One of the biggest adjustments to being a single mom is the eerie silence that engulfs my home every other weekend; a sanctuary that is usually filled with sounds of three kids, their mom, aunt, nanny and dog – my family. I was surprised this seemingly small change became my ultimate fear; especially since I was told repeatedly that I should be excited of this new found freedom.
This fear of being alone was such an unexpected emotion to me; especially since my job requires travel – most of it alone. Last year I banked more than 100,000 sky miles, flying to different states to communicate major milestones for my company. Often times the location were so remote, it required three-hour drives from the closest airports to reach my destinations (non-populated areas are bests for large parachute tests, and rocket launches). Airports, rental cars, hotel rooms, restaurants, dinners, all tasks performed solo, never once feeling the sense of the isolation I am experiencing now.
While on travel I did feel guilty as I was not home to be with my kids. Gone for weeks at a time, I missed major milestones in my children’s lives – first days of school, birthdays and others. In fact one year I waved to my kids via NASA TV as I stood by the countdown clock at the shuttle launch on Mother’s Day. However, the ache and guilt I have felt on these solo weekends as I have walked past their quiet empty rooms has wrenched my heart.
Initially when this freedom came into play I made every attempt to occupy my time. As the months wore on I knew this poor attempt to mask the pain needed to stop, and it was time to face reality. During another reflection on my front porch I decided my quest for the weekend was to attack my trepidation of being alone, and discover the root cause of the fear.
Although I did not spend the entire weekend alone (I went to dinner and a movie with friends), I did spend the majority of the time by myself and I came to two major discoveries about myself.
The first is when you are a mother; your children love you unconditionally. No matter your failures, your mistakes, your insecurities, they are willing to forgive and provide you the ultimate love. This is something I do not afford myself. I have yet to forgive myself for my multiple mistakes and often find myself awakened at night with so many regrets just from that day. I realized I rely on my children to provide that love I am so desperately seeking inside.
Second, I am ungrateful. I have a dear single friend who would trade places with me - even taking on the drama-filled life it offers - just to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. Another friend lost one the twins she was carrying early in her pregnancy, although the other is healthy, her heart breaks for the life that will never be. Yet another became a single mother because the love of her life lost his battle with cancer. Even my ex-husbands have lost precious daily time with their children and are now restricted to one night during the week and every other weekend. To all of you I say sorry.
I was truly feeling sorry for myself and in doing so, I was being selfish. My fear of being alone was due to the fact that I was truly afraid to face the quiet reality – that this was my choice.
Although I know this sudden realization won't make future weekends totally better, I will make sure I keep a grateful heart. When I start to fall into the dark trap of self pity, I will look outside myself for opportunities to help others. When I clean the handprints off the windows and doors, I will remember this quiet moment is just a temporary reprieve from the sounds of love and new dirty fingerprints that will soon fill my home.