Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Myth of Supermom

I feel like a blog slacker! It has been far too long since I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Life as a single mom is a busy one -wonderful but busy! And that is the thought that inspired today's post. "How do you do it" - I have been asked this question multiple times by well meaning people with eyes full of sympathy and sometimes judgement about my life as a single mom. What do you mean "how", you just do it! Motherhood, actually parenthood- in order not to be sexist here- brings with it a bunch of challenges and life style changes. But, for me, the positives so outweigh any challenge or sacrifice, there is no contest.

For me, the challenges of single motherhood come in two categories, financial and logistical. Do my kids have all of the material possessions and stuff that alot of their friends possess, heck no. Can they be involved in as many activities as their friends, nope. It is not logistically possible to pay for it all (esp with an ex who thinks child support is optional- but that is another post) or to drive two kids to different locations for activities at the same time. Did my kids spend time in daycare so their mom could pursue a career and work to pay the mortgage, buy health insurance, food..., etc. Yes they did. Does my house and yard need a ton of work I can't quite afford right now- yep. Lest you stop reading this because it appears to be turning into a post complaining about how hard this all is -take heart, as I am not going there!

I believe that not getting everything you want as a kid never destroyed anyone. In fact, a little struggle and the need to prioritize family needs over personal needs has been a good lesson for my kids. The three of us are a team. My kids both know they will be getting jobs when they can to save for a car and college. Scholarships will need to be obtained. The oldest needs to babysit the youngest so mom can work and has to miss some time with her friends. Such is the nature of life and I see the seeds of understanding developing in them- that everything is not handed to you, choices must be made, times can get tough and guess what, you get through it just fine. Most of all I hope that they are learning resilence, independence and to have confidence in themselves. It is also good for them to know while they don't have "everything" they have a heck of alot more than most of the rest of the world.

My daughters are great kids and turning into amazing young women in spite of or perhaps because of what they "don't have." Both are getting straight A's, are well mannered, strong in spirit, have good friends and are a joy to me. They are not perfect of course- no kid is, but I feel very blessed. Which leads me to the original intent of this post, How do you do it?

1. Gratitude. I am so blessed and lucky to have a good job, talents, strength and good health. I am blessed with healthy, great kids. Frankly one of the reasons I can "do it" is because they are not hard kids to raise. I fully realize that it could be alot harder, neither have major health issues or special needs. I got lucky, and when the China Center for Adoption Affairs matched me with these particular girls, they got it right.

  2. Really want it. I really, really, really wanted to be a mom. I have learned more, grown more and been filled with more love than I ever could have imagined. They have forever altered me and opened up my capacity to love.   I also became a mom later in life, first at 36 years-old and then again at 40. The sacrifices and lifestyle changes that others complain about don't bug me because I was ready for them. I had a ton of fun in my twenties and early thirties (none of which will ever be a blog post!) The adoption process is a long and detailed one and it makes you think and prepare for parenthood.

3. Give up the "Supermom" myth- it is not real. I have bad days, yell at my kids, get sick of my work commute, get frustrated and my house is often a mess. We often fish matching (or close to matching) socks out of the dryer, we watch too much TV, sometimes after a long day and 90 minute commute, dinner is unhealthy mac and cheese. I am the mom at the bus stop signing yesterday's homework report and have never been room mom- my volunteer efforts have to be after work hours.  When my kids were younger, I was in awe of the moms with organized, zip locked diaper bags with snacks, crayons and wipes. I was lucky to find kleenex and leftover saltine crackers. We have gone a few days without cable until payday. But I do my best- work hard, try to set an example and love my kids with all my heart.  I strive to excel at work, write, voluteer, be a good friend and better mom.  I  do it as well as I can but certainly not at supermom level. My house isn't organized or always spotless but when you visit you will find a smile, two crazy dogs, great kids and a homemade cookie (I would rather bake than mop the floor.) I get concerned about my younger friends who are about to have babies and are planning to be perfect, it is much easier and more fun to go with the flow.

4. Laugh as much as possible and cry when you need to- there is not a damn thing wrong with letting out a few tears once in a while. As long as when you are through, you dry them off and carry on.

5. Squeeze as much joy out of your kids as you can. I remind myself that time will fly by and in the blink of an eye they will be off to college. I remember my girls as babies needing to be rocked through the night, particularly just after coming home from China. I remember sleeping on the floor by Lily's crib - she was never alone in the orphanage and hated it. Her little head would pop up when I would try to crawl out of the room and she would look me straight in the eye and wail.  Uncomfortable and tired, I had this flash of insight...she will be 15-years-old one day and not want to spend time with me. There will be a "keep out" or "please knock" sign on the bedroom door not an "I love you, need you, please don't leave me cry."  Treasure these moments when she needs you and wants you. Isn't it exraordinary how deeply you can love one another?

6. Don't give other people's criticism, opinions or pity space in your head. Do it your way and if other people don't like it..too bad.

7.  It is OK to ask for and receive help!  This was a big lesson for me- Miss I can do it all by myself. 
Nope, you can't and that is perfectly alright.  I have gratefully accepted lots of help from amazing friends, neighbors and family.  I am also a spiritual person so I have spent time in prayer and meditation seeking clarity and strength.

So when you meet a single mom, don't feel sorry for her or peg her as superwoman.   And please don't assume that her kids are screwed up.  Her kids just might be terrific. She is blessed beyond measure and might be having the time of her life! She gets to be a mom- and it does't get much better than that!!