A couple years ago I created a post on this blog concerning my gratitude for my now-ex-husband. Yes, at the time, I looked at the bright side of my relationship with him. But, perhaps I was tinging too much toward the positive. After all, look at where all that gratitude left me. This is still a gratitude blog, so I'm not going to spread any ill-will toward that person. Instead, I'm going to look on the remains from my charred and tattered life. I'm going to see what's left after I remove all the hurt, baggage, emotional upheaval. I'm human, so I'm not going to deny that I have not had the smoothest transition into single motherhood. It was possibly a little easier for me, psychologically speaking, because I've always been an independent spirit and I provided 90+ percent of the parenting for my daughter even when I was married. Even financially, I'm only slightly worse off than when I was married because we were living two different lives. My husband enjoyed the full benefits of his paycheck, while I did my best to provide for my daughter on my part-time contract income, only asking for his help when I was desperate, and only when it was a necessity (groceries, something she needed for school or extracurricular activities if I couldn't cover it that month). I never asked for jewels (I can't wear any metal other than gold because my skin breaks out after prolonged exposure) or furs (not my style). I never asked for clothes (I know it's hard to find anything flattering or even presentable for my size) or cars (I got the hand-me-downs when he wanted a new one) or anything that the stereotypical wife demands. I know I got a roof over my head (it was bought outright by his mother, so he never actually had much to do with it, though I'll credit him for eventually paying the property tax and HMO fees) and the utilities were paid. I will give him that much credit. However, I see that our "life" together was more of a "friends with benefits" arrangement than anything else. I guess most "normal" people wouldn't fault him for dropping me like a hot potato once he found a willing other because I don't live, breathe, or revolve around sex (or alcohol, for that matter).
One of the hardest things, and yet, at the same time the easiest, was becoming the responsible adult for my daughter 100% of the time. It was easy because I'd already been doing it 90% of the time, only asking him to step in when I felt I needed a mental break so I could fulfill some other responsibility (church, work, etc.). I have days when I want to moan and/or wail because there's no one else to do the dishes or fold the laundry. However, I catch myself quickly because I realize that even if I do complain, there is no one else to do it. Since it has to get done, I buckle down and do it (sometimes eventually, but it does get done). I no longer feel pressured to keep up my household to someone else's standards. I no longer have to worry about what someone else will say if my dishes go an extra day before I take them out of the dishwasher. My chores are now regulated completely by my daughter's needs and my personal annoyance/motivation/desire levels. I find myself being less lazy than I would have been with the false hope of someone else possibly picking up the slack. It's now all my slack and I am in control of the rate at which it is picked up and its growth. Increased responsibility removes a lot of the motivating factors I once had for being lazy about everyday chores. Don't misunderstand me; my apartment is far from pristine. However, I'm no longer anxious about its state. If it becomes too cluttered, then I roll up my sleeves and clean it to the point where it is acceptable to my daughter and myself.
Another thing about independence (i.e. forced self-sufficiency) is that I have had to learn new skills and take on new tasks for which I previously would have turned to others to help me. My ex used to provide "magic" tech support any time my computer decided to throw a hissy fit and not work for me. I rely on my PC as much as a stereotypical modern teenager is addicted to their cell phone. It's my life-line, my entertainment, my sanity box. I use it to communicate, to organize life, apply for jobs, keep up with my daughter's activities, create and innovate, research, and a whole lot more. Any time my PC breaks down or doesn't function smoothly I panic. This morning I was briefly ready to have a panic attack because my PC wasn't playing nice. I had yet another logon error to Windows. I have no money (nothing, absolutely nothing; my bank account is as bare as Mrs. Hubbard's cupboard) so I knew that I couldn't afford to take my system to a local repair shop to give it a good looking over. I'm sure it could use it, but I can't even afford to get the oil in my car changed right now. I knew enough to get it into safe mode. Then it was onto the Internet to research my problem. During my marriage, I would have waited days, maybe even a week or two, for the ex to eventually get around to looking at my system. Instead, because I knew I was on my own, I was motivated to find a solution for myself. I'll be honest, I don't fully understand how or why the fix I implemented worked, but I trusted the information I found and my system is back up and running. I break down and cry tears of joy, thanking God any time these little miracles happen.
I've had to learn how to fix my daughter's clarinet. Thank God it was a simple fix because I cannot afford to take it to a local shop for repair and the free repairs that are part of our payment plan require me to somehow get it to the original shop where we bought it, some 650+ miles away. I've had to come up with a clever fix to make adjustments to her uniform to get the skirt to fit better without tearing it apart or building a new one. I just don't have the cash to buy a new skirt (the simple solution) or the material to make another (possibly cheaper, but harder to match the material and still costly). I had to fix my car on my own, too. It wasn't a major fix. The fiberglass panel beneath the front of the car came loose and was dragging as I drove. However, with some time and tools and help from my daughter we were able to come up with a solution so that I don't pray to God that the breaks aren't dying on me or anything every time I start up the vehicle.
I don't have money for Christmas this year, but I didn't want to deny my daughter our little traditions--a Christmas countdown tree (some would call it an advent calendar) and 12 days of Christmas (December 26-January 6) presents. So, rather than (a) cry poor, thus denying her everything and ruining what's left of her childhood or (b) begging friends and family to make donations, I opened up my craft/sewing supplies and let inspiration hit me. If you follow my Twitter feed (@eowyn35), then you'll see what I've made up to now. I probably would have considered taking the easy way out if I were still married--asking for help from the spouse. Because that's not an option, I was able to unleash my creativity. A side effect was that I didn't have to worry about anyone complaining to me about cleaning up my work while I was in the middle of the creative process. Anyone who has ever engaged in any creative endeavor knows that inspiration and creative motivation don't always strike at convenient times and sometimes reality (like sleep or getting food) interrupts the process, but you don't want to have to restart everything, so you prefer to leave it in a safe place, like pausing it.
Yes, shouldering 100% of the responsibility for a household, even a small one with just myself and my daughter, may seem like a lot of work. However, without any safety nets (my parents do provide support where they can, but I'm more or less physically alone here as they are several states away), I find my focus is greater, my commitment more sure, and my laziness and procrastinating tendencies are fewer. This is adult responsibility. I'm perfectly content to shoulder it now that I have nothing holding me back or tempting me to give it to anyone else.