Broken American Dream #1: Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

I’m a mother.

Tomorrow, I know, is going to be like any other day.

If you’re a lucky mother, who arranges the nice stuff for you? You got it. Dad does. The father of your children, your husband who lives with you and gets your subtle (or not so subtle) hints about special treatment.

When you’re divorced, and live alone with little children like I do, there’s nobody to take the burden off.

Nobody to treat you to dinner.

Nobody to pick out gifts that the kids can put their names on.

Nobody to make toast and tea while you sleep in.

It’s Mother’s Day, alright. Mother’s Day to do everything, just like always.

No one will be giving me flowers like these

No one will be giving me flowers like these

My first Mother’s Day after the separation, I was a mess. I knew my soon-to-be-ex-husband wouldn’t lift a finger, so I did exactly what I wanted. I bought flowers to plant and dinner takeout from my favorite Mexican place, because, hey, mom shouldn’t have to cook on Mother’s Day, right? Even if she is divorced.

When I picked up my kids that evening (the ex was still on short, supervised visits at this point), I handed him the receipts from the flowers and Mexican and told him I’d gone ahead and bought my own Mother’s Day present, thank you very much. In fairness, he did pay me back for the flowers. The Mexican takeout ended up being my treat to me.

Last year, my first as a fully divorced woman and my second since my ex-husband moved out, I was upset that my ex hadn’t done anything or even mentioned Mother’s Day. In an infantile move, I blocked texts from him for a few hours to disconnect. I’m pretty sure I was checking my phone every three minutes to see if I’d gotten any Happy Mother’s Day! texts, and my teen-like neediness made me sick. The phone blocking move was an attempt to save myself from me. However, I ended up missing a text from my ex wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, and telling me to go look for a card in my mailbox.

Sometimes my anger has consequences. Sometimes, divorced or not, I can be petty and pissy.

Later that night I did get the message–after a day of stewing, no less–and found a greeting card and a gift certificate to my favorite massage place inside. That was nice. I have not blocked his number since, although I do turn off my phone sometimes to keep from checking Facebook like a maniac.

This year, Mother’s Day will include a picnic with my mother (and father, probably). I told my mom I’d bring lemonade and sandwiches to the park.

Today, my own mother informed me that my brother and his two children are joining us, and that I should make enough food for everyone.

Really? On Mother’s Day I’m required to feed my brother and his family, too?

Being a divorced woman, there’s no husband to roll my eyes at, or to gently suggest that since it’s Mother’s Day he might make all the sandwiches. Nope, the job is mine.

My brother, a nice enough guy, is a stoner who never lifts a finger. It’s not surprising, then, that I get stuck with most familial duties. Predictable, but still disappointing. I thought tomorrow, of all days, would be my day to have sandwiches made for me. Not so after a divorce. Yet another reminder that it’s a party of one in my house.

Last weekend was my birthday and I already got into a text and email war with my ex-husband about that. In short, I was upset that he did not wish me a happy birthday when he saw me at our kid exchange, and hurt that he didn’t help the kids buy me a present.

I was trying to let it go until I tucked Big Brother in that night and, as per our nightly ritual, I remarked that I was thankful I got to spend my birthday with him.

My son looked up at me, confusion in his wide, brown eyes, and said, “But we didn’t do anything special, and there wasn’t even cake. It doesn’t feel like a birthday.” Those words broke my already broken heart.

I know, son, I know, I thought. After I tucked him in and turned out the light, I sent an email with “I” statements (hurt, sad, etc.) to my ex-husband.

I wanted an apology, a reason, a realization. I wanted him to wake up and not be so distant, cold, and uncaring. Why I expect more after all of these years says something about my need for more therapy.

My ex responded to these texts defensively, with no acknowledgement of my feelings. I fired back, he got mad, and then demanded that I apologize for hurting his feelings. I ended it there. And I did not apologize. I’m still pretty upset about the way that went.

Needless to say, I haven’t had enough energy left after that bout of non-marital sparring to get worked up about mother’s day, but I do feel a heaviness on my shoulders.

Parenting after divorce, or being a single mom, is hard.

So terribly, agonizingly, hard.

You do the work of two parents but only have the financial resources, time, energy, know-how, and love of one mom. Tonight, I mowed my lawn in the dark, because that’s when I had time.

Being a single mom is exhausting, and sometimes I cry myself to sleep.

I cry because I miss the feel of arms wrapped around me as I fall asleep.

I cry because I don’t know how long I can do this constant juggling.

I cry because I feel there’s never enough of me to go around.

I cry because I’m lonely, and frustrated, and I’m not quite sure how my life ended up like this.

Mother’s Day might be another time I work myself to the bone during the day and then cry myself to sleep.

Or it might be lovely.

I realize Mother’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday, and made up, but I still care. I live in a Hallmark world and I want toast in bed and a foot rub, darn it.

But, as in the rest of my divorced life, I will have to figure tomorrow out alone.

And that’s lonely.