Checking in: Yes, being a Single Mother is actually a really tough thing, and “Adult-ing” is being glamorized far too much.

I’d like to start this off with the most true, most pertinent quote from my high school Musical Theatre Teacher, Ms. Sharpe (yes, her name was actually musical.)

“Take responsibility for yourself and your actions!”

She’d say this most often when we talked too much, or weren’t paying attention. I had no idea then, how large a role this philosophy would play in my adult life.

Accountability is a really important thing in adulthood. Like, probably, the most important part of sustaining relationships. Where do accountability, and not knowing what in-the-world you are doing with yourself, cross paths? Do they ever? Where does sympathy meet with responsibility? Are these two entities friends, or nah? I’ve come to find in this intense, responsibility-ridden/working-mom-postpartum state, that I’m having trouble keeping track of all of my stuff. My personal relationships, being a major thing, sitting on a really weak string.

Where I am accountable: Most of my relationships (romantic and platonic) were/are lax. This is how I’ve generally preferred them, even if they did not serve me to the fullest extent. Lax friendships, for me, generally implied, general mutual understandings, relatively low communication standards, and a non committal, no stress dynamic. #nostresszone. My romantic relationships were similar, with a SLIIIIGHT emphasis on occasional verbal affirmations. (Keep your judgements to yourself!) To me, relationships like these WERE a dream. I didn’t have to explain myself. I didn’t have any drama, or anyone chasing after me, and no imagined expectations. — Basically, I’m being accountable for preferring friendships where I d i d n o t h a v e to be accountable…. the irony. A by-product of this style of love, led me to spend the entirety of my pregnancy going through a ton of internal turmoil, not really vocalizing my needs, feelings or vulnerabilities. (I’m not even sure if I knew that I needed anything in those moments, or if I had the proper tools to articulate it to my loved ones.) These actions, or lack thereof, subsequently resulted in lowering the ALREADY belly crawling dynamics and expectancies within my relationships. I take accountability for not valuing constant, open communication, which has resulted in some sort of heavy, yet obscure resentments with said loved ones.

What does this has to do with being a single mother? Personally? Everything, lately. My original standards of support + my new needs = insufficient support. My lack of communication and awareness implied that I did not need anything more, and that I was capable of providing the same level of “friendship” I had previously provided. In reality, being a new mother has crippled all extracurricular emotional affairs; I can now only provide the minimum, which leaves everyone involved, pissed off. The vision of the Single Mother also affects the ways in which I am allowed to be inadequate. People (around me) often see the single mother label as one with a badge of strength, while simultaneously looking down on it. “Sorry, I couldn’t find a sitter” and “Well, my baby is-” quickly become the kind of excuses that only come from mothers who just need to “get it together”. What exactly does “getting it together” mean? Is there a real space for me to freely fall apart without repercussion, judgement or scrutiny? For how long, am I allowed to melt before I am required to “get it together” again?

Self-care is hard. Balancing home life, work, education and personal relationships are hard. Doing all of these things, without any real support is done by tons of women, but it is HARD. I think a major population see it as something that should just be “handled” and if it isn’t, the mother is a labeled a ‘hot mess’, and that’s that. It’s either a pity-party or a turn-up-your-nose-bonanza. The fact that single mothers are not allowed to truly feel our feelings, fall apart, lose track of ourselves, and come together again -without reprimand, is exhausting. Finding the groove and learning how to pick yourself up by the bootstraps is a hard enough lesson on it’s own.

My communication style/preferences and my actual needs have clashed. My needs have evolved, and now, a need for my relationships and the effort I put into them have to follow suit. My relationships were plants that needed to be watered roughly, once a month. They’ve missed a few scant feedings, and are barely making it. I realize that now I need to care for these plants appropriately, so that they may bear fruit when I’m in need.

The moral of the story: It’s important to constantly check in. Check in with loved ones, to see what they need. Check in with your responsibilities, to make sure everything you can control, is in control. It’s also of the most importance, to check in with yourself. Nobody else is going to know what you need before you do.

Peace and blessings.

-Cat Francis