In a world where every parenting seminar, book and article espouses self-care, self-care and more self-care as the modern day Mama's mantra, I have to address the selflessness factor.
I am a single mom. The number one most common question I am asked in relation to being a single mom? How do I do it. It seems impossible. To accomplish all that I do and still have children that are pleasant to be around AND still want to be around me?
I have a secret. It is NOT self care. Could I use more to improve my quality of life? Sure. To improve my happiness and therefore happiness of my family? Sure. But I have no support from a partner, I have no close family (geographically speaking), no network of single moms who call upon each other for support (I did actually try to accomplish this, but shockingly, single parents have little time and energy left over to actually form a group like this).
Last week I had a girls' night out scheduled TWO MONTHS in advance (which, mind you, was only going to be from 3:30 to 5:00 in the first place, to accommodate, you guessed it, child care issues) and we got to the bar, sat down to order drinks, and my phone rang. My ex wasn't coming to get the kids. It was a ballet night so I had to leave immediately, walk 30 minutes to the baby's day care, pick him up, walk to children's after care, pick them up, and try to catch a bus which only comes every 20 minutes, even during rush hour, to take us from South Philly to West Philly for ballet class at 5:00. (We missed the bus and had to walk to the subway, still made class though).
My ex has cancelled his visitation three times in the last two weeks. Which always results in me having to leave early from work. Which results in me having to work on my days off to make-up the hours. Which results in the days I set aside for house cleaning (for sanity, not some standard of cleanliness I try to maintain because I gave-up on maintaining that around May 4, 2013 - when the baby turned one) and "Mama Time" (the oh so elusive and coveted name of something I think I may have in another 10 years or so, the name has such a nice ring to it though doesn't it?).
Point being, life is hard for me. The activities of daily living as a single mom with three kids are unending and largely unappreciated. They are difficult on days when the kids are healthy and happy, so one can only imagine when a two year old is tantruming, a preteen is moody and a tween is missing her Daddy because he keeps cancelling visitation.
Trying to incorporate self-care into my routine is a cosmic joke.
So, how do I do it?
Simply, it's selflessness.
I'm not saying I didn't cry a little (or want to at least) when I had to walk away from girl's night out. But my children needed me, and being there for them gives meaning and purpose to my life. I was a lot lost, pre-children. I couldn't reconcile the world at large, and my place in it. My soul sought things I didn't know how to find. Becoming pregnant with, carrying, birthing and raising Abacus, then Samurai, then Nexen infused this sense of connection with the Earth, humanity and the world at large I don't know how I would have found otherwise. When they were growing inside of me I felt the moral imperative to grow, to become different, to be ready to accept them, love them and be there for them whenever and however they were to need me. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, I would not exist today were it not for them.
My therapist says I can't live for only them. That I have to take care of myself. But my "self" gets angry and bitter when I plan something for it and have to cancel at the last minute due to a child care issue or another, perfectly timed, child's illness. My "self" gets impatient and resentful when I can't have "Mama Time". In those moments, what grounds me and creates a loving space in my heart and being, is selflessness.
Existing for myself left me lost, lonely and reckless. Existing for others helped me feel meaning, purpose, happiness. Existing for my children allowed me to feel love, connection and know true and permanent physical, spiritual and emotional growth (well, the physical growth comes and goes).
I could go on a lot longer. But it would likely get repetitive and way too revealing. And the baby is up, calling for me. I feel as though he was always calling for me, I just wasn't ready to hear him. And once I was, it was selflessness that brought him here, carried him, birthed him and which has sustained him. Which will nurture him now and prepare him to one day nurture his own.
Here's to selflessness, and my survival.