Unexpected reality

by mssinglemama on May 27, 2009

A few weeks ago, or was it months? my ex offered, or did I ask? to take Benjamin two nights a week instead of one.

For several weeks he upheld his new commitment, enjoying every extra moment with his son until on week four he told me he was tired. I understood. It’s hard. This kid thing, this three-year-old thing.

But while adjusting to two nights a week with your son after three years of one is tough, adjusting to two nights of freedom, I found, is much easier.

I have been using the extra nights to catch up with long neglected friends and to make appointments for long neglected things, like my teeth.

Last night I got a text, “I will bring Benjamin back tomorrow, I have a meeting on Thursday.”

This morning another text comes, “I need to be done by 5:30. No later. I have my Wednesday night order to fill at work.”

“I have a dentist appointment but it should be done by then,” I tell him later on the phone.

The dentist’s office is remarkable.

They’ve squeezed me in on short notice knowing my insurance expires on Friday.

Just after the needles and just before the numbness creeps into my mouth I start chatting with the assistant. She tells me she was a single mom once too – for three years – and now she’s happily re-married. You can see it in her face – she is happy, completely content.

“It’s funny, isn’t it? How much easier it is to find a good man when you already have the child,” I tell her.

“Oh, definitely,” she says, “Because it’s not for you, it’s for your kid, you know?”

“And for you and for him and for the kid – for the entire family. It just gives you a clearer perspective on what matters. Kind of a perk.”

“Yeah, when before it was just about how hot they were or whatever.”

“Or if they took you out on a nice date. Like, who has time for dates when you have kids?”

We are now practically completing each other’s sentences. And then my mouth goes completely numb.


After the dentist delicately carves five holes in my mouth I realize it’s 5:00.

They tell me it will be at least an hour until we’re finished.

An hour? What about my ex and his deadline? What about Benjamin?

Who can I call?

I can’t leave. He can’t come here. I have holes in my teeth. Holes. And I can’t even talk.

I text Mia desperately.

No response.

She’s probably working.

I am under the lights. My head is pounding. They’re all being so nice, the dental people – these wonderful, awesome people – so patient with this frantic texting girl who has stuff propping her mouth open and wild eyes.

I have no one else to call.

The bitter reality, the non-perk of my single motherhood hits hard. These “I have no one” moments come to all of us and always at the worst times, the times – of course – when you wish you weren’t alone.

You may be on the side of the road with a flat tire, stuck in a rain storm on the street, on an airplane with a stranger in the third seat or at the dentist’s office. Wherever you are the reality of that moment always makes you want to sink, to cry, to completely deflate.

But you can’t, so you don’t – you have no choice but to find a solution, for your child’s sake.

I text the Bear.

“Can you do me a huge favor and go to my place and hang with Benjamin until I am out of the dentist’s. Stuck.”

Not even one minute later a new text zips over.

“I’m on my way.”

The two have met a few times before.

There was the time when he dropped off Benjamin’s pink eye prescription… we were outside when he pulled up and he had dinner in his hands. Dinner. Because I’d had a long day and Benjamin had a fever.

And on Mother’s Day weekend the Bear joined me on my first Fiesta Mission. Benjamin, although sleeping most of the time, was in the car for the first leg before we dropped him off at grandma’s so we could continue on.

The fillings were nearly finished. At some point I’d read a text from my ex who was furious at me for introducing Benjamin to another man.

“I am pissed,” he wrote, “call me later.”

I feel like I may choke on my numb tongue and I kind of want to… I would rather be having these fillings than walking out of this office to see the face of my new man who has just met my ex without me even there.

When I get home the Bear and Benjamin are sitting on the front porch playing.

Benjamin is jumping up and down – ecstatic to see me, the Bear is laughing. It’s a beautiful and frightening sight.

I’m also still a bit queasy.

“What can I do?” he asks.

“Nothing, but you should go,” I say this even though I want him to stay because I feel like hell and my mouth, although numb, is still uncomfortable. I just want to lie down – to rest.

“I should stay,” he says.

“No, you should go, even though I want you to stay.”

After a big hug and good-bye to Benjamin the Bear heads out.

I went through the motions of the night in my exhausted body. And at some point I forgave myself. Because even though meeting the Bear may put Benjamin on a therapy couch in 20 years – this is my reality, this is our reality.

He is the son of a single mom.

This is his life and the only thing I can do is make sure we both make it out alive, well and hopefully as happy as we are now. Hopefully, unless I mess it up… or overthink us both to death.

Whichever comes first. Believe it or not, I’m avoiding them both at all costs.


You’ll all be meeting the Bear very shortly… my mission video should be posted soon.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Jayme Roxann May 28, 2009 at 2:56 am

Aside from the ex involvement, I can relate to the Bear situation. I got involved with a guy whom I thought I would end up marrying when my daughter was about a year old. 3 years later, after we lived together and she called him DAD, and we did all the parenting together… he left us. And never looked back. It has taken her over a year to stop thinking of him as her dad. It has taken me 2 years to forgive myself, and to vow to NEVER let it happen again. Hang in there.


Lissa May 28, 2009 at 3:01 am

Ah…it's wonderful isn't it? Our bear left us after two years of unending support. He's still around, but doesn't want the "family capacity"…. Now my son has decided he'd rather have our bear as a father and has told him so…ooops. Six months of not introducing them, and then having it go wonderfully, only to end because our bear needed his freedom all of a sudden. I don't know that there is any way to truely protect them. It's life and unfortunately, hard lessons that this generation of children must face. On the contrary, it has made my son realize the value of patience, love, and acceptance which was never taught to him by his father. The people in our lives come and go and perhaps one day our bear will change his mind as he grows -he is growing more lonely and calling each day 🙂 so perhaps he will return to us or we will find a new one that fits us even more perfectly. Is there really any right answer?


Lace May 28, 2009 at 3:04 am

I was in your shoes 5 years ago. It is always scary intoducing your little boy to a new man figure.. but you ARE right. It is part of being a single mom. Luckly we were just smart and picked the right time and guy. I married my husband when my son was 3. He is now adopting him (my ex became a felon and has nothing to do with my son… thank god) My husband stepped in right when we met. I lived on my own with my son.. I was going to college. I was broke… living off the government.. I hated it. On one of our first dates I asked him to stop by the ATM. When I asked for 20 dollard out it denied me because I was overdrawn.. He saw the fear in my eyes and asked whats wrong. I said, " I need that money to get Gabe diapers.. I guess Ill just ask my mom". He said, That is why Im here. I care about you and Gabe and I will take care of it." He did. I felt horrible but loved that he cared about us so much. I knew then he was worth our time. So awesome you have a great guy! Enjoy it! Love your blog. 🙂


Pete May 28, 2009 at 3:06 am

Dude. First of all, big ups to the Bear (even though he can't drive a stick 😛 ) for stepping up like that in a big way. I would think it could be a little nerve wracking for him (one on one, he needs the kid to like him!). Your ex can just *be* upset. He stuck you in a tight spot and he needs to just deal with the consequences. Especially if he is a "once a week dad" (by his own choice).

I could *NEVER* choose to be a once a week dad and I have 3 kids. I would mortgage life and limb to fight for every mandated second I could squeeze out of the court (if it ever came to it, which God willing it never will (I am currently happily married)) to spend with my kids. So, seeing as he has forfeited that time so egregiously, he will just have to deal with the fact that there is a man out there who cares about you (and the boy who means so very much to you) that he would interrupt his day ON A DIME to help the both of you out.


Canadian Bald Guy May 28, 2009 at 3:09 am

Meeting kids is always a tough thing. When do you meet them? Is there really a good time? How long is too long? When it is too soon?

From everything you have written, Bear seems like someone who can easily be introduced as a "friend" to Ben for now. I think that's a safe start, anyway.

The whole thing sounds very promising and I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one experiencing a fun-filled "not-quite-so-single" life at the moment.

Waiting impatiently on that video…


Coast Rat May 28, 2009 at 3:15 am

Unfortunately, it sounds like your ex is a "convenience parent," wishing to be a parent only when it is really convenient for him, which 6 days out of 7, he runs his life so it isn't convenient to parent his own son. Kudos to you for being willing to be a full-time parent, someone your son can count on, always. The run-over dentist appt., hey stuff happens… What would the ex do to cope if you were injured in an accident on the way to pick your son up? Forgive me, but it sounds like you have TWO boys on your hands. Hang in there; you are a good mom!


Monica May 28, 2009 at 3:29 am

This is my first time posting a comment but I've been reading your blog for a few months. I have a 17 month old and I'm a single mommy.. her dad isn't in the picture and I don't have a boyfriend on purpose. I only have had one relationship since my daughter was born and he wasn't all that great with her and it didn't last very long. Anyways…I can TOTALLY relate to the I have noone panic. I go thru that at least 2 or 3 times a week and it stresses me out. It even stresses me out when I think about the future and when I finish school and go into my career. I just have to keep reminding myself that things usually work out in the end. It's good to know I'm not alone!


won May 28, 2009 at 3:35 am

Hmmm….let me see if I have this straight.

Ex backs out of his responsiblity and you allow him to- even at an inconvenience to you. You call Mia. You call Bear. You ask the dental folks to work around your working the phone while in their chair. Bear pauses his life to pick up the ex's slack. You come home to find Benjamin and Bear happily playing.

Ex texts you, tells you he is pissed and then wants to put MORE responsibility on you by telling you to call him later (his phone doesn't dial out past 6pm?).

Seriously, what's the problem? It doesn't sound like you have one. Don't own the ex's. Sounds like all is well with you and yours tonight….


carolyn May 28, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Well said.
"Boundaries," people.
I now that your Ex may be pissed (and childish), but that's his problem. What, is he so "pissed" that Benjamin is being cared for by a Real Man in his absence? Ben and you are lucky to have the Bear there to help in a pinch. Ex should be grateful.


CruisinTam (Tammy) May 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Very well said, both of you! Alaina, you have NO reason to feel guilty. You did the best you could with a situation that happened BECAUSE of your EX. And, Bear, if you're reading, be patient with Alaina, she's winging it. :~)


Tina May 28, 2009 at 5:32 am

I am a single mom of a 20 month old and am so thankful for finding your blog. You really are the voice of single motherhood and so many of your posts resonate with me deeply.

I can so relate to the feeling of having no one and do the best that I can to stay strong and remain optimistic.

You really have a great thing going here girl and I wish you the best in your new endeavors.


gttlrs May 28, 2009 at 7:23 am

I just wanna tell you I just stumbled on your blog yesterday and I love it! I can't believe how well you write and your posts are so insightful. I have posted a link on my blog to yours because I wanna catch up as often as I can. Good job!


MommaSunshine May 28, 2009 at 9:59 am

I can relate to this whole "overthinking" thing. But you know what? It was crunch time, and you had no other options. What's most important is that you made sure your little boy was taken care of by someone you can trust. Good for you! 🙂


jen_k_ May 28, 2009 at 11:16 am

I too had a frantic 'I'm all alone' moment last week. I locked myself out of my condo. I've been thinking for months that I need someone I can trust to keep an extra set of keys. But there's no one.

I've most definitely put my son in less than ideal situations with men I've dated because I just *needed* to so we could both survive. When the guilt keeps me up at night, I creep into his room, sniff his sweaty -sweet head and remember what a happy, healthy, brilliant little man he is. And I realize he is all those things because of the less than ideal solutions and the guilt gilded sacrifices I've made to keep him that way.

Our single mom reality is one of McGuyvered ingenuity. And our little boys will grow up to be flexible, strong, adaptable, good-humored men because of it.


debra May 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

'McGuyvered ingenuity'….that is so funny, because it is exactly what it feels like!! I'm a single Mom with a wonderful ex and a fantastic support network of friends, but I still end up with those 'it's all up to me' moments and you've got no choice but to figure it out! I'm going to giggle the next time it happens and I hear the words 'McGuyvered ingenuity' in my head!!


mssinglemama May 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I agree. Awesome phrase. We are super heroes in our own right.


Irishmom May 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I totally relate to the "being it" for your child part of this post. It feels overwhelming sometimes. Last year, I got a serious kidney infection and was sent to the hospital by the doctor. My soon to be ex could not come and get the children – he was "busy" and I had to call the neighbours and a friend, who very kindly stepped in and took them from the night. As I was driving myself home from the hospital at 6am the next morning, exhausted and overwhelmed, that's when I felt the "singleness" of it all. I have no family in this country and his is not even an option – but what do you do in emergencies like this? It sucks. It really does. And it feels like your ex has all the flexibility and choices as to when he will see them and under what circumstances, but you have to do it all and deal with life at the same time! That's what gives us strength I suppose. We have to be creative, smart and ingenious and nurturing all in the same breath. It's not a job for wimps or people who can't handle responsibility. Some days just suck.


Irishmom May 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Others, my children take my breath away. And that's what keeps me going. It's my number one priority – they are my number one priority and like your friend say's dating is no longer about you. (Not that I've had the courage to try that yet, but reading your blog keeps me hopeful that it can be done..). You are very wise Alaina. Keep going. It will all work itself out. : )


LisaD May 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I almost got tears to my eyes when I read that the Bear was right there for you when you needed him. Good for you, Alaina – he sounds like a catch. I don't have kids so I can't 100% relate, but on a lesser level, I do understand the "I am so alone in this" feeling.

It pissed me off that your ex felt like he had the right to be pissed. He really lost his rights to make you feel guilty a long, long time ago. Just remember, it's not about you, and you did the right thing.

Can't wait to 'meet' the Bear! 🙂


~kris~ May 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm

"overthink us both to death"

OMG this is so me!


R. May May 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Which is when you call and tell the ex that since he is upset, as he is the ex he has no say in your life so he can tell someone else all about how pissed he is.

It has been years of touch and go with my daughters father. But by being polite but firm regarding what he does and does not have a say in, we've astablished a fairly decent relationship. Which also centers around the fact that as I have custody 99% of the time I make 99% of the rules – I will consider your view by ultimate say is mine.

Or he can have full custody and I'll pay $25.00 a week : ) Kidding but he and I both know that's not going to happen.

Incidentally she's 8, so it's been years of this. You're still in the figuring things out phase believe it not. Don't ever feel bad or apologize for doing the best YOU can do as a parent. Or telling ex to kiss it (nicely) when he crosses the line.


Lori May 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Hey listen. You aren't the mom who goes out to the bar every night and brings a different loser home. Don't guilt yourself on this. Don't let him take you down that path. You deserve every bit of happiness that you are experiencing with Bear. This man did your ex a favor and allowed him to cop out on HIS fatherly duties. You explain to your ex who is dating a woman and doesn't she live with him and have a child as well? I'm not 100% on that, but I think I remember reading that. Just tell him you'll do whatever the hell you want as long as it doesn't hurt Benjamin. And I think you know Bear won't. Introduce him to the dog. Go with the flow. You'll never know if you don't let it happen. I hope there are great things in store for this relationship. = D


carolyn May 28, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Why so nervous about Bean spending time with Benjamin? It's not like you had a family sleepover! Bear is a friend, and even if you want to be cautious, I think it would be appropriate to have him stay for dinner or at least come in and have drink after you got home. (I'm not saying you owed him this, just that you should have felt comfortable with something like that). After all, he is a pal who came through for you when you were in a bind, and wouldn't Ben think it odd that you're so nervous about them spending time together?
Then again, maybe I'm not cautious enough… Mr K and I have been having family outings with his daughter and my kids… I hadn't given it a second thought, really…


sarajensen May 28, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I think that this act on Bear's part was him being your friend. Sure you are romantically involved, but hes your friend first right? He helped you when you needed someone to help. Your ex is pissed, really? How hard for him, that Bear stepped up and helped out. Next time why doesnt he just leave Benjamin on the front step and have him wait alone for you? Or you should have just left the dentist with your drool bib on with a syringe of novocaine hanging out of your mouth halfway through your appointment to greet Benjamin.


Lara May 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm

All too familiar w/the "alone" moments, but as my therapist told me after my divorce: "this is the new normal". Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is grand. We do the best we can with the options we have available to us at the time. Your little one was safe and happy when you arrived home, and that is what counts. Your ex? well, he is your ex for a reason, right? I always try to use these moments as justification! 🙂


Katherine SOLOdotMOM May 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I too have been there… in a pinch and with no one to call… but a close guy that would drop everything to run and help….

Isn't it sad that the X's have to be so unreasonable when it comes to things like this? You do what you have to do – and as a single mom that happens all too often. But I love your post and you capture well the feelings of moms in the predicament … and making the best of a hard situation.

Thanks for all you do in sharing from your world. I can so relate and wish you all the best on this adventure.


expatsinglemama May 28, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I'm right there with you, girl. Since becoming a mom, I have never had family within 1000 miles of me, let alone the same town so Irishmom I feel you too. When we land in a new country, I am usualy lucky to make mom friends, and rarely have single mom friends. And I can tell you, with two little ones, it really is impossible some days. Many a scene when one runs this way and the other runs that way in a crowded parking lot. . .what can you do? But kids are so resilient. Benjamin will likely not be on a therapy couch, he will be sitting in the chair advising the patient. Because you are strong, loving, and a constant presence in his life. That's what they need most. You did the right thing and asked for Bear's help–it wasn't your first choice, but it was the right one. So be sure to let Bear in a little. All three of you deserve it.


min May 28, 2009 at 2:39 pm

NOt sure why Benjamin's father was pissed. Did you call him and let him know that he would be dropping off Benjamin with yur firend who was covering until you got home? DId he offer to stay the extra half hour that you needed. I do think it is true that since you have the majority of custody and responsibility than you make the rules. I guess Benjamin's father deserves a heads up as to who he would be dropping him off with as any parent would want that but it sounds like you did the best you could. If Benjamin's father was that upset with the situation he could have just stayed with him until you got home, yeah he would have had to call into work or whatever but how many times do we have to do that as the custodial parent when the kid is sick, or sitter is late etc…
By the way, I have found that it is hard to determine how a guy truly wil lbe with my kid until the "infatuation, love drunk pink bubble" stage of the relationship has settled down because many guys I have dated have been infatuated with my kids as well during that stage .


mssinglemama May 28, 2009 at 2:45 pm

This is a really good comment – as all of them are today – you guys all rock.

So my ex has this weekly thing at work (in a restaurant) that he can not be late for… so I made a calculated assumption that calling him and asking for an extra 30 minutes would not fly – at all. I would have normally called and asked but I had no time, being literally in the dentist chair.

And this part Min – that the guys are infatuated with your kids too – VERY true and yet another reason why measured interactions at first is so important. Taking it slow all around is a huge thing, that doesn't mean they'll never see each other but a lot of times I think I am being slow in the heavy introductions and face time to avoid attachment on all sides and then a collapse or even – the guy possibly getting burnt out too quickly.

We need to ease the childless into our lives no matter how eager they are.

This is a very important and hard lesson to learn – thanks SO much for your comment.


Abby Carter May 28, 2009 at 3:10 pm

My take has always been, better for kids to meet a really nice guy, even if they don't stick around in the end, than to never have met them at all. If nothing else, your child will learn the reality of human relationships, and that is surely a valuable lesson.

And besides, you should have been able to text that ex of yours to tell him you would be a half hour late without enduring his wrath.


Stephanie May 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I love the bear for doing that for you. I also hope your mouth feels better. I can't relate on the kiddo front, but I feel you handled this very well. Boo to your ex.


above average joe May 28, 2009 at 4:40 pm

He cant handle Ben for two nights? You are cutting him too much slack. Besides it sounded like your appt was made before he bailed out on the 2nd night. Your ex has to understand you have a life outside your son as well, whether its work, friends or the dentist.

Sorry to pile on but I split my two 50-50 with Mrs. Joe and only after the 5th or 6th day am I looking forward to some alone time.


Hanna May 28, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Wow the Bear really stepped up to the plate! I hate being in that "oh s***" moment, especially when it comes to dealing with your ex or your kid, or BOTH! Sadly, my ex has put me in that same position and I've rolled with the "im going to be 30 minutes late" punches. Your ex should be able to deal too. I understand we are both dealing with unreliable people, but karma is a bitch.


Juggle Jane May 29, 2009 at 4:52 am

You know, call me crazy – but I think this was a great way for Benjamin and the Bear to meet. It was a casual, no-big-deal kind of meeting. As for not being there when the ex met the Bear…maybe that was a blessing! 🙂


Meighan May 29, 2009 at 8:01 am

I don't know the dude, but I'm pissed at the X. Does he realize he's inflicting far more damage to your son by NOT spending time with him than you could ever by introducing him to some of the men you date? Srsly…. that's just messed up.


Meighan May 29, 2009 at 8:02 am

Part two: I was a single mom for several years, and my kids met my friends-men and women alike. Some of my friends didn't mesh with my kids… which worked out well for me. Kids have a great radar that we adults sometimes ignore and we push off those weird feelings for being polite. I don't think it's wrong at all to introduce your son to someone like Bear… someone you can see spending alot of time with… someone you can see yourself falling for… someone you can see helping raise your child. Because let's face it, if you had already totally fallen for this guy, and then introduced him to your son, and they didn't get along, it would be alot harder to end it then. You'd be pushing them to get along, because you'd love them both and WANT that, and that wouldn't be good at all. Going about it this way-with the potential there, but not reached, you can see how they get along without the love blinders on.


wyliekat May 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Isn't it awful how your ex can make something seem dirty that really isn't? Don't forget, he has NO RIGHT to say anything to you about how you run your household or who you introduce to your lad. It's about him emphasizing what you might already feel guilty about – and sister? This is single mama life you're living. Men will happen.


Another single mama June 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I'm a little late, but I just wanted to say that I can't see that making Benjamin have big troubles in his future, it's not like you were making out with him in front of your son. Just a friend that was helping his mom out, he will grow up learning how important it is to have people and friends that care about us in our lives.
Hang in there, you are doing awesome.


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