Four years ago this week, I became a single mother.
For that first year, I felt hopeful. I believed in love, I believed that the silver lining of the upheaval and heartbreak that had cracked my life, and my kids’ lives, into pieces was that I would find love, the sort of love my heart craved and that I wanted to model for my children.
During the second year, I found the OKCupid stats on dating and older women. I spent the rest of year two convinced that I would somehow beat the trend, that being old and not inclined to post cleavage-y photos of myself to online dating sites wouldn’t keep me from finding love. Then I discovered that I don’t have the free time, energy, money, and inclination to date, online or otherwise. If you want to beat a trend, you have to work at it, and I was busy with my real job. Being the mother to children who were themselves heartbroken about the demise of the family they thought they’d have forever didn’t leave me feeling perky and ready for the world of dating. Still, I had hope that we’d all come through it and build something new and wonderful to sustain us, some new unit that included love for each of us.
During the third year, I realized that I didn’t believe in love any more, not romantic love, not for myself. That old saying that people like to quote to singletons, the “once you give up looking for love, it will find you” line, is simply not universally true. It doesn’t matter how many of your married friends, family members, and fellow single women think you’re a fabulous catch; if you live on an island of married people and your friends’ ex-husbands, there’s a better chance that you’ll win the state lottery than find true love when you’re over 40 and parenting young children. I spent most of year three crying every time I was alone in my car, the only time I was guaranteed privacy. My head had given up on love, but my heart was still stubbornly clinging to hope and youthful optimism.
During the fourth year, I did more crying but mostly I busied myself with a non-paying full-time job with a start-up along with my full-time solo parenting. I didn’t have time to cry in my car, and I discovered that it’s possible to live a mostly cheerful life without hope of love. I just had to follow a few rules: No parties, no romantic comedies, lots of the right sort of music and poetry, and a back yard full of bird feeders to observe and keep filled (insert nerdish hobby of your own as desired).
Then, towards the end of year four, I thought there might be something very wrong with my health. I’m still working through a lengthy diagnostic process, but so far, no one has found anything specific I need to worry about. It turns out that this reminder of my eventual death was just what I needed.
For the first time in four years, my head and my heart are in happy alignment. Romantic love sounds wonderful and all, but I’ve got my eyes on something bigger. All I’m asking for is to live to love my kids. I think my kids love me; because of their individual special needs, it’s not always easy to tell. That’s OK, though, because I love them. If I can just stick around long enough to see them to adulthood, I will be overjoyed. Every day that I’m still here, even when those days are freakishly hard for each of us in this house, I am grateful and happy.
Joy and gratitude for the blessing of motherhood, even if that comes as single motherhood, that’s plenty for me.