On the day my daughter turned 18 months old, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. When she was 3½, he died.
I never wanted to be a single mom. I picked a really good man to marry and raise a family with. But eight months later, here I am.
I am responsible for every bath, every bedtime, every meal, every story, every teeth brushing, every cry in the night, every wake-up call.
And those are just the little things.
It is up to me to provide a safe and happy home, to teach important life lessons, to give my daughter opportunities to learn and grow, to set a good example.
Frankly, it’s terrifying.
Sometimes I used to get irritated that I was pulling more parental weight. I thought my husband had it easy. I think that’s just the nature of moms. But now I see the value of his contribution. His role was just different.
When we were a two-parent family, I was the boo-boo kisser and vegetable pusher. My husband was the one greeted at the door with squeals of delight. The one to pick our girl up over his head and kiss her belly. The one to chill out on the couch, baby tucked under his arm, for an Eagles game or Three Stooges episode.
Now I feel like I have wear both hats, to be the mommy and daddy.
Frankly, it’s exhausting.
And then there are the overwhelming fears: What if something happens to me? What if I totally screw up? What if she hates me?
I read an article recently that likened being a widowed single mom to “driving a car going 60 miles an hour with no brakes.” For me, it’s more like plodding along slowly, trying not to step on any land mines. There’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of relying on family and friends.
We’re trying to find our new normal. So far, that means we might skip a bath every now and then. Or I, who once couldn’t bear to be apart from my sweet girl, turn her over to friends who offer to sit for a few hours.
There will be mistakes along the way. There already have been. I’m learning I can’t be both parents. I can only be me. And I can only love her and do the best I can. And of course, pray my daughter turns out OK.
I take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. There are single moms everywhere, either by choice or by chance, who are making it work. And if any of you want to share your words of wisdom, I’m all ears.