Single Parenting the Opposite Gender
posted by: Catherine
As a widow, I was thrown into the deep end of the single parenting pool when my kids were 5, 3, and 1 year old and from day one, I knew it would be tough. And while I can sympathize with the pain of divorce and can understand how hard it must be for many parents to relinquish what is most important to them – their children – on a regular basis to someone they’re not all that crazy about anymore…my struggles as a widowed single parent are a little different.
Because I don’t have the other parent to pick up the slack. At all.
I have three children and they fall girl-boy-girl, each two years apart. That’s right. My son not only lives in a house filled with estrogen, he’s right smack in the middle of his sisters. And when it comes to dealing with the girls, that’s usually a no-brainer for me, even as I begin the journey into the teenage years with one of them. Having once been a young girl myself (with a sister four years older, the same age spread that is between my two daughters), I can usually understand and empathize with them when they don’t get along and give them the “don’t think you can pull that on me” look when they misbehave.
But dealing with my son has always been difficult for me. And when “boy” issues arise…those are the moments I miss their dad the most.
After my husband’s death in 2007, I went through a long and exhausting phase of trying to be both parents. I abandoned who I had been and tried to mold myself into the perfect hybrid of the both of us – some sort of combination of redneck genius and soft, soothing comforter. The woman who could bake the perfect cake while putting a lift-kit on a Jeep. Someone who was shockingly good at anything to do with math and science and could teach anyone how to throw the perfect spiral, while still finding the time to show up to every classroom function for all three kids. I was positive that I was not going to be a good enough parent to raise my kids alone. And that I needed to figure out a way to be both Mom and Dad at the same time.
There have been many times that I feel like my kids – my son especially – have been gypped by getting stuck with me as the only parent. The night that my little boy decided to join the Boy Scouts, I felt completely lost as the leader talked about showing the boys how to use power tools. When he has a question about how something works, I swallow the lump in my throat (because I know that his dad would have known the answer) before I reply, “I’m not sure. Why don’t you Google it?” And when he shows me some contraption that he’s made using just popsicle sticks and ingenuity…I wish with all my heart his dad could be here to see it.
Single parenting is lonely – I know because I’ve heard that from others who are in my situation as well. I’ll never forget sitting with a group of people who had lost spouses and one widower saying, his face beet red, “My daughter told me that we have to go bra shopping this weekend.” Other men chimed in with how they couldn’t figure out how to make their wife’s lasagna or fold a fitted sheet.
We all commiserated with each other on our feelings of inadequacy as parents.
But in the last year, my focus has changed quite a bit. It could have something to do with the fact that I’ve gotten more comfortable in my role as The Great and Powerful Mom. But it’s also that with time, hopefully comes wisdom and I have learned that sometimes you just have to change your perspective a little bit and focus not on what’s lacking…but what’s actually there.
I can’t teach him how to use a circular saw, but I was pretty excited when he asked me for cooking lessons last fall. I have no idea how to connect a TV to a DVD player or an Xbox, but my inadequacies in that department have furthered his technological abilities – in other words, because I can’t figure it out he has been forced to and is, therefore, the go-to person in the house when it comes to anything that requires an HDMI cable.
But I’m here to hug him every night.
I’m here to be proud of all of the things that he’s accomplished as a 9-year-old boy that I couldn’t hope to figure out as a 37-year-old woman.
I’m here to bring to his life everything I can and support him as he figures out the rest.
One of my proudest moments as a single mom was just a couple of weeks ago when I got a letter from my son while he was at camp.
And it did. It arrived on my birthday.
I know that doesn’t sound like much. But I realized that even though there have been many times when I’ve questioned my parenting skills when it comes to my son, he is turning out to be a pretty great kid. And even though there will always be a little part of me that feels sad about the things he’s missing with his father, that doesn’t mean that I’m not a good parent.
After all, if I can raise a son who is thoughtful enough to not only send his mother a birthday card, but worry about it getting there on time…I’m not doing such a bad job after all.
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.