TIME Family

What It Is Like To Be a Single, Widowed Mom at 28

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

My husband had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was 31 years old

xojane

When I was 22, I met my husband, Pete. I was immediately drawn to his quick wit, his passion for life, and his ability to do anything he set his mind to. He seemed invincible.

In the years that followed,we would share many memorable experiences. We spent our time together hiking and backpacking, exploring foreign lands, and daydreaming about the future.

In the midst of it all we exchanged wedding vows and welcomed two precious babies to the mix, while vowing to never allow the expanding size of our family to interfere with our plans to seek adventure.

Along the way, we developed a grandiose vision for our lives both independently and collectively and lived a life free of fear. We believed that as long as we had each other, all would be right with the world.

That is, until one fateful day in December 2011.

Pete had been feeling unwell for some time, but naively believed it wasn’t anything serious. After all, he was invincible. While I was visiting family out of state with my mother and our children, I received the call that changed my life forever. Pete had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was 31 years old.

There is absolutely no way to give voice to exactly how I felt in that moment. The easiest way to describe it would be to say the world stood still. While everything around me continued to buzz with life, my own had begun crumbling before me.

We started out strong and brave. I was convinced God would save him and was unwilling to accept any other way. But as the weeks and months progressed, we realized claiming victory wasn’t as easy as giving God an ultimatum. With each chemo session, each new set of scan results, and each dose of pain medication, we realized we were losing the battle.

On March 18, 2013 the unthinkable happened when my husband closed the chapter on his earthly life — leaving me a widow at 28 years old, with two young children.

Leading up to his passing he had received hospice care in our home for five excruciating months during which I witnessed cancer strip him of every last human ability he possessed. During that time I was forced to face the facts, he was never invincible, and neither was I. Unfortunately the same is true for every one of us — life is fleeting.

There is a distinct feeling of surrender, laced with anger and sadness, which envelops a person when they realize their life is out of their control. It is a feeling I now know too well — one that has continued to befriend me, even still.

Fortunately when I have been unable to carry myself due to the weight of the burden of loss, family and friends have come alongside me to bolster me up. Before loss I didn’t fully understand the necessity that is human relationship, but now I know I would never have survived without it.

In the wake of my loss, I felt bereft. For years I felt I had a purpose that was bigger than my own vision for my life — I was my husband’s wife, his lover, his friend, and in the final months of his life, his caretaker.

During his battle with cancer, each day had been lived with a newfound urgency. When he was no longer present, I struggled to identify my purpose and questioned every reality I had ever known. I wondered who I was without him by my side.

Steeped in the pain of my loss, each day felt weighted with the emotions of the day before and as they piled on top of one another, the muck and mire of such intense feeling seemed too much to navigate on my own.

There were days I cried incessantly. While other days I felt an overwhelming desire to tell everyone about what had happened to me — to us. I felt as though the word “widow” was etched into my forehead.

On those days I told my story so stoically, oftentimes to absolute strangers, that it made me wonder if they questioned its authenticity.

Even still, there were days I escaped in an effort to connect with him. I longed to revisit the places we enjoyed together. While in those familiar places I felt at peace knowing I could cry uninhibited without feeling pressured to conform to society’s made up grief timeline.

Slowly but surely, I began making a concerted effort to confront my grief and loss and eventually it became more natural to move forward. Still, there is not a day that goes by that I do not look at my children and wonder, “Why them, why me?”

While the pain of loss remains so raw, at this point there is no other way than to accept that it will always be this way. There is absolutely no explanation and no justification for what has happened — it simply is what it is.

Fortunately, acceptance does not mean apathy. Acceptance simply means my energies are better spent elsewhere. I am proud to say that where I am now is a place of identifying the lessons learned through my trials, recognizing the beauty in the day-to-day, and expressing gratitude for the time I did have with my husband. Through my loss I have become a stronger, more impassioned woman who is slowly coming into myself, recognizing my own needs, and pursuing my own future.

As for our children, they will continue to work through the loss of their father — as will I — but they will take their cues from me. I must continually remind myself that they will mimic the way I grieve. The last thing Pete would have wanted is for us to stop living, which is why I have made a genuine effort to put one foot in front of the other no matter how intense the pain may be.

Because our youngest son was only 2 years old when Pete passed away, I feel it is especially critical to speak of the sacred memories we shared while their daddy was with us in the flesh.

However, I feel confident he is with us in spirit, so I guess, in that way he was invincible, its just not the way I ever would have imagined.

Alysha StGermain wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Why I Called Maya Angelou ‘Mother’

Smiley is host and managing editor of Tavis Smiley on PBS and author of My Journey With Maya

She opened her heart and her home to me — we are who we are because somebody loved us

We are who we are because somebody loved us.

It might not have been the person who should have loved you, but you are who you are because somebody chose to love you.

I feel blessed beyond measure to have a mother, Joyce Smiley, who loves me unreservedly. A mother who has sacrificed for me in myriad ways, and yet tells me all the time how blessed she is to be my mother, how proud she is to be loved by me.

How fortunate am I? Good Lord.

If being embraced by a love this rich and deep wasn’t enough already, later in my young adult life I had the good fortune of calling Maya Angelou “Mother” as well.

When we met I was in my twenties and Maya was almost 60, a strong and vital presence. I had suffered a crushing defeat in my campaign for Los Angeles city council, trying to fulfill my desire to be a public servant. I felt a sharp sense of rejection.

“Perhaps because of my long history as a dancer, actress and writer, rejection is something with which I am all too familiar,” Dr. Angelou said to me.

“Your accomplishments in those fields and beyond, though, are legendary,” I responded.

“Yes, but for every accomplishment there were twenty rejections. A dance company thought my style was incompatible with theirs. A casting director found me lacking. An editor considered my writing too fanciful, or too plain, too abstract or too concrete. I could go on for hours. In the end, though, only one attitude enabled me to move ahead. That attitude said, ‘Rejection can simply mean redirection.’ To cite an example from your life, Tavis, you could easily postulate that without the rejection you experienced at the polls, you would not have been redirected to join me for this trip here to Accra, Ghana. Do you find my reasoning at all plausible?”

“I do.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then it’s not silly to see rejection as a gift whose contents and character may not be known until a later time. But that doesn’t mean that the gift isn’t real. It doesn’t mean that the gift isn’t precious. And it doesn’t mean that the gift isn’t helping us to subtly shift our thinking from willful expectation to grateful acceptance. We want our journey to be directed by God, not our adamant insistence that things go our way.”

The chance to travel to Africa with Maya Angelou, my very first trip out of the country, was a life-affirming and life-altering experience. Almost 30 years later, I still don’t quite know what to make of the fact that the opportunity of lifetime happened at the very moment that I was trying to find my voice, my place in the world, by reclaiming my name from the lost and found.

What I do know is that Maya Angelou and I went on to share a friendship for 28 years. A friendship that I count as one of the great blessings of my life. She appeared — and kept appearing — exactly when my spirit required repair. I do not consider those appearances coincidences, but rather divine encounters.

Although I still don’t exactly understand why, I’m eternally grateful that Maya didn’t allow the gulf in our age, experience, intellect or worldview to stop a friendship waiting to happen. A friendship that over time grew into a loving mother-son relationship.

I still don’t have a language to describe how it felt the day Maya said to me, “I know your parents raised you to respect your elders, Tavis, but this ‘Dr. Angelou’ business has gone far enough. At this point we can afford to be less formal.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure what to call you. Is ‘Sister Maya’ all right?”

“Sister?” she asked. “When I think of you, son, I think of myself as more of a mother than a sister.”

That statement melted my heart.

With some hesitation, I forced the words out of my mouth. “Mother Maya.”

“Son,” she said, “that sounds mighty good to me.”

I called her ‘Mother Maya’ until she passed away last year.

She opened her heart and her home to me. She let me be me in her presence— without judgment.

For a young black man trying to find his voice and make his way in the world, that’s the most precious gift of all: unconditional love.

Tavis Smiley is host and managing editor of Tavis Smiley on PBS, and author of My Journey With Maya

Read next: Tavis Smiley on Baltimore

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

7 Mother’s Day Crafts for Kids to Make From Family Photos

These personalized crafts can get the whole family involved

  • 1. Tote Bag

    tote-photo
    Emily Kinni

    1. Choose photos of your family, print them on transfer paper, and cut out just the heads. You may want to use one piece of paper per photo so that the heads are large enough.

    2. Use an iron to transfer the photos onto a plain tote bag.

    3. Have kids use fabric markers to finish their bodies and decorate the bag.

  • 2. Candle Holders

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    Emily Kinni

    1. Print photos in black and white on vellum paper, which you can find at your local craft store. The paper will give the photo a frosted finish.

    2. Wrap around a glass cylinder (you can choose the size), and secure with double stick tape.

  • 3. Cookie Tin

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    Emily Kinni

    1. Use the lid of a cookie tin as a stencil around a family photo.

    2. Use glue or double stick tape to adhere a circle-shaped photo to the lid of the tin.

    3. Embellish the edge of the photo with a colorful or textured ribbon.

    4. Bonus: Bake her favorite cookies to store inside!

  • 4. Embellished Frame

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    Emily Kinni

    1. Paint a wooden craft frame a solid color.

    2. Use a circle punch (or any other shape or symbol) to create a template out of construction paper. Trace circles around the frame.

    3. Use paint pens to color in the circles.

  • 5. Potted Flower Photos

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    Emily Kinni

    1. Use a circle punch to cut out faces from family photos.

    2. Cut out colorful flower shapes from construction paper and glue family faces to the center of each flower.

    3. Then, glue a pipe cleaner onto each flower to create the stem.

    4. Place a Styrofoam ball into a pot, and secure pipe cleaners into the ball.

    5. Cover the Styrofoam with shredded paper.

  • 6. Dry Photo Snow Globe

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    Emily Kinni

    1. Cut out a family portrait, but just include the bodies and none of the background scenery.

    2. Create a background illustration and tape it to the side of a clear mason jar. This will be the back of the snow globe.

    3. Create additional trees and cut them out.

    4. Tape the trees and family portrait to the inside of the lid. Secure the lid onto the jar, and turn it upside down.

  • 7. Matchbox Album

    photo-book-1
    Emily Kinni

    1. Cover a matchbox in decorative paper—like wrapping paper scraps or craft paper.

    2. Embellish the front with a “Photos” label.

    3. Cut a long strip of construction paper to the height of the box, and accordion fold it a few times. Make sure the folds are thick enough to accommodate small, wallet-sized photos.

    4. Tape one end to the inside of the box.

    5. Use double stick tape to secure a few photos to the folds.

    This article originally appeared on Real Simple.

    More from Real Simple:

TIME World War II

How Eisenhower’s Granddaughters Learned About WWII

The former Commander in chief of the All
Al Muto—AFP/Getty Images Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower poses happily on October 14,1956 in the White House gardens on his 66th birthday for a family portrait with (from left) his wife, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, daughter-in-law, Mrs. John Eisenhower and the Eisenhower grandchildren Mary Jean, 10 months old, Susan Ann, 4, David, 8, and Barbara Ann, 7.

70 years after V-E Day, Mary Jean and Susan Eisenhower remember their grandfather

Correction appended, May 9.

Plenty of Americans have grown up hearing their grandfathers’ World War II stories. But, for Mary Jean and Susan Eisenhower, those stories could have—and actually have—filled many books.

That’s because their grandfather was Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during the war and later President of the United States. Not that he told many war stories to his granddaughters when they were young, though Susan does remember him showing her a large photograph of the invasion of Normandy in his Gettysburg College office when she was 8 or 9 years old.

Mainly, Mary Jean and Susan learned about Eisenhower’s war experience through books—especially his own. They both read At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends when it came out in 1967 (Mary Jean was only in about the fifth grade), and they learned many of his WWII stories in its pages.

Both women went on to work in professions related to their grandfather’s legacy; Mary Jean at People to People, an organization he founded, and Susan in national security, an arena where “many of the issues that are front and center [today] are impacted by decisions he made during his presidency,” she says. Their work gave them a deeper familiarity with his experiences during the war and beyond.

Still, they continued to learn new things about their grandfather’s life throughout their adulthoods. When Mary Jean was in her 30s, she learned about a note that had been found in his trashcan the month after the invasion of Normandy that he’d written to take responsibility in case D-Day failed, saying, “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” (He apparently carried similar notes during every major invasion he ordered.) “It turned my heart as soon as I saw it,” Mary Jean says.

When Germany officially surrendered on V-E Day, 70 years ago Friday, Eisenhower’s tone was not celebratory—the Pacific battle was not yet won, after all. “The strong overwhelming feeling apparently [held] by everyone at headquarters, starting with the Supreme Allied Commander, was one of exhaustion and a profound sense of sadness,” Susan says. She was moved when she read the statement her grandfather sent to George Marshall and President Truman, which simply said that the mission was accomplished.

“If you see pictures of granddad that day,” Mary Jean says, “and then see him 10 years later as president, 10 years older, he actually looks 20 years younger than he did on the day of surrender. Even thinking of this puts a lump in my throat, to think of what he went through.”

A new exhibit at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans—where the Eisenhowers participated in a panel on Thursday—called “Road to Berlin” highlights stories from the European theater in large part though personal effects, many from soldiers who died. Susan says this way of humanizing the war is “the greatest form of storytelling.” But when the women were children, their grandfather’s own personal effects from the war weren’t necessarily objects they were awed by, at least not much more than any other grandchild is awed by their grandparents’ household items.

They were aware, however, of the wartime connection the President known as “Ike” had to many of the men around him, including a chauffeur, Sgt. Leonard Dry (who had taken him to meet the 101st Airborne Division before the Normandy landings and airdrop) and his valet, Sgt. John Moaney (who was with him from the North African campaign until the end of both their lives). “We were very conscious of the fact that all these people went way back,” Susan says.

The women were taught to compartmentalize their views of their grandfather between the personal and the public. In fact, Mary Jean says she got to know four versions of Eisenhower over the years: “The military one, the presidential one, the knee-slapping one and the People to People one,” with the knee-slapping iteration being the warm man who made her count up coins in a piggy bank. In grade school when lessons about him came up, Susan says this compartmentalized mindset was especially important: “There was a period right after his presidency where his presidency was really misunderstood and getting torn down. He wouldn’t get up and brag and he didn’t draw attention to himself.”

As for Mary Jean, those lessons may have been a bit easier to brush off. “I have to confess I slept through most of my history classes,” she says. “I’d see the war pictures go up on the movie screen and it was like the sand man started beating me to death.”

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly described Sgt. Moaney’s role for Eisenhower. He was his valet.

TIME Family

What I Learned Living in a Tiny House With Two Children

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I taught my children about privilege and made an extra effort to count our blessings

xojane

If ever I find myself in an awkward social situation, I feel confident knowing I can revert to one very surprising fact about my life that will enliven the conversation — I once lived in a tiny house with my two young children.

When revealed, most are shocked by my confession, because, “Why would anyone ever do that?” Besides, where would one go to escape one’s children?

Let me assure you, the transition to tiny house living was extremely purposeful for us. It not only brought us closer as a family, but it taught us many valuable lessons regarding our purpose as well as the falsely-inflated value we place on our possessions.

For us, it was far more than just the thought of reevaluating our lives that spurred our transition. It was the fact that we had experienced a significant life event that forced us to come face-to-face with the unpredictable nature of life — my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and his life was eventually ripped from him.

After a long, hard struggle in which I was left emotionally and mentally drained, I knew tiny-house living was the most logical next step. It afforded us the opportunity to take a step back to reconnect with one another in the wake of such a devastating loss.

The reality is, tiny-house living taught us far more than we ever imagined it would. Here’s a little insight into the life-changing lessons that continue to remain with my family even today:

1. We have more than we need. And more.

It took me three months of almost daily work to sufficiently downsize our lives in order to move into the tiny house. The concerted effort I made to lighten our load had come on the heels of multiple moves over the course of a five-year period. You know what they say about downsizing — if you desire to lighten your load, MOVE. As a result we had already decreased our possessions numerous times before I set out to intentionally downsize once again, in order to live tiny.

Even after the transition to the tiny house, I maintained a storage unit, which I visited periodically in order to continue organizing and purging its contents. During that time I was consistently blown away by the amount of stuff we owned yet never used. I was also surprised by all of the possessions I just threw away.

There was no need to consider whether or not someone else might benefit from said possessions, they were simply useless. Such things included, but were not confined to: random bits of string, beads, scrap pieces of paper, extra pens and pencils, stray socks, etc … In essence it was just more stuff that was destined for life in a landfill.

2. We can live with a lot less than we think we can.

In an effort to live with less, I was forced to make many sacrifices. I pared down my clothing to 33 pieces, including shoes and jewelry (thank you Courtney Carver for the inspiration). As a result, I found that my self-worth was not defined by my appearance. I began to have more self-confidence, smiled more often, shopped less, and spent less time getting dressed in the morning.

I also reduced my children’s toy collection by approximately 75 percent. In the event they became bored with what they had, we made rocket ships out of boxes or went outside to explore. We also developed a rotation for old toys, which meant they instantly became new again when reintroduced into their environment.

And, we began to tackle the hard conversations. I said “no” more and I found myself feeling less guilty about it. I taught my children about privilege and made an extra effort to count our blessings. We also began to spend more time simply being together and enjoying each other’s company.

Downsizing our possessions so drastically was certainly new territory — for us as well as many others who were following our journey. During our downsizing process, people often wondered how I would get by with less once we moved into the tiny house — specifically in the kitchen. I found it was actually a lot easier than I had originally anticipated. Instead of a coffee pot, I began using a French press to make my morning cup of coffee. I had one spatula instead of three and owned only four sets of silverware and plates.

While these don’t seem like huge sacrifices, I encourage you to go count your coffee cups — I think you’ll be surprised by how many you actually own.

3. We live in a culture that is obsessed with useless crap.

It seems that everywhere we go, we are given a parting gift. For example, upon attending a workshop it is not uncommon to leave with various pens that have random business names etched into them, refrigerator magnets, business cards destined for the trash can, and other odds and ends. It’s a never-ending revolving door of useless crap we cannot avoid.

This practice did not bode well for us as tiny house dwellers, as there was only so much space to store all those “extras.” Even after moving out of the tiny house, we continue to prefer the human connections we make with others over those cheesy bits of advertisement.

Just consider the lesson we all teach our children through overeager gifting practices. It’s as if we are thanking them just for being alive.

4. Cold showers are good for the complexion.

While the tiny house had most of the amenities of a “normal” sized home, all of them were pint-sized in comparison.

The miniature bathtub came in handy almost daily for bathing my children. However, there often was not enough hot water left over for me to enjoy my own hot shower. On days when their bath time routine was followed up by my own, I knew to brace myself for a cold one. I just made sure to remind myself that cold showers are good for the complexion.

5. Living tiny will force you to reevaluate your life.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, living tiny is bound to encourage you to reevaluate your life and reconsider what is most important to you. We live in a culture that is driven by consumerism and comparison. We are constantly bombarded by the next big thing and made to believe we cannot live without it.

Living in a tiny house will convince you that more doesn’t always mean better, that it’s the simple pleasures in life that really count, and that it’s the connections with others that feed your soul. Lastly, it will allow you to align your thoughts and actions, by providing ample time to evaluate who you are and who you desire to be. There is no hiding in a tiny house, especially from yourself!

Although my family no longer lives tiny, we still speak fondly of the time we spent in the tiny house and the many lessons we learned in the process. Our experience will forever remain close to our hearts, as well as serve as a dependable fallback for dinner party conversation — if ever I am in need.

Alysha St. Germain wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

These 5 Hero Moms Will Give You Extra Reason to Celebrate Mother’s Day

From saving a drowning couple to rescuing kids from a bear

It’s true that every mother is a hero, which is why we have Mother’s Day. It’s just one small day of the year for people to appreciate everything mothers do for their families. But it’s also true that all acts of maternal heroism are not created equal. Dealing with the daily challenges of raising kids is one thing, but saving children from a bear is quite another. So here, in honor of Mother’s Day, we present five hero moms of the year.

  • The Mom Who Rescued Her Kids With a Pizza Hut Order

    Cheryl Treadway was being held hostage with her children in Florida and figured out how to escape—using an order from Pizza Hut.

    With Treadway’s boyfriend holding her and her children their home at knifepoint this week, Treadway ordered from Pizza Hut on her phone and asked in the comments section for someone to call 911.

    Thanks to Treadway’s creative thinking, an employee at Pizza Hut called the police, who then rescued the family.

  • The Triathlete Mom Who Saved a Drowning Couple

    Tamara Loiselle almost drowned six years ago, so she became a triathlete: “I resolved I was never going to be that weak and out of shape again,” she said.

    That resolve ended up being life-saving when she saw a couple drowning off the coast of Cancun last December. There was no lifeguard on duty, so Loiselle , a single mother of two, dove in herself, swam out and brought the couple safely to shore.

    “Words cannot describe my gratitude but I’ll try,” the man said in an interview. “You saved my girlfriend’s life and most certainly mine too.”

  • The Mom Who Got Her Family Out of a Burning House

    Morgan Stone, mother of five, had only seconds to spare to get her entire family out of their Indiana home before it was engulfed in flames last December.

    “It took me a second to really realize what was happening. When I opened the bedroom door and it was full of smoke, it took me a minute to grasp that this was a serious house fire,” Stone said.

    She sprang into action and got her five kids, her father-in-law and her pets out of the house before the whole structure burned.

    “He says I’m a hero,” Stone said of her fiancé, “But I don’t think I’m a hero, I’m just a mom who got my kids out safely—nothing means more to me than them.”

  • The Mom Who Saved Her Neighbor’s Kids From a Bear

    Candace Gama saw her neighbor’s 6-year-old sons waiting for their school bus. Then she saw the bear.

    The black bear was about 20 yards away, so Gama drove her car between the bear and the kids and yelled at them to get in the car. Then to speed things up, she grabbed the boys by their backpacks and dragged them inside.

    According to a local Montana newspaper, Gama’s 5-year-old daughter said her mom was the hero of the day.

  • The Pregnant Mom Who Saved Her Family After a Terrible Car Crash

    Erika Grow’s car hit black ice on the road in Wyoming last November and flipped three times, throwing her husband and sister from the car and leaving her two young children trapped in the back.

    Even though she was eight months pregnant, Grow was able to clamber to the backseat and unbuckle her children, ages 3 and 21 months. She put them in suitcases to keep them warm in the freezing Wyoming weather.

    Grow’s husband and sister went to the hospital, but her two children and unborn baby were unharmed.

MONEY Odd Spending

Mother’s Day is Big Business for Everyone…Including Hooters

With Mother's Day spending expected to top $20 billion this year, here's the holiday by the numbers.

TIME Family

These Are the 8 Most Challenging Moments for Single Parents

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I need someone else to confirm to the 3-year-old that no, he cannot wear a bathing suit to daycare in December

xojane

Most everyone would agree that single parenting is a hard gig. Not only is there an emotional aspect to it, but the workload is intense!

As a single mother of two young children with no family support, I can tell you that, aside from all the joy that comes with parenting, it’s easy to become overworked, exhausted, and annoyed. Yes, annoyed. Sometimes being a single parent has nothing to do with the larger struggles of life, sometimes being a single parent is simply just annoying.

#1 There Is No One Else To Blame

Oops. Little Johnny just uttered a swear word. Well I can tell you that he heard that word from… well, I guess there is just me. And it must have been me that told him it was okay to eat off the floor in our house, or that we can sometimes eat cake for breakfast, or me that he heard those song lyrics from. Yep… I’d like to not have to claim all of that, but there’s no one else here.

#2 Go Ask Your… Oh Wait, Never Mind

Send backup. I repeat, send backup because I need someone else to confirm to the 3-year-old that no, he cannot wear a bathing suit to daycare in December.

I mean, I know that he can’t wear that, but he seems convinced that he has just as much insight into the world as I do and I would like a sidekick that reminds him that he is three.

I would like this in the same way that I would like someone else to back me up when I tell him that he needs to stay in bed. The problem with being the only one here is that he and I get into power struggles. There’s not another adult to confirm his 3-year-old status, which is annoying.

I need some reinforcement and yet the only other person here is his short, tiny, sister and she often does not side with me either. Not to mention that everything that they don’t like is my fault.

I get to be the “eat your vegetables, take a bath, clean your room” person all the time. All. The. Time. Sometimes I just want to pass off the “in charge” hat, but nope, it’s just me!

#3 Being Needed In Two Places At Once

It was 2:30 a.m., my son was feverish, my daughter was sleeping, and we had just run out of Tylenol. What were my choices: leave one kid burning up or put them both in the car in the middle of the night and go shopping? This sucks! Just like it sucks when I have no choice but to drop everything I’m doing at work to pick up a sick child or bring a forgotten item.

And some of these situations are even less important, but still just as annoying — like the time both of my children were participating in a Halloween parade at their respective school/daycare and they were both at 3 p.m. Hum, which child do I love more?

Now I know I’m certainly not the only parent (single or otherwise) struggling to manage things like this, but it’s the constant need to have to make other arrangements to accommodate the “I can’t be in two places at once” scenario and never having a “go-to” partner to fill in that starts to wear on you.

#4 Dating

Do I even need to elaborate on this? There is nothing more annoying than trying to date as a single parent. Not only is there the whole “When do I introduce him/her to my kids? Are they worthy of meeting my kids? Will they like my kids? Do they like kids so much that I should be concerned?” and so on and so forth.

Not to mention the small fortune that I invest in our babysitters (or all the favors that I owe my friends) so that we can even go on a date. Or all the dates I’ve have to cancel because one of my children has had a sudden onset of some childhood issue and vomited/spiked a fever/developed an attachment disorder as I was ready to walk out the door. (Or like the time I learned my daughter had lice a couple hours before a date. “Hi, I can’t come… we are hair farming tonight. Is next week cool with you?”).

Yup, dating as a single parent is fun. Or not. I’m gonna go with “not.”

#5 Group Errands

I had just pulled in my driveway after a marathon shopping trip on a Saturday. My infant and toddler were half asleep in their car seats, I was exhausted, but victory was mine because the job had gotten done!

Victory was mine for all of about 10 minutes until I went to put the groceries away and realized that I had forgotten the key item that had spurred the trip. I would have loved nothing more than to be able to ask the children’s father to pick up the thing I needed so that I didn’t have to drag two children back to the store with me, but nope, it’s just me! How annoying is that?

And it’s not just limited to forgotten items, it’s the group doctor visits, group haircuts, group everything! There is nothing that says “annoyance” like bundling up the children to go sit at the DMV for a couple hours.

#6 The Grunt Work

Parenting is not a pretty job. There are dirty diapers, stomach viruses, wiggly teeth, dinnertime disasters, bloody scrapes, and scary injuries. When you are a single mom you don’t get to pass off a task that is too much for you to stomach.

Me? I can deal with the ridiculous amount of fluids that my children seem to excrete, but show me a wiggly tooth and you are going to need to catch me as I faint because I just cannot handle the creep factor of moveable teeth.

You know what else I can’t handle? Foreign objects stuck in places they are not supposed to be stuck, like the time my daughter got a baby carrot lodged in her nose and the pediatrician advised me to “suck it out with your mouth.” Give me a break here. That was a task I would have loved to pass to her father.

#7 Complaining Friends

I should have a checklist of “things I wish you would not talk to me about,” because I swear I would be a better friend if my friends didn’t complain about certain things to me. Now I love my friends, all of them, but there are some things they say that just annoy the heck out of me.

Please don’t complain to me if your husband gets your kids all riled up when he comes home from work — just be happy that they have a father. Also, don’t complain to me when he works late (therefore bringing home money for your family) or when your vacation plans are stressing you out (because in my financially strapped state I can barely afford a trip to Walmart).

Don’t complain to me that little Robby was clinging to you all day because my son is being raised in a daycare and I would love him to have the opportunity to bond to me like that. Certainly don’t complain to me that you are exhausted from spending the day at the zoo, because I spent the day at work, the place your husband went for you.

So yes, this probably makes me a horrible friend, but sometimes my friends’ complaints do nothing but annoy me.

#8 I Just Want To Sleep In

This probably shouldn’t be a category all on its own, but I’m adding this last one in because this is my personal annoyance: I just want one day where I get to sleep in and someone else makes sure my (young) children don’t light the house on fire or go running down the street in their underwear. Is that too much to ask?

So single parenting — it’s totally worth it on a million different levels and I could go on and on about how blessed I am, but this article isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that there are moments that are simply just annoying. Really freaking annoying.

Eden Strong wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Family

Here’s What Your Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day This Year

father and sons doing dishes
Getty Images

The best part: It won't cost you anything.

Forget buying flowers or jewelry or making reservations at that fancy brunch spot. While your mother or wife might be happy to receive these tokens of affection, what she really craves on this day meant to celebrate mothers is a day off from being the mom.

So put that $170 back in your wallet (that’s the average amount people plan to spend on Mother’s Day) and roll up your sleeves. Here, according to popular mom bloggers we consulted, are the ingredients for a perfect day. Try them at your house.

Let Mom Sleep Late

“I’m still a pretty new mom, and the thing that I would appreciate the most is the gift of sleep. If my husband gave me a few ‘sleep-in’ coupons that I could cash in whenever I wanted, I would be completely overjoyed. It wouldn’t cost him a cent, and I would be so grateful.” —Anna Newell Jones, andthenwesaved.com

Take Over the Cleaning

“I want a laundry fairy to swing by the house and wash, dry, fold and put away all of the clothes (especially mine)” —Anna Luther, mylifeandkids.com

“My ideal Mother’s Day gift would be my family all pitching in together to clean up the house, do the dishes, fold and put away the laundry, and make me something yummy to eat while I took a bubble bath or read a good book.” — Crystal Paine, moneysavingmom.com

“Aside from the little sweet, self-made gifts from my toddlers (which I love), the Mother’s Day gift I want the most is a self-cleaning house. Like a Roomba, but it would clean every facet of our place. I’d never have to clean again! And I would be the happiest mama in the world! I would settle for no cleaning for a week though, or even a day.” —Alana Pace, parentingfromtheheartblog.com

Close the Kitchen

“I want a day off in the kitchen. No making 17 breakfasts (for three kids) and 22 snacks and a lunch that no one but the dog will eat.” —Anna Luther, mylifeandkids.com

“The best gift I have received for Mother’s Day was a surprise family picnic by the river. I didn’t have to worry about any of the planning. My husband had the car packed with blankets and food and drinks and towels. The kids were all ready to go and had swim suits and sunblock and cards they had made for me. All I had to do was relax and enjoy a day outside.” —Scarlet Paolicchi, familyfocusblog.com

“I want to finish the day with a dinner out, so not only can I be cooked for, I don’t have to clean up a tornado size mess in my kitchen.”—April McCormick, firsttimemomanddad.com

Leave Her Alone

“Prior to becoming a mother, I thought Mother’s Day was all about showering mom with love, hugs, and kisses, while following her around all day. Oh, how wrong I was. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve realized that’s the last thing I want. For Mother’s Day, I want to finish a cup of coffee, without any interruptions. I want to sit in a lawn chair and read a good book for more than five minutes, without any interruptions. Mother’s Day is the one day of the year that mothers deserve to be appreciated for all they do, without having to do anything, or be bothered by anyone.”—April McCormick, firsttimemomanddad.com

“As a stay-at-home mom the greatest gift my husband can give me is time to myself. I want to go into a store and shop without having to worry about leaving when a battle of wills breaks out between me and my preschooler. I want to slip into a quiet corner of a coffee shop with my E-reader and an iced caramel macchiato. I want just a few minutes to let my mind rest from the constant awareness of where my child is and what he is doing. When my husband gives me time off of my mom duties, he’s speaking straight to my heart. More importantly, I come back refreshed and can give my family the best version of me.” —Kim Anderson, thriftylittlemom.com

“I want to do all the stuff I used to do when I wasn’t a mom. I want to know where all my stuff is, listen to music with swears in it, take an uninterrupted shower, an uninterrupted nap, start drinking at 4 pm, stay up way past my bedtime, and sleep until I felt like it the following morning. Now that would be the ultimate Mother’s Day gift.” — Susie Johnson, not-your-average-mom.com

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