In the early stages of my separation from Tyler, we went to divorce counseling sessions. Man, I hated those things. They were supposed to help us rebuild the pieces of our ruined marriage into a civil coparenting relationship, but really they were just miserable. Who wants to sit in a room for an hour with your ex and talk about why you broke up?
We didn’t continue it for long. It was hurting more than helping. Anyway, I remember something he used to say at every session– he would remark on how tired I looked, I would say that of course I was tired, I was taking care of a baby alone during dental school and going through a divorce, and he would hiss angrily, “well aren’t you just Supermom?? You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?”
Obviously, I didn’t, and I still don’t, or I wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it. But even though I knew that it came out of his anger and helplessness at having his family taken away from him, that comment always cut me deep. I guess I kind of did think I was Supermom. I guess I still kind of do. If you are going to be a single mom, you have to be Supermom to some degree, regardless of whatever else is going on in your life. Your child needs you and you are the only parent, so you have to step up. It’s that simple.
When you have a child and live with a partner, even if you are the primary caretaker, the other person is there for you to fall back on. If you’ve been up 50 times during the night, you can beg for a reprieve. One of you can make dinner while the other supervises the kids. Hopefully you have help with cleaning and maintaining the household. When a child is sick, you don’t have to drag them along while you run out to get meds or food or whatever. You get the idea. The thought has often crossed my mind that there’s a reason it takes two to make a baby– because it takes at least that many to raise one.
As a single parent, it’s critical, of course, to have someone to support you. I firmly believe that you can’t make it as a single parent if you are too proud to ask for any help. In my case, the main help I have is my parents, who live about an hour away. It’s not that close, but it’s close enough to take Caroline for a day or two during long stretches, and to pick her up from daycare if I’m dealing with an emergency patient or a long procedure. My friends have helped me out too.
What I am getting at with my incessant rambling and reminiscing is a point that is rather paradoxical. In order to truly be Supermom (or Superdad), you have to recognize that you can’t do it alone. I tried, back in the beginning, because I was reluctant to admit to anyone that I needed help. I was exhausted all the time, and I couldn’t be a good mom when I was that tired and stretched-too-thin.
If you’re gonna be Supermom, you’re gonna need some sidekicks. I am lucky to have so many fantastic ones, myself.