This past Sunday at church a mom stood up to read the scripture. At that moment, something malfunctioned and there was a loud zap that reverberated in the old historic sanctuary. I jumped, and many other people did too. She was rattled and held a hand over her heart. Before she collected herself she said quietly into the mic, “ya’ll… bear with me… I’ve been solo parenting all this week and my brain is only half here.”
I wanted to stand up and give her a big air hug from my seat in the back pew. I’ve also been solo parenting for the last six weeks while Eric recovered from hip surgery… and it took what was already a jam packed day to a whole new level of crazy. My admiration of single moms (and single dads) has grown immensely during this time. Many of my colleagues are single mothers of multiple children, and I now understand how much more challenging their daily experience is compared to my own.
Here are some of the ways my brief solo parenting experience impacted my work:
- I was late. Every single day. It was not an alarm clock problem, rather a logistics problem. Daycare opens at 7:00 am, and I’m due at work at 7:30 am. Even if I was at daycare when the doors opened, I was late. Eric usually takes the girls in the morning which allows me to be on time.
- Breakfast didn’t happen. Even though I was up at 5:00 am (or earlier), the morning was tightly scheduled. There was nursing and dressing and pumping and making bottles and packing food and running out the door with hopefully a granola bar and my second cup of coffee in a thermos. By the time I got to work I was already tired, and usually started the day with a few quiet moments and something to eat.
- I was more disheveled looking. Handling the evening routine solo added approx. 2 hours to the day, which directly cut into my already limited sleeping time. So in the mornings I slept as long as possible, sacrificing showers and rocking the greasy mom ponytail a lot. I didn’t always have a cute work outfit ready… some days the wrinkled black pants that had been spit up on and not yet washed had to do. A lot of days my pits smelled but there was no time for a shower… and the hairdryer scared Emma so if a shower did happen it was followed by wet hair.
I think about this when I see single moms walk in late at my work. I see their wrinkled shirt, tired eyes, and breakfast on the go in whole a new light. They didn’t necessarily walk in looking the part to “take on the day”, but that’s probably because they started taking it on hours earlier, with little time for themselves.
Perhaps we should change how we evaluate solo parents starting their day. Not everyone wakes up to an equitable amount of tasks to do before they arrive at their desk. Before kids I was able to wake up early, workout, eat a hot breakfast, read scripture, and be one of the first at my desk. That schedule is not possible now, and certainly not possible when I’m solo parenting. Maybe the next time that single mom walks in late carrying breakfast to go, instead of judging her I/we should remember how far she’s come just to be here, and offer to grab her a third cup of coffee. Or better yet, work with her to figure out an alternative morning schedule that doesn’t have her running ragged.