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June 2017

What life has taught me in recent years

June 29, 2017
life

Live and learn, as they say. Life is a miracle. You think these are just meaningless phrases? They are not. I am the living proof of that.

At the age when women normally think about family and children, I wasn’t much interested in either. I believed that I would have both, that I could have both, one day, when the time comes. Whenever I wished. And when I finally did, it didn’t happen.

I had a child when I’d already stopped hoping. She and I make my family now.

You may think that everything is upside-down. But maybe it’s not. Maybe everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

Unexpected situations are known to bring out the best in us.

That is how I’ve learnt a lot about myself and others. Circumstances forced me to find new strength and make the best out of my own resources and abilities.

It’s never too late to learn new things

I’ve learnt not to judge others:

We are all different and we all have our own lifestyle. We are all entitled to our beliefs, habits, mistakes.

I’ve learnt this the hard way, by having been judged. When you hear so many comments about what you do, you start to realize that most people don’t have a clue, but this doesn’t make them less inclined to judging and criticizing others. I’ve heard that I myself “was to blame“ because I surely knew “what I was getting into“. A “well-intentioned” single (and childless) friend even explained to me that my daughter would turn her back on me sooner or later and that I should therefore look for a nice guy instead of being so fully dedicated to my child who will certainly prove to be ungrateful.

This is how it is: I don’t judge anyone, so I expect people not to judge me. Our differences make us special. I like the fact that we are not the same. I enjoy spending time with friends who have different beliefs, level of education and economic power. I’m not judgmental. I like being around all of them and I’ve never tried to change them or explain to them what’s wrong about their lives. I know I can count on them as they can count on me.

I’ve learnt to distinguish friends from acquaintances:

A friend will always try to listen and understand me, any time of day or night, even if we don’t see each other often. Friends don’t criticize, they don’t ask awkward questions.

I’ve come to realize that I’m stronger than I thought I was:

I’ve learnt that the road ahead is long and tortuous. I’ve learnt to believe in myself and my ability to cope, to overcome any obstacle. I’ve learnt that life is hard, but it may also surprise you with beautiful gifts when you least expect them. I’ve always known that I could do plenty, but only now do I realize that my strength is unlimited.

I’ve learnt to love.

 

Some situations only single mothers can fully understand

June 23, 2017
situations

It was a beautiful Saturday at the beginning of June. The day was sunny, warm, but not hot. Everybody was in a great mood, and we had reason to be. The pre-school end-of-year play was about to begin, all our kids were on the stage, happy and excited because they were about to perform for their moms, dads and relatives, having rehearsed their lines for months. Their proud parents were waving, taking pictures and clapping as the sweetest creatures in the world showed up on stage before their loving audience: little ballerinas wearing tutus and hair bows; the angry, glaring pirates; Snow White and the seven dwarfs in a contemporary version of the tale…

All the people who mattered to the performers were in the audience: their teachers, parents, friends, relatives.

After the play, the ecstatic kids ran into the arms of their delighted parents. All dads were there except one. My daughter’s father had better things to do. My daughter came running to me and asked me how come her dad wasn’t there to watch her perform. I had no idea how to respond and make it sound ok. I couldn’t tell her that her dad’s interest in anything, including her, lasts only for as long as the object of his interest is standing right in front of him. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that to her dad, what comes first is himself, and then… himself, and then… well, again himself. In fact when I asked him to attend the play, he said I was bullying him and trying to make him feel guilty because he had other joys in life.

This introduction, however, is not the central theme of this post. Things are as they are, our lives are as they are and they are unlikely to change. I don’t want to spread gloom and write sad stories. I know some people live harder than us and I’ve learnt to be content with the fact that both my daughter and I are alive and well and cope as we know best.

A couple of days ago I told a friend about what happened at the play. It was the way she reacted that made me realize how hard it must be for the people who live in traditional families to understand what us single mothers and our children go through.

She told me that her husband, with whom she has two children, also occasionally indulges in the activities that do not include his family.

This grossly inadequate comparison left me speechless. This is what I wanted to tell her:

It’s not the same:

It’s not the same at all when the child has a father who always comes home.

It’s not the same when a child asks: “When will I see my dad” (and gets the answer: “When he calls; you know how busy he is”) and when that question is never asked at all that because dad lives in the same house and is around every day.

The fact is that there are no ideal fathers (my sincere apologies to those who are; in my defence, I don’t personally know any, so…). It’s also a fact that children who spend time with their dads only from time to time usually suffer. Those who live with their dads (even if dads are not ideal) normally don’t suffer as much even if their dads are not one hundred percent there for them all the time.

Do you really think that my child and your child are in the same position?

I remembered another friend who often complained about her husband: all he does in the evenings is look at his mobile phone, and he only lifts his head when she tells him that dinner is ready. I do understand her plight. Her kids, however, are probably not bothered by his behaviour and they never ask her what my daughter asks me: “Why does dad never come to our house in the evenings to play with me?”

Again, I’m not complaining. I just wish to pinpoint that it makes no sense to compare what it’s like for the kids in traditional families and those who grow up with single moms.

 

Do I have to tell my child “wait a minute” over and over?

June 18, 2017
wait a minute

“Wait a minute” is a phrase my daughter hears from me all too often…

Wait a minute, I have to do this or that first;

Wait a minute, I’m busy right now;

Wait a minute and stop interrupting me while I’m on the phone/ texting;

Wait a minute, I can’t do it right now, I’m driving (or talking over the phone);

And so on.

I’ve realized that I sometimes tell her to hold on even when I don’t have to.
It has simply become a (bad) habit.

Mothers in general, and single mothers in particular, are always in the middle of something. Many of the things we do are necessary and can’t be avoided. But that is not always the case.

Consider this:

Will the world come to an end if you put everything aside for a while and give your child your full and undivided attention?

Will a disaster inevitably strike if you put down your phone and see what your child wants?

My daughter doesn’t ask for much:

She wants to watch cartoons with me.

She wants to be read a story before she goes to sleep.

She wants me to put away my mobile phone at least for a moment.

She wants me to turn off my laptop or at least to close the lid: “mom, please, all the way down, don’t just pretend you’ve closed it”.

She wants to be taken to the playground to ride her scooter.

She wants to play “friends” and have serious conversations with me.

She wants me to look her in the eye when she’s telling me something – she now understands that my “ahas“ and “reallys“ actually mean nothing. That they usually mean I’m not listening at all.

We are all super busy.
All mothers, without exception, have difficulty dealing with loads of frustrations.
Life is hard.
There’s never enough money.
The world around us is not as it was, forgiving and friendly.
Kids must be prepared for life.
Money has to be earned.
I repeat, money is always an issue.
Children should be directed onto the right path.
They should be taught…

I know I’ll keep telling my daughter to wait a minute. But I also know that every time she gives me that disappointed look, I’ll feel guilty. Time flies and we often spend it on meaningless stuff.

Think about that when you consider telling your kid to hold on a second next time…

My memory book

June 7, 2017
memory

I was tiding up my flat. It was the usual cleaning to welcome the change of season. Warm clothes would be washed and placed on the top shelves instead of the summer clothes, which would be made more readily accessible. After such feats, I usually develop the fever of tiding up. Lately, I have read various theories about minimalism as a lifestyle. OK, I’m not saying I would be able to accept such an approach: it would require too many sacrifices. But, riding on the wave of enthusiasm, I did manage to fill several plastic bags with trinkets that had probably cost me an arm and a leg, although I wasn’t entirely sure I understood why I’d bought them in the first place.

On such occasions, my victims are usually found among toys, the broken or cracked stuff or objects without an easily identifiable purpose (those tiny pieces of something that might be a Lego block or a part of a Kinder Surprise toy). Then I discretely fill another bag with all the stuff that my daughter has outgrown to give them away. It has to be done discretely because if she opens the bag, she’ll surely take everything out and say those are her favorite toys and as such should not be given to anyone. On the other hand, strangely enough, giving away outgrown clothes has never been a problem. I don’t think she actually pays too much attention to what she wears, as long as it’s a dress and it spins.

Then I opened the drawers filled with notebooks, pencils and knick-knacks. I knew what was inside as I’d briefly gone through their contents a few days before…

…and found a notebook with green covers with butterflies. I opened it and …

I was immediately transported five years back in time.

In my late pregnancy, I was so well organized. I’d prepared lists, recommendations, comments from various websites… I’d collected them all, not in duplicate, but in triplicate. Just in case. Maybe it’s just me or maybe all single mothers are the same. We are always doubly careful  because we can’t rely on anyone else.

I remember when I bought the notebook. It was so convenient, small, with a spiral, so that the pages could turn nicely without being torn.
It was a thing that could last. I wrote down all kinds of things:
how much milk the baby had drunk,
how many times a day,
her first cramps,
her first smile,
her first carrot and boiled potatoes, her first banana and pear.

Dated notes about the first year of her life, a testimony about my efforts, commitment and love.

For instance, they remind me of the fact that my daughter started to walk when she was exactly one year and 26 days old.
That she came down with her first fever when she was 14 months.
That she weighed 22 pounds and was 2,6 feet tall.
When she was 15 months old, that she was trying to talk and pushed the food greedily in her mouth.

I kept the notebook, like I kept her ID bracelet and the clothes she was wearing when we returned home from the nursery. Her birthday dresses and the first shoes are my most valuable treasures.

Indeed, what is the life of a mother but the patient collection of memories as she watches her child slowly take steps towards the adulthood?

It was a wonderful spring afternoon

June 6, 2017
afternoon

I’m always in a rush. There’s always some important work to do, something that can’t wait and has to be done immediately or else… My daughter is accustomed to it. When she opens her eyes in the morning, she first asks what day it is and then where we are going today. When I pick her up from the daycare, she asks me where we’re going next and if there is nothing planned for the afternoon, she makes a puzzled face.

Why is that so and does it have to be that way?

Probably not.

I assume that many single mothers run around all the time to do as many chores as they can and make sure they don’t neglect to do something significant for the children. My daughter, for instance, takes French lessons. Last year, she regularly went swimming and worked out at the children’s gym. I probably worry too much, but my own experience has taught me that it’s never too early to start creating good habits in life. I’m probably trying too hard because I want to put her on the right track, to make sure she’s smart, educated, healthy and strong. I want her to have a good life and to be happy, but these things don’t just naturally develop out of the blue. They require work and dedication.

One sunny spring afternoon, I picked her up from the daycare. Oddly enough, I hadn’t made any plans for later. We went out and, instead of heading to the parking lot, we spontaneously went towards the nearby playground. Another girl from her daycare was there and the two of them started playing cheerfully, like they hadn’t spent half a day together.
I sat on the bench and watched them play. The mild warmth after a long rainy spell, the smell of the freshly mowed grass, the sounds of children’s joy.

A bliss.

They were soon joined by other kids: some from their daycare, some complete strangers. Happiness, laughter and positive energy have the power to attract. Meanwhile, I relaxed and chatted with the rest of the parents.

You may think there’s nothing special about it, an afternoon on the playground, just like many others. But to me it was special, something that doesn’t happen often because there’s rarely ever enough time between driving, picking up, working, tidying, cooking, cleaning, etc. There’s seldom enought time to spare on small pleasures, and I’m always in the state of perpetual exhaustion.

This is why that beautiful spring afternoon, the kids running and doing forward rolls on the grass, their laughter and playing are so memorable.

I will remember the pure joy and contentment, rolling on the grass, free of serious thoughts.

I will conjure this memory whenever it’s hard, whenever I feel sad or tired.