Guilt and worry seem to be my co-pilots some days. I believe that worry is useless and unproductive, but alas, there are days that the combination of the two may just eat me alive. They are two separate emotions in my world. Let me explain.
Guilt is a deep-seated feeling that only rises to the surface during long, bad times. In my world, guilt is rooted in making a bad decisions and forcing my innocent, beautiful son to live with that guilt. Guilt comes from comparisons, trying to match our lives with the lives of others and in the crazy ways that make up for the lack that my son will experience.
Wait, you need some examples.
My son has only one set of grandparents. My father sees him at Sunday during brunch. He holds him while I try to take a few bites of my omelet and slurps of my coffee. After a few minutes of my son trying to destroy the items on the table or my Dad’s glasses, he is back in my arms. My mother makes appearances once a month and when she does, she is upset that my young son still cannot say her name nor does he cry when she leaves. They are not perfect, but they love him dearly and they are the only set that he gets.
Hold on, here is one a big one.
I am a single woman. Translation, there is no birth father. After many a long, legal search to find him, there will never be a birth father. That part of his genetic past is a mystery. He will never search the crowd at a soccer game for his dad. He will never try to mimic the actions of his Dad. He will never draw pictures of a man doing Dad things. Yes, I knew this going into trying to become a single parent and again, most days I am fine, but sometimes seeing a little boy run into the arms of his father makes me feel sad. I want my son to have that.
Thank goodness guilt only makes rare appearances. I find that it creeps into my head after several bad days in a row with my finances are too tight, sleep is lacking and everything feels like a struggle. There are some vital things that you need to keep guilt in check.
First, you must have a strong support system. There must be people in your life who will listen to you complain, cry right along with you and then kick you back into play. You can’t do this alone. Don’t kid yourself. Second, you have to remember that not every child on his planet is born into the two-parent household. Yes, you see it everywhere in the media and on the playground, but single parents don’t exactly wear huge name tags in public that say, “Hey, I am doing this alone!” We are too busy trying to keep our plates spinning to do things like that. Third, the shape of my family is my own doing. My son may have one parent and two grandparents, but in reality, his “family” is much bigger than that. It’s my job to teach my son that for most of us, your chosen family can be closer to you than your biological one.
So, yes, I feel guilt, but I also have hope. My son has three godparents. Several women around me treat him like a grandchild checking in on him, buying him little gifts and pinching his cheeks. The staff at his daycare adore him. When I go over to watch him in the observation booth, he often has captured the attention of a staff member. He babbles, flirts and dances with his chosen adult and enjoys their attention. My son’s chosen family is quite large and loving. It’s too easy to get lost in the labels of society. When you do, you are looking too closely. Back up and see the family that that is evolving around you.
In direct contrast to guilt is worry. Worry is more everyday. I try to avoid it, but it’s too easy to seep into my mind. It’s those “what ifs” that keep occurring. What if I run out of gas in our car before next payday? What if he goes through every diaper in my purse before we get home? What if he gets sick the day of the big meeting that I can’t miss? What if I drop him going down the stairs? I am pretty sure that every parent racks their brain with worry. It’s not just for the single parents, but the difference is, I am the only one doing the worrying for this child.
Worry is difficult to tame since it’s everyday. It’s like that muscle that you always aggravate in some way with your favorite activity. Before I know it, my mind is worrying about something again. I try to meditate it away, but it’s part of our life. My job as a parent now is not to let worry dictate our actions. It can be a passenger in the car but I can’t let it be the navigator.
Do parents ever find a life free from worry?
I don’t think so. Before my son appeared, my worries were few because it was just me. I knew what I was capable of. Now, here is this little life with thoughts and curiosities. Every time I turn around, he is into something else. How does one person protect another 24/7?
As you enter the world of single parenthood, prepare yourself for guilt and worry. Guilt is larger and more demanding yet easily conquered once you stand back and look at what is happening from a distance. Worry is everyday. It suddenly appears at your kitchen table and demands more milk. Make peace with your worry now and don’t let it make your decisions for you.