A Letter to the Woman Who Asked How I Do It....
Yesterday a friend from college reached out to me. Even though we haven’t been heavily involved in each other’s lives over the last decade or so, we view each other’s lives from afar as most people do now, on social media. Occasionally we run into each other in real life and chat for a few minutes. I have admired her strength, tenacity, entrepreneurship, and passion she has for living life. She is a new mother and when she reached out to me, she confessed that she has been struggling with being a single mom with her new baby. She asked if I could talk, and I said of course. She simply asked me “Jenn, how do you do it? I’m having such a hard time.”
I was in the middle of a group art session, but I felt like in that moment I needed to give a response. She seemed sad and like she was just searching for an answer, even if it was just a simple one; to give her some kind of direction or hope. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have felt like “can someone please just give me the secrets to how this becomes easier? How can I be the best mom I can be while being single, on my own, working 2-3 jobs, and trying to hold it all together?” So, I gave her my quick snapshot, honest answer in that moment but have been thinking about that question since yesterday. How could I have supported her better? How could I be of more service to her?
To be honest, at first, I was shocked she was asking me of all people. This woman has a huge network of support and people she knows. I am sure she had reached out to a lot of them, but I was still shocked she even thought to reach out to me. Then I thought to myself “NO, she has been following you for over a decade, you have been a single mom off and on for 14yrs. You have pulled yourself up time and time again, shown up on the hardest days for your kids, struggled with the gripping fear of how was I going to pay that next bill, and could it be in full this time? Am I being present enough even though all I want to do is take a nap, am I showing enough love, am I showing enough empathy, compassion, patience? Why did I just lose my cool like that? What’s wrong with me? Why would I yell like that, about that? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just figure out how to get it together and buy a house, allow a good man into our lives, why can’t I find a good paying job? What’s wrong with me? Why did I just push him away like that when all he wanted was to cuddle with me, but I am so exhausted and have so much work to do and so little time to do it. What’s wrong with me?” Hell, I am the perfect person to be asking that. I have been in the trenches of single momdom for so long and it hasn’t been perfect, but I have made it work. I have shown up for my kids, loved them with everything I have inside of me, created the best memories I can and the memories that have tears and sadness, I know I at least tried to talk them through those tough feels, even if mom was the one that caused them.
Being a mother is one of the toughest jobs a woman can have. There is no manual to follow, there is so much to navigate and figure out on the fly. I feel like it is a lot of following our guts and being brave enough to know we are doing what is best for our kids, even if someone is telling you otherwise.
In no way am I here to play victim. I have always tried to take accountability the best I can since becoming a mother when it comes to my words, actions, and decisions. I have learned so much and grown even more. I have made so many mistakes. When I became a mother none of my friends were anywhere near ready to have children. It wasn’t until my oldest was 6 that my friend group started having their firsts. It was understandable that I didn’t feel as though I had anyone to look up to, to go to for advice, to help me out of those moments of despair and loneliness, sadness, feeling so lost. I loved my friends, don’t get me wrong, but we were in two different worlds at that point.
I don’t like to say I wish this or wish that or should’ve known or done that. How could I have known or should have known in those moments? I am content at this point with how my life has turned out and with who I am now and where I am going. What I do want to do is tell all the mothers out there this.
You are doing the best you can with what you have. You are the world to your child. You are their everything. For as much as you give them patience, compassion, and grace; do the same for yourself. You are human. You are filled with emotions. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them. You will have moments of crying as quietly as you can in the bathroom after bedtime, but you will also have moments of so much joy and fulfillment. You are a phenomenal mother. You know what is best for your child and family. You are brave. You are stronger than you think you are. You are more resilient than you know. You are beautiful. Your body, no matter the shape or size, made these little creatures that only see your beautiful smile and love to hear your laugh, your terrible singing voice, and all the funny voices you make when cooking and trying to entertain them at the same time.
Our kids see and hear everything. They see how we handle those moments of frustration and anger to the moments filled with excitement, happiness, and joy. We will screw up so much. What I have learned is that we have to show them how we come back from those screw ups. We have to take accountability, have tough conversations, allow for them to feel safe to say the hard things for them to say and meet them with compassion and acknowledgment when they say it instead of allowing our guilt and shame to overshadow that and to shame them. They are not here to make us feel better about our crappy choices. They are here to show us we can be better, that we need to do better.
If you can lead with love, empathy, and accountability in your home, I feel like you’ll be ok. I have also learned talking to a therapist is everything. Having that place that is designated for self-reflection, work, and hard truths/conversations with an objective person who isn’t involved in your life…. it’s freeing.
So, to the woman who asked me how I do it, I do it flawed. I do it scared as hell. I do it with self-compassion. I do it with lots of grace given to myself. I do it from a place of love, strength, and knowing that I possess everything I need to be the best mother I can be, I just need to work on bringing it out of me. I do it when I don’t want to. I do it when I am beyond exhausted. I do it when we are having the time of our lives. I do it because I love them with everything inside of me even when what may be inside me at that moment is anger and resentment for my own choices. I do it because I chose to be their mother and that is the most important job I will ever have.