Bay and Her Boys
Unexpected Lessons I Learned as a (Single) Mom
Before kids it all seemed so simple. In my dreams I’d put their clothes out in the morning—clean, fresh, and matching, of course. Then I’d feed them a yummy, nourishing breakfast. The day would be spent in those organized activities that help children develop their talents and social skills. In the evening I’d have them brush their teeth and take baths. And then I’d read to them before bed or they’d read on their own. What was so hard about this?
I couldn’t have been more clueless. Those ideals were too high for any parent. But even reasonable two-parent standards don’t apply if you’re raising kids alone. How could they—there’s only one of you. You can’t do it all, no matter how hard you try. So you have to pick the important stuff and let the rest go. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for failure.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to cut my expectations significantly, both the ones for me and the ones for my kids. Clothes on their bodies, food in their stomachs, church on Sundays, and school on time—these were reasonable goals. Team sports used up energy, taught great lessons, and reduced idle time. I kept those. Scouts took too much of my time and took me away from the other two. We dropped it and never looked back.
To make this new life work I had to strip parenting down to the basics: no frills or shiny shoes. The boys needed to be fed, yes, but cereal worked fine (even for dinner, when necessary). As for clothes, I was humbled by the way my kids dressed. My priorities were good manners and good grades—the boys’ rooms were a mess, but I learned not to care. They might be ragamuffins, but—what the heck—they never used bad language. I couldn’t fight every battle, so I picked the important ones and let the kids run free of the others.