Single Minded Moms Meltdown Moment: a Single Mom on the Other Side
By Jessica Ashley
My boy is finally in bed.
A half-hour of jamming anything I could dig out of the kitchen drawers, the tool box and my dresser top, three frantic calls to my parents who do not keep their cell phones on, yelling, tears, deep breaths, an hour to wait for the locksmith, one peeled-apart door knob, $85, appreciative hugs, stern warnings and an exhausted collapse later, my boy is finally in bed.
It is a Friday night and I was feeling like all weary single parent mothers after having hauled seven bags of groceries, a Lightning McQueen backpack, my own over-stuffed purse, two stuffed dinosaurs and a pile of paintings and preschool newsletters inside hours ago. All I wanted to do was slide into the boy’s bedtime with a quick pizza, some cuddling on the couch and possibly, a calming bubble bath (first him, later me), stories, lullabies and goodnight.
We were mostly successful, steering around a lot of that inevitable Friday evening irritability (first him, later me) and were only moments from the reaching the finish line. Lil E, my almost-four-year old son, raced into his bedroom ahead of me and as I stopped to pick up his shoes on my way in behind him, he slammed the door. Locking it.
He’s slammed the door before. Many times, in fact. And this has led to many conversations about having privacy without closing the door, especially so forcefully, all the way.
He’s even locked the door. Two weeks ago, in fact. And this led to my father coming over and thankfully popping the lock only minutes before my son’s dad rang the doorbell to take him for the weekend. That room, the bathroom, has a different kind of lock, one that can be manipulated by parents (once they stop yelling or crying or scheming about hi-yahing the door down with platform heels that have previously worked just fine as a hammer on other home challenges) or grandparents (who are much more cool-headed and clear and do not consider platform heels to be tools). And that time, the door swung open and Lil E was standing there with his pants down and big tears in his eyes. He didn’t need scolding. He was afraid and embarrassed that his potty-time tantrum led to all that.
I thought that would be enough, the fear of an almost-four year old. I also thought about somehow taping the locks on the doors or teaching him how to make his little fingers, so good at turning the lock, able to unlock the door just as easily . But I never did. I could list all the reasons why I was distracted and disillusioned, but you already know. My single mom days are as packed as yours, as full as my arms tonight when I carried a car-load of our stuff on my own and up the stairs and into our apartment.
Tonight, when it was already too late to take duct tape or patiently teaching lessons in unlocking to my boy’s bedroom door, I sat outside his room and cleaned out my purse. He sat on the other side of the door, poking his tiny, dirty-nailed fingers underneath to touch my hand briefly as I passed him drawings and pencils and other treasures I found in my purse.
We talked quietly. The terror of going to bed alone without the paci (which was in my pocket) and the frustration of not being able to loose himself using his plastic drill and grunting like a power-lifter had subsided. For me, the frustration of handling this on my own, of handing over my credit card to the locksmith had dissipated. Or at least enough of all of this was gone for both of us to be able to sit together with the door between us.
“Mommy, I’m just lonely.” He said it sweetly and I got it.
“I know,” I said. “But I am here, lovey.”
“But I just want to see someone. I just want you to be in here with me.” And that, I got too.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I told him. It was all I could think of to say. “And as soon as the locksmith opens this door, I will be right in there with you.”
He reached his fingers under the door again and I reached mine under it to meet his. It was going to be fine, I knew that then. It was going to be expensive, but it was going to be fine.
And of course it was. It is. I am often overwhelmed in those panic moments of how challenging and hard and exhausting and frightening it is to parent alone, to be the only person in charge of finding a solution, unlocking slammed doors, carrying the load. Sometimes, I yell. Sometimes, I cry. Sometimes, I wonder how the hell I got here.
But always, always that unwinds and as the breaths come easier, so does the reminder that I’m not alone. There’s someone in it with me and even when he’s pushing me away or locking me out, his little fingers eventually reach toward mine and it feels clear and calmer and OK.
Tonight, it’s Friday and late and I need sleep and a bath of my own and adult conversation and possibly, a giant glass of shiraz. But more than those reactive bits of relief, it seems obvious that I need more time and energy and attention to taking care of myself as well. Not just so I am better prepared to handle the emergencies that rise up or slam down. The emergencies and irritations and Friday night frustrations will all happen again. Rather, I need to commit to some more self-care so that I can take some pleasure in the moments (or months or years) that I am alone in the room.