I quit drinking alcohol at 26 when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is essentially like having mono for the rest of your life. Nary a drop touched my lips for years, not even for a toast.  I’m sure I was a real drag at parties. My friends would kind of cock their heads to one side and say, “You sure you won’t have a drink. A small one won’t kill you.” They were probably thinking, “Gee, you used to be so fun when you drank…”

I started drinking again six years into being a single mother, roughly fifteen years after abstaining. Now mind you, I was never an alcoholic, nor am I one now. But the need to escape every once in a while is there, raging like an eighteen-year-old boy’s hormones. Thankfully I am able to temper it. If I weren’t able to I probably would be a full-fledged alcoholic, periodically falling into the pool in my complex, or an emaciated meth head (one of the many in San Bernardino County where I live), or a pill-popper, riffling through my friends’ cabinets for their children’s ADHD medication. Why? Because being a single mother often sucks and there are days when that reality is too painful.

Eight years ago, my ex left me. Suddenly, I had to care for a one-year-old all by myself. It was like realizing you’re having fifty people over for Thanksgiving and there’s no one to do the cooking but you. My married friends would say to me in awe, “I don’t know how you do it. My husband goes away for two days and I feel like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.”

“It’s the meds,” I’d tell them only partly joking. Then I’d say more seriously, “I have no choice. You do what you have to do.”

I mean, what were my options? Leave my son in a basket on a stranger’s porch? Abandon him in the woods to be raised by wolves? Or worse, let him be brought up by my Type A, career-obsessed, only money will make you happy, and you’d better not show any weakness or else you’re a weenie father?

So I made the best life I could for my now nine-year-old son. My ex is on an “extended vacation” and essentially out of the picture. My mother lives 3000 miles away, and my father, who lives a mere 4 miles away no longer speaks to me.

We are, my son and I, essentially alone. In the suburbs, single parents are about as rare as in-shape, affluent women in their 40’s with real breasts.

Sometimes life feels really, really hard. And there’s no one to talk to about it, because I don’t know anyone in my boat. Most of my friends are married or attached.  They all have some support system close by — parents, in-laws, siblings.  My “village” consists of one temperamental Chihuahua, seven cats and two squawking parakeets.

To feel like a single mother while your husband is traveling is not the same as actually being a single mother. While one may take care of the entire household, as well as the kids and the husband, I’m betting the husband probably helps with some of the bills, or the cars, the plumbing, or the yard. As a single mother, you take care of all of these things and more. On one income.

The times I resent my ex for not being around are when I’ve already changed the sheets 3 times in the middle of the night because my son has thrown up pizza, and every time I think he’s done, I’m wrong. Or when I need to make the excruciating decision over whether to put my son on medication because he can’t focus in school and he’s flunking all his classes. Or when he scores a goal in soccer and I’m the only family member cheering for him.

I’m told every so often by people who know me—some friends, our counselor—that I’m doing a great job as a mother. But they don’t know that there are times when I feel so frustrated and exhausted and alone that more often than not I cry in the shower so my son can’t hear me.

So every now and then I have a few glasses of wine, or a pint or two of beer when things get tougher than usual. It dulls a bit of the pain, the loneliness, the realization that the poor decisions I made got me into this situation in the first place. And things don’t seem so bad. At least for one night…

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 02fan
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 11:47:30

    Yep, you do an amazing job and I’m proud of you for all that you accomplish. I know for certain that I couldn’t do it!


  2. Crazy. Kinda.
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 13:27:05

    I don’t know you. I’m not a mom. But I do know where you are coming from. My best friend is a single mom with an almost 12 year old daughter. She is a recovered alcoholic and drug user. Her family is pretty much useless when it comes to any sort of help, and she does an amazing job. Her daughter is the most well behaved child I’ve ever met. I don’t live the life. I can honestly say, I don’t know how any one does it. But to those of you that do: You’re incredible. You’re amazing. And just think, had you not made those “poor decisions”, you wouldn’t have your son. Surely there is an upside to everything. And if you have the occassional drink, so what? You deserve to have pleasure. You deserve an outlet. Kudos to you for being strong, and for crying in the shower where your son can’t hear you, because there are people out there that share far too much with their children, and it’s not fair to the child. I say “Damn good job!”


  3. Dr. Katharine Pope
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 17:37:32

    Tiffany, you are amazing. And now I count you as one of my heroes! If you ever need a glass of wine and a venting session, you know where to find me. XOXO


  4. Tiffany N. York
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 20:14:44

    Right back at you, Kath. My ears (and/or eyes) are always open for you.


  5. Angelin
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 05:07:55

    I choose to leave my husband 13 years ago, on New Years Eve no less. It was a very sad moment, but I can honestly say we had tried to make it work. And not succeeded. So I became a single mum. My son is almost 17, and I if I can say it myself I think I´ve done a pretty good job. He´s not perfect, but he is dependable, honest, fun and does his homework. He neither smokes or drinks, which is better than me that age. My ex went on to find a new wife (who can´t stand my son) and so he spends very little time with his Dad. I feel sorry for him, and maybe I try and make up for it a little bit too much. We have travelled the world together, we play pc-games together (not much anymore, I´m a WRITER!!!) and we have fun together. I have had relationships while he grew up, but I never moved in with anyone again, I didn´t want him to suffer another separation. I don´t think it was a sacrifice. I sometimes promise myself that I will be nice to whomever my son falls in love with in the future – even if she´s not good enough for him. I will possibly break that promise. But what I wanted to say was – we´ve had a lot of fun together and I think that if I had not been a single mum we wouldn´t be as close as we are. There are always two sides to the coin. And – as we say in my country – Skål!


    • Tiffany N. York
      Nov 30, 2011 @ 09:12:42

      Boo to your ex for choosing a new wife like that. And I totally get the feeling of wanting to make it up to him. I’m of the same attitude about relationships, too. My son is my priority, my writing second — doesn’t leave much left over for anyone else. I do worry about him not having a healthy model of how a relationship should be, but hey — I can only do so much. Let him get that from watching reality shows. (HA HA, I’M KIDDING!)

      Hope NaNo went well for you.


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