‘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.

2017 Goals

Online dating definitely is not for those who mind getting bruised. I don’t mean that literally, but it is true that my ego has taken a few blows over the past months. 

I have some personal goals for the year now. I am trying to not have them be reflective of anything other than what I want for me. And I am also trying to remind myself that I am tough and awesome even as I am now, because seriously — raising a kid on your own is hard work. My ex is still recovering from surgery and is not able to help a lot. I have no local family. *Anything* I am able to accomplish in the way of personal goals is therefore automatically badass ×5. Even if outsiders don’t see that, I do.

Anyway. My goals:

1. Do the Bruneau Dunes race this year… Maybe 13 miles? 

2. Get my bike fixed and use it. Take my kiddo on the greenbelt and try some foothill trails.

3. Use my park pass. Visit Craters of the Moon, Grand Teton, Arches… At minimum.

4. Go camping at least 3 times this summer. This is sort of implied in the last item. But I want to make that normal again.

5. Survive my first year at a scary new job. It is scary now because I feel like I need to prove they made the right decision in hiring me. I am feeling a lot of internal pressure right now, and I just have to push through that for a while.

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 3

I signed a new apartment lease today. It is the first time in my 30+ years that I have been on a lease entirely by myself. It will be only the second year in my life that I have lived alone… Well, I say alone. Just me and the kiddo.

Backpacker messaged me out of the blue today after several days of radio silence. We had talked about potentially getting coffee next weekend, but just like last weekend when he had said he might be able to manage something on Sunday and then never got back to me, I highly suspect next weekend is not going to happen, either. Today he simply asked me “how are you” and talked about the icy roads. And then back to silence. I am a little annoyed. And yet I still would be excited to meet him. *Sigh.* Ugh.

The Toddler Test – Day 0

It is the first evening of the month (more realistically, 2 months) in which I will have the toddler all to myself. As I type, he is talking to himself and rolling around the bed. I am hiding under the blankets and waiting for him to sleep so I can get up again and get things done.

Am I feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of 1-2 months of real single parenting? Yeah. But for this moment at least I am looking forward to it a little as well. I am ready to prove to myself what I can handle. I am ready to jump into this year and get shit done, while still finding things to be excited about along the way.

Life According to Bridget

Bridget Jones is very important to me. Not the movie Bridget so much, though really, what better moment is there than the one where Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy, says, “I like you just as you are“?

It’s the books I love most (well, ignoring book 3). There is a quote that says something to the effect that finding stories about people like you gives you the vocabulary to explain your life. Bridget Jones is very different from me in a lot of ways: She drinks a lot, smokes, dislikes exercise, is obsessive about her weight and diet… and she is more uninhibited and fun than me. But, there is also so much about her and her world I can identify with: from her friend Magda, who is a parent and cannot have a conversation on the phone without pausing every few moments to say things like, “In the potty! Do it in the potty!”; to her dread of work social events; to feeling old and a little “past it” in her 30s; to her procrastination; and to her sense of humor and self-knowledge as she navigates the world of dating and relationships. She describes so many things accurately, like how she gets obsessed about improving her life after a breakup…. Only to realize a few days after making unrealistic commitments to self improvement schemes that, really, the schemes are just appealing because she wants to feel like her new and improved self would never have been dumped or cheated on the way her old self was.

…Yeah, that. So much that. At least Bridget makes me want to laugh at myself rather than cry.

After I realized Coffee Guy had dropped contact with me I felt a mixture of sadness, embarrassment, frustration, and pragmatism. He was a good guy, and honest. Really, I don’t regret anything… Except possibly (probably) making the dude uncomfortable. It is easy to start dwelling on the whys of the situation, and it isn’t fun when somebody you like stamps you as ‘reject.’ But a couple weeks of messaging regularly followed by a roadtrip and sex don’t exactly add up to heartbreak. What makes me sad is the lost possibility of trying activities outside my normal sphere of existence with a new friend. As Coffee Guy told me about his hobbies I imagined doing yoga, road biking, bouldering, and dancing together at concerts. Going on a roadtrip with a stranger was exciting… It was an escape from the monotony of my regular life, and it felt like I was breaking away from my personal hangups of not being good enough or interesting enough.  I was living, doing something new- and that felt really good. 

In the aftermath of that adventure, and with the new year upon me, I have been thinking a lot about personal growth and goals. Bridget is in the background, smiling a little, or maybe she is ready to leap into change just like I am. I have had a lot of adventures in the past; with the right company (i.e. somebody who is also really into hiking and exploring on foot) I can roll out story after story, discuss places, discuss gear and logistics… With somebody who has a broader range of interests, my life feels just a little one-dimensional. Some of that may simply be a compatibility issue, but I realize that I have been in a rut for a while with my adventuring. I want to do more than lead the occasional hiking club hike with my meager spare time. I want to hang out with more people than just parents and hikers. I want to be a different version of myself than I was in 2016 – more adventurous, more fearless.

I have some thoughts about goals for the new year, though I am going to wait to voice any of them. A lot depends on whether I can find schedule flexibility with my toddler. My ex is going to undergo a major surgery this January, and in between her recovery (which will be slow) and her reduced spring/summer visitation time with our child due to her work travel schedule, I am not likely to have a lot of personal freedom. Also, I need to focus my energy on getting certified to teach so I can *hopefully* get a career off the ground and be able to adequately support myself and my kid. Finances right now are tight, and I don’t want to be dependent on my family for help any longer than I need to.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. More substantial updates to come. It is, after all, a new year.