Leading Between The Lines

High Fives & Tap Outs: The Love Language Of The Single Mom

“The informality of family life is a blessed condition that allows us all to become our best while looking our worst.” Marge Kennedy

Motherhood continues to surprise me.  Once I was on my own with my toddler, I found myself on the brink of a nervous breakdown regularly.  The days would feel like one giant gasp- inhale when my eyes open in the morning, exhale when my son’s close at night.

And a lot of that was my own doing. With unrealistic expectations for myself, I felt the constant pressure of too much to do with too little energy.  The exhaustion and daily sense of failure would cause me to lose my patience with everyone, especially my son.  And without a father in the house, there was no one to tap me out during my own little “parent meltdowns”.  Love and support aside, I would argue “the tap out” is one of the most important roles for a father- and if you know, you know!

Even when I finally realized I couldn’t go on like this, it still took time for me to accept.  Eventually, I gave myself permission to adjust the bar and reset expectations for myself. But it required a shift in mindset- the understanding that adjusting expectations isn’t the same as lowering them. The adjustment was not a reflection of limitation, but rather a reflection of my new identity: single working mom.   And as is the case with any title, the expectations should reflect the role responsibilities.  It was the best thing I ever did for us.  My son finally had a more patient, happy, and confident mother- the type of mother I always wanted to be and one he deserved.    

With that, I was able to work through some new challenges and milestones.  Prior to my divorce, my son had a stable routine and was a rockstar sleeper, but the transition brought us back to square one.  Sleep training was much harder with a mobile, verbal, and determined 2-year-old, and doing it on my own presented some new challenges as well.  But with my new-found patience, he and I were able to get bedtime back on track.  This win gave me the confidence I needed to tackle potty training.

My son used the potty for the first time while I was at work- I got a text with a picture of my son beaming with pride, pointing to the pee pee.  It was a bitter sweet moment- I was so proud of him and wished I could have been there for our big win. That night we celebrated with cake.  It wasn’t long before peeing in the potty became a way of life.  But everyone knows the concept really solidifies with pooping in the potty (pun intended).  I tried everything to sell him on the idea, but he wasn’t buying it.

Then one night, while I was jamming to No Doubt and making Bolognese, my son came running in the kitchen yelling “I went potty mom!” He proudly escorted me to the bathroom, and when I looked down- there it was! He finally pooped in the potty, and I was there for the milestone.  I started jumping and cheering, and then so did he.  But almost instantly, my heart sunk because his father wasn’t there- in fact, no one was there.  I always imagined raising a child with someone and sharing all the moments, and I realized I’d rather have a partner for the high fives and kisses, than the tap outs. I quickly got my emotions in check , picked up my son, and started jumping and cheering with him in my arms, while "I'm Just A Girl" played in the background.