What it is really like to be a widowed parent

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.

Seriously.

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.

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Super Daniel and the McDonald’s Drive Thru

The following story is based on an actual event.

I pull up at a local McDonald’s Drive-thru after gymnastics class.

Don’t judge. I don’t claim to be the perfect mother. Just a widowed, single mother trying to make it through the day.

Drive Thru Person: Hello, may I take your order?

My daughter (age 4): SUPER DANIEL!!!

Me: Sorry about that. I would like-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: A 4 piece chicken McNugget Happy Meal-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: (to my daughter) Be quiet, I’m trying to order your dinner)

Me: (To drive thru person) Sorry about that. Four piece chicken McNugget happy meal, no sauce-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: Apple slices and a chocolate milk. For a girl.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Drive Thru person: A 4 piece chicken McNugget Happy meal-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: No sauce, Apple slices-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: chocolate milk for a girl?

Me: Yes.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: That will be $X.XX. Please pull up.

Me: Thank you.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: (To my daughter) Really?

MD: Mommy, I love you.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #22

It’s Friday.  You know what that means!

Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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Here are some of the things I am grateful for this week.

  1. Girls Night

    I got a chance to catch up with Kimmy Gibbler and The Architect.  And it was a lot of fun.

  2. Inner circle

    Not THAT Inner Circle.

    (We are also going to ignore the fact that this song was popular during my freshman year in high school.   Because I don’t feel like feeling old today.)

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    We are talking about this inner circle.  And the non-pictured husbands and boyfriends.

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    I can’t imagine life without them.  Not just because they got my through the worse of my grief and they don’t make me feel bad when I talk about Bryon.  But just because they are awesome people.  This might sound cheesy but for the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.

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  3. Wedding Week

    On Saturday these two adorable kids are getting married and I am grateful that I get to be a part of their day.

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  4. 8 Years of Friendship with Robin Brillantes

    Facebook reminded me that Robin Brillantes and I became Facebook friends eight years ago yesterday.  She remains one of my most favorite people of all time.  I couldn’t figure out how to play the cheesy video that Facebook compiled so you get this picture of us from last Saturday.

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    Of course one of our friends says that Facebook is the lowest form of friendship.  But I am not going to worry about that with Robin Brillantes.  Because we know our friendship is amazing because it is built on love, laughter and tacos.

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  5. That I am still remembered on Mother’s Day.

    My daughter made the picture and cards  at school and my parents sent the flowers and the teddy bear.  Though my daughter has already claimed the teddy bear as hers.  I had a feeling that they had that in mind when they ordered it…

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    What are you grateful for this week?

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother’s out there!

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Always uninstall

Oh. Em. Gee.
 
I am so embarrassed.

Mortified really.

I admit. I may have been playing around on Tinder for like, ten minutes when I was in Wisconsin a week and a half ago.  (Travel post coming- I promise!)

I was curious as to what Wisconsin had to offer.

Wisconsin had a lot of offer.  But too many of them had “Uncle Greg” listed as a mutual contact and that would have been weird and awkward.

I find the whole Facebook friend connection thing to be awkward and uncomfortable.

I deleted the account.

Because swiping is boring.

I know I played around before and it was amusing but I don’t find it amusing anymore.

Swiping is not for me and I doubt it ever will be.

I want organic connections only.

I am open to whatever the Universe sends my way but until the Universe sends me love, I am content to be by myself.

I just want to focus on myself.

I mean, I am pretty awesome but I can always be more awesome.

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Apparently when I deleted my tinder account, I didn’t uninstall the app.  I just let it sit dormant on the phone.
 

Well I tonight got a notification from the app that my profile had ten likes and that they were waiting for me to swipe.

What?!?!?!

I was mortified.

 

I am not the most tech savvy but I know I deleted the account.

 

Maybe it is because Mercury is in Retrograde?
merc-retro

Mercury Retrograde causes your technology to be messed up and WordPress keeps messing up my spacing…

Then it dawned on me that I let my three year old daughter watch YouTube kids on my phone.

What can I say?  I am on my way to becoming Mom of the Year 2018.

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I used to let my daughter play on my regular YouTube app but decided that probably wasn’t the best idea.

Plus, my suggested videos in YouTube started showing options like this-

Or even worse…

So I downloaded the YouTube kids for her but sometimes she accidentally closes it and opens other apps.
 
She almost sent a SnapChat the other day that a picture of my floor with something like “sdjddfhsdf” written in the text.
 
So she probably opened the Tinder app and hit the button that lets you sign up with your facebook account. 
 
It’s actually really easy to do.

Either that or she is trying to play matchmaker.

I can’t make this sh*t up.

I am okay with her sending random weird snaps accidentally to my friends but I draw the line at tinder swiping.

 

So sorry to the ten guys who swiped on me.  I’m flattered that you took the 2 seconds to look at my pictures and decide that I was worth a swipe right.

I am done swiping.

I go into the app and it alerts me that one of my pictures wasn’t used because it violated their terms of use.

 

Oh boy.
 

I deleted the account and uninstalled the app.
 

Lesson learned.

 

Always uninstall.

 

Uninstall.  Uninstall.  Uninstall.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #12

It’s Friday, you know what that means!

Time for some Good Vibrations Gratitude!

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These are the 5 thing I am grateful for this weekend.

  1.  Seeing Les Miserables


    I mentioned in my previous post about how I saw Les Miserables on a school trip to NYC my senior year of high school and how excited I was to see it last weekend.  I had a great time.I was also intrigued at how sophisticated set design became in 22 years.

    We did learn a valuable lesson.  When you see a show at Proctors in Schenectady, make sure you make reservations if you want to eat at any of the nearby restaurants.  We didn’t.  None of us thought of it.  Ooops.  Luckily there was a stand at the theater that sold sandwiches, desserts and there was also a bar.

    This whole dinner debacle demonstrated a shift in my thinking.  The old Kerry would stress about everything.  Bryon used to say that I searched for things to worry about. The old Kerry would have freaked out that we didn’t have dinner reservations.  The New Kerry just thought “I am not really that hungry anyway but there is a sandwich stand.  If this is the worse thing that happens to me all night, then this is a great night.  I am out with friends and I am seeing a musical that I love.”

    I know I have grown as a person and it is nice to see evidence of that growth.

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  2. My daughter’s first haircut


    I had so many emotions watching (and snap chatting) this.  This was my daughters first haircut.  There wasn’t much to cut off but her hair did grown in uneven so it was evened out. My hairdresser also put the hair in an envelope for me.
    So. Many. Emotions.  I tell you.

    My daughter loved going to the salon and had a great time being “grown up”.

  3. The Princess Party


    In a moment of insanity, I decided to buy tickets to the Princess Ball.  It was Sunday morning and I had stayed up late the night before.

    Ooooops.

    My daughter had a ball.  (Pun intended).

    I was texting Kimmy Gibbler and I told her that I was annoyed by all screaming kids and equally pushy parents.  This was the unimpressed selfie I took and sent her.  I was over it.

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    But it was hard to stay annoyed when I saw how much my daughter enjoyed herself.  She has been telling everyone about the Princess Ball and in great detail too.

    I was actually surprised at the detailed questions she asked each of the princesses.  She didn’t just talk about dresses and tiaras.  She asked Anna about the speed of Kristoff’s sled.  My daughter is one smart cookie.

  4. Avocados

    Because they are delicious.  I love guacamole and avocado toast.

  5. My job

    I had my yearly review at my job.  It went well.  I am thankful for my job.  They hired me two months after Bryon died.  Some people told me I should take more time off but I felt it was time to go back to work.  Except for three weeks when my FMLA ran out, I hadn’t worked in 7 months.  I was ready.  That and our health insurance coverage through Bryon’s employment ended so that was also a motivating factor for going back to work.

    Before I became a sole parent, I never thought I would like working from home.  But now I feel like I couldn’t do it any other way.  My schedule allows complete flexibility.  I work a lot at night but that gives me the time to go to the gym, make doctors appointments and have the occasional lunch with friends.  It also gives me wiggle room if my daughter is home sick or there is a snow day.  The flexibility of my job helps me thrive (more like survive) in the other areas of my life.

    My employer also provides us with a large amount of educational resources so I am able to keep up the continuing education I need to maintain my credential.  That is very helpful because now I can’t go off and attend conferences anymore.

    They also have an amazing program that gives each employee five days to volunteer and give back to the community.  My company also donate money to  grant wishes of employees in need every holiday season.  I literally cried when they announced who won the wishes and told their stories.  My company has a heart.

    I also work with an amazing team.  I have only talked to them on the phone and through email but they are great people.

    And one last bonus gratitude-

  6. The random 3 Hello Kitty pull ups

    My daughter is mostly potty trained but still wears pull ups at night.  I didn’t realize that we were down to one last pull up until she went to put it on.  I know, I am totally failing at this motherhood thing lately.  Actually I am pretty sure I am failing at life in general.I got annoyed at myself because that means I have to go out in the storm today and get a package of pull ups.  But really no big deal.

    Well my daughter had a big poop in that one last pull up.  Of all nights.  This story happened literally right before I typed this so it is in the middle of the night (because I don’t sleep anymore).  I didn’t want to have to get her dressed and go to the 24 hour pharmacy to get pull ups.

    I told myself not to panic.  We had to have a random pull up somewhere in the house or maybe the car.

    I looked in my purse- none.

    Then I see a bag from my trip to Massachusetts for my grandmother’s funeral that I had not unpacked.  (I know, a month ago.  I told you, I am failing at life.  I am a hot mess.)  I looked inside and there were three Hello Kitty Pull Ups.

    So I am very thankful for those three random Hello Kitty Pull-ups.

    I am sure she is going to love reading this when she is older.  She is probably going to be so unimpressed.   She will probably say something like “Hey Mom, remember that time when you wrote about how I shit my pants and put it on the internet for the whole world to read?”  And then I will remind her that we all have shit our pants at one time or another and that the post was actually about princesses and pull ups.

    Those are the 6 things I am grateful for.  What are you grateful for this week?

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Without Daddy

I knew this moment was going to come.

Over the weekend I got invited to a special Facebook group that consists of all my classmates from the Class of 1997 from Ellsworth High School. And guess what? It is time for our 20th reunion.

When did I get so old? Where did the time go? High school feels like it just yesterday and it also feels like a whole lifetime ago. Maybe that’s because my wardrobe has cycled back to my 1990’s style which consisted of running clothes, Red Sox T-shirts (which are timeless, really) and flannel. Both the 1997 and 2017 versions of Kerry have it going on!

I don’t know what I would tell my high school self if given the chance. That will be a blog post for another time, specifically after I visit my parents in Maine this summer and find my old photo albums because I came of age before the digital age. (I am like a relic from another era.) I feel like a blog post of that nature should have photos of teenage Kerry from the 1990s.

I remember that my high school self had big plans and I think 38-year-old Kerry would greatly disappoint 18-year-old Kerry. 18-year-old Kerry was an ambitious idealist and she wanted to be married with many children, successful (no clue how) and she would have a passport full of stamps because she would have traveled the world. 18-year-old Kerry would have never predicted the heartache she would go through, but I would be happy to tell her that she would know what true love felt like and even though she may never have the brood of children she had wanted, the one child she will have will be so awesome that she won’t need to have any other children.

When I was pregnant, we were watching the episode of Blossom when she gets her period for the first time and Bryon started to freak out. (We did not find out if we were having a girl or a boy, but we were convinced our baby was a girl.) Bryon started freaking out and said that if I died, he didn’t know how he was going to explain periods to our daughter. I assured him that it would be okay and that the baby’s Godmother would most likely step up and help.

It never dawned on me that Bryon would not be here during our daughter’s teen years.

Someday my daughter will be 14 years old and will embark on her high school journey. I always thought that Bryon and I would be parenting as a unit. I would deal with all that girly stuff, take her clothes shopping (where Bryon would enjoy pretending to be outraged that we were spending money) and teach her how to wear makeup (or take her to the counter because I am clueless). Bryon would help her with her math homework and be her biggest fan in whatever sport or activity she chose to do. I used to tease him that he was going to be a cheer dad. Bryon came from a family of all boys and they all played hockey. Bryon was very competitive and passionate for whatever team he was cheering for and I told him that I could see him becoming a cheer dad and screaming “YOU CALL THAT A PYRAMID!!!!” He would have embraced it and played it up around his guy friends.

I have no clue on how I am to guide my daughter. I was not a cool teenager and my daughter is already much cooler at 2 and a half than I was at 16. She is not awkward around her peers and I am still socially awkward at times. I did not discover Bath and Body Works until I was in college and my daughter is already obsessed with the various body lotions and body sprays at age 2. She loves to shop for shoes and clothes already. I have no idea what I am in store for when she becomes a teenager. And I am convinced she already knows how to flirt at age 2 and I still have no clue how to do that at age 38.

But it isn’t just about helping her with fashion and relationships. Someday my daughter will be 18 years old. She will have dreams. She will go to college. She will need guidance on obtaining those dreams.

Every night she wants me to read this book to her.

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It’s an adorable book with a positive message. But there is one page that when I read it to her, I can feel Bryon say “I am not be paying for her to go to college to live in a *expletive* tree. And that part about being a poet, she and I would have a discussion on the average salary of a poet and the cost of living in Upstate New York…”

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But Bryon was successful in so many areas of his life. He was smart, driven and ambitious. He isn’t going to be here to guide our daughter. He isn’t to be here to give her advice. He isn’t going to be here to help her with her math homework or cheer her on in sports. I am the one that’s left to guide her and I don’t have the mental tools that Bryon had. Bryon was an extrovert that understood people and relationships and I am an introvert and relating to people doesn’t come easy to me.

It doesn’t matter what age my daughter is. Without her father, she misses out on so much.