Eli has been getting up a little earlier in the mornings to make Malt-O-Meal for all of us before we leave the house. He is 14, not outwardly loving and affectionate, but he does these little things to show that he cares. He makes sure that Sam, chronically underweight and not feeling well to boot, eats at least half of his, even putting half & half on Sam's portion instead of skim milk. While Eli is making breakfast, Hannah gets up and around and gets Owen dressed while I am in the shower, and Sam goes out and feeds the rabbit and fills the dog bowls in the house. We have this routine pretty well set now, each one of us doing what it takes to get everyone out the door on time with a minimum of fuss. It works for us, and has worked well for us for the last almost 6 years. Of course we didn't have Owen then, but he fit into our lives almost seamlessly, just another addition to the routine.
This is part of why I don't date. We work so well together, the five of us, that it is hard to imagine someone coming in and being part of that. The whole "If it works, why fix it" mentality, which I have heard other single moms say as well. It isn't so much that as much as it is a comfort thing; we all know what to expect of one another, the five of us working together for a common good; we work WELL together, the synergy amazing at times. Could any one of us move over and let another person carry their share of the load? I really don't know the answer to that one. It doesn't even feel like a control issue, it just feels like there might no longer be room.
There have been times in the past, even recently, where I have lamented the fact of my singleness; because no matter where things stand with Steve and I, I am very much a single parent. I live alone with my kids, I do the work of raising and loving and guiding and disciplining them. I provide for them financially (not well at time, but still, I am the sole provider). It is hard; it is backbreaking, heart-wrenching work, and every day there are questions as to whether or not I am doing the right thing, making the right decisions, being the best parent I know how to be. There are days where I know I am not, other days when I feel very sure of myself, but at the end of the day, it is fucking hard to be the only one. It is lonely, too, so lonely that I am not ashamed to admit crying into my pillow at night because I want so badly to have someone in the bed with me. Not in a sexual way, but someone to turn to in the middle of the night, a pair of arms and a heart much stronger than my own to lean on. I don't always feel that way, but there are moments that hurt so bad that I can feel my heart shatter a little bit more with every breath. Nights like the one when I had to leave Hannah at the BHC, or when I had no money and you people helped me out. Both bad times and good, and no one near to share them with.
I also don't date because, frankly, men don't ask me out. There isn't a long line of men just hanging around wanting desperately to date a mom with four kids of wildly varying ages; two teens who will leave home soon enough, but then two much younger children that will mean "he" will actually have to interact with and help, to a certain extent, raise-for the next 16 years. That is a daunting enough prospect for ME, much less a potential mate. If it were me, in fact, I wouldn't be asking me out either. Then, there is the little niggling thought that if a man DOES want to become involved with a woman with all these kids, then who is he really after? Her, or her kids? A scary thought, especially in light of what we have recently gone through. Do I think all men are pedophiles waiting to get their hands on my kids? Absolutely not. I would be a stupid parent indeed, though, to ignore the fact that a family like mine is easy prey.
And yes, yes, I know that I could go put myself "out there," but frankly, I have neither the time nor the energy to sell myself. It isn't where I am at in my life right now. I think this is part of why things work for Steve and I; we are not "in" a relationship, both of us free to seek out other companionship, and this works for me most of the time. Because I don't care to invest the time it would take to weed through the hundreds of losers to find one person I might think about a second date with. Please. I have a job, and a life, and four kids, and I don't want to waste any of that time going to a shitty dinner in a restaurant I don't like with a guy who has three teeth, all just because I am lonely and need to find "Mr. Right." No thanks. I don't want to expose my children to the kind of lifestyle that some single moms resort to, all in the name of finding love, nor do I want to expose myself to it.
Despite the difficulties and downright tragedies in our life this last year, I am still pretty content. Lonely? Yes. Not always, and not as bad as I used to be. But lonely doesn't kill, and I have been MARRIED and lonely which is far worse than being alone and lonely. Of course I want to meet someone who will just love me and accept my kids as the most integral part of my life. Of course I don't want slide into 40 still alone. But if I do? I imagine that the good things in my life will have increased exponentially by then, so I am pretty sure that I am going to be just as okay then as I am now. It isn't a bitter, "I hate men" thing, because I don't; I hate some of them, and I hate the way we still live in a man's world in a lot of ways, but I really like and even love a lot of men. Instead, it is just that I am not willing to put the rest of my life on hold while waiting or hoping to meet some mythical creature that may or may not ever appear. I am too good for that, worth a lot more than that.