parent opinion

"I feel like I’ve always been this tired." The unspoken frustration of being a single mum.

To say that I hate asking for help is an understatement of massive proportions. I hate, loathe, and despise it. In my experience, help rarely comes free. It comes with commentary, unsolicited advice, and expectations.

But I am one person. Although I am a strong, creative, resourceful, and capable person, I am still only one. There are some things in life that we weren’t meant to do alone. Like parenting. Or moving. Or single-handedly assembling a bunk bed.

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I stared at the two beds. I had kept them separate before because both kids were afraid of sleeping on the top bunk. They were older now, and we needed the floor space. I had a small window of time to get everything done without children underfoot. Dragging, pushing, and shoving them, I managed to get them to the spot on the floor that would accommodate a bunk bed.

F**K my life!

That’s all I could think as I tried to fit one bunk bed on top of the other. Every single lift and shift caused one bed to get caught on the other. This was a two-person job, and I was one person cursing and struggling to get the beds to align without help.

If I could figure out how to do it myself, I wouldn’t have to ask for anyone else to lend a hand. I wouldn’t have to wait for anyone. I could do it on my own without commentary, advice, or expectations. Then, I could do all the other things I needed to do in the brief window of time before my children returned from their dad’s.

But every lift and shift of the beds resulted in a stream of cursing and the top half getting stuck on the bottom. At one point, I nearly crushed my hand — the thing I need most in the world for my job other than my brain. It’s a wonder I didn’t find a way to crush that, too. This was a job for two, and I am one human on my own.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with living by ourselves. Each morning finds me sprawled across a king-size bed wrapped cosily in all the blankets and a multitude of pillows. I wake up and set the tone for my day, shaping a beautiful life for me and my children. I’m happy.

But on the hard days, on the days I could really use a break or another hand to help with a task that stretches beyond my impressive capabilities, I’m struck by how hard life can be on single people trying to function in a world where many tasks require four hands rather than two.

As a single mother, I’m always a little impressed at the audacity of the cosily coupled who like to hand out suggestion after suggestion for life lived alone. Parenting ideas are in abundance, but the elephant in the room that I can see clearly and they can’t is that it’s not the same for those of us doing it alone. It will never be the same.

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I, at least, have the help of two weekends a month to myself and child support — something many single parents do without. But I’m not talking about finances here. I’m talking about being in the world without someone else to hold the other end of the bunk beds so that a ten-minute task didn’t have to wait for someone else’s willingness and convenience.

But it’s not just the household tasks that need a second set of hands. There’s also the struggle of the days when they’re both being tiny tyrants, and I am at my wit’s end with no one to share the weight. And the days when my kids do something incredibly adorable, and I am the only witness of this joy. It’s another passing comment about taking too many selfies when I know that if I don’t, years could pass with no pictures of my life that include me. Because there’s no one there to capture that cute moment with my kids. There is only me.

Of course, I will admit that there are many married individuals who might as well be single for all the help they get. I used to be one of them. Luckily, there’s this handy thing called divorce, so that if we’re going to do everything alone it will at least be because we are, in fact, alone.

Usually, I’m happy alone. But some days are heavier than others, and I get tired. I feel like I’ve always been this tired. I wonder if I always will be.

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I gave up on the bunk beds. It was either keep trying and potentially damage something up to and including myself or give up and wait for help. I’m not happy about it. Today, I’m sitting with the knowledge that there’s too much of the world sitting on my shoulders, and I just don’t have the energy to lift it right now.

So, I don’t.

I take a break. I make another cup of coffee and sit outside in my garden. I start counting all the many things I’m grateful for in the life that I have built with my own two hands. It’s a long list. It includes my beautiful children, our home, travel, a wonderful albeit long-distance partner, and a career I love. It includes small things, too, like the garden I’m trying not to kill, the book I’m reading, and flowers in bloom.

It does not, however, include bunk beds.

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. 

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, The Urban Howl, Your Tango, and The Good Men Project. She is also the author of the Heart of Madison series, an ongoing southern romance set in the charming real-life town of Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book. You can follow her on Instagram @crystaljackson.writer or Twitter @cjacksonwriter