When Katie Holmes announced her divorce in 2012 I once again found myself bonding with her. Not the kind of bonding you do with actual friends over a glass of wine or a girls movie night, more like she lived in Hollywood and had no idea who I was, but I followed her pregnancy because I used to watch her on television.
We “bonded” when we were pregnant at the exact time more than nine years ago. Since her pregnancy milestones were tabloid news, I knew what stage my baby was at. Our kids were born days apart. She had a girl, I had a boy.
However, shortly after my son was born my relationship ended and hers did not. So I didn’t think about Katie again until her relationship ended, too. Finally! Now we can be single moms together!
She, of course, still didn’t know who I was. But I know I am not the only mom that finds comfort in famous celebrities, athletes, or politicians dealing with similar situations that parallel our own lives.
Pages of tabloid magazines keep depicting celebrities “getting groceries just like us” and “taking out the garbage like we do.” So if we find comfort in famous people taking out the garbage because we do it too, why shouldn’t I bond over being a single mom with someone I never met? After all, it’s the most challenging part of my life.
Sure, Katie lives a life of privilege and I am struggling to pay rent and afford groceries. But the bond I refer to is not financial in nature. It’s irrelevant that she has millions of dollars and my credit card is maxed out, or that her daughter wears designer sweaters woven with strips of gold and diamonds and my son wears patched up second hand jeans. Rather, it’s the emotional part of being a single mom that creeps up unexpectedly in the late night hours. That is my biggest challenge. I actually find comfort in knowing I am not the only one in the world dealing with a child alone.
It took me a few years to realize the hardest part of being a single mother really isn’t the exhaustion, or the lack of social life, or the endless meal preparations (he still insists on eating three times a day). It’s not even the constant financial burden and struggles I am faced with.
The hardest part for me is not having another parent to talk to and discuss my son’s issues, problems, dilemmas and crazy situations that I have to deal with by myself.
I downed a glass of wine before I read my son “It’s Not The Stork” – a book about the birds and bees and our bodies. I read it as fast as I could and immediately offered him a big piece of chocolate cake so he wouldn’t ask me any questions. But of course he did, and of course I answered them, sweating.
And there was the time he came home from school and asked, “Someone in my class said Hitler burned children with fire, is that true?” Oh God. Do I want him to know that our ancestors were murdered because of their faith?
Or the time we talked about death for weeks when his classmate passed away from cancer at 4 years old. “Will I get cancer?” he asked me worriedly. The very thought made me cry. I hugged him closer that night and hoped my answers brought him comfort and reassurance.
How do you talk to a 4-year-old about cancer, a 6-year-old about the Holocaust, and an 8-year-old about reproduction and sex? I wanted to scream from the top of a mountain, “Someone tell me how to do this!” But I was too tired.
It’s hard to remain calm among the chaos. I haven’t mastered it yet. But I try. I am fortunate to have great girlfriends with whom I get wonderful advice about parenting, but ultimately I have to decide what, when, and how I tell my son about the world. And that’s a lonely thing.
So yeah, it’s hard being a single mom. But here’s the flip side. I taught him to ride a two-wheel bike in the hallway of my building. I taught him to read from the stats on the back of hockey cards. I have been there for his endless frustration when he couldn’t do either. And for the blood that poured out of his nose when he thought he knew how a bike’s brakes worked.
And you definitely don’t need to be a single mom to understand what it’s like to deal with middle of the night puking, fevers, teething, flu, you name it. The difference for me is not the long sleepless nights; it’s not having another parent to share this experience with that triggers the endless loneliness once he falls asleep.
But there is a flip side to the single mom loneliness. We are a team. We are best friends. I love my boy with all my heart and soul, like any mom, and being his mom is an honor.
Many nights we dance away our worries. We run through ocean waves laughing. We scooter around the city searching for ice cream in summer and build snow angels in winter. Our passion for animals bonds us in ways I can’t explain. I followed his lead and we became vegan together four years ago when he decided to never eat anything that came from an animal. That journey has taken us down a path of kindness and compassion and I am so grateful he’s my son.
People keep telling me one day he won’t want to spend time with me and that the teenage years are beyond challenging. But it’s one day at a time in our home. I plan on being there for everything that comes his way. Actually for everything that comes our way.
When my son was younger someone wished me a happy birthday on his birthday and I looked at them strangely. And so they explained, “You gave birth to him! It’s your celebration too!”
So yeah, I’m a single mom. It was nine years in April. So happy birthday to me. And to Katie, too.
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