Being a single mom to an infant is the hardest thing I've ever done. That's not necessarily saying a whole lot, because I am not really one to "stretch myself" or anything like that. Nevertheless, it is by far the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm hoping it will be the hardest thing I ever do. Lying awake at night, wondering how on Earth I will ever pull off a successful attempt at parenting this tiny person who needs everything and whose needs are my sole responsibility to meet...facing the prospect of the next 18 years rearing this child...possibly all by myself for the duration.... That's really hard.
But the good news is that I am doing it anyway. I am scratching out a life for my son and me. It's not always on my terms and it's definitely not the life I ever wanted or planned, but I'm doing it. He is healthy and he is very happy and bright and secure, and I still have most of my hair. The inability to cope has been more about the circumstance of parenting solo while battling crippling fear than the actual child being parented. I knew it the minute I knew he was coming along that this baby is special, and he really is. He is my gift.
But motherhood has been really, really tough. Through no fault of Gabriel's -- he is the easiest toddler I have ever met and I am not just saying that because he is my child and I am blinded -- it's been almost too tough. I am too hard on myself. I second-guess too much. I am sensitive to anything remotely less than perfect and I am quick to assign blame and failure to myself. Compounded by a chronic lack of sleep and an ongoing health concern lately, my resolve and capacity have been faltering. I've stalled out, emotionally. On the outside, I'm moving along; on the inside, my thought life is a wreck.
I went through a period this summer during which I doubted everything, most off all my ability to do this parenting thing. Everything looked like failure to me, from my inability to provide enough for myself and my son to be fully independent and autonomous, to inability to get laundry folded and put away within three days of being washed. I just didn't think I could do it. I set a high bar for "success," whatever that is, and then I vilified myself for not meeting that standard. No matter that the standard is tough for a fully functioning family led by two adults in a healthy marriage and I am doing it on my own. Nevermind that my kid is a great kid. Nevermind that I am doing a good job as a mom and anyone who knows anything about kids has made it obvious that they think so. I couldn't -- still can't -- escape the constant feeling that I am not good enough, that I most assuredly will fail, and that whichever decision I make in this moment will ultimately set the trap that will break my leg down the road. I expect to fail. I anticipate it. And I try to move forward despite "knowing" that, sooner or later, something will turn into disaster.
I'm starting to come out of that dark hole of despair. I caught myself falling, and I started asking for help. It's ok to accept help, sure, and I am getting better about that, but more importantly I am coming around to the truth that it's ok to need help in the first place. We all need help at some point. These days I might be on the receiving end, but then I'll get a leg up and I'll be able to turn around and help the next person. And as one sweet friend recently reminded me, there are people who want to be able to give their help, and I should let them have the opportunity to do so. Helping is a two-way exchange, not one-way.
Through deliberate effort, I am examining my negative scripts and imposing changes. People are rallying for me, giving me new lines, challenging my expectations, putting candles in the dark corners. I am hearing that I can do this, that I am doing it, and that I am smart enough and capable enough to keep doing it, no matter what. They are telling me this over and over and over, across the board, from every direction.
One day, maybe, I will believe them.
In the meantime, my task is to keep moving forward. One hour, one clean-up, one whispered prayer, one menu plan, one Pat the Bunny, one desperate plea to God at a time.