This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my affiliate policy for more information.
Short and Sweet Summary: Being a solo parent is exhausting on so many levels. The weight of every decision lies squarely with the only parent, decision-maker, and fixer of things. These confessions of a solo parent are where I fess up in order to heave that bulky, distressing weight right off my shoulders.
No one said parenting is easy.
Anyone with kids knows how much parenting erodes the nerves and reserves of even the most serene, chill people.
But, shifting into the role of a solo parent? After your spouse dies?
This weariness is in a stratosphere unknown to mere mortal parents. If I’m being honest, solo parenting sucks ass. However, that crude dysphemism doesn’t quite do the solo parent gig justice. Taking responsibility for your kids 24×7 with few if any breaks turns a sane person into a quivering hot mess of incoherent drivel.
So, I’m putting myself out there and sharing my deep-seated solo-parenting confessions that I only reserve for my besties. Well, one bestie.
I don’t say this stuff out loud or get this vulnerable often. I’ve learned that people don’t want to hear about the hard stuff. They’d rather believe I’m “moving on” from my grief and getting back to “normal.”
Whatever that means.
I Hate the Single-Mom Comparison
Is there a difference between a divorced, single parent and a widowed, solo parent?
Yes. Yes, there is.
My husband and I didn’t grow apart, suffer from infidelities, or argue about money. And then go through custody hearings, participate in decisions that affect our future and get divorced.
My husband died. His incurable brain tumor diagnosis wiped out my ability to participate in decisions about our family’s future.
I can’t and won’t put myself in the same category as single parents because I’m not a single parent.
A single parent’s partner is still typically in the picture. So, folks who get every other weekend, Wednesdays and/or two weeks in the summer off, aren’t flying solo. Even if the partner is barely part-time or is a raging asshole, he’s still around.
As in, not dead.
My parents divorced when I was young. I lived with a single mom. But, she most definitely wasn’t solo. My dad took an active part in our lives and my mom had another adult to help decide about my well-being. She didn’t always want or appreciate the help, but it was available.
Widows don’t have the luxury of falling back on the other parent when the going gets rough.
But this isn’t a who-has-it-worse competition. Divorced, single parents have different issues than widowed, solo parents. Especially if the ex is a deadbeat or MIA.
The only distinction is, our parenting partner is dead. Never coming back. Ever.
Which leads me to my second confession.
I’m Tired of Deciding Alone as a Solo Parent
My husband and I were a great team. We shared the same parenting philosophy and agreed on just about every child-rearing topic. I had confidence in my parenting abilities with my even-keeled, cohort by my side.
After he died, my confidence took a nosedive.
I second-guess everything now. The skeptical voice in my head shrieks in a piercing, prickling kind of way without someone to trade ideas or opinions with.
The weight of every choice as the sole decision-maker is heavy, man. It’s no wonder I’m exhausted by days end when I spend my time rehashing and rethinking my decisions. I feel like Sysiphus condemned to eternal punishment in the depths of hell. I push the boulder up the hill with all my might (make a tough decision) only to watch it roll back down again (second-guess my decision). No matter how hard I try, the damn boulder keeps rolling down.
And, because worry and regret camp in the deepest parts of my psyche, sleeping is erratic.
So there’s that.
I Want to Get in My Car and Drive Far, Far Away
My biggest daydream right now is chucking all of my responsibilities, selling my belongings and bar tending in some beachy resort town.
Without my kids.
I love my children dearly, but I daydream about turning in my mom card and taking off on my own. Somewhere far, far away.
After I graduated from college, I backpacked around Europe. I think about that trip a lot because the only person I needed to worry about was me. I went where I wanted for as long as I wanted. Only, I didn’t appreciate my freedom at the time because it wasn’t conditional.
Gah! I long for those days.
When I head home after work now, listening to 80’s on 8 on Sirius XM and singing Bad Medicine at the top of my lungs, I secretly wish I could just keep driving. I see exit signs that would take me straight out of Michigan and I plan how to pull off the consummate disappearing act.
Of course, I won’t do it. I mean, I have responsibilities.
But it’s sooooo very tempting.
I Dislike My Kids Sometimes
My teenagers are mouthy and disrespectful.
I don’t enjoy admitting my kids are disrespectful because I feel like that behavior is the ultimate parenting failure. But, it’s true. I’ve tried everything short of beating them senseless to change their attitudes.
Although I have pulled the car over to specifically and savagely smack the smug look right off of my son’s face. But he jumped out of the car before I reached him. He stayed away until he figured I had enough time to chill out.
The vile that comes out of their mouth some days is startling.
I don’t like admitting my kids can be horrible humans. But, I feel better after talking to other parents of teenagers and learn they live with unpleasant humans, too. My good friends remind me I’m not failing my kids because I’m a grief-stricken parent who can’t get it right. They remind me a teenager’s sole purpose on earth is to be horrible.
So I make the unpleasant humans more unpleasant by grounding them, taking away devices, making them move rocks, pull weeds, and clean toilets to learn that being horrible doesn’t get you what you want. Being nice and respectful to your mom does.
However, I still dislike my kids sometimes.
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
I thought I knew all about being a productive, functioning member of society until my husband died. Then everything I thought I knew burned up with him in the crematory.
I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, but hell’s bells. It’s the sad truth.
What’s funny is the general consensus from the general public, who don’t live in my house, is that I’m doing fine. I look fine. I haven’t had a nervous breakdown (yet). I go to work every day.
But, I struggle. Every single day I struggle to make sense of this weird, twisted world I now live in. I struggle as a solo parent, as a business owner, and as an unmarried woman. Everything is a battle.
The struggle doesn’t mean I don’t get out of bed. It just means that things were a hell of a lot easier when I was part of a team. When my husband and I shared responsibilities. When the grief cloud didn’t follow me around and rain down painful pellets at odd, unpredictable and totally inopportune times.
Besides maintaining my current to-do list, I must also learn how to do something new every day. How to check the tire pressure on my car. Fix a bike chain. Dislodge something from the garbage disposal.
How to do basically…everything.
Widow Wrap Up
Being a solo parent is exhausting on so many levels. The weight of every decision lies squarely with us as the sole parent, decision-maker, and fixer of things.
Sometimes I want to run away from my responsibilities and let someone else decide. But I can’t. So I continue to do the hard things.
And sometimes I confess it all to heave that bulky, distressing weight right off my shoulders. Confessions are good for the soul.
When my confessions buoy my spirits and bestow better decision-making abilities, I quiet my shrieking, skeptical voice. I stop trying to move the boulder up the hill and chuck it right off the damn cliff altogether.
Like Sisyphus should have done.