It was an early summer evening. We just returned home from work and preschool pick-up to begin our usual evening routine. Clean up the aftermath of the early morning rush while simultaneously preparing to cook dinner and set my toddler up with a quiet activity. Silently wishing she will keep herself entertained long enough so I could accomplish all of the tasks overflowing in my head.
I had a long clinic work day. An exhausted front-line worker, in the pandemic, always carrying around the fear that I would expose my daughter to my work hazards. Yet there was never really another choice but to make it work because-single parenting. Not much time passes before I cringe at the sound of tantrum cries. My reflex thought, “Really? Again? Why can’t she just be okay long enough for me to finish one thing.” I am a non-co parenting single mom but also a pediatrician who is all too familiar with developmentally appropriate milestones. It is the overwhelmed single mama me that sometimes stills struggles with intentionally pausing to connect with my daughter during these moments.
It has been trigger for me since my early postpartum depression days as a new single mom. Always having to do everything, even after working 12 hour shifts and sleeping for three interrupted hours. Being the only adult in the home who is managing the home, working outside of the home, responsible for nurturing and caring for their child plus finding the time to “practice self-care” becomes overwhelming pretty fast.
Now triggered, I turned around ready to speak through a clenched mouth, so as not to yell at her. I got down on her level and said, “Mommy can’t do everything at the same time. You told me you were hungry so I’m trying to cook for you. But now you’re crying because I won’t fix this. What do you want me to do? Stop cooking or sit here and hug you? I can’t do both.” I did it. I didn’t yell, although I felt the frustration settling in my heart.
In between her heavy breathing and tears she answered, ’hug’. I should have known she would choose that, it is her love language, but it’s not what I wanted in the moment.
I wanted I needed to take off my nasty Covid exposed scrubs, finish dinner, clean, load the dishes, prep for tomorrow, get her bathed and dressed, complete our bedtime routine without another meltdown so that I could….just maybe sit on the couch. Sit to read or scroll aimlessly down the social media rabbit hole while the tv stared at me. Well, that wasn’t gonna happen because now I am behind the “schedule”. In this moment I am not fully present because I am thinking about all the things not getting done. I sit there holing her, holding back my own tears thinking about where’s my saving grace to step in and say, “Hey! I’ll finish cooking” or even offer to play with her so I can finish multitasking and checking all the things off my list.
I could feel the anger rising and bitterness seeping back in. I thought I was healed from this already God! I have to do everything and I’m tired. This is a lot. I hold back my own tears, I check in with her to see if she’s okay and I invite her to help me finish cooking as I look off into the distance at a visual cue reminding me there is still more to do. I call out to Alexa to play “Maverick City Music,” my saving grace in the moment. Just as quick as the external storm comes it leaves. Not my internal storm, I’m still hurt. Hurt from the triggers of remembering in those chaotic moments that I am carrying a heavy weight of having to do it all, all the time. Then suddenly the lyrics and melody start to penetrate the atmosphere of our home and I’m crying.
I am crying in gratefulness. Grateful that God has always been my strength, even when I was suffering silently with postpartum depression as a new single mom. My strength in moments where I feel I am failing as a parent. Grateful that He is my Abba Father who supplies all of our needs. Grateful that His grace is sufficient and I don’t have to be anxious for anything. Grateful that before I can even utter words to pray that Holy Spirit already knows my needs and intercedes on my behalf. It is in this moment that He gives me beauty for ashes and I am reminded to give myself more grace!
So now I am empowered to speak more kindly to myself, “It’s okay if you don’t do the dishes tonight. Just cover the sink up with a dish towel girl! She will be fine if you skip tonight’s bedtime story. You are a GREAT mama, don’t you dare think you don’t know how to connect with her just because you didn’t want to hug!” Shifting my heart into a posture of worship immediately alters my thought pattern and that last ounce of strength I once had suddenly becomes replenished by His strength! Those tears of pain are now tears of joy, although that doesn’t stop the toddler from pausing her sous chef duties to don gloves (thanks Covid) and grab tissue so she can assist me in blowing my nose and drying my tears. A love language, maybe…. or perhaps more like another saving grace to remind me that He purposefully gave us to each other for His glory!!
Single parenting is challenging but it doesn’t change the fact that God views you as being more than enough for this calling in this season of your life. We will never be a perfect mama but we will always be the perfect mom for our children as long as we continue to be intentional about being self-compassionate, giving ourselves more grace, practicing daily self care and committing to doing the hard work of healing our inner child so we can continue to evolve and live a purposeful and thriving life. Even now as single moms!
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