Warning: This post will be disorganized and most likely not very well proof-read, but if you've been reading long enough, you know thats how my longer rambling posts are.
In November 2011, I published a post titled "Time!" It was Alex's first day off of work in three weeks (14+ hour days), since him coming back south, moving in, and us--- you know, doing this thing together. It was a big deal. We were in a decent place, but a hard place. That schedule mostly continued: one day off a week and 14+ hour shifts, until our family collapsed.
In June of 2012, I published a post titled "Time", where Alex and I had been split up for about 6 months and were co-parenting together. The post rambles on about my new free time. And without directly stating, comparing single parenting to co-parenting to family parenting. We were in a good place. We as in, Marlowe and I.
Now, May 2013, we're back at a point where I have my mind focused on time. And we have made the step (for a bit of time now) to re-build our family, again. We've been playing with this thought, our emotions for each other, and the idea of keeping our family together (and be completely I'll be honest with you)-- since almost immediately after breaking up, in January 2012. We pushed and pulled each other (I mostly did the pushing (away) this time around) until we finally found a bit of the balance again. Unexpectedly, hopeful conversations beginning to spark while I was away last summer. I came back, I pushed (away) some more. I even attempted to move on and date a bit... until not only my heart tugged, but my mind was set too. I knew I wanted Alex, and I had been certain for quite some time, he wanted me too. We're here now, in a very good place, a place that Alex now describes, as undeniably "constant". Like I mentioned in my video, we still have problems that we need to work through like any other couple, but we're doing it, we've come a very long way fighting with and for each other. While Alex hasn't always been painted as the perfect partner and our situation has never seemed perfect in many of my posts--- that's because he's not and it's not. I'm not either, and for people to ever expect me (or anyone) to be, well, they're expecting too much. Like everybody else, we're human and have many flaws. But the two (three) of us, being here now, in this place? It says a lot about where the belief in love, determination, self, family, and always looking to positive forces can get you.
I compare our first time back together to postpartum depression. You have this idea in your head of what the perfect situation is going to be. How things will come naturally, and easy, and this beautiful new life is going to unfold in front of you. Then, your new life starts and the reality hits. Shit is tough. As beautiful as this new adventure and opportunity will be, it's no where near as easy or natural as you had
naively imagined hoped it to be, it's hard. For me, it was the reality was that it was still hard. I assumed (ass out of u and me) that with Marlowe's mother and father together, that life would be easier. I would have help for the long days and long nights--- for her and for me. That weekends would come and I would get a minute to breath while they would play. That evening would come and my arms would get a break and I would get help with dinner clean up, or entertainment for Marlowe so I could get a minute to shower. That it would finally, after so much time hoping, would just be a little bit easier. It wasn't. I had been wanting to wean Marlowe for quite some time, once I felt secure that there would no longer be a nutritional need for it, I wanted out. The slow weaning process started and my real depression hit. Along came a new reality that the easier life I dreamed of, the one where I would leave the difficulty of single-parenting behind, was in fact, not controlled by a switch labeled "family". And I was reasonably dissatisfied.
When Alex moved out, it was sad and it was hard, but Marlowe and I returned to our normal. A home with the two of us. I went back to work for the first time since becoming pregnant and Marlowe and I had a group of wonderful friends and family helping us out with childcare. We found a new balance in this life. I had mixed emotions. On one hand, it was an awful feeling knowing Marlowe wouldn't have Alex and I together as a family. On the other, it felt good to finally have a moment to myself for the first time since Marlowe was born. I worked my butt off trying to be everywhere and do everything to raise Marlowe. And when Alex had her (one, sometimes two days a week), I'd put my feet up or spent the whole day out with friends, after work. The harder downside, besides the split home reality, was that I did feel a bit lonely much of the time. Before, there was no one coming home for her, now, no one would even come home for me. There was no one coming home at all. And on the time off from work, there would be hours or days where I would see no one, other than Marlowe. On the teething days, the sick days, or just the awful tantrum days, I was alone and there was no one to tag me out or give me a hug at the end of the day. I received a lot of emails at this point, asking how I coped with loneliness, on the good days I would say, "invite people over for dinner!" on the hard days, my thought out reply would be, "I don't" and my written response would be a hopeful, "I know it will get easier later. When you muster up energy, invite people over for dinner."
On the upside, being just the two of us, it made life flexible, we traveled easier, I made all the decisions, and I never had that anxious feeling at the end of the night, because no one would be coming home and I knew it. There was no more waiting, and that was that. For me, this was helpful.
On the downside, I was responsible for almost everything, and the amount of pressure I felt (much of it, but not all of it: self induced) was high.
Here we are again. In over a year and a half we've had big highs, big lows, lots of in-betweens, and we're back at a spot where we have a tiny bit more time together, and we are grateful. If I could have imagined what would be the "right way" the first time, it would be more like this. Not exactly like this, because I'm still hopeful for big future changes for our family, but more like this. It's easier, and a hundreds times better, but we're all still aching for more time together--- a life as a family that eats at least one meal each day together and/or has a few hours to play together. We don't yet, but we're hopeful we will. We're happy now, the three of us together, there's no denying that. It took us a lot to get to this point-- more conversations, battles with and for each other, ups, and downs, than people know. What got us to this point can't be attributed to solely me. We didn't make it this far just because of Alex. And even though Marlowe easing out of a baby stage, has been a huge relief off my shoulders, it wasn't just her either. What got us here, was the three of us growing together. We're all responsible for this good life we have together. Maybe one of our downfalls--- our stubbornness, has it's up side too, because it got us here.
I'd like to think I know a little bit about a few sides of the parenting spectrum, I have lived through many of them. Like many (read: all) the single moms I know, I've been fortunate to have an undeniably amazing family support system. With Alex out of state for the first year of her life, there was no real co-parenting, just her and I. But near and far, my family has been rooting me on, and had helped financially support Marlowe and I, when it was needed. Now, I know, not every woman (or man) is so lucky to have this, but many are, and I think I can speak for all single moms (or dads) who have that community of people helping them out, it's very needed and we're endlessly grateful.
When Alex left again, my dad came to offer his support, and I said "no thank you. I can handle it this time." (of course, not without the help of free babysitting, thank you friends and family). I worked two jobs (if you count this blog as a job, I usually don't---- though it and does bring a fair amount of extra help to paying for bills and filling our fridge with groceries), I supported my home and my daughter, and I took care of her at least 5, but usually 6 days a week, 24 hours a day. I stayed up with her at night, I woke her and dressed her in the morning, I put every meal in front of her, I went to work, I took care of every single one of her needs, my needs, and our home's responsibilities, everyday, by myself.
Here we are. A family. Two people, raising one child. And I can say with a functioning family with two parents, life is undeniably easier. There's no other way to say it--- that's it, a life with two parents is easier. I'm in no way saying that raising a baby or a child with two parents is easy. It's not. Parenting--- whether you do it alone or with someone is challenging and incredibly hard at times, thats just the way it is--- but I'd be incredibly naive and an ass to think what I do now, with someone else, isn't easier than the what I did before, by myself. Don't get me wrong, I think we all deserve a huge pat on the back, if we're doing our best to bring good, positive, and inspiring people into this world, but parents who raise children alone? They deserve medals. Alex still isn't here 5 days a week. Marlowe spends little to no time with him each day, and it's just her and I for each meal, each bath, and whatever else, but those two days off a week that we have as a family of three? They make this parenting thing so much easier, it's a completely different (and undemanding) world than when it was just her and I.
I'm starting to lose my focus (I never really had a focus for this post), but I want to say, assuming we know anything about anyones life or situation, it's dumb. Alex, Marlowe, and I have been in an array of different parenting situations, multiple times, and they've all been widely different each time that we've been in them. No one will ever, ever, ever know what someones life is like unless actually living in it. Not one blog post, not 820 blogs posts, tweets, perfect looking instagram photos, not any rambling words that go on for hours and hours, none of it will let you know who someone really is or how their life really is. I've shared a lot on this blog, none of which I regret. I post more photos, some thoughts, and less outpours, realizing it leaves room for more assumption--- which I'm okay with, because hey, why not. People will wonder, it's in our nature--- how we wonder, well that defines who we are. I like to stay on the brighter, hopeful side. As time goes by, I'm hesitant to share more (though I do, and probably will) because those few thoughts I share, make people believe they know everything about me and my life. And while honestly, I'd be 100% okay with people knowing everything, no one ever will, and especially not from a blog--- not just this blog, but any blog. Even people who know me well, have misread my words or mistaken my tone. It's always going to happen. No matter how much work I put (or don't put) into what I share, how we take in other peoples information, and create our images, will be uniquely dependent on who we are and the very personal ways we translate things.
This might seem like a weird tangent, but I've come across this situation more times than one would like to think--- people without children who think raising a child is like owning a dog-- it's not. Dogs will never require the amount of care or constant attention a human will. Mothers (or fathers) who raise their child with a partner who think single moms are just whining or boasting, because they think it's just as easy with a supportive family as it is with the missing father or mother--- its not. It's really not. Whether you live with a supportive family or live on your own, nothing will compare to having the other living person who is supposed to be responsible for your child, actually being there and helping raise your child. I can't speak for a lot of the other common comparisons--- but those for those two, I'm certain.
Two full time working parents. Working mothers. Stay at home dads. Two freelancing parents. Military families. Stay at home moms. Families with multiple children. Families with children with special needs. Single moms. Single dads. Grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, who raise children. Blended families. Adoptive parents. Foster parents. Non parents. The list goes on and on and on. No one family or one person will ever have the same home and same situation as another. We're all doing what we can for ourselves (and some for our families). And I'd like to think we're all trying to be good people--- and the some of us who are raising children, we're trying to raise good ones. Comparing our past, to our present, to our possible future, it makes sense, it helps us grow. But can we stop comparing what we don't know and what we haven't lived in? Can we stop comparing and judging each other? It's futile. And it's certainly not going to get us anywhere. Can we find our similarities, our commonalities, and our connections. Can we celebrate each other? Because in the end, we're all trying to get to the same damn place, happiness.