Most (none?) of us enter into the parenting world expecting to do it alone but, in many cases, that’s exactly what happens. A new world is created when you and your child’s other parent decide you can’t be together for whatever reason or your child’s other parent is no longer around.
It’s a whole new ball game when the child or children you’re caring for have special health care needs. We all know in the LGS community that we’re on call 24/7. Seizures don’t keep a regular daytime schedule, behavioral challenges keep us on our toes and our house is always ‘child-proofed’ even when that ‘child’ is well into their adult years.
But the practical challenges can be devastating. How can I work when I have a child with such needs? Even if he/she attends school, there are the regular phone calls you receive alerting you to a nasty seizure. Do you leave them at school to recover? Pick them up? Give up on school altogether and decide to homeschool?
All of these options become a lot more complicated if you want/have a job. How do you tell your employer that, once again, you need to leave work early to go get your child? Or how do you phone them, once again, to tell them you can’t come in today because your child with fragile health is sick…again. How long do you think you’re going to hold on to THAT job? But you don’t have anybody else supporting you both financially and emotionally. It’s all on you. Some of us might have an understanding ex who helps out or shares the workload, but that person has a job as well. Maybe you’re able to get excellent child support and don’t have to work. You’re probably in the minority on that.
But let’s face it. If we’re ‘lucky’ enough to be able to work, we’re probably not making a ton of money and may be one paycheck away from financial ruin. And we’re exhausted!!!
Even when/if the other parent has the child, we worry that he/she isn’t taking care of them the ‘right’ way. Are the meds being given at the same time? Is their house safe? And what about that new girl/boyfriend? Do they love my child? Are they capable of caring for my child when the other parent steps out to run an errand? Will I ever stop worrying???
And will I ever be able to find love? Can I trust someone else and bring them into my child’s life? And if I’m open to that, am I even desirable? “Hey good lookin’, want to date me? I have a child who requires a lot of care and constant supervision. And, oh yeah, he has a lot of seizures, wears diapers and will poop in your presence and drool non-stop. But he is the most lovable person you’ll ever meet if you just give him a chance!” Does that person exist?
Single parenting looks different for all of us in the LGS community. Some are struggling, lonely, depressed, angry, broke and neglecting their own health. Others are thriving, strong, independent and happy. Is fulfillment possible when you live this life? YES!!! But then, the real question is HOW?
And as for employment and practical needs, some have been able to figure that out too. Either they have the most understanding boss in the world (rare) or have figured out a timetable that allows them to be flexible or work from home. This is not always possible and some end up receiving public assistance when they’d rather be putting their marketable skills to use. But the challenge in the midst of all of this is to find a way to stay emotionally balanced and, dare I say, happy. Again I ask, HOW??
Some take solace in their friendships. Coffee or a glass of wine with a good friend can be just what you needed to pull you out of the dark side. Or some may take great comfort in their faith. The regular weekly visits to their house of worship where their child is understood and loved nourishes their soul and gives them a sense of community. Others fill the chaos and loneliness with exercise, yoga, meditation. Just 5 minutes a day of stillness, eyes closed and deep breaths, can restore and ground you in a crazy world.
Whatever you do to survive and thrive, it is possible to do so. Those who are feeling hopeless need to know that things can change. They MUST change. Our child needs us. Self-care for the single parent is critical. Respite, exercise, therapy, friends, lovers, pets, laughter… IS. ALL. POSSIBLE. For those who can’t embrace this type of thinking, who don’t believe it will ever be different, who don’t believe things can change, please remember this…
If you’re a single parent and things are in a pretty good place, how did you get to that place? How can you pay it forward to those who aren’t in a good place?
And if you’re a single parent and you feel alone and hopeless, just know that you’re not alone and hope is not lost. Reach out. Talk to others in the same boat. Be curious. Try new things even when they don’t make sense. Be generous to yourself and know that when you let others help you or when you take time for yourself, it’s not selfish. It comes back to your child in a positive way when their parent is strong, healthy and happy.
None of us are truly alone.