Being a single mom is incredibly hard. It is doing it all, being everything for your children, and it is taxing on yourself. The reality is nobody actually decides “yes I want to be a single mom,” “yes, I want to do this by myself.” It is not a choice. It is something that comes as a result of another decision—whether it be getting divorced from your spouse, deciding not to marry the child’s father because of your relationship with him, or feeling like you have no other way to have children except to do it on your own. It is the absence of a partner but it is not a direct choice.
I was raised by my single mom. She had choices to not be a single mom. She could have chosen to stay in an unhappy relationship so that she didn’t have to care for me by herself. Instead I would hear her cry in the middle of the night because this gig is hard. But it was something she needed to do for us, for herself.
Of course she would have preferred to have someone to help split the parenting duties. Or course she wanted to give us a stable home. But she also wanted to show us that she wasn’t willing to give up on her ideals. That she was strong. That she wasn’t going to compromise her happiness to stay in an unhappy relationship. She was showing us to stand up for yourself and to follow your heart, as hard as it can be sometimes. She did make choices. Very difficult ones. But it was never about a desire to parent by herself.
My friend’s boyfriend enjoys playing tennis, and so does my friend. They have a lot of fun playing together but sometimes he just wants to go to the courts to hit the ball off the wall. It is therapeutic for him and helps him to relieve the stress of the day. The other day my friend told me she was concerned that he didn’t love her because he didn’t always want her to come along to play.
This is a common question I hear so I told her what I frequently tell others — just because he wants to be alone does not mean he doesn’t love or care for you. Sometimes we just need that time to decompress and be in our own heads. We all have different ways of relieving stress. For her boyfriend it was hitting a ball off a wall, for her, it is reading a book and taking a bath. We all need time alone. Some of us need more time than others and it can all depend on how much stress we have in our lives at the time. While I understand how she could worry he doesn’t want to spend time with her, it is just his way of taking care of himself so that he can come home and be more fully present with her.
It is healthy for us to set boundaries when we need that time, and it is not meant to hurt her. Chances are his time alone at the courts has little to do with her at all and it is all because he needs to work through the problems of the day. He needs to have a little room to breathe and process. It is healthy. I urged her to talk to him when he got home, ask him about his day and spend time together in other ways. Just because you are in a relationship with someone does not mean you have to spend every moment together. You each are still individual people who need to care for yourselves before you can care for the relationship.
How do you spend your alone time?