Julie Green: The Other Side of the Coin


The Week I was a Single Mom

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a...Single Parent!

It takes a village to raise a child. Or at the very least, one superhuman parent. Every now and then I don my cape and play that wonder woman. Like many moms out there, when my husband goes away on business, I unofficially become a ‘single parent.' And, also like most moms out there, it’s not an experience I relish.

Yet I do recognize that every now and then it’s healthy and necessary to be ousted from your bubble-wrapped existence. And walking in another mom’s footsteps -- if only for a few short days or weeks a year -- helps me to see beyond the periphery of my smug little life.

Until I became a parent I had scant appreciation for what was involved in the role. I didn’t read the fine print, you might say. No matter how involved (or uninvolved) your partner is, two pairs of hands are certainly better than one. So I thought.

While my husband was abroad on business, our then four month old caught something nasty from his playgroup. He coughed so hard he couldn’t keep milk down. A doctor on call said my son wasn’t showing signs of dehydration. Yet. This went on. In the middle of the night, worried that he might not make it through till morning, I packed up my baby boy and headed to the nearest E.R. where my son was given electrolytes. I arrived home around 3 a.m., utterly spent yet inordinately proud of my judgment call.

I had handled an emergency situation all by myself. For single parents, that’s the reality of every day. I now know I could do it again if I had to, not that I would want to. I consider myself fortunate to shoulder the hardships and the glories of parenthood with a partner. 
When my son does something awful or awesome, my husband’s right there to share the moment. Truly, I can’t imagine raising my son without him. Yet I know some women don't have a choice in the matter. 
In Tinseltown, being a single mom is all the rage right now. Charlize recently went it alone, as did Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Sheryl Crow, and Michelle Williams. And perennially unlucky in love Jen Aniston got tired of waiting around for Mr Right to show up to start her family. Even superwoman Madge recently admitted that raising kids alone (whether by choice or circumstance) is hard as hell.  
Of course single parents aren't exclusively moms. My uncle has raised his 7-year-old singlehandedly for years. The responsibility weighs heavy, no doubt. Instead of shucking it off, however, my uncle took the road less travelled, and stuck around. Following an ugly custody battle, he's not only the primary caregiver, he’s the epicentre of his son’s universe. He’s his be all, end all. They play air-guitar together; they order pizza. He taught him how to tie his shoelaces, how to share. 
Single parents are everything their children have got. Their role is pivotal in the child’s life since there is no other parent to dilute their influence, for better or for worse. My uncle isn’t perfect. But he does his damnedest, and for his son that’s more than enough.

To me single parents are superheroes. I keep looking for the strings and the hidden wires. But there’s no sleight of hand in their repertoire, only unbelievable reserves of love and hard work. (And who knows, maybe it's easier today than it was for my own mother, a teenager in the '70s...)

Experience has taught me that two pairs of hands aren’t necessarily better than one, and that it totally depends upon the hands in question. One pair of caring hands is surely better than two indifferent or abusive pairs. 

The minute my husband gets home, I plan to count out our many blessings on all the hands and fingers we’ve got.