Friday was the last day of the 2021 school year for little miss 8, and I am pretty sure I was more relieved than she. While the summer holidays begin and she’ll have no schedule until March 7, 2022, I feel immense relief.
I celebrate that we have survived two years of being home together, as she does her classes online and I work from home. I cannot begin to tell you the challenges and struggles of holding it together, but I’m sure you already know if you are a single mum.
Part of me tells myself I have it easy:
- it’s only one kid and she’s already eight (not terrible twos or three-teens);
- she’s intelligent and quite self-sufficient;
- all of your basic needs are met.
And yet, I’ve struggled.
On March 10, 2020, I never imagined that this was where I would be on December 15, 2021!
In late 2019, I moved my office home, as I no longer required physical office space. My home office was set up just as I wanted it (for me!). I imagined myself happily working from home and having meetings in cafés or shared office space when needed.
It never occurred to me that little miss 6 would be home with me!
Surviving the exhaustion
As an introvert, the constant need for attention (even of a self-sufficient child) has been exhausting. There are days:
“I just can’t, even”
But out of every challenge comes opportunity.
For me, the opportunity looked a lot like pain and trauma responses. I wanted to crawl into a cave and just shut down. And I realised that this wasn’t a healthy response. I rested. But I also got help and talked through the challenges of facing my overwhelm.
But it was a trauma response that I recognised from the overload – and it took me back into childhood. Things that I never imagined were still affecting me surfaced as I watched myself withdraw from the world.
I realised that as a parent, we often are faced with the traumas of our childhood as our children pass through those same phases. At seven, I was sent off to boarding school – and little miss faced separation anxiety for a few months in 2020 as she went back to spending Thursday afternoons at her grandmother’s!
The biggest challenge of being a single parent working from home with a child studying online is that my attention never feels fully engaged.
The mom-guilt hits hard:
- I am never completely present with her;
- I am not completely present with all my focus on my work and getting things done that I want to finish.
The hardest part of these two years has been letting go of my expectations.
- I will not and cannot be the perfect mother.
- Working from home with another person in the house is not idyllic.
I love working in silence: having a kid in the room next door (or worst yet on the floor close to me) with the volume up drives me insane. The sensory overload is too much. So, I’ve had to learn loving boundaries (even with her).
And yet, she regularly reminds me how much she has loved these last two years and being at home with me.
Learning to be present
The biggest lesson has been to be present in my attention: when I am with her, I take my attention away from my work and make sure that she receives my attention. At the same time, when I step back into my office, I shift my attention off what she is doing and focus back on what I need to get done.
It’s never perfect, but I am learning to accept imperfection.
With the return of summer, I’ve changed my daily schedule so that we can go for morning walks four or five days each week. It means that I mess up my morning routine, but I’ll soon find a new one that works for us.
I’ll also have to work out how many days a week to get someone in to help around the house, as little miss will no longer have classes online until 1.30 pm daily. So, I will need to get someone to come in and keep her occupied. But it will also mean more time for her at the park and outdoors playing.
I have no idea what 2022 holds – hopefully, she will be going back to school for third grade. As much as I hate the uncertainty, I’m learning to hold it lightly and be open to whatever might be the new way of life for us.