Wednesday, May 22, 2013

THE SINGLE MAN AND THE SINGLE MOTHER: A Comparison of the Perspectives of Time and Priority

DISCLAIMER:  This is by no means a complaint of my own situation.  It is not to create a contest between who has it worse; it is not a statement on parenting and not parenting; this has nothing to do with single fathers or married mothers; it is not about single women and single fathers; It is merely a breakdown of perspectives of two specific groups that sometimes find reasons for interaction.  It is also broad and generic, as we all know every person’s personal situation is different.  An understanding of the differing perspectives goes a long way in keeping peace between the two.  “Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world. ~Schopenhauer" (Thank you, J.B. for just now posting this!)

THE SINGLE MAN gets up out of bed at whatever time allows him to have his morning coffee routine and get ready for work.

THE SINGLE MOTHER gets up out of bed very early, to have time to get herself ready for her day, and to also get her kids ready for her day.  She allows extra time for last minute surprises (‘I didn’t do my homework; We have a field trip and I need a specific bagged lunch; I can’t find my other shoe; I don’t feel good; I don’t want to go to school; I hurt myself; BARF!!…).  If she wants coffee, she needs to get up earlier.

THE SINGLE MAN is allowed undivided focus and attention on his job, whether he likes his job or not.

THE SINGLE MOTHER is never allowed undivided focus and attention, because she sent her kid to school with the sniffles and there is a concern at the back of her mind that the school nurse is going to call saying the child is sick and needs to go home; she is also mentally planning her exit strategy from work and lining up all possible other options for rides and babysitting—and possible trips to the doctors.  If her child was fine when he or she left for school, there is still the possibility of the phone call from the nurse when the child gets hurt during recess or a call from the principal if the child does something wrong.  Either way, the child will have to be picked up and dealt with.

THE SINGLE MAN can take a phone call from a friend who happens to be in the neighborhood and decide at that moment to go out right then and meet him when asked.  And he can come home whenever he feels like it, in whatever condition he feels like it.

THE SINGLE MOTHER can take a phone call from a friend who happens to be in the neighborhood, and when asked to go out, asks first if she can call her friend back in five minutes, spends a few of those minutes mentally reviewing the kids’ schedules to see if this would interfere, then the next 10 minutes trying to arrange a sitter (hopefully her options are home, otherwise this will take more than ten minutes since she will be forced to leave a message and wait for a call-back).  Twenty to thirty minutes later she will have an answer for her friend: either no, it’s not possible because the kids have karate class or music lessons or yes, but it won’t be for about an hour because “I have to drive them to my mother’s and I still haven’t changed out of my work clothes yet.”  And she WILL be home at a respectable hour, because her sitter needs to have her own life, and she will NOT be drunk with her clothing in obvious disarray.  Kids ask questions.  ALL THE TIME.

THE SINGLE MAN only has to consider himself when he is saying or doing anything. He can go out, stay in, take a day off from work, take an extra shift of work without any effort or extra phone calls or extra planning.

THE SINGLE MOTHER is not first on her list of who’s to be considered before saying or doing anything (this even includes going to the bathroom, taking a shower, tending to herself when she is sick, etc.).  She cannot go out, stay in, take a day off from work, take an extra shift of work without having to plan, arrange and rearrange.

I won’t even go into the…”social life” aspect here.  Let’s just say again, that the only person the Single Man has to worry about is himself.  The Single Mother has to do some serious planning.

THE SINGLE MAN’S ‘free time’ is free.  He can also have undivided attention there, too. It also usually covers a larger span of time. 

THE SINGLE MOTHER’S ‘free time’ (STOP LAUGHING) is budgeted, planned in advance, usually kept on some type of leash and always with an eye on the clock.  Since it is a tighter span of time, and a little more encapsulated, emotions surrounding this ‘free’ (again, STOP LAUGHING) could be a little more intense.

THE SINGLE MAN can have a bad day at work, and come home and be pissy.  He can bitch to all around him.  He can take time to himself to calm down and get over it.  He can grab a beer as soon as he walks in the door, strip down to his underwear and throw himself in the chair in front of the TV and ignore everything.  He can give himself, or get, whatever attention he needs, wants or doesn’t want.

THE SINGLE MOTHER can have a bad day at work, too, but can’t be pissy about it til after the kids have been fed, homeworked, bathed, listened to (my gosh they talk ALL the time!) and sent to bed.  Only then can she call a friend or take time to herself.  And she can only do this if she wants to give up sleep for it.

THE SINGLE MOTHER does not ask for credit for doing her job, she is not asking anyone to do it for her.  Sometimes, though, she does ask for acknowledgment, that someone might be thinking of her.  And, yes, to someone without the same set of responsibilities, this could seem somewhat needy.  And then, being considered needy by someone with… a different set of responsibilities can seem like an unfair judgment.  Her thoughts and actions first and foremost are always directed outward, towards someone else’s needs.  Again, no blame or complaint here, just a request to consider the ‘other side’.  As she will have to realize that because of his own situation, he may not view things the same.

“I wouldn’t want to take up any time
Just let me know that I’ve crossed your mind
If my expectations are a burden then I will take the blame
It doesn’t bother me to be alone
I’ve gotten used to being on my own
A little sustenance is all I need
A small reminder that you think of me”
(Taken from the song “Ping Me”.  Thank you Mr. Rundgren.  I only really just met you, but your words say it all perfectly!)

I am a single mother.  It took me five hours total to write this from start to finish (after having planned it all out in my head earlier in the day).  My daughter had a half-day, so I arranged for a friend to come over. Sometimes two is easier than one—they keep each other occupied and I needed time to write.  This is my short list of interruptions:  forty minutes’ work at my ‘paying’ job,  two snacks and a lunch, a trip to the park (I took my notebook, but I had to stop to “Watch Me!” and prove that I could do it, too; kiss a boo-boo after a fall; push on a swing, etc.), reach the Play-doh set, put the Play-doh set back when they were done with it, help them reach high in the closet where the one dress-up item they HAD to have was, interfere many times when they were giving the cat more attention than he wanted (and put band-aids on the resulting scratches), listen to them sing songs from the upcoming school play, hear about their days at school--even though I asked not to be disturbed. 

That was my set-aside writing time.  During that time I also managed to snap a few pics and post them to Facebook, have a short text-versation with my sister-in-law arranging for a family visit, and shoot off a quick “hello” message to my friend who was having surgery today. (I LOVE SMARTPHONES!)  But then, I did consider it important enough to do so. So, yes, I admit it. A short “I thought about you today” message from someone whose company I enjoy that I am not responsible for is a welcome distraction.  It does make me feel good. 

It was five hours of ‘writing’ to get this down, at the time I wrote those last two paragraphs.  Then I went back over my pages to check for corrections and get someone a glass of root beer, the other half of the sub she didn’t finish and watch a puppet show—even though I stressed again not to be disturbed.  So this actually took about six hours of “just” writing.