The Three S’s of Single Parenting: Speed, Stress, and Support – Part 1

Close up image of "S" on a sidewalk with a pair of feet in tennis shoes

Exciting news! We have such an abundance of information surrounding single parenting and each week, bit by bit, we make a dent in it. Thank you for being part of this. Speaking of dents, I must confess something to you.

This past weekend we took an out-of-town excursion to try to escape the snow-covered terrain we live in. In my early morning drowsy state, I backed our vehicle into a stone wall. It happened so quickly, despite my sluggish state. I blame this in part on three things. One, I was minus one cup of caffeine. Two, I was in unfamiliar territory. And three, the vehicle sensor was covered by so much salt and snow (darn New England winters) that it never alerted me that something was in the way. Note – I will not be posting any pictures of snow, so let’s pretend it is spring!

Luckily, the damage was only a broken reflector light and bent tail pipe. The rock wall, not my property, stayed firmly in place as it should. As I looked at the little pieces of red plastic lying on the ground, I thought of a different time of my life (you guessed it, the single parenting days) when I probably would not have had much time to survey the damage.

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Words Associated with Single Parenting

What do I mean by not having much time?

To answer that question, let me first introduce some words and phrases:

Fast, faster, and fastest

Never stop moving

Lightning speed

a n a l o g y

And here is the best analogy of all and it is so cute (which, by the way, we had three of these little critters over the years): A little hamster running on an exercise wheel. The wheel moves faster and faster as a result of this mini bundle of fur exerting all its energy and calories. As the wheel spins around, it is hard for one to even fathom how the hamster can get off this fast track of life.

Miraculously, he does.

Welcome to Single Parenthood

In the eight years I was a single parent, I had numerous mishaps due to the frantic pace of the hamster wheel I was on.

Cobblestone alley in village with green bushes and trees

Mishap #1

One day I backed into a tree and dented my car’s tailgate, trying to leave work in a hurry. Why was I so hurried? I needed to pick up my two children from day care. That is, two different day care centers in two different locations. The tailgate was never to be opened again until 16 years later. Why didn’t we get it fixed? Simply because I did not have the time, it was not really a true priority, and funds could be used elsewhere. After a while, we simply forgot about the fact that it didn’t work.

Mishap #2

Mishaps happened again when I damaged not only one side mirror on my vehicle, but both mirrors on two separate occasions! They were damaged in the same fashion by backing too quickly out of the garage. Why was I in a hurry? One time was to get both children to two separate day care centers at 5:30 am, prior to getting myself to work. I never took a lot of time to survey the damage. Why? I could not afford to be late. Did we get the mirrors fixed? No.  Same reasons as #1.

Convertible tan colored car with roof down

Now you are probably thinking, “Nothing really has changed because you are still having mishaps!” Yes, there is some truth to that.

Except the differences are:

First Difference – Very few mishaps have occurred since I am no longer a single parent and life is only occasionally frantic.

Second Difference – I am no longer running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Third Difference – There is a second adult in our household (my husband) and older children to share the load.

Rock building with green wood door with climbing rosebush on the side

Speed of Single Parents

So, let’s switch gears because I am not quite sure I have convinced you that my recent mishap is different than the ones I experienced as a single parent. Smile. Let’s move back to the good old single parenting days in our household.

Multipel china plates

Illustration #1

My mother once said to me, “Why are you moving so fast? I have never seen anyone unload a dishwasher that fast!” My reply was, “I can’t stop. Otherwise, all of the daily responsibilities will not get done. Any slowing down will mess my system up. I can’t afford to get behind.”

Looking through a paned window into a sunroom with a table and chairs

Illustration #2

My two children said to me years later, “We loved sitting at the counter for our meals while Mom stood on the other side and never sat down while she ate.” Standing allowed me to continue a fast pace. Besides, there was no time to sit down, nor was there time to set the table. After dinner, I still had the night chores (i.e., helping with homework, giving baths, reading bedtime stories, etc.).

Stress of Single Parents

Needless to say, the speed and the dents of my single parenting days created an incredible, off-the-charts stress level. There is such pressure to make sure daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks get done. These include house maintenance, vehicle maintenance, child-rearing, school activities/events, children’s extracurricular hobbies, and career and financial obligations. I sound like a broken record.

Ornate metal bar with sunlight in background

Here is what happens: one task piles on top of the next task so any little setback disrupts the entire system. What I mean is if there is one setback, the next setback can occur very quickly and they start compounding. Soon you are facing one big pile of setbacks! I also call them “fires.”

One on top of the other…

Another “S”

But wait, there is another “S” to this narrative of speed and stress for single parents. This last “S” is called support. Evidently, it is the most vital piece for single parent success and that is what we will be talking about next time.

So stayed tuned! We look forward to sharing the final “S” with you in Part 2 of The Three S’s of Single Parenting: Speed, Stress and Support.

Off to the auto repair,

Photography Credits

Photo by Danielle Rice on Unsplash - S on sidewalk
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash - Iron gate 
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash - Espresso maker 
Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash - Rock wall house
Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash - White car w/suitcases
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash - Black clock
Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash - Hamster
Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash - Village
Photo by Jake Noren on Unsplash - Convertible car
Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash - Plates
Photo by Fabio C. on Unsplash - Paned window
Photo by Guillaume LORAIN on Unsplash – Iron bar 
Photo by Emma Dau on Unsplash - Woman in field

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