Every time I scroll through my Facebook feed I see some sort of quote about women standing up and embracing their independence. The idea that a woman can be on her own and be content with that is one that I have noticed has become more and more prevalent in our society. My independence has been what I have learned to cling to. Most days I’m proud of it. It took years in a bad relationship for me to realize that I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. However, I will say that while being able to stand on my own two feet is something I am grateful for, it is not always as glamorous as what is portrayed.
There was one conversation that I had with my dad that has always stuck with me whenever I have struggled with handling life on my own. My son was not even two months old and I was preparing to return to NMSU to start my third year of college. I was going to be completely on my own for at least a year (things were very up in the air with his father) four hours away from any family support, and I was emotionally numb to everything that was happening around me. I should have been terrified, but at this point I had completely shut down emotionally. I was basically a robot. We were standing in the kitchen and my dad looked at me and told me that what I was about to do by returning to school with my child and raising him on my own was one of the most challenging things I could do. In a way that only he can get away with he said, “If you make it through this, you will be one tough bitch and there’s not a whole lot you won’t be able to do”. He also told me that he always wanted me to find someone one day who would love and take care of me the way that he always has my mom, but if that wasn’t going to be the case with my son’s father then I needed to be in a position where I wasn’t dependent on having a man in my life. It’s like my poor dad could see into my future and knew the hell that I was about to walk into.
I continued to operate like a robot for that entire year. I woke up, fed and dressed the baby, took him to day care, went to work, and went to class. After I got home, I would get Cameron ready for bed, do my homework, and go to sleep. It was so easy to fall into routine there were often nights that I would realize that I never fed myself. I thought this was the hardest year of my life, but alas, it can always get worse. When I was reunited with my son’s father, I thought that it was only going to go up from there. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I clung to this idea of “family” that I was desperate for my child to have, I realized that my dad’s words were some that I was going to have to live by once again. This break up shattered my entire world. I fell back into robot mode, and came home to my family with my tail between my legs.
Thankfully I rose from those ashes. It took a lot of time, effort, and a few kicks in the ass from loved ones, but here I am. I’ve been asked by those that know the full story of what I went through during those years have asked me how I did it. I refer back to my time in robot mode- to me there wasn’t a choice. It was either sit there and cry about what was happening or get in gear and get things done. I chose the latter. I graduated in 2015 with my BS in Secondary Education and I am a year away from completing my MA in Reading and Literacy. My career as an educator is both challenging and rewarding. It is still just Cameron and I. I tell him all the time that it will always be the two of us against the world and remind him when his little world is in chaos that mommy’s got us. There are days that I definitely feel on top of the world and like I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way. Knowing that I don’t have to depend on anyone is a very freeing feeling, but there is an ugly side.
“But lonely is the class nobody wants. Yeah, it gives you layers. Living through it makes us women of great character and internal strength. I tell my friends I did not want this much character. They laugh, but I mean it. I would have been just fine with shallow.”
The down side to being an independent single mother is the immense amount of pressure. Everything is on me. I have to make sure that the two of us have everything that we need all the time and there’s not a whole lot of backup for the times that I fall short. Boy, do I fall short. There is no one else to take a turn with my son when he’s being a holy terror (and believe me, he can be). It’s also not a good feeling when bills are due and you have to pick and choose what you’re going to go without in order make sure they get paid. Sometimes I have no energy left from dealing with 120 teenagers all day long to make sure my house is clean and that we have a home cooked meal, yet somehow I have to still make sure it gets done. I have forgotten to pack my son’s lunch and had to rush and put money on his account so that he can eat at school that day. The loneliness is probably the worst. It doesn’t matter how content you are in your independence you will crave companionship at some point. It is difficult to find when your first priority is always your child. It is even more difficult to find when your standards are set high because you know what you and your child are worth and you are not willing to settle for anything less. If I have to choose between another unhealthy relationship and being alone, I will be alone. Yet I do have those days when I wish there was someone to help pick up the slack when I am struggling. Even just to have someone to come home and gripe to when I’m having a rough time would be nice to have.
I always feel bad when friends or family try to comfort me when I’m having one of those days. Being told “it’s going to get better” or “this is going to make you stronger” can only get you so far. I mean, who said I wanted to be this strong? I should be able to benchpress my car by now with as many unjust and crap situations I’ve had to deal with. Yet we press on, and find our happiness wherever we can. Everyone has their struggles.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life with just Cameron and I. I know that I am not the first and won’t be the last woman out there to find themselves braving this life alone. Some are single mothers like me, some are still trying to find their path, and some choose to be alone. I write this to tell you that there are good days and bad days no matter what walk of life you choose. I also write this to point out that one never truly knows what battle another may be facing, no matter how strong they appear to be. At the end of the day, I know that even when I am lonely or I feel like I’m failing, I am one tough bitch and there’s not a whole lot I’m not capable of (thanks Dad).