It’s 1:43 in the morning. I’m still in my workout clothes from this yesterday morning, and just now flopping onto my soft, welcoming bed. The laundry had been piling up for days, and I simply couldn’t put it off any longer. Everything except the basket of pajamas and my stuff is folded and put away. Tonight, before laundry and after the kids were fed and put in bed, I wrote a four page paper on the effects of social-expectation on the self-esteem of young women, took a timed test online, and submitted a powerpoint presentation. Earlier, I ran to the grocery store to replenish our depleted fridge, and visited with a friend who stopped by while I made enchiladas and english muffins. It was my day to carpool- well, every afternoon is, now that I have a smaller car and can’t split it out with more people and kids. I missed an assignment last night because I don’t have the right software for my computer, but a friend is mailing it from Provo, and the professor was nice enough to give me an extension. In my email was a second note from one of my children’s math teacher- we’re still not making the progress needed, and he wants to meet with me. The kids brought home volunteer sheets and book-orders and I had to disappoint them with reality. Ditto school pictures. They wanted to go to ice cream for FHE, but with the paper and PPT due, I had to disappoint them, again. There are dishes from dinner piled in the sink, and I don’t even really want to think about the kitchen floors or bathrooms. A cursory wipe down with some Clorox wipes was the best I could swing today, after I rushed them out the door this morning, jumped in the shower, and attempted to answer some email before I had an appointment. There was an email from a friend who thought I was angry at her for not communicating much, and I stopped long enough to apologize and reassure her that I love her. My kids primary teacher called to ask where they were yesterday, and I explained that I had been in an all-weekend class and was unable to arrange for the to get to church- despite the fact that I took my lunch from class and used it to speak in church as I had agreed, long before I realized I had school this random Sunday. I made it back to class on time, albeit in my Sunday best while everyone else was in sweats. Tomorrow my kindergartner is off, but the boys have school, and my Visiting Teaching companion has been calling and wants me to get on the ball. I was also asked to volunteer some time for women in need downtown as a service project, and reminded that we have our Souper Thursday coming up. It goes from 10 am to 8 pm, but childcare is only available from 11-1. That’s not a lot of help to me. My car is making a funny noise, and it’s over the time when the oil should be changed, but I can’t figure out how or when I will get it in, so I’ll worry about it after tomorrow, when I have an 8-page paper due. The boys both have scouts tonight, so perhaps I’ll get some writing done then, while Abby colors. I lost a filling on Friday, but I haven’t had time yet to figure out what to do about it- something will come to me, I’m sure- it always does.

On Sunday, a woman sat down near me as I was waiting to go speak- she said her husband was traveling for four days, and she was absolutely dreading the week and didn’t know how she would make it, “I really hate being a single mother.”

I just stared; a burning lump lodged in my throat, and turned around, lest I break into a million little pieces.

26 thoughts on “Reality

  1. Soon after I became a single parent, I had to leave the church. Instead of a place of rest and refuge it turned into a place of unrelenting demands and guilt.

  2. You can do this, because you have proven you can do hard things. Just get rid of the guilt – it serves no purpose.

  3. Tell your RS president to take you off the VT route, say no to the Souper Thurs and no to the service project. When I am in survival mode, saying “no” becomes my new best friend

    • I second this comment…there are seasons in life, and this is the season where simply BEING in church on Sunday is enough of a service committment. Talk to the RS pres and the bishop. Juggle the eggs that can break, not the balls that will bounce. Empathy here from a not quite-so-single-parenter [hubs deploys all the freaking time…gone 8 months of the last 12]

  4. I agree with teddy-n-mai’s mom. I really hate it when there isn’t child care for adult-only events at church. Because, you know, I want to spend my babysitter budget (or lack thereof) on that. Please.

  5. You have my permission to say no to everything you possibly can. Like, say, to speaking in church…….. Cut out everything that isn’t essential right now. Or the essential won’t get taken care of. (Like, uh, sleep). It’s just a (not entirely welcome) season, and someday you’ll be able to take on more again. Let it be what it is, and say “no” more.

  6. I like Em’s “let it be what it is.”

    Tracy, you are phenomenal, but you can only do so much. Like everyone else, I’d tell you to say “no” more often… or rather say, “I’d love to, but I just can’t right now. Someday I will be able to add these things back on my plate. But right now I cannot.”

    By the way, your run-on paragraph has *my* heart racing! You are juggling a lot – and succeeding most of the time. Pat yourself on the back for what you ARE doing.

  7. I hesitate to add this but I will, in an attempt to offer another perspective.

    I cringe, but I could be that woman who sat next to you at church. Not that I would ever actually SAY it to you or someone else in your position – but I admit I have had that thought. When you are married and not used to a spouse traveling, 4 days can seem like a lifetime – especially if you have young kids.

    I don’t know this woman or her intent, but I don’t believe she sat down thinking, “How can I skewer Tracy’s heart today?” Rather, she might simply have been thinking, “I am dreading this week. How am I possibly going to do this? Here is someone who does this every day, week after week, month after month. How does she do it? Can she help me figure out a way to dig deep and make it through this week? What can I learn from her?”

    Granted, it was a crass, thoughtless, idiotic thing to say to someone who truly is a single parent! But as someone who has a husband who travels in the fall and spring, I can at least try to understand where she might be coming from.

    Tracy, try not to hold this ridiculous comment against her. I doubt she meant to hurt you. In fact, she probably admires you – and will admire you even more after she survives this week.

    I truly hope this comment doesn’t come across as devaluing you and your own feelings. They are legitimate and valid. I’m sorry you nearly cracked into a million pieces with this insensitive comment. That makes my heart hurt. And it makes me want to be even more consciously aware of what I say, how I say it, and to whom I say it.

    When it comes right down to it, a traveling spouse is like playing dress-up compared to a single parent who wears the clothes and lives the life every minute of every day.

    • Oh Michelle, I know! I know she (and all the other people too) don’t mean anything by it, and they never ever mean to hurt me. I doubt my situation is even on their radar- everyone has their own busy lives taking up their time.

      This just happens to be a pet peeve of mine- a woman who has a husband who travels certainly has to juggle, and I’m not diminishing the work she (and you) does. But the truth is, her husband is coming home at some point. She has a goal to set. She has a paycheck coming from his absence, the mortgage is paid, groceries are bought, and she has a shoulder to lean her head on when he gets home.

      What I do is everything she does, plus everything he does, and no day to look forward to when I know he will be home, and no shoulder to lean on. And when she compares her four days to me, even if her intensions are just to make smalltalk, I have a hard time breathing.

      I’m not arguing for my limitations. This is my life, and I deal with it. And I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me- that’s for sure. I just get tired of swallowing it sometimes.

  8. I hear you on this.

    And yet, someone asked me today when I wanted to find another husband. I surprised myself. I realized that I’m in no hurry to marry again, because my life, which is somewhat like what you describe above except I don’t even register the extras on my radar any more, is so much easier than it was before. I am less busy, have fewer tasks, and a tinge less guilt for saying “no.”

    Of course, I haven’t started school again yet. We’ll see if I’ll be able to.

  9. It was thoughtless. I hope I remember to never say something like that again, because I know I have used that phrase before. I dislike when Mr. travels, but only because it is hard to sleep without him and lack of sleep is my Achilles’ heel.

  10. i am a military spouse, and my husband is deployed a lot. a lot of my friends refer to themselves as “single mothers” when their husbands are gone. for some reason it has always bothered me, and i think reading your post i just figured out why. while it is hard to have him gone (and about to get harder – he’s leaving for a year in january), i still have a paycheck while he’s gone – which means i get to stay home with my kids, and not go back to school. i know he’s coming back, and my kids know he’s coming back. and most of all, i have his emotional support and love through it all. we don’t get to talk on the phone much, but every email buoys me up and gets me through that day.

    i can’t imagine how hard it would be to truly juggle all the responsibilities of a family by yourself, with no end in sight. you’re doing an amazing job.

    i also have had a friend recently complain to me (with a straight face!) about her husband leaving for 4 days (he had never traveled before). my husband is deployed right now, and with this year deployment coming up, it was all i could do not to shake her. i can only imagine how you felt. the worst part for me is, i know people don’t mean to be hurtful, so i feel bad about being hurt, but i am anyway. it has made me want to be more careful in what i say to others, and always be mindful of their circumstances.

  11. I’m so sorry you had to hear that at that exact moment. And I can’t believe you had to speak in church, and that you have to visit teach. My VT companion has a husband who is gone during the week, and I don’t ever expect her to come with me. It turns visiting teaching into something that makes everybody crazy, and there’s enough crazy to go around already.

    Hang in there. I know, I know, you have no choice, but still, you’re doing all the right things.

  12. You are right – regardless of how good or bad my week has been, I will always have Hubby’s Thurs night return. It makes all the difference in the world. FEELING like a single parent is completely different than BEING a single parent.

    I tip my hat to all of you single parents and military spouses. You’ve earned my respect and, hopefully, my sensitivity.

    “In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can’t see.”

  13. Tracy, I am the VT coordinator in my ward and I recently had a divorced mom working on a degree request a release from all her assignments until she got her life in calmer order. I did it without a second thought, and made sure that she has competent VT’s.
    Food for thought, my dear.

    And when someone says something that hits you hard in the solar plexus, you are entitled to feel it and get over it on your own terms and in your own good time.

    You put my own problems in good perspective, and help me gird up to take them on.

  14. SAY NO. you have more than your share on your plate, there is a time and a season for all service and right now you are in survival mode. Once you have more time you can be extra useful and volunteer for everything you want but right now, SAY NO.

  15. My husband is gone more than he is home–literally, we have Saturdays and half of Sunday together as a family–so it cracks me up a little when women complain that they can’t wait for their husbands to get back because it is so hard without them. For me, sometimes it’s hard to think of my husband as more than just a paycheck.

    But I try not to complain too much about him being gone, as his brother is in the Navy and goes months/years without seeing his wife and kid. Compared to them, I’ve got it easy.

  16. God bless you, friend.

    Asking for some slack in others’ expectations is not just important for you; it’s important for them. People need to understand and recognize how damaging unrealistic expectations can be – and Elder Packer, no less, said explicitly in the CHI training from last year that we need to remember the Church is organized to serve the members NOT the members are here to staff the Church.

    Please talk with your Bishop and/or Relief Society President about making sure you aren’t asked to run faster than you can walk right now.

  17. I can’t figure out the “single mother” comments I hear either. It is completely different to be a single mother than to be a wife whose husband travels or whatever. I think it is a very ignorant, rude thing to say.
    Even when my husband wasn’t around because of work, even when my husband was addicted to a computer game, I never equated what I did with what it meant to be a single mother because my husband contributed his entire paycheck to our family and my husband did provide emotional support to me and the children.

    As for everyone telling you to say no, you can’t say no to everything. Say no to the things that aren’t worth saying yes to. If you enjoy speaking in church, say yes. I happen to like speaking in church or teaching lessons. I always want to say yes to that. Going to something like Souper Thursday (I assume it is like Enrichment) depends on whether I want to be social or am too busy to care. As for VT, I’m ok with being a facebook VTer. Use the word “NO” but pick what makes sense for your own needs. Some YESes can actually help recharge you (like I assume blogging is worth it to you even though it takes time).

    Anyway, life can be pretty exhausting. My husband is about to break his life is pretty intense, I know he appreciates my support. My best friend is so busy and overwhelmed but her husband is not able to be supportive at all. I am glad I can be someone to her so she isn’t quite so alone in life. You have some wonderful friends and amazing personal coping strategies so you keep having successes in life even through tough situations.

    I hope that you can look at all the crazy and say “This is crazy busy and overwhelming but this is all good stuff and it is all worth it.”

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