Being a widowed parent is definitely its’ own type of parenting.
First there are all the difficult questions I have to answer.
“Why is my Daddy in Heaven?
“How come I don’t have a Daddy here?”
“How come my friends have Daddies and I don’t?’
And then come the questions from my daughters preschool friends which are trickier to answer because I am aware that not all families follow the same belief system I do (which is somewhere between “Lasped Catholicism”and Agnostic with some Buddhist tendencies mixed in). Most of her friends ask questions that are innocent enough though one classmate asked me about her absent father in a very accusatory tone.
Then there is the feeling of being inadequate and overcompensating.
Like I am not enough for her.
My daughter started out life with two whole parents.
And now my daughter is left with one parent.
One parent who has to be two whole parents while she is broken herself.
Because on top of having to be Mom and Dad, I was and still am dealing with grief.
When Bryon was alive, we were a team. His job had more demanding hours so I usually did daycare drop off and pick up. But every Tuesday, I had a late night meeting so Bryon picked our daughter up from daycare.
When our daughter was sick, we coordinated who took sick days based on our work schedules.
But now it’s just me. All the sick days are mine. All the daycare pick ups and drop offs are mine. All the lessons, doctors appointments, school functions and birthday parties are completely my responsibility.
As hard as widowed parenting is, I do a pretty good job with that. (Especially since I work remotely and my hours are flexible. I am very grateful for my job.)
I like to think I rock this widowed parenting thing.
I am proud of it.
I work very hard at it. My daughter might be growing up without her father but I am going to make sure she gets the same opportunities she would have had had Bryon lived.
The price I pay is that I don’t get much “me” time but I will get that when my daughter goes off to college.
Or maybe sooner, like when she becomes a teenager and decides I am not cool anymore.
But despite rocking widowed parenthood, nights like last night still throw me off my widowed parenting game.
The night started out innocently enough.
My daughter was in dance class, learning a new ballet routine. She was corrected by her dance teacher. It was for something innocent enough like her stance.
She didn’t like being corrected by her teacher and verbalized that.
Her teacher told her she needed go sit with me. My daughter let out another verbal statement of defiance toward her teacher and she flops on the ground.
This is not okay.
I go to pick her up because it isn’t fair to her classmates or her teacher to have her flopping on the floor like a two-year-old.
My daughter gets more upset.
I try to calm her down.
She begins to get even more upset that she is missing class.
I try to calm her down so she can return to class.
We leave the room. We go to the bathroom and she washes her face.
She says she has boogers which is usually the sign that she has calmed down and just needs to blow her nose.
She blows her nose and we go back to class.
She gets more hysterical about the part of class that she had missed.
I decide it’s time to go home but her teacher wants to make another go at my daughter joining class.
I decide that if her teacher is up for it, then maybe we can salvage what little bit of time we had left in dance class.
My daughter calms down initially but she gets riled up again.
I decide it’s time to go home and try again next week and she goes into full melt down.
My daughter is generally a pretty easy going kid. She does struggle with transitions, especially when I am picking her up from school during an activity she enjoys. I get it. She is having fun and doesn’t want to leave. Her teacher is aware and prepares her for any early arrivals.
She struggles to sleep at nap time so maybe she was tired.
She has a cold so maybe that was it. I know I am an emotional mess when I feel sick.
Maybe she was hungry but unlikely. She is very good about vocalizing that need to me.
But I do know that when my daughter gets mad, she gets MAD. I am very similar. I have a strong personality and Bryon had an even stronger personality. So it makes sense that she has a strong personality.
Someday her strong personality will serve her well. Especially when she is older and is aware of that personality trait and is able to use her strong personality to her benefit.
But at this particular moment, her strong personality was causing a major disruption to dance class.
At this point some of the other parents are glaring at me probably because, clearly, their kid has never had a public meltdown.
Some of the other mothers were trying to help me which stressed me out even more.
Because at that very moment, I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry.
I couldn’t just carry my daughter out to the car because it’s nearly December and we live in Upstate New York.
But she was melting down and there was no way I could get a coat on her.
I was so embarrassed.
Completely mortified really.
All the pride I feel about rocking widowed parenthood goes out the window and as well as my confidence in my parenting skills.
I am not sure I can show my face in the dance studio again.
In a room full of people, I never felt so alone.
Because that is what widowed parenting is. Being alone.
I do not have Bryon to take over for me or run interference.
Granted, Bryon and I probably both wouldn’t have both been at dance class but he would’ve have been home, ready to take over when we returned.
And if it he had been out of town for work or at a late night meeting, I could call him and he would make me feel better. And we could come up with some sort of plan to prevent this from happening again.
But Bryon is not longer here and I am all alone in this.
Sure, my friends who are mothers would be sympathetic but most of them are married and don’t know what it is like to be so frustrated and truly not having any backup.
There is no one else I can turn to.
Because I don’t want to be seen as weak.
When you are a widow, everybody (and their brother) has an opinion on how you live. Sometimes these judgments are met with offers to help but after I am criticized by someone, the last thing I want to do is accept their help. Eff that.
I almost didn’t write this blog post because of those people. Because I am tired of the sh*t but I felt it was more important to share my feelings because there might be another mother (widowed or not) who feels the same way and needs to know she is not alone.
I can take criticism about most things but I don’t feel like opening up myself for criticism for being a widowed parent. Especially by people who have no clue how hard widowed parenting is.
No one knows how hard it is to do this alone.
For example, I have been told I don’t do enough in relationships.
What do people expect from me?
I am doing the best I can.
I need to be the equivalent of two parents to a child, I work 40 hours a week plus I spent the past two plus years dealing with grief and processing the loss of Bryon. And the loss of having a sense of security and the loss of the future as I knew it.
I am only one person.
And I don’t get a day off.
Ball dropping is the norm because my daughter comes first. #sorrynotsorry
People just don’t have a clue.
And yet, for some reason, I feel the need to prove myself to these people.
I constantly feel the need to prove myself.
When Bryon died, several people stated that I wouldn’t be able to stay in New York and raise my daughter by myself. Thanks for the vote of confidence, a-holes.
Despite what the future holds for me, I am doing okay. Most days.
My daughter finally calms down enough to put on her coat. We go outside and she cries because she missed the rest of her class. Someone walks by and lets out an “awwwww” because she is crying.
I cringe and I am sure I gave that person a dirty look. She had no clue what I had just gone through. Though it was dark and I am sure that person did not see my dirty look.
On the drive home, my daughter seems to be back to her normal self but I am not my normal self.
I spend so much time with my daughter that sometimes I forget she is a four year old.
I tend to take her behavior personally.
As if her behavior is a reflection of my inadequacies as a mother- a single, widowed mother.
That her meltdown was because I did something wrong as a mother because if I was a good mother, my daughter wouldn’t have had that epic meltdown.
I find myself saying to her that I didn’t get dance lessons or gymnastics when I was a kid. Is it even fair to expect a four year old to appreciate that? And is it her job to validate me because I am overcompensating for things I had wanted in my own childhood? I am sure the answer to both of those questions is “no”.
When we get home, I park the car and I had my own mini emotional meltdown.
I put my arms up on the steering wheel and I cry. I bawl. I hadn’t bawled like that in months. I get teary eyed frequently but I rarely bawl. The last time I cried like that was last April when I donated my wedding dress.
I question if I should even be crying in front of my daughter. This goes against my Boston-Irish sensibilities that tell me that the only two feelings I am allowed to express are happiness and anger.
But maybe my daughter should see me express emotion. I don’t want her bottling up her emotions like I tend to. Expressing emotions need to be normalized.
I start to feel anger.
I know a lot of widows get angry at their spouse for dying and leaving them. I have never really gotten mad at Bryon for leaving me. He didn’t want to die. He had wanted to live. I tend to reserve my anger for God and other factors. If I get angry, it is at the situation.
Then I realize that my anger is really despair.
The despair where I am left just asking “why?”
Why did this have to happen?
Why am I doing this alone?
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
My daughter was supposed to have her mother and father.
I stop crying after a minute or two and my daughter and I go inside.
My daughter is back to normal and inquiring about normal activities.
I needed to sit down for a minute.
During that minute, my daughter manages to find a tube a glitter, opens it and spreads it all over the living room couch.
I feel defeated.
Then there comes the shame.
Shame that I somehow missed any signs of a pending tantrum.
Shame that I wasn’t able to calm her down.
Shame that I melted down.
Shame that even though I try so hard, I still feel like I fall short as a mother.
My daughter gives me a hug and tells me that she loves me.
I love her.
My life is what it is.
But sometimes I still feel broken.