I didn’t marry my ex-husband thinking, Oh well, if it doesn’t work out, we can just get divorced! I imagined a lifetime with him. We both wanted kids and were excited for him to start his business, so we decided I’d stay home with the kids. We had our little two-bedroom cape and couldn’t wait to build a bigger home together when our family grew, which it did very quickly.
We were good friends. We got along. We agreed on the way we wanted to raise our kids. We always talked about retiring early since we had kids in our twenties and knew they’d be grown and gone in our early fifties.
And then, things took a turn. It was a slow change, death by a thousand cuts. We’d grown apart and wanted different things, and the intimacy in our marriage was gone. We started out as each other’s rocks, but we became two people going through the motions. It made us both sad and irritable, and after years of trying, we knew we had to salvage what we could of our friendship before we started to hate each other.
Nothing felt real the night we separated. Not the words that spilled from our mouths. Not my husband sobbing in bed next to me. Not the fact that I had no idea how I was going to go on with my new life after being a stay-at-home mom for 13 years. Nothing.
Even though we both agreed that going our separate ways was for the best, being a single mom has so many ups and downs that even now, years later, I still feel like I’m on a merry-go-round that won’t slow down enough for me to jump off and get my bearings.
One minute I’m so happy to have my bed to myself and call all the shots. I’m proud of myself for figuring out how to turn the water off when I have a leak and how to change an outside light. I love not having in-laws and not having to take a whole other family into account during the holidays. I like my alone time. I love the bond I share with my kids and with my ex. I feel incredibly lucky that things aren’t nasty between us and we still co-parent well together.
But there are nights when I feel empty and lonely. Times when I know I should be counting my blessings, but I long to have someone to talk to about how scared I am that groceries and gas prices are skyrocketing and that I’m not getting half as much work as I used to. If I’m struggling with a family problem or need a hug and someone to talk to, yes, my friends are lovely, but it’s not the same as having a partner you trust, who tells you the two of you can get through it, together.
It’s scary enough to face certain things with a supportive person, but being the adult in the house can be downright terrifying sometimes.
I don’t mind being single. I’d rather handle things on my own than settle for someone who isn’t right for me. But I never planned on being a single mother. I never thought this would be my life, and yet, here I am.
It’s another one of those things, like being a mother, that no one can prepare you for. There are ups and downs and twists and turns. One day, I’m over the moon I’m single, then the next I’m in tears over the fact someone I know online has gotten remarried to a fantastic man.
Being a single mom, no matter how old you are or how your divorce played out, has its moments: the good, the bad, and the really ugly. And while it may not have been in my plan, all I can do is take care of myself and my kids and accept that this very unplanned thing is my reality.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.