Real Stories, Real People:
Left to Manage.
Most women experience a time in motherhood
as a single parent.
Excerpted from “Mom Village Stories of Motherhood and Love” -By Tanya Gioia
Most women experience a time in their motherhood as a single parent. For some it is temporary, a spouse that travels regularly, a short period of transition during a move or job change, a career, that for a season, requires all their spouse’s attention though he may be physically present.
For others it is more permanent, death, divorce, war, or perhaps that second parent never existed. His part of the process only created the child. Either way, Mom is left to manage the day-to-day child rearing without support.
My second son was less than a year old when my husband made a career move that would leave us on our own for three months. Against my wishes, he decided to work for a hunting camp in the Colorado Rockies about 3 hours from our house. He would be gone from mid-August through December coming home for a day each week. I immediately felt overwhelmed.
“I immediately felt overwhelmed.”
Our recent move to a new house on 20 acres, 25 miles from town left me isolated and feeling alone. With 20 chickens, 2 horses, 2 babies, 1 dog and a large wood stove there were plenty of chores to complete each day. I tried to continue to work part-time but I just could not manage it and the house. Even getting into town to get groceries between naps became an effort. The simple tasks of the day took up the entire day—especially after I pulled the tendons in my right knee riding horses. The next day chores were waiting, so I hobbled out on a cane to tend to all the animals and bring in wood for the fire.
Too far out in the county to get radio signal and too poor for expensive cable TV I struggled with long days without adult interaction. To combat my loneliness and isolation my parents faithfully taped Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion Radio Show every week and mailed them to me. I listened to them over and over throughout the week. I craved adult conversation.
My three-year-old chattered pleasantly to himself and to me. I loved these babies; we played in the sunlight patches on the carpet, created forts, took naps, baked and tended the animals together. This private quiet time with my young boys is still a treasured time for me. Yet, the extent to which I isolated myself surprises me to this day. Where were my friends? My church community? My work buddies? Other “Baby Mamas”?
In my dreams around motherhood, I always thought I would walk across the street with my sweet babies and have coffee with the neighborhood mommies. Pushing the stroller down our long driveway only brought me to another long stretch of empty country road. Why was I not picking up the phone and making play dates, joining groups of other Mommies, participating in church functions or just getting out of the house? Depression, a familiar friend, hung over me. Everything but caring for the immediate needs of the boys and the animals was too much trouble.
“In my dreams around motherhood,
I always thought I would walk across the street with my sweet babies
and have coffee with the neighborhood mommies.”
I did pull myself together enough to change churches. For one glorious hour a week the boys played happily in the nursery and I hung out in a room with other adults. Our previous small country church did not have a nursery option. Desperate for a little personal space, I loaded up the boys and drove the extra 12 miles to the new church just for this gift of time. Sitting alone in a pew I found a deep peace.
Two years later, five days before Christmas—my marriage crumbled. The boys and I fled to a dear friend’s house, a young married couple who befriend my family around the time of my first single parent episode. Dazed and confused does not began to explain the next few weeks. This time restraining orders, police, lawyers and a no contact ruling were in place. The boys and I were alone in the big house again.
“Two years later, five days before Christmas—my marriage crumbled.”
My boys were older this time, 3 and 5, able to feed themselves and help a little with the house and animals. We still owned 2 horses and a dog but the chicken ranks had swollen to over 300. Over the New Year’s Holiday the sweet couple helped me finish splitting and stacking wood for the winter, keep the horses fed, take care of the children and just be present for me.
“The chicken ranks had swollen to over 300.”
For the rest of the long winter my days became routine.
-Get up, stock the fire
-Put on coveralls
-Feed the animals
-Start the plow truck
-Wake up the boys, get them dressed and started on breakfast
-Plow the driveway
-Get boys ready for school
-Load boys in the plow truck, drive to the bottom of the driveway
-Switch to the Van
-Head into town for work and school
-Come home in the dark around 5 pm
-Switch back into the plow truck
-Repeat morning routine in reverse order
Around 9 pm with the boys asleep upstairs, the animals fed and ice broken on the water tanks I would bank up the fire in the wood burning stove and just sit in front of it. Too tired to read, watch or listen I just sat in silence.
Waking up early I would go over my list; did I have enough food, wood, gas, work to make it through the day? The answer was always yes, a clear divine yes. Sleep never eluded me during this anxious period in my life. The activities of the day always left me exhausted. My fretful mind found rest in my exhausted body. Sometimes I even giggled as I climbed into bed. One more day, I managed one more day to care for 2 boys, 2 horses, 1 dog, 1 large house and 300 chickens.
Then a cold snowy January brought clarity. As my whole life spun out of control I accepted the truth. I had never been in control anyway. My life to this point had been an effort to control everyone and everything around me to keep me safe. Safety! In one night 5 days before Christmas my safe world ended. The net was gone and now the only thing I could hold onto was my faith in God.
This crushing blow, the possible death of our marriage, and being left alone with two kids, two horses, 1 dog and 300 chickens brought me freedom. That’s right. I said freedom.
When there is nothing left there is no-thing to worry about anymore. The perfect lie of a happy family vanished along with the heavy weight of pretense and secrets. My answers to most questions became “I don’t know,” “We will see,” “God will provide.”
My prayers of desperation stopped. I thanked God for every dollar that made it to the bank, every person who stepped in to help, every time someone offered to cook dinner for the boys and I, I was so grateful.
God began to strip away the angry self-righteous women, who screamed at her husband, “I can do everything better faster and harder than you any day of the week.” I was so fragile, so raw, so broken that my prayer time became just an act of sitting quietly. This act of surrender to God instead of trying to be God brought even more freedom.
On an inky black night in the dead of winter the stars were so bright and clear that I dropped to my knees in the snow after feeding the horses. My aloneness vanished. My creator touched my surrendered heart with peace. I am not alone or unloved.
I never was.
Neither are you.
“God began to strip away the angry self-righteous women
who screamed at her husband…”
My external world had to spin out of control for me accept the internal healing. In this desolate place in my life, I knew I was not alone or forsaken. The wilderness of my life was far from empty. It overflowed with divine presence. The softening of my heart brought friendships, community, trust in others to take care of themselves and my boys and I. When I let down my walls, reached out for help, and accepted my life, love came rushing to me.
As you sit in your kitchens, cars, fields and huts staring at the horizon know you are not alone. These moments when you feel abandoned and forsaken by the world are not the truth. Oh my dear sister, if I were sitting next to you right now I would throw my arm around you and say,” You are deeply loved.” God wrote your name on the palm of his hand the day you were created. He will never leave or forsake you. Though others might, His oneness with you is as close as fish are to water.
Are you in an alone time? Are you isolating instead of reaching out for God and community? I encourage you to embrace this season. Rest in the knowledge that God sees you and is working for your good. My prayer for you, blessed mother is that you can find freedom in the aloneness.
We are a family in recovery. All families have hurts, habits and hang-ups. Many families go through crisis and bust apart. Some families seek help, turning the stinking sinking shipwreck of a family unit back over to God for healing and direction. The mission of this blog post is to share hope and stand with you and your family in faith as you make life’s journey.
Tanya is learning to greet each day with
“Ok God, what are we doing today?”
She delights in her two sons and husband
as they continue a family journey of recovery.
Breathing and trusting God through the joys
of everyday life is a full-time job!
> Phone Counseling for Family Members
> Recommended Books and DVDs for families of substance abusers and addicts
> Low cost, No cost Alcohol and Drug Treatment Directory
> Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Recovery Resources for Friends, Families and Employers
Changing Lives Foundation’s Signature Book for Families:
“Why Don’t they Just Quit? Hope for families struggling with addiction.”
> Our website, “Why Don’t They Just Quit?”
> Changing Lives Amazon Storefront (buy new, from us for much less)
Best book ever about addiction. Written by one whose done it and is recovering. Easy to read, not preachy, just honest. I recommend this book to anyone with an addict in their life! ~Lynda A
Got an addiction problem in your family? Read this book. Joe knows his stuff. This book helps you better understand those dealing with friends and family that are addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have read several of these books but this one is the best. ~RJ
I, like many people, have some knowledge of what drugs and addiction are, but are clueless on what the process of recovery entails. This book does a great job in what it would take to help a loved one, who is an addict and is willing to get clean and stay clean. It also gives one hope that your loved one will survive the nightmare they are living through with their family. ~CG
> Do you have to stop seeing all your old friends to recover?
> Is a relapse—failure?
>Should my husband “back off?”
> If someone can stop using drugs or alcohol for weeks at a time, they “aren’t an addict—correct?
>Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction: What to do?
>How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?
>How can I tell if someone is an addict/alcoholic or just a heavy user?
>What is Methadone? What is Harm Reduction?
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