Getting It

I’ve never really been on the outside looking in. I’m white. I grew up middle class (not upper, not lower, just smack in the middle). I went to college. I got married. I graduated. Got a job. Bought a house in the burbs. Had a baby. I lived in a bubble where all of my friends were basically doing all of the same things. We were all a bunch of middle class white people with two parent homes, driving two cars, working in our yards on the weekend.

But now, I’m on my own and live in an apartment (which I adore). Now I have to check the “divorced” box on questionnaires. Very soon I’ll have to check the “over 35” box as well, but let’s not open up that wound yet. I have my old maiden name. I’m a single mother who works full time. And I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m on the outside looking in.

And people say dumb things. I’ll preface this by saying, I say dumb things. We all say dumb things. But it’s hard not to feel a little roasty when a woman pats your shoulder after you’ve arrived at work ten minutes late, with frizzy unfixed hair and three hours of sleep and says, “Being a working mom is so hard, I know. Sometimes you just have to plan your mornings better.”

 

 

And then you’re faced with a conundrum. You could overreact, blow your stack and yell, “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.” But you don’t. Instead you do a double take, catch yourself, smile, try to smooth down your crazy frizzy unfixed hair and think silently, “You’ve got the most awesome husband in the world who actually pays bills and cleans the kitchen and you didn’t go back to work full time until your kid went to kindergarten.”

Obviously when I say “you” I mean “me.” And part of that roasty feeling that starts at my toes and works it’s way up to my face has a lot to do with the fact that I am, sometimes, subsisting on three hours of sleep, and that just makes me crazy. Like, boil the bunny rabbit crazy. But it’s also a tiny bit because that woman who’s patting me on the shoulder like we’re serving in identical mustard gas trenches? She really doesn’t really get it.

And it makes me realize how much in life I didn’t get stuff either. When you’ve never been on the outside looking in on “normal” it’s almost impossible to get it. Like the time I told a friend, “You just can’t put a price tag on a good set of luggage.” And looking back, that friend was looking at me, feeling roasty, and thinking, “I just want to be able to afford to replace the transmission in my car so I can stop taking the bus every day. You can take your luggage and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

I’ve also come to realize that most of the blogs I read are very similar to that life I used to lead. And it makes me think, “Eh.” There’s beautiful pictures and smiling kids and craft projects and fabulous vacations. This morning I read a post where a toddler snack consisted of apple raisin peanut butter sandwiches, edamame and freeze dried strawberries. You know what a snack consists of in this house? Bread with peanut butter. And if we’re really lucky and really fancy, I mix chocolate syrup into Jane’s milk and she screams (and I do mean screams because this stuff is crack to her), “BROWN MILK IS MY FAVORITE.”

Apple raisin peanut butter sandwiches, my foot. Brown milk is king around here.

But, I digress.

I realize being a divorced, white, single, working mother doesn’t exactly qualify me for minority status. There are lots of us (although I don’t know many and it feels isolating at times). But it has made me realize that I spent a lot of years being slightly oblivious to the fact that there is a world outside my previous normal. That no, sometimes you don’t care about good luggage. That no, not everyone owns a home. And sometimes it doesn’t matter how early you get up, or how much planning you do, sometimes your daughter is going to break the zipper on her Minnie Mouse purse and have a nervous breakdown on a Bell Jar sort of scale and you are, without a doubt, gonna be late for work in the morning because you are handling the entire solitary ordeal all by yourself.

But this whole outside looking in thing has been, in so many ways, a blessing. It’s kind of freeing, when I look back on that “normal” middle class majority life I lived, because it made me utterly miserable. I’ll take the working, crazy schedule stress over a fake smile. I prefer the brown milk over the almond encrusted edamame toddler tea time, or whatever the heck those bloggers are talking about. And this hard new life that I never ever would have “gotten” before? It’s a little bit amazing. I’m starting over. I’m building a life that makes me proud. And I’m able to, for the first time, look at other people in this world and realize that sometimes I just didn’t get it. And sometimes I still don’t get it. But I want to. I really do.

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Rae says:

    Brings back memories and makes me want to cry. It can be so hard. I became a single mom when my son was 6 weeks old. Marriage ended. Then my parents moving out of state when he was 1. Being totally on my own for the first time. I can remember getting to work and then realizing I was wearing two different shoes. On more than one occasion sadly. Mornings were hectic despite my best efforts. I think I was 5-10 minutes late more often than not, my boss telling me to be on time, didn’t care when I explained the difficulty of dealing with a tired toddler who is unable to cooperate at 5:30 am. Telling me to get up earlier? Trying to exist on never enough sleep in the first place. Feeling guilty for taking time off work when he was sick, or not taking time off when he was sick and feeling 100x guiltier. My son is 18 now and we were on our own together for the first 4 years of his life, he hardly remembers that period. I wish I knew then what I know now, but I guess I did my best at the time. When things get stressful just remember how quickly time flies. I normally hate procrastination, but I wish now that I had just put off stupid chores in favor of spending time doing something fun and meaningful with my son. I truly feel what you’re saying, I’ve been there.

    I too LOVED having my own place – the freedom to do what you want, when you want, I really miss it sometimes.It makes me proud to know I’m the only one in my family who has ever lived on their own. My sister (and parents) went from home to marriage or living with someone. I tell them I highly recommend it.

    You should be proud – this time in your life is priceless.

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  2. Kris says:

    I find myself nodding reading your blogs lately. You were me 12 years ago. Even though I am now happily remarried, I look back at my little apartment with my then 3 year old fondly. It was a little piece of heaven where I spent a lot of time healing. I understand the frazzled rushed feel but know you’re doing awesome momma! And Jane is going to grow up just fine – edamame or not. My son (now 15) has no long lasting effects from having cookies for breakfast on the way out the door to daycare!

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  3. cheryl says:

    I love reading your blog because you are so real and relatable. I know exactly what blog you are talking about and I thinking the same thing..lol. I’m lucky if my daughter eats anything that isn’t processed or covered in sugar. Crazy picky.

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  4. Martha Carrillo says:

    I just had to write to tell you I think you are amazing. Your baby is so very lucky to have you. I absolutely love your writing. I’m new to your blog but I feel as if I’ve cried, laughed, cheered and relate to you. Thank you for sharing … you are an inspiration.

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  5. Sara says:

    Being a stay at home mom in a new state with no friends or family around, I totally get this feeling of being outside the norm that I used to know. My husband works late hours, I’m braindead bored at the end of the day, and I just feel…lost. I feel I have no purpose because I don’t have a job anymore and I don’t do crafts or cook well or make fancy things out of nothing. But I’m doing my best to feel happy with my new situation, and I just want to say I loved your post and I would love to hear Jane scream that she loves brown milk!

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  6. Julie says:

    I love the way you write. Funny, real, and gets right to the heart of things. When I was raising my 2 boys as a financially strapped single mom, I always said that the good thing was that you don’t feel the pressure to represent some perfect version of family, because everybody knows, right out of the gait, that you just don’t fit the mold. So instead, you become the flawed, human, real, absolutely perfect family that you were meant to be. And that’s just the best thing in the whole damn world.

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  7. Emily G says:

    Thank you for being so straightforward and real Liz….it is comforting for so many of us. I was a single Mom for 11 years and those were honestly some of the best years of my life(looking back), despite all the craziness. Like you I loved having my own place, one on one time with just me and my sweet girl, and ultimately the strength that I gained from finding my way and keeping my sanity throughout it all 🙂 Hang in there-you are doing a great job!

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  8. Rebecca says:

    When I was in my early thirties, I divorced and became a single mom of a 9 year old boy and a new born son. I remember feeling like I was on the outside looking in. I remember sitting on my bed many nights crying because I felt like I could not handle the baby and the boy alone. I remember searching for fun, trying to find myself, and joy. But all the while, I was experiencing an amazing time of growth and enlightenment (I found a job at a university among people who loved teaching and learning). I became more than I was before, in many ways. At first i didn’t realize the growth spurt i was experiencing, but later, looking back, I saw how much I had grown. I would not take anything…anything for those days now. Nowadays, like you, I look at those other lifestyle blogs, and I think, really? how do you manage that gorgeous house, top notch design, wonderful decorated snackies for the kids, and frankly, the time to shoot pictures and blog about it? I think most of us out there are like you and I, Liz…just trying to work, and get there on time, raising our children to be responsible, loving people, and making sure we change the sheets on the bed. Today, at 55 years old, I’m proud to say, I think I knew the important things in life didn’t always look so pretty on the surface. The right decisions were not always the easiest, or what we wanted to do, but it was still right. Enjoy your new you…Relish your growth spurt and the lessons you will learn over the next few years. Enjoy learning and living in your new world. Even when its hard.

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  9. Jess says:

    This is why I will keep coming back to your blog, REALITY! It’s not always pretty or easy but it’s so beautiful to read honesty. The other blogs drive me insane. You are going to do amazing things. Thanks for continuing to write!

    Sincerely, Canadian-follower-who-checks-your blog-probably-too-often-during-her-commutes-to-work… 😳☺️

    Like

  10. Sarah says:

    I love your blog more and more every day! I started reading when I was married with 2 kids/husband/house/dog and am now a single working mom. I’ve always found you authentic and I totally love your humor, so I’ve continued to read over the years. While I still like to read a lot of the other blogs, you are the only blogger I can currently relate and it’s refreshing.

    I’m a few years along in the single working mom track and while it’s not “ideal” I am very happy and am glad you seem happy as well. The other day, my son told me that he noticed I was different from when his father and I were married. I asked him, “In what way?” I was pleasantly surprised when he said, “you’re much happier now”. And really isn’t that what’s important here? To not be “ideal”, but to be happy in your own reality.

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