Children as Connection
"Single File" - July 2023 Issue
by Susan Deitz
Skip today’s column if you’re looking for startling new techniques guaranteed to benefit the children of mateless mothers like you. As much as I feel a special tenderness for young people who grow up with a single parent (my own son Scott was only 4 when he became part of a two-person family), what we’re interested in right now is you. Resilient, resourceful and valued, those children will grow up and leave home to follow their own destinies. And the adult they leave behind, you, will only be as self-reliant and contented as the connections you formed while they were still in the nest. That’s the challenge: Giving enough to your family while giving to yourself. And no one (including me) is saying it can be accomplished without plenty of inner conflict.
Really, this all boils down to an identity crisis. The identity is yours, and ignoring its need for expression could bring crisis into your life. It probably won’t happen now, while the children are keeping you occupied with their needs, but sometime later, when they drift off (as they should and must) to follow their own path, or around the time you see the first gray hairs and crow’s-feet and start to think about middle age and life’s short span. That’s when bridges into the world pay off in interests and friendships and self-esteem. They need time to develop, and you need to begin to develop them. Now.
I know you have no time for that. Between your children, your working life and what you laughingly call a social life, there’s actually a deficit of hours. Besides, you’re way too tired at the end of a day to do more than creep into bed with a hot cup of tea and a baked potato. You just don’t have time for the modern dance classes you used to love or the art films you found intriguing. The Saturdays once spent in leotards and foreign-film houses today consist of morning TV cartoons and hassled afternoon forays to the supermarket. Without a husband around to make some of the decisions and help wipe runny noses, you’ve become Super Mom without realizing it.
The good side of being on 24/7 child alert is the bond that develops between you and that small person living with you. That undiluted, one-on-one closeness is, in my opinion, a blessing. But as wonderful as that is, both parent and child must -- for the health of the relationship -- ultimately lead separate lives. And so, the connection, while a conduit into the future, is not sufficient unto itself. BUT, astonishingly, it does hold the kernel of the solution to your identity-versus-time dilemma: You can use your children’s routine as a basis for your links to the wider world.
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