First, can I just say that I hate, and have always hated the label of, "Single Mom." I've always seen it as a tool, a tag by which women sometimes get away with selfish behavior, manipulation for money and help. Seriously, I've been parenting on my own for most of my son's life, and I don't say, "I'm a single mom" because I don't want to look like I'm 'playing a card.'
Guess what I just figured out? Wait for it... I'm a single mom.
I work full time, I parent full time. I am 100% responsible for our incoming home finances. Although my son has a wonderful man who's been' Dad' all his life, I adopted as a single parent; so there is no support check in the mail every month; if there's money in the bank, I earned it and put it there; that's right dammit, all $36.78 that's in there now, that's all me.
Chances are, when you looked at me like I was an alien because my son's never been to 'Wild Waves' or 'Great Wolf Lodge' or, *gasp* any Disney Park (my son's never actually flown, or been outside of Oregon or Washington, truth be told) and that the last movie I saw in the theater (before I treated my son and me to "Guardians of the Galaxy this month for my Birthday) was "Wreck It Ralph," but only after it came out as a double feature at 'the cheap theater,' I felt like a crappy mom.
I have looked, at times, like a flake; I've broken dates (yes, I've stood guys up in the name of my son's sniffles, lack of a free sitter, or just plain fatigue those of you who have stuck it out as my friends anyway, you know who you are, and officially... I'm sorry) and missed events and meetings because of two reasons:
1. I refuse to pay someone else to spend time with the little man who I feel like I barely have enough time with, just so I can have a couple hours with you. By the way, single mom's time is so very precious; if you want to date one, but have no interest in being a step-parent in the future, do NOT waste my time; I certainly won't waste yours. And by the way, screw the whole idea of 'Strong, Independent Woman;' I'm a single mother, and as such, I'm poor; If YOU invited me out, YOU are paying! ...maybe this is why my social life consists of Words with Friends and facebook.
2. Because I convince myself that if I DO go out, you'll not really be able to relate to my situation anyway.
I'm always exhausted. I'm constantly thinking about the grocery budget, fifth-grade homework, the stress involved in addressing (halfway effectively) my child's special needs. (Why is there so much red tape when it comes to getting that IEP, or decent counseling?) I worry whether I have enough in the budget for gas for the car to get to work all week, AND that six-pack of craft beer (yes, I said it). I don't get enough sleep, and my blood pressure is dangerously high. "Make that doctor's appointment" say well-meaning friends with actual health insurance and 9 to 5 jobs. I'll get right on that. I never get enough sleep; I have nightmares of my own childhood hurts, homelessness, and sometimes dream of losing my teeth (anyone who's ever taken a psychology class knows that's born of the fear of being out of control.)
I wake every morning at 5:30 just so I can have an hour for me. I'm not texting you back then; I'm not answering emails or working. That is the only time I have where I can drink coffee, talk to God, and remind myself that I can, no, I WILL make it through this day even if it's sometimes only an hour, or a moment at a time. From 7-9a.m. I won't answer your calls or texts because that is two of the precious 3 1/2 hours I have with my son on weekdays. That time is ours, and no emergency can be more important than the latest rundown of 'the most epic YouTube Death Battle EVER!' (By the way, Batman vs. Captain America is next; I can't wait to find out who wins; not because I care, but because he does.) or school gossip that Grover is sharing with me as we prepare for the school day. On that note, from 7-9pm, same rules; nothing can be as important as reading with Grove, or rubbing his back and making sure his self-esteem is filled up for another exhausting day as a child on the Aspergers spectrum's day can be.
When I'm not with my son, I never stop thinking about the next marketing campaign and upcoming event for my marketing clients; making sure I have adequate computer space, lens capability, and external equipment for my next freelance, underpaid photography shoot. If I'm not at my office at my part-time job, I can often be found hunkering down in a local coffee shop, pounding out graphics, photo-editing, or running umpteen facebook pages for pennies.
I'm constantly working to sell carpet cleaning for the company I work for (I love my job, and my company. At the office I'm never anything but an awesome employee... even if my son happens to be camped out in the waiting area with Netflix in the laptop because he can't be at school for one reason or another; like, "please do not send your child to school if he/she has had a fever in the last six years" or something like that...) I'm always on-call at work, which I'm happy to be in exchange for an unlimited-everything phone. The same phone, by the way, that so many people, even close friends, rarely hear me on, because I'm so tired by the end of the day I can't bring myself to be the 'Rebecca Reece' everyone expects; insufferably positive, funny, smart, the shoulder that's strong enough for my own burdens AND yours. Know what? Sometimes I'm not; sometimes just holding my son at the end of the day when he's sobbing that he would rather be dead than be picked on by the other kids... that's all I can handle.
I am a Single Mom... and all that entails. It's not a 'card' to play, or a 'sign' to wear, or even a burden to bear; it's just who I am, and I'm finally okay with that.
I'm Rebecca Reece, I'm a writer, a marketer, a photographer, an employee, a business owner, a softball player, a Toastmaster and public speaker. I am strong, powerful, loving, kind, and loyal. I'm tired, overwhelmed, poor, and frustrated. But above all, before everything else, before anyone else... I'm my son's Mom; I wouldn't trade any of it for the privilege of that. ~RR