When I filed for divorce, I knew the journey of motherhood I was about to embark on wouldn’t be easy. It certainly was never a part of any of my plans, but I made it look easy for a long while, thanks to a wonderful village and family and friends support system. However, I could have never imagined the unique challenges that awaited me during the teenage years. This phase of parenting has been demanding and complex. Single motherhood, the unfiltered reality, has been if I’m putting it mildly, a cautionary tale. For the past three years, I have been navigating the struggles, emotions, and lessons of the teenage years, and I still have about seven more years to go. 10 out of 10, I would not recommend trying this at home, alone, or home alone if you have a choice (laugh out loud).
My children have four year spacing, so as one enters a new phase of life and completes the cycle, here comes another to pick it back up again. Four year spacing seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, I think knowing what I know now about the turbulent teenage years, I’d rather have hit all three of their experiences at the same time by having them closer together. The emotional ups and downs, the evolving identities, and the push for independence can leave any parent feeling overwhelmed. As a single mom, I’ve found myself riding this rollercoaster of unfiltered reality solo, making the journey even more challenging.
As a single mom, I wear many hats. Not only do I have to be the primary caregiver, but I also shoulder the responsibility of being the sole provider. Balancing work, household chores, and the demands of parenting can be exhausting. There are times when I wish I had a partner to share the load, as well as provide a different perspective or just a moment of peace. There are days where an intense conversation with one child is followed by another intense conversation with another child, and then, third times the charm, yet another intense conversation with another. I find myself saying more often than not, “I’m human too, you know?”.
Financial stress is also a reality for many single moms, and even though I have done well for myself when you break it down in today’s economy, I’m no exception. Raising teenagers comes with a whole new set of expenses, from education to extracurricular activities, not to mention the ever-growing grocery bills! While I do my best to provide, there are moments when I feel the weight of financial constraints, and I worry about their future. As a “geriatric millennial,” as they are now calling us, I sometimes feel like I’m racing against the clock to ensure they’ll be okay after I’m gone…and I’m only 41, but tomorrow is never promised.
One of the most challenging aspects of single motherhood during the teenage years is the lack of emotional support. While I have family that is there for me and a few close friends, there’s no one in the house to share the emotional load with on a daily basis. Dealing with the emotional turmoil of teenagers, from mood swings to relationship dramas, can be isolating at times, and even more so because most of my friends have children younger than mine, so I’m really on this journey solo.
Another unfiltered reality of single motherhood that I talk about often is losing yourself. While managing the challenges that come with being a single mom, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself. In my last post, I talked about getting back to some self-care basics because even the smallest of things can become obsolete on this path. I’ve sometimes felt like my own dreams and passions have taken a backseat. The other day, my dad called it “dreams deferred.” The relentless cycle of caregiving and providing can make it difficult to find time for self-care, personal growth, or even a moment of relaxation.
Guilt and self-doubt are also unwelcome companions for many single moms. I’ve questioned whether I’m doing enough for my teenagers if I’m preparing them adequately for the future, and whether I’m striking the right balance between discipline and understanding. They’d probably say I’m a dictator, while my family or at least some probably think I’m too lenient. The unfiltered reality of my single motherhood is that I’m tired. And with that tiredness comes inconsistent conflict resolutions. The pressure to be both Mom and Dad, to provide emotional support and set boundaries, can sometimes be overwhelming.
Most people would consider me the “strong friend.” I tend to keep things to myself for the most part, and I don’t burden others with my issues, or at least I try not to. I usually retreat until I figure things out. Despite the struggles, I’ve come to realize that vulnerability can be a source of strength. It’s okay to admit that being a single mom is more than I signed up for, even more so now than when they were little. It’s okay to ask for help, seek support, and take moments for self-care. I’ve learned that embracing vulnerability is a courageous act, and it doesn’t diminish my love or dedication as a mom.
While the challenges of single motherhood during the teenage years are real, and the unfiltered reality isn’t pretty, there are also moments of immense joy, pride, and growth. My teenagers continue to surprise me with their resilience, unique personalities, and capacity for love. In this new season of becoming, they remind me that this journey is worth every moment despite the struggles.
Being a single mom is undoubtedly a daunting task, one that’s more demanding than I could have ever anticipated. However, it’s also a journey filled with love, growth, and moments of connection that make it all worthwhile. I’ve learned to embrace the struggles, cry when needed, and cherish the moments of joy and pride that come with raising remarkable young individuals who I just want to be at the end of the day “good humans.” It may not be the path I initially signed up for, but it’s a journey I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, well, except for maybe a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.