My son sent me a text after he got off work the other night. He was going to stop and get gas, a bad slice of pizza, then be home. I went up to bed and was fighting off sleep until he was home safely.
After brushing my teeth and doing my lengthy skincare routine, I knew he’d be home soon so I turned on the television to keep myself awake.
After an hour, my son still wasn’t home. He works 12 minutes away from our house and I knew his stop didn’t take long. I was sitting alone in my bedroom and called him. No answer. I sent him a text telling him to call me. Nothing.
Maybe he was talking to a friend.
Maybe he had to work a bit later and forgot to text me.
Maybe his car is flipped over on the side of the road and he’s not going to call me but a police officer will any second now.
These are the thoughts that go through a mother’s head. And when she’s a single mother, they go through her head alone. There’s no one sitting next to her on the sofa to calm her down. There’s no one there saying, “You stay here next to your phone with the other kids and I’ll go out and look for him.”
You sit and marinate in all your worst thoughts without anyone there to bounce them off of.
A few minutes later, I got a text saying,”Mom, I got pulled over for speeding. I’ll be home in five minutes.”
When he got home, I had to be calm enough to not yell at him so I wouldn’t wake up his brother and sister and scare them, yet stern enough to remind him he had screwed up and I was really worried.
I had to process all my thoughts and feelings alone. I had to be the mother and the father. I had to be the voice of reason and the support system for my son.
When you are a single mother of teens, there’s no one to share these duties with. There’s no one to say, “I’ll handle this, you are too upset.” There’s no one to talk it through with you when you find out your teenager is having sex, smoking pot, vaping, or just being an all around asshole.
Even as a divorced woman who has a healthy co-parenting relationship with her ex, I can tell you raising teenagers is lonely as fuck.
Sure, there’s people to talk to, but they have their own lives.
Yes, I can reach out to my ex and he will come over, call his kids, and do whatever it takes to share this parenting burden of raising teenagers in this day and age. But single parents are still doing it alone. Because when something comes up suddenly — which it does, because your teenagers don’t say, “Hey mom, I’m going to miss curfew tonight,” or “Just so you know, I’m going to start cutting myself,” or “I think I’m going to stop doing my school work and see what happens” — you have to think quick. You have to deal with it. You can’t ignore it, or postpone your reaction until you dial up your ex.
You don’t have someone standing next to you to reach out and grab your hand because they sense you are going to lose your shit.
Nope, it’s all you.
There’s a lot of things that can’t be put on hold when you are a parent. Catching your kids drunk or having one of them fall apart because they got their heart broken doesn’t allow for you to step away and say, “I’m dealing with this alone, so I need some extra time to process this and think about what to do.”
Teenagers need you immediately. Teenagers get into big shit. Teenagers have huge feelings. Teenagers can fuck up your day faster than ten toddlers. Teenagers can make you feel like you literally don’t know what you are doing as a parent.
And as their mother, you want so much for them. You want to do right by them. You want to handle it all.
But this is exhausting — this taking everything on alone, without the second opinion of someone you love and trust. Someone who sleeps next to you, and them, and wants it all to be okay just as much as you do.
Even if you have a supportive ex-partner, it’s extra work to keep them in the know about what happens when the kids aren’t on their watch. It’s a lot of back and forth and explaining. It’s an energy-suck to constantly check in with each other and make sure you are both on the same page. And even in the best of circumstances, it’s rare that you are both going to handle things the same way or agree on how to fix something.
Single mothers of teens, you are the real MVPs in this life, especially as we head into another phase of this pandemic and try and take care of our families and keep our teens close and safe. Don’t you ever forget it. And don’t you ever feel like you suck as a parent. This is the toughest shit I’ve ever been through, and while my kids are completely and totally worth it, that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize its challenges.
Lord knows being a single mother to teenagers has a ton.