Creating Home As A Single Mom

Otto, (5 years old), grabbed my camera one morning and took this photo. I loved this shot even before he won first place in our town's photo contest for it.

When my oldest was 2 years old I started this blog. It was my way of documenting my life as a mom and wife, learning how to do this thing called home and recording the memories along the way. That was 11 years ago.
Over the years this space has grown from a memory palace to a resource for hundreds of thousands to learn the art of homemaking alongside me. I didn’t grow up with from-scratch desserts, bedtime stories and backyard parties with neighbors. But I always wanted to. Since childhood there’s been a deep seated curiosity in me for home. Family dinners, fort making in the living room, homework in the kitchen while pancakes get flipped, sleepovers with friends, Christmas garland on the stair rails, laughter, love, kids, two parents…
Today, after a decade of blogging, I write this post as a single mom. I’m nearly three months into the role and some/most days I can’t set the fear of the unknowns aside, let alone fight them.
(I won’t use this space to dive into the details of why I’m a single mom now. He is still a father to the boys and he is healthy and happy. That’s what we want most for those we love.)
Home is a universal craving of the soul. We all long to go home or be home – metaphorically or otherwise. Even when I go on the most relaxing vacation imaginable (hello St. Regis Bahia Beach), there’s always a longing for home. I didn’t grow up in a house that felt like home, so for me, home was with people. There were certain mentors and friends who became home for me. There were places, like the youth room at our church, that became home – the place of familiarity that my soul understood to be my place of safety and acceptance and love.
When I became a mom, I dedicated a large part of my day (those hours I might normally be at a 9-5 job) to creating the most quintessential version of home I could imagine. We didn’t have much money so this didn’t include outings to Pottery Barn for bunk beds and train sets. My focus became not on the appearance of the home but rather the heart of the home. The quality of time we shared together. The hospitality we extended to others. The creativity we expressed. The food we learned to cook. The gardens we grew. The projects we tackled. The nurturing of the hearts that slept under its roof each night. I did fail at times…I promise I’m no June Cleaver.
What shakes me at the core today is this sense of loss of home. The place of certainty and rest. Of love and laughter. Of family holidays and backyard parties. There’s a hole right now and it is visible (and invisible) in every room the boys and I walk through.

     -There is no longer ‘mom and dad’s room’.
     -His office is now nearly empty. Pictures removed, stacks of papers gone. What do we do with that space now? Is it still called ‘dad’s office’ when I ask the boys to open a window or is it now 'the green room’?
     -The coffee pot that, for 18 years, started percolating each morning at 6am has been replaced with a Keurig. That’s a palate adjustment.
    -What do I do with the mail that comes with his name? I guess it stays by the door until I see him next.
     -There is no longer my side of the bed. The bed is now mine.
     -How do you get the toilet to stop running? My 24-hour solution was to put a paintbrush handle in some mechanism in the tank. Worked like a charm – just no using the guest bathroom for a while.

      -The dinner table is now set with 4 plates.

I wish I was the only one that noticed and was affected by these changes. The kids have been rockstars through this but no one is exempt from the pain of losing a part of their body. We were a unit and now we are not. There is and must be mourning in that.
I am not rushing through this period of grief and loss too quickly. I want to honor its lessons in my life. But, each day I get a bit more of my mojo back and when that happens, our home also does too.
Life looks so good ahead. SO good. There are projects that I am dying to tell you about!! There are trips ahead and memories to be made. So so much goodness in store.
Last week I cried out to God in a place of utter loneliness. I asked Him to remind me that I am loved. Loved by Him and loved by others. I know I am but sometimes we need an extra sprinkling when perspective is lost. In the days that followed that prayer, a sprinkling did not come. Instead I was given a waterfall. We haven’t shared this news with many, so only a handful knew I was traveling this road. Yet, my beautiful friends from around the world sensed I needed a note, a text, an email, or a hug last week and they gave it. I cried every time. I cry about it right now.
One of my mantras has always been ‘everything you want is on the other side of fear.’ Its led the way for me as I’ve crushed career goals over the past few years but I’ve never had use for it in my personal life. Until now. I see all that I want for myself and those I love and fear of the unknown will not win out.


**The kids dad is still plays an active role in the kids lives. Yes, I am now a single mother, but the kids are not fatherless. My heart aches for those who are and for women who must bear the load of motherhood entirely alone.