother as a single mother.
When I was eleven, my father passed away. He was many things to me. He was the disciplinarian, the one who fixed the satellite dish when rain made the television all fuzzy and I pouted because I couldn’t watch TGIF, the one who told me to keep my eye on the ball, the one who spoiled me relentlessly, the one who provided the income to keep me in new Sam and Libby flats and Hypercolor t-shirts, the one who said he’d be in the trunk with a shotgun on my first date, the one who made me feel safe.
I thought of my mother, the young widowed mother, who never complained or sighed or rolled her eyes when the sink was full of dishes or when I slammed my bedroom door because I was a pre-teen and hated all of the world and everyone in it.
My mother, who mourned the love of her life, and yet made his passing all about me- the fatherless child.
My mother, the single mother, who tried to discipline me without caving at my pleas and promises. My mother, who held the ladder and got drenched while I climbed it and moved the satellite dish in a monsoon. My mother, who poorly attempted to throw a curve ball while I laughed at her. My mother, who went from being a stay-at-home mother to working crappy jobs for little pay. My mother, who paced the house alone and prayed for my safety during my rebellious years. My mother, who questioned the goofy perverted boys that showed up on the front door step.
My mother, who made me feel safe in a world where daddies suddenly die and leave their children all alone.
And as I anxiously rushed around the house to do the things that my husband is usually here to help me do, my eyes began to well up with tears, but they weren’t tears of frustration at his temporary absence.
They were tears of respect for my mother.
The single mother.