‘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.

Me Time

Does anybody look into the future and picture a time when 45 minutes spent sitting in the Albertson’s parking lot before daycare pickup would become a semi-regular highlight of the day? In this space between work and daycare pickup I can breath in a way that I struggle to during the rest of my days and nights. Most of the time I walk around feeling half-drowned in a sea of shoulds. In that most of the time landscape I can work and work and wonder what I have accomplished. I can make time to meet a new person and go on a hike knowing that I will be working half the night later, and still be told, “There is no such thing as someday,” by a nice man who has no children, when I admit to him that I have not made it out with the running meetup group in a long time. But I invite this attitude from others when I shrug first and say, “I really have no excuse for not doing better.” It isn’t that there are no excuses; it’s just that the shoulds are so much bigger.

In my office there is a sheet of paper my predecessor left that says, “I am a nonprofit unicorn. Every day I try to make the world a better place. I am good at some things and I suck at some things. I can’t make everybody happy. Every day I do what I can.” I like that paper. It looks like the parking lot at Albertson’s – there are no shoulds in it. 

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.

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.

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.

Actually

So, the Backpacker did arrange to meet up with me after all. The slow communication has been in part due to his field work and having to camp for his job. As to the rest, well, I decided to take a chance on him and it was actually a really nice date. He seems like a very interesting person and I really like him. Too tired at the moment to write much else, but you know that giddy feeling when you have a crush on somebody and find out they like you back? Yeah, that. Throw in a kid and a difficult schedule and it gets more complicated, but for now I will gladly take the giddiness of meeting somebody new and hitting it off.

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.