‘Making it all fit’ as a single mom

I was watching Bridget Jones’s Diary this morning while making seed tape for my community garden. It was nice to have that quiet time to myself. My ex MIL is in town and she is helping my ex take care of the toddler for a few days. My ex, J, is still on the very long post-surgery road to recovery and can’t do much childcare on her own. She probably won’t be up for more than a handful of hours with kiddo a couple days a week for months yet… She has said she wants to take on more, but I don’t see how it is going to happen. I imagine it will be fall before I have much time to myself again. 

On the dating front this is extra difficult. I have managed to meet a few new people this year despite my full schedule, but on the last date I went on I was exhausted, felt rushed, and was generally not my best. The guy was nice and had a lot of outdoorsy interests, but he was in a whole different world in terms of personal freedom. We didn’t really connect on an individual level anyway, but even if we had, I can’t imagine how I could have kept up with him. I am physically capable of doing all the outdoorsy things I once did, but I am very schedule-impaired and don’t have the freedom to go on big adventures… Even the small ones are tough to arrange. I feel discouraged, because I am at core an outdoorsy person, and I am attracted to people who share that love of the outdoors. But I can’t keep up with these people who are childless.

I am still playing with Tinder, but for the next month at least I think I am going to focus more on posting Meetup events with the local hiking clubs. Online dating is fine if it feels fun, but my last couple dates felt stressful. Meetups are an easier commitment while still allowing me time to stretch my social muscles.

Why am I Blogging at 11pm?

First week of the new job is behind me now, and I feel like I am settling in well. In my personal life, I have been contemplating 2017 goals, but mostly just staying busy. In the past week and a half I have met up with friends at a board game night, met a friend at the zoo, and gone to dinner with some people I haven’t spent time with since the fall. I did all this with my toddler along, and it worked out pretty well. I also went to a local developed hotspring with only the toddler on Superbowl Sunday (I am not a sports fan), and it was really nice to just enjoy hanging with the kiddo. Tomorrow I am taking him snowshoeing with some friends. Then on Sunday I *think* I will be meeting the Backpacker for a hike, sans kiddo. (Update: Yes I am. It’s finally settled.)

Speaking of the Backpacker, he is maybe the most frustrating text communicator I have ever met. Here is the shorthand version of the conversations we have had since our first in-person meeting:

B: I like you. I look forward to getting to know you better.

Me: I like you. Definitely interested in meeting up again. Hike, maybe?

B: Would like that a lot but won’t be able to see your beautiful self until next week. About to head out to the field for work.

Me: Okay. BTW, just got offered the job I interviewed for!

B: That’s great, sweetheart. I’ll have to give you a big hug and kiss next time I see you.

Me:  🙂

*The evening of the day Backpacker said he would be back in town…

B: Just got back. Congrats again on the job

Me: Thanks! Hope to hear more about your trip! Want to go on a hike, now you are back?

B: That sounds lovely

*A day later….

Me: Want to hike on this specific trail on one of these three days?

B: I am interested in a hike. *Shares opinion on location.*

Me: Great! How about location on Sun morning….

B:I like you

Me: 🙂

Me: ….. (Thinking, “was that a yes?”)

I could go on. And it did go on for a while. Backpacker showing enthusiasm but leaving big gaps when it came to actually making plans. It was a lot harder to pin something down than it should have been. But in person he seemed like a really great guy. Hope I agree with that judgement after this next date.

Adventures

First day at the new job today. I am really excited about the position and think it will be fun and challenging work, surrounded by a good group of people. As a person who has turned away from a natural resources career and toward education, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to teach kids about nature. 


The downside to this job, if I have not mentioned it before, is the very limited time off. I suppose it is comparable to a lot of other jobs in the US in that way, and I will have a somewhat more flexible weekly schedule than most people could hope to have. But as somebody who used to take jobs with 8 days on / 6 days off schedules (or 4 on / 3 off), I know the value of a real weekend. 2 days off is enough to do some things, and I will embrace the schedule I have for the next couple years. But I daydream about an education job that will give me summers off. I wish there was some in-between… Environmental Education and a 4 on / 3 off schedule? I don’t know…


The part of me that wishes for free time also is looking at this thing with the Backpacker… And not even just the Backpacker himself, but the kind of guy the Backpacker represents: Well-traveled, regularly challenging himself with new outdoor adventures. He’s ambitious about the outdoors in a way not unlike I used to be, and we hit it off largely because we both have the same enthusiasms about hiking, and we both have an internal voice that says, “Adventure is not the result of avoiding inconvenience and discomfort; it is the result of embracing those things.” But… I have to plan for myself and a kid, and I do not have a job that will let me roam around the west for weeks at a time the way I used to. Even with compatible mindsets, there is a world of difference between what the two of us can logistically accomplish. Today at work I learned about a potential new nature teacher who could be working under me. I haven’t met her, but she apparently teaches skiing in the winter and is looking to do environmental education in the summertime. She could be the definition of the kind of girl the Backpacker and other outdoorsy guys look for: adventurous, unlimited in her ability to do … basically anything. It makes me feel a little sad, and old. (And yes, I know… I have value too.)


The only way I can combat these blues is to start coming up with some challenges for myself this year. Not just challenges — Bucket list activities. They don’t have to be things I have never done before; they merely have to represent my best use of the time I have to find adventure. More on this to come.

Employment Upgrade

I got a job offer today, and I accepted it. All this school year I have been working as an elementary substitute teacher, and I have started studying for my alt route to certification teaching exams. Everything has been going decently well, though my income as a sub is not quite enough to get by on. In addition, I have felt a little adrift since I stopped pursuing land agency work. My biology degree has felt — not useless, but not well-used. I figured (and still think) education is the right course for me, because I want to have summers and holidays that match my kid’s holidays as he grows up. I want to have time to go on big outdoor adventures, like I used to do for so many years. Teaching public school is a path to that dream. Right now, though, I am taking a detour… I will be working as an education coordinator for a local conservation-type organization. It is year round work, FT, and should enable me to pay my bills, even though the pay is not high. This will give me stability for a few years, give me some work experience that will *hopefully* make me a stand-out candidate for a public school position, and allow me to take my time in choosing what job to jump into next. I will not have that adventuring freedom, but …one step at a time. This job is a blessing. And the people I will be working with seem really nice.

This weekend I am taking my toddler to family day at a local hotspring as celebration of the new job. Between feeling cooped up with winter weather and exploring the world of online dating, I have been distracted in his presence this past couple of months. I realize how much when I do give him moments of full attention and he opens up immediately with smiles and giggles. I don’t want to take this time with him for granted, or to lose sight of how important he is to me. I don’t think I really forget, but when I am struggling to make space in my schedule for a simple coffee date and I talk to a cool new guy who has the freedom to travel and have adventures like I used to do…. It does make me wistful. Though I was there once, looking at the different life paths, and I knew parenting was an adventure I wanted to experience in my lifetime. So — am I wistful? Yes. But I do not at all regret my choices.

Backpacker is in the field until next Tuesday, so I have a little freedom from thinking about guys for a while. I could see his schedule and personal travel plans (frequent as they are) as a bad sign for somebody I am interested in, but I don’t. My ex and I adventured everywhere together for years, just the two of us, and it was lovely and I would never trade in those experiences. But we were so tight that we had nobody else, and I am really enjoying my independence as a divorcee. If Backpacker and I work out, I think some of that independence and breathing space would not be a bad thing. Of course, it is too early to know anything about where this might or might not go.

The Toddler Test: Day…5?

It is already obvious to me that I will not be able to keep count to 30 days, much less 60. No matter.

Today was just a really lovely day. The Women’s March in our state capitol was this morning. I was planning to meet up with some people from my parent group at a coffee shop first, but I didn’t know their faces. When I arrived at the bistro I joined what I thought was the right group at a little table, only to discover that it was a group of ladies working to expand extracurricular Spanish in local elementary schools. We had a nice talk despite the mix-up, and I have their business card now. Shortly after discovering my mistake, another surprise- in to the coffee shop walked a neighbor from my old street who I haven’t seen in well over a year. We chatted a little, and finally a face I did know from my parent group showed up. She introduced me to everybody else and I had a group to hang out with during the march. It was a great event. I had the toddler and we only stayed an hour, but the crowd was really something to see. The local paper said more than 3000 people came, and it felt good to see that number out in the snow and showing their support for kindness, decency, and human rights.

This afternoon I drove out to the wildlife refuge I used to work at and checked out an education trunk. I chatted with my old office-mate and a volunteer I used to work with, then went to hang out with a friend for the afternoon. We were going to try and do crafts, but my toddler was not interested in letting that happen. So instead we hung out, chatted, and did a little zumba workout (I did mine while the toddler hung off my arms and legs).

Oh, and the backpacker texted to say he wants to meet up. I am still skeptical it will happen, but it was unexpected in a good way. For now I am happy to see how things develop.

The Toddler Test – Day 2

After a second night of 12:30 – 4:30/5am sleep, I am feeling really hazy this morning. I sent out an application for a pretty great job, and I sent check-in emails to all my work references. I also talked on the phone to the woman who is going to be my study buddy for the teaching certification test. We reviewed a few standards together, but I was too tired to get much use out of the study session. We agreed to talk again later in the week, and hopefully I will be more awake and able to process information then. 

Last night I also messaged my ex, who was at the Seatac Airport around midnight and was just about to board a plane for Bangkok. Her current partner posted a screen shot of the plane’s progress early this morning, when it was just past the tip of Alaska. Three and a half years ago my ex and I were flying a similar route, on our way to Siberia for an adventure. A lot happens in 3.5 years.

This is a morning in which I need to spell out each next step for myself…. Or take a nap so I can think again. Step 1. Shower. Step 2. Schedule ABCTE exam. Step 3. Stop by apartment office to renew my lease. Step 4. Get health insurance (time is running out on that one). Step 5. Probably go to work…. I have a job as a Title I Aide this afternoon. Not at all sure what that will entail. Tonight I am definitely getting more sleep.

Not sure if I should keep messaging people on the dating apps right now. It might be better to set thoughts of dating aside until my ex is back and I have more free time again. Getting out with other adults at all is going to be a challenge, I think. I also want to make sure I am emotionally present for my kiddo, and not distracted all the time. On the other hand, I really do miss sex and physical imtimacy, and I really would not be opposed to another relationship. Online dating gets me out into that world of possibility again.

The Toddler Test – Day 1

I stayed up until 12:30 or so last night putting together application materials for a new job. (And skimming my dating apps, all while thinking, “I so don’t have time for this,” and wondering if the Backpacker is going to fade out on me without ever asking me out. Yes, I am a little sad about this.)

Toddler woke up at midnight for water, and then wanted to get up again at 4:30am. I got him to sleep in until about 5:10. Yaaay sleep…. I did tidy up the apartment and managed to do my yoga video in the morning even with the toddler running around, so there was that.

Subbing job today for a teacher I have previously subbed for. I took the job because she put me on her preferred sub list, though to be honest, I had a really difficult day last time I subbed for her, and the school is kind of a long drive out for me. I took the position again because of the combined effects of flattery and guilt (the subbing system kept autocalling me to ask if I would take it). Mistake? Perhaps. But here I am.

My ex flies to Thailand this evening for sexual reassignment surgery. I don’t feel sad about us anymore, but it feels unreal. This is the person I had sex with for nearly a decade.

Evening update (hiding under the blankets and waiting for the toddler to sleep):

I suppose my ex is on a plane now. 

I am really struggling to stay awake this evening. Have to though. I am calling another ABCTE student after the toddler goes to sleep (we are.working toward teacher certification and have to pass some big tests). She is going to study with me over the phone.

Subbing job today went just fine, by the way. The normal teacher was on campus and she was very helpful. She also said I have a calm personality and that is good for teaching. Makes me feel happy. Though it is funny to hear students say they liked me after some of them had a mini-revolt when they didn’t want to do their work (which is what happened the first time I subbed here). Like the teacher said today, though, the important thing in a situation like that is to not react emotionally and exascerbate the situation. Guess I have a decent poker face.