Skip today's column if you're looking for startling new techniques guaranteed to benefit the children of mateless mothers like you. As much as I feel a special tenderness for young people who grow up with a single parent (my own son, Scott, was only 4 when he became part of a two-person family), what we're interested in right now is you. Resilient, resourceful and valued, those children will grow up and leave home to follow their own destinies. And the adult they leave behind, you, will only be as self-reliant and self-contented as the connections you formed while they were still in the nest. That's the challenge: giving enough to your family while giving it to yourself. And no one (including me) is saying it can be accomplished without plenty of inner conflict.
Really, this all boils down to an identity crisis. The identity is yours, and ignoring its need for expression could bring crisis into your life. It probably won't happen now, while the children are keeping you occupied with their needs. It will be later, when they drift off (as they should and must) to follow their own path — around the time you're noticing more and more gray hairs and crow's-feet and starting to think about middle age and life's short span. That's when bridges into the world pay off in interests and friendships and self-esteem. They need time to develop, and you need to begin to develop them. Now.
I know; you have no time for that. Between your children, your working life and what you laughingly call a social life, there's actually a deficit of hours. Besides, you're way too tired at the end of the day to do more than creep into bed with a hot cup of tea and a baked potato. You just don't have time for the modern dance classes you used to love or the art films you found intriguing. The Saturdays once spent in leotards and art houses today consist of morning TV cartoons and hassled afternoon forays to the supermarket. Without a husband around to make some of the decisions and help wipe runny noses, you've become Super Mom without realizing it.
The good side of being on 24-hour child alert, seven days a week, is the bond that develops between you and those small people living with you; that undiluted, one-on-one closeness is, in my opinion, a blessing. But as wonderful as that is, both parent and child must — for the health of the relationship — ultimately lead separate lives. So the connection, though a conduit into the future, is not sufficient in and of itself. But astonishingly, it does hold the kernel of the solution to your identity-vs.-time dilemma: You can use your children's routine as a basis for your links to the wider world.
DEAR READERS: We've uncovered a treasure-trove of "Single File" paperbacks — in perfect condition, ready to read. Send $15 and your address to: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. I'll send you a signed copy.
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