Mom Memories: Widowhood and Becoming Both Parents
posted by: Catherine
July 18, 2007. That was the day that defined me most as a mother. Because that was the day I became both a mom…and a dad.
Of course, as a mom, the days that each of my children was born were three of the happiest memories I have. But that day in July was the birth of something else: the family that we were forced to become.
My kids don’t remember it – the day I came home from the hospital and told them that Daddy had been in an accident on his way to work. They were too young. At five, three, and one years old, it was too much for their little minds to comprehend that he was gone – not on a business trip this time, but to a new place where they wouldn’t be able to hug him, feel his tickles on their feet, or his calming (but fun-loving) presence in their lives.
But I remember it, even in the blur that is loss. It was the beginning of my journey into widowhood, my initial test as a single parent, and the first time I realized that I had strength I never knew I possessed.
Since the moment I held the three of them and told them “Daddy’s not coming home anymore,” I have felt the weight of single parenting. I knew that the responsibility of any successes or failures we had as a family had been placed firmly on my shoulders. That how we got through this was entirely up to me. And in the days, months, and years that followed, it became necessary for me to live day to day, and sometimes moment to moment…cherishing each minute we had together as the family we never knew we could be.
When most people hear that I’m a single parent, I get the same statement: “I don’t know how you do it.” But I know that they’re thinking about things like finances, juggling work and home life alone, and getting three children from one activity to another on my own. And they’re right…those moments are hard.
But sometimes the moments that are the most difficult are the happy ones. I’m pretty sure that I was the only parent in the middle school gym who cried this year when my daughter’s name was called for the honor roll. That even after almost six years of widowhood, it still feels like a piece of happiness is missing every time I go to a school play and laugh as I watch one of my children hop around the stage in a barnyard animal costume.
That with every milestone we pass and memory we create…there is someone missing who should be standing next to me, witnessing it all.
As far as the fundamentals go, I’ve figured it out, this single parenting thing. The day that I signed my son up for Boy Scouts was also the day my daughter told me she needed a bra. I know how to help someone with their homework while answering emails for work and stirring a pot for dinner. I know how to spend family time together, while still carving out time for each child so they hopefully never doubt how very special they are.
But the most important thing I’ve accomplished doesn’t have anything to do with the logistics of parenting and being both the Mom and the Dad.
It was figuring out that I have the ability to love with the strength of two.
Catherine Tidd is a widow, mother, and the author of the upcoming book “Confessions of a Mediocre Widow” (January 2014). She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. She has been published in several books about grief and renewal and also writes a blog on anything that pops into her nutty brain called Bud Light Wishes and Cheeto Dreams.