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"...increasingly they don’t need me around and have their own lives that don’t include me, which leaves me in a sort-of unusual position where I’m not quite sure what to do with myself."
I’m a single mother of three girls. I’ve had 100% parental responsibilities for them pretty much the whole time. I’ve put them in childcare so I could support us, I’ve had no rest, no time-outs and the most that I’ve ever been child-free is about three days at the most (and that doesn’t happen much). I’ve never received any money from their father for their needs and he is (relatively) happy for me to take responsibility for them.
But our family dynamic is changing now. It used to be that we did everything together. When I packed us all up in my 1994 Toyota and 1978 “Special” camper to drive around Australia in 2010, apart from a bit of huffing and puffing from my (then) ten-year-old eldest, they accepted the adventure and were more than happy to join the ride. Increasingly, I’m having time on my own or just with Miss nearly Eleven and even she has started to develop somewhat of a social life.
It’s a strange feeling being responsible only to me again. For more than 16 years I have cooked, cleaned, sat with, bathed, told stories with, laughed with and washing…oh, the washing that never ends – I still don’t understand where all those socks go. I have been their primary caregiver, the centre of the family and the hub that holds us together. But increasingly they don’t need me around and have their own lives that don’t include me, which leaves me in a sort-of unusual position where I’m not quite sure what to do with myself.
This past weekend, I got a small taste of what my life may look like post-kids. It was an amazing feeling to have no responsibilities except to myself for two whole days. I spent the weekend doing everything I love and being responsible only to me. I knew where they were of course, but I had this sense that I can start to choose more things that I enjoy now. At Christmas when they fly interstate to visit family, it will be nearly three weeks without them. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do until my free weekend. I know now! Fill my life with things that bring me joy, walk around the house naked, sing as loudly as I can, buy a treat at the shops and not have to share it and best of all, there will be minimal cleaning up after them!
It started about the age of 10 when kids started to do sleepovers. Once they start high school their social lives became much busier and where I started to become nothing much more than a taxi driver to all of their social adventures! But that’s the good bit. I can start to formulate where I want to go and do with the abundance of time that’s starting to open itself up to me. I’m excited. It’s not that I’m in a hurry to get my kids out into the world, but they will go their own way, probably sooner rather than later, but it’s more of a re-embracing of who I am and where I want to go in the next part of my life – post kids (and before grand-kids and caring for elderly parents).
I suppose it’s what coupled people call the “Empty Nest”, but in a couple, they still have each other. Single parents have nobody to adventure with anymore once the kids grow up. I’m increasingly back to being a single woman with limited responsibilities and my life is mine to choose again and that’s sort of like moving out of home again. I get to have my energy and direction back, but also to define new adult-like relationships with my daughters.
Their childhood has flown by so very quickly and as the saying says, “You only get 13 summers with your kids” so really, make it last. That means I have only two years left with my baby. I imagined us being together all the time would last forever, but when they were little I never really had time to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, so to speak. But I can see that light so clearly now and it’s rushing towards me and I’m desperately clinging onto the precious moments that I have with my daughters as they take off into the world.
I hope that I have given them the right tools to make their way in the world and know how precious that time we had together was. It has been the best adventure of my life however their adolescence is no pleasure trip. It’s a trauma for single parents – there is no respite, there is no back-up, no-one to share the stress. People used to say to me how amazing it was that I raised them on my own, but I don’t know how to co-parent and the only time I wished there was a second parent is now. Adolescence is extremely hard to parent for me; not only are they finding their way in the world without me, but I am too. I am trying to figure out where I fit in and how much they need me in their lives and balancing their decreasing needs while I see a new sort of freedom on the horizon, whatever that may be.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2015
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