a single mother

No, Seriously, How Do Single Moms Do It?

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You know how time slows down a bit when you have your first baby? And you’re figuring out how to do everything from diaper a baby to swaddle her to get her to latch on to your breast? You’re doing it without sleep and you’re learning so much each day that you can’t believe your friends who are parents didn’t warn you about what you’d be going through? You begin to wonder how anybody works and has a kid? You wonder when you will sleep again for more than two hours at a time?

All I could think about when I brought my oldest child home from the hospital was this:

No, seriously. How do single moms do it?

My thinking was muddled but I remember almost obsessing over it during those late night feedings where I was in a mind-altered state of wanting to nurture and comfort and feed my baby but also, really, just to sleep. Here’s the thing, I’m a rather involved mother and I wasn’t working at all for a few weeks when I had my first kid. But I still couldn’t have survived without the incredible effort and work put in by my husband. Since he was working and since I was nursing exclusively, he took care of me while I took care of the baby. And take care of me he did. He said nice things, he fed me, he made sure I had all the help I needed even though we had no family living anywhere nearby to assist.

So how do single mothers handle those first few months? I know that they’re just as likely to have family and friends who come in and support as anyone, but still, it’s unbelievably hard work and very different work for a non-parent, right?

As my children have aged, I haven’t been able to shake this question. How do they do it? I work from home and have had a little bit of childcare for two stretches but mostly it’s just me. And I can’t imagine what it would be like if my husband didn’t come in and relieve me at the end of the day. He misses our children and so he loves getting them ready for bed — giving them baths, reading them stories, playing with them and praying with them. He’s also the one to pack our oldest daughter’s lunch and get her to school. But single mothers have to do everything. Every single little thing from the first moment they wake up until the last moment before the child drifts off to sleep. And if a single mother’s children are like one of mine, it may not even be over then, what with middle of the night wakings.

What about sickness? When someone in our family gets sick, it’s all hands on deck. I strip the bed and comfort the child while my husband throws the sheets in the wash and replaces them with fresh ones. Or I stay up all night with the sick child but he takes over in the AM. Just logistically, I’m confused. How does a single mother do it?

Even in health it seems difficult. I bring my 3-year-old to the gym with me and she sits quietly while I work out. Another member brings her twin five-year-old daughters and does the same. I recently discovered she was a single mother who works full-time, has full-time custody and has time to work out and date. How is this done?

Are single mothers just superhuman? I’m not trying to make any larger point here about society or parenting, I’m honestly just confused: Single moms, how do you do it?

(Photo: CREATISTA/Shutterstock)