Karin Fuller: The sanctuary in being a single mom
Before I became a single parent 16 years ago, I never understood how hard it would be. There were times during my marriage when I’d jokingly called myself a “married single parent.” Since my then husband’s work schedule required he travel several days every week.
At times, the “married single parent” title fit well, though I still enjoyed many of the luxuries most single mothers do not. I had the occasional relief. The second income. The heavy-lifting, grass-mowing, oil-changing bug killer.
Sure, I juggled a lot of the pins a lot of the time, but once we divorced, it was up to me to keep them all in the air — all of the time. I remember how I fumbled about, trying hard to keep Celeste’s life feeling stable and normal when my own life felt completely opposite. It was exhausting and overwhelming and isolating. And that schedule I once believed to be hectic? It became something I reflected on as a charming memory of slower times.
Funny thing was, I had only one child. I still can’t fathom how single parents with more than one manage. Their treadmill is cranked up high and there’s no getting off. I have a couple of friends who, over the last two years, have found themselves raising children on their own. I’ve watched the toll it was taking on then, until they would eventually find their stride. It seemed to take ages, after my own divorce, for me and Celeste to find our new rhythm and manage the many adjustments, but we eventually figured it out.
My ex and I also eventually figured out how to make our divorce work for us, too. You often hear how much work it is to have a good marriage. To have a good divorce is a million times harder.
When children are involved, it’s essential. Over time, he and I found a new balance. In this new formed space came a new friendship that surprised me. He was her daddy and that wasn’t going to change, so for her sake, I worked to cast my grudges aside.
It wasn’t always easy, and my first impulse wasn’t always the best, but when I saw how Celeste responded to her dad and I being kind to each other, how much she liked seeing us sitting next to each other when she was on stage, I knew it was the right thing to do. No matter how annoyed I might be on the inside. She knew for her sake that we tried.
Now that she’s grown, I can see so many positives that came from what happened. I think she and I are closer than we would have otherwise been. There’s a survivor sort of closeness between us. We got to start our own traditions, rule our own roost. If we felt like eating breakfast for dinner, we did. When we wanted to paint the bedroom purple, we did. When we wanted a dog and a cat and another dog. And another cat. And a rabbit. Or three. You get the picture. It was our decisions.
I’m not a confident person, but over the years, as I saw the amazing woman my girl started to grow into, my own confidence grew. I hadn’t just done it alone, I’d managed to do it fairly well. I’d taken care of my kid, my house, my car and my yard. I’d screened in a porch in slightly less than six months. With her help.
I’ve screwed up a lot in my life, but not her. Her, I did right.
If seeing a parent struggle, yet endure, is good for a child, then my girl has been extraordinarily blessed as I continue to find new issues to struggle with every day.
About three weeks ago, Celeste moved back home with me temporarily, as she looks for a job and a new place of her own. She and my boyfriend spent the day together, without me. He called me later to say, “That girl is a walking compliment to your parenting.”
It might be my favorite compliment ever.
Karin Fuller can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.