Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is hard to the power of a hundred. In my pre-baby life, I was always able to busy myself with my career and traveling. I have also been in a series of long term relationships from seventeen, all the way up to thirty-four where my string of potential marriage candidates ended in emotional and financial turmoil. Once that ended, I thought I would just get out and start dating and not worry about finding “the one” and have some fun with the one right now.
That was short lived. My first 6-week fling was with a guy who was all wrong for me but fun, spontaneous, rather good-looking, extremely immature, and ended up getting me pregnant the second time we slept together (BTW: This is after spending over a year trying with my long term ex). I have never been so happy, excited, terrified, or uncertain about my future than I was in that moment. My fling had no interest in being a Dad and not having this baby was not remotely an option for me as I approached the age of 35 and felt that good old biological clock thumping, not ticking, away. So, at one of the most challenging times in my life I made a decision that was life changing – in every way possible. I was going to go it alone.
I live in Los Angeles, a very socially awkward city that makes finding true life friends challenging because of its transient and self-absorbed nature. Luckily, I managed to lock into a good group, but not one of them is from LA or has family in LA so we have created this little group of “orphans” – a surrogate family of sorts. As a Canadian import myself, I have no family here and after spending a great deal of time in the city on business in my 20s, found that in my 30s it was much harder to put my “inner circle” together. When I was pregnant, I quickly realized that, naturally, all my friends were just like me. Career-minded, mostly unmarried or single, and no kids. It suddenly donned on me that I had no friends with kids in LA. I needed to change that situation quickly as each day rolled on and I was getting closer and closer to being a mommy. Something I knew very little about.
Skip forward to today and I think I have managed pretty well. I have the same great group of friends that are all single and a whole new group of friends that are all Dutch and have young kids. It was important for me that my son have some influence of our roots, and even more important that I had a handful of people that could relate to my situation. Of course, the vast majority are married, and often make me crave for a partner that I could share this massively important responsibility with. Never one to settle, I certainly have no intention of settling for just any partner now, but…being a single parent can be a horribly lonely job.
I have a great life filled with a wonderful family (who unfortunately all live in other countries); great friends here in LA and around the world; a couple of growing companies that allow me some financial freedom; and the baby I had always wanted – but I still feel like there is something missing. From about 5 AM until 8 PM my life is jam packed with child duties, play time, work, often exciting and inspiring meetings, creativity, more play time, bath time and my favorite activity – reading time in bed and passing out with him as he falls asleep. I cannot say my life is remotely boring. On the weekends, I make sure to get in as much time as possible with my son, while balancing it out with some mommy play time which usually includes, dinner, wine, movies and the occasional date. And yet, I am lonely. It just feels like there is nothing left for ME.
Once those lights go out and the baby is asleep, I often plant myself back at my desk to get more work done or bustle around the house trying to clean. Good distractions, but not enough. I truly miss that joy of companionship, sharing and even just having someone to curl up with under a blanket and watch a movie. I am told I need to get out and date more, but that seems daunting as well. Having been on the internet dating sites and gone on a few dates, I realized that what I am looking for is in fact extremely hard to find.
I think we naturally crave to have love and a partner in our lives anyways, but when you have a child (or children) this creeps into your thoughts on a much more frequent basis. Like, Father’s Day Weekend when you drop your kid off at Montessori and realize that a bunch of the other kids are all playing with their Dad’s at their Father’s Day celebration and it breaks your heart. It is the one thing that I cannot give to him, and despite my very honest and real justifications for being selective and wanting to settle down with the right person, I still felt terrible. And yet, I have absolutely no desire to settle for just anybody. It is no longer just about me and serving my emotional or sexual needs, it is about this little person who moved into my life and has taken an executive position in the household (more like a dictator) and whose best interests are my sole responsibility. So dating has been, well….challenging.
I spent a great deal of time over the last couple years wondering why previous relationships that should have worked did not, and why relationships that should have ended dragged on and on, ultimately arriving at two conclusions: baggage and timing. I don’t mean the baggage the other person has, which is of course also important, but I mean the baggage I was carrying around. I have come to discover that my baggage had a lot to do with my expectations of myself, for my life, and for the fairytale romance. It was almost as though I was always waiting for someone else to make me happy, sweep me off my feet, and give me the life I hoped for.
Then something happened. I realized that my baggage was preventing me from having the life that I wanted and from allowing that relationship to happen organically. I also realized that this dependence on something, or someone, “out there” to give me happiness was actually a problem I needed to address with myself. I had to learn to be happy on my own, and create my own happiness. Not through distraction, but through discovering my passions, exploring what actually does make me happy and finding the balance of living in the present moment while being acutely aware of my own personal goals. I also realized that the only thing I needed to do was simply choose to be happy.
That isn’t always easy, trust me I know. I am still a SINGLE mom, and I still very much want to find “the one” – but not at the sacrifice of today. Today, I am just going to take a moment, breathe, watch my son terrorize the dog and have faith my new awareness of what I really need and deserve in a mate will prevent me from repeating past mistakes and allow me to have a fulfilling relationship. Until that happens however, I am quite content getting this fulfillment from my on-going personal development and my 3 foot sidekick. At the end of the day, if you really like yourself it is hard to be lonely.