Single Minded Moms: This Time Around: Little Changes, Big World

By Jessica Ashley

Single parent mothers know all the horror stories.  I shared the story of the night my almost-four-year old son locked himself in his room and I revealed the realization I had sitting on the other side of the door from him. He tried to open the door from his side with a plastic power drill as I cleaned out my purse trying to calm my nerves.

Fortunately, Lil E was freed by a savior locksmith and of course I was relieved when the door handle was finally reconstructed, he was asleep and I could hear his steady, shallow breaths rising up in the dark room.

But more than the door opened that night; I think my picture of us, Lil E and I in this house and in our lives, expanded. Once we were settled down and tucked in form the door knob incident, I was far enough removed to see that we cannot live from one crisis to another. We’re past most of the trauma of leaving the home and family we had and creating a new life in a new home with a newly-defined family.

That night, I fell asleep thinking, “Our lives are bigger than a divorce or a day or even one chaotic night. This has got to change.”

And it has.

My almost-four-year old turned four.  He spent the first half of his birthday with my parents and me, and we ventured down to Navy Pier for rides, miniature golf and ice cream for lunch.

As we sat on the large, red ferris wheel that overlooks Lake Michigan and the skyline of Chicago, I looked over at him. Even in his battered baseball cap and smeared Sponge Bob sunglasses, I could see that his face look is slimmer, his features look more angular and there are cheekbones where there were once apple cheeks. Just as the newborn became a round baby, the round baby thinned out to a toddler, and the toddler shot up into a preschooler, this kid has become a big boy.

His vocabulary has broadened, his questions have deepened and we (well, mostly, he) now talks about penises more than I ever imagined one former Women Studies instructor (that’s formerly me) could. In one sitting. At dinner.

This little bug, who once curled up on my enormous lactating chest, is growing up, peering up at the skyscrapers that frame his world.

This is our world now, I thought.

I watched him pull himself up to his knees while our little cabin teetered over the city. My heart shot up and I gasped loudly when he tried to rise from his knees to his feet, but really, he was just trying to get a better look.

The bigger he gets, the more he will want to see and the higher he will climb, I thought, reaching across to wrap my arm around his little waist. I will certainly be scared. How could I not be? This is my baby, no matter how lanky and tall and big he gets. This is my boy, no matter how many times I have to say that, no thanks, I don’t need a penis of my own and I’m good with all the lady-parts I have.

I was snapped back into the moment and our birthday celebration then (not by lady parts, I swear, by the lady yanking us from the little caged compartment we were riding in). But in the weeks since, I have thought a lot about how I can’t just envision our brave new world, I have to have the courage to explore it. I can’t just welcome a new life. I have to have the time and energy to take my boy and experience it. I can theorize all day (believe me), but it’s time to put all that talk into practice before either of us get any older.

So that means I need time, energy and to explore this big new world we’re in now and I’ve come up with three ways I am going to get into all that in the weeks ahead. Remember that we’re working on small moments of self-care that have a significant impact. There’s no need for an overhaul. Here is what I am going to this time around:

  1. Outsourcing. That’s my friend Danielle’s schmancy corporate label for hiring other people to do the stuff you just can’t get to or is impeding the time you spend being good to you and your kids. Budgets are tight for almost everyone these days and since I’m being careful with my money too, I’ve chosen to concentrate on outsourcing grocery shopping. I’m signing up for a grocery delivery service so I can scratch that one, often-overwhelming task off my to-do list. Rather than spending time weighing whether or not it is worth the hassle of packing up the kid to get one necessary ingredient from the store to make that one dish, I can have it all brought to me. Being well-stocked after a few minutes online means I am making more opportunities to cook at home with my kid and sit down to dinner together. That’s worth the delivery charge right there.
  2. An alarm to go to bed rather than wake up. Sleep is an issue for me, just as it is for most working moms I know. I am in the habit of logging back on to work after I put Lil E to bed. When I do this, I never really turn off, rarely wind down and I end up exhausted and even less productive than I do when I stick to more regular hours. Setting my cell phone alarm reminds me that sleep is a priority too. It’s crazy I need an irritating ring to help me settle down, but I will save that analysis for better-rested days.
  3. Great, adult-only dinners out. When my son is with his dad, I get to eat out at splurgey restaurants that don’t have menus that can be colored or mac-and-cheese bites for $3.95.I’m thoughtful about where I go and who I ask to sit across from me because these evenings are not just an investment of my money, they are an investment in eating well, enjoying conversation, some appetizer I’d never normally order on my own and maybe even a bottle of wine (seriously, I’ve got to stop mentioning wine here). It doesn’t mean I won’t ever take my boy out to dinner, but it does mean that I won’t rest all of my dining desires into a shared gyros platter and side of fries. It also means I am exploring my city in a way I haven’t before.

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