When Does a Single Mother Say It’s Her Flip Now?

Will it ever be my turn? I often ask myself that. Since I am a single parent, as I have been for over 20 years, I must have said this a thousand times out of desperation.

Almost everything I do has the ultimate endgame of stabilizing, supporting, and inspiring my family in every possible way. Even after twenty years. My children are now 21 and 25 years old. My son graduated from college and is on his way now. My daughter has a few more years of college before she graduates. The pandemic certainly delayed what I thought was “my turn”.

But like all single mothers, I just keep going.

Now it’s her turn

I’m in San Francisco today, flew in from LA to a board meeting, and brought my daughter and her boyfriend with me. She turned 21 in 2020 and now, let’s just say, the birthday of the ritual of passage was less than exciting for her as there were no bars and restaurants where she could legally order her first cocktail. She’ll be 22 next week so her birthday present from me was to give her a day at the SFO and go to the Top of the Mark at the Intercontinental Hotel and order her first cocktail.

My trip could only have been an easy day trip as San Francisco is only an hour’s flight away. But I thought I would give her a little adventure day. A day she and her boyfriend can explore San Francisco together. As I sit in my hotel room, preparing for my meeting and finding time to reflect on my thoughts in this article, I realized how much they shape my existence and my role model.

After a year of massive pay cuts, I wanted to show her that it was still possible. Adventure and joy are still achievable. But then I realized that I’ve always been doing it this way. Over the past 20 years I have shown my children resilience and hope in the face of many phases we have gone through as single mothers. I’ve always achieved more with less. And it cost me a lot of sacrifices.

Victims who are just about to see the light of day for me.

Being a single mother means sacrifice: time, money, sleep, privacy. And we are happy to give them all. Just to keep her safe and warm; so that they know that they are loved. It’s the most rewarding sacrifice I’ve ever made.

It is indeed rewarding to know that you are the one who has cared for your children at all levels for so many years. And the good people they are today make it all worthwhile.

But … man, I’m tired of making sacrifices!

I’ve waited a long time for my turn.

For the past twenty years I have provided my family with a house and all of the things in it. My sisters are all retired and have lovely homes with their husbands. They have all redesigned, rebuilt, embellished and upgraded their houses with the finest furniture. Thanks to our dog Charlie, my cheap IKEA couch needs a new cover. I switch back and forth wondering if it’s cheaper to just get a new couch or cover?

But of course as I think through I think of all the other costs that have priority, so I sort my urgencies and the couch falls back to the bottom of the list. I want to improve my home. A house I killed myself to pay for with every monthly mortgage. Especially after the pandemic and wage cuts.

My inspiration starts with looking for visions of my dream interior design for my beach house style on Pinterest. So many ideas. Any idea that calls my name and tells me that I can have it too! Then I get a text message from my daughter that her flat rate for accommodation and meals for the school is due soon. My imagination has now been forced to wake up to my reality and everything disappears when I click the app. My son’s birthday will follow hers next week, so I have to prepare for that too.

I had a problem with the plumbing and need to mend the hole in the ceiling in the family room where the pipe was attached. There are so many urgent things to check off my list before I can return to my Pinterest world of interior design fantasy. But one day I’ll find my way back there.

I will start cleaning my house. And by cleaning I mean drinking wine and spraying everything with Febreze.

I am a very busy woman. Period.

What single working mother isn’t this?

And after a year of pandemic in which three adults live and work together, I look at my house and see the lack of cleanliness. It drives me crazy too. There is nothing like a trip to Ulta for makeup to add a youthful glow to my always tired eyes, or a mani / pedi or a new pair of shoes more than a fabulous house cleaner. The sound of my voice when I remind my adult children to get up, clean their bathroom, dust the furniture and vacuum the floor by themselves gets tiresome.

So hiring a cleaner to do a thorough clean is the next and most urgent item on my list. A good ol ‘post-pandemic cleanse is exactly what the psychiatrist ordered! It just makes sense. I kill myself every month to pay for a house that is less than clean. I want this monster to be at least neat when I write the check every month! I have neither the time nor the desire to play the cranky mother who yells at her children in desperation. I am ready to start back with a clean house and build from there.

And yes, it will probably cost a fortune because that’s how dirty my house is after a year. I feel like I should clean the house before the cleaners see the state it is in so they don’t think we’re complete sluts! We lived like sluts of course, but I don’t want them to think that way! The victims will be worth it to see this through. But here, too, another sacrifice is necessary to stabilize the house.

So what do all of these sacrifices I’m planning really mean?

I think the only answer I have is that I just love my family so much that I’m willing to curb my own desires a little longer. If that still makes you feel like I’m sacrificing my own needs for some new furniture, a paint job, or just a great trip to home goods, I think I’m fine with that. But let’s face it, Home Goods has great deals and even if I buy a new candle that makes my home smell like fresh laundry, I got something that makes me smile.

It won’t be like this forever. We are moving out of the pandemic and we are also taking many blessings with us with these years of experience. I think we found out that we really love each other even though we can’t see each other through all the dust. One of the definitions of the word sacrifice is “giving up something for someone else’s sake”. My children are and always have been because of something else. When you’ve invested in your children for as long as I have alone, it pays dividends that are priceless. And I wouldn’t change a thing. And you know what? One day it will actually be my turn. I know it!

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