Saturday, September 2, 2006

Coming out of the single mom closet.

Published September 2, 2006
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I will begin this column with the note that this is the column I was supposed to write last week. This fact led to a fairly funny situation at the youth treatment center where I work. I had shared with a colleague ahead of time my plan to write this column, so she expressed surprise at not finding it published in the Spectrum a week ago.

"Hey, I missed your 'coming out of the closet' column on Saturday," she said. "I looked and looked for it, but it wasn't there. I thought what you wrote was cute, but it wasn't what I was expecting."

I shared with her that I had chickened out and had written the column on silly high school mascots as an easy replacement, but that I planned to write the "coming out of the closet" column this week. This was the point in the conversation that I remembered I had a student with me and noticed the VERY interested questioning look on her face.

"Not THAT closet!" I said with a chuckle.

Today, I take my first, very public steps out of the single mom closet.

This announcement comes as no surprise to friends, neighbors, and coworkers who see me every day. I've been living the life of a single mom for the last 8 months, having joined the ranks in January. I've spent those months waiting for the "right time" to write this column. Apparently, that time was not last week, so here we are.

Being a single mom is a somewhat surreal experience. It's this "thing" you carry around with you...kind of like being a soccer mom or a PTA mom, only the single mom label is often spoken in hushed tones of either disdain or reverent awe.

This dichotomy of views on single motherhood has become very intriguing to me since stepping into this role. In the black and white of our nation's mind-set, I am either reviled as the downfall of society or revered as some superhero bound for glory. And here I am, somewhere in the middle wondering when I simultaneously grew horns AND a halo.

The statement I hear most often is, "I don't know how you do it." Sometimes those words are tinged with pity over my "plight" as a separated mom of five kids under ten. Other times, the person speaking it is looking at me as if I am the ultimate embodiment of modern day miracles. I start to wonder myself, "How DO I do it?"

In my day to day existence, not much has changed. I still wake up every morning and juggle the various responsibilities of life: family, work, church, bills, school, etc. Sure, I don't have that second pair of hands backing me up anymore, and yes, that can be a challenge.

The greatest truth I've found on this journey is that I am enough, and I am not enough. The key is knowing when I can dig deep and face a challenge alone and when it's time to call for help. Whether it's a mundane request for help setting up my swamp cooler or a frantic late-night call to my sitter for a spare pacifier, what I've found is people care. And that's how I do it.

Freed from my closet, I'm sure some will wonder if I'll consider changing the title of my column to "The Single Mother Load." Not a chance. I may be a single mom, but I'm not willing to let that define me. I'm not looking for pity or well intentioned accolades. I'm just a mom like any other, making do... mother's do.