• Stephanie Valentine

Carrying the load

A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.

Roy H. Williams


One of the things that isn't written about much is the guilt of single parenting. Many observations have been written about not being able to be in multiple places at the same time, be every woman as is sometimes necessary, and not wanting to take the needed, critical time for yourself. I am talking about the guilt of selecting the absent parent. When you think about it, you are just as culpable in this decision.


Now I will acknowledge that no one with good sense goes into a relationship thinking, "this fool will make a terrible parent, if he asks me, I am going to marry him". You date or as I like to say "keep each other's company" to decide if you have enough in common to build a life together and you start the process of figuring it out, together. There is no definitive amount of time to ensure you have examined this person through several seasons of life. The ironic side note is if this person isn't cooperative as your spouse, it is going to be twice as difficult to get this person to cooperate as your ex-spouse so making a good selection is critical.


Then things change and the breakup happens. It's emotional and grueling for most. The person that stood up before God and all of your family and friends and promised to love and cherish for as long as you both shall live, is causing you the worst heartache you have ever imagined. Once you manage the hurt feelings and make the decision you can do this on your own, all of your waking hours are spent on strategy. How are we going to manage? I need to keep a brave face. I am building men so education is a priority but what extracurricular activities are we going to pursue and how do I make it equitable for three children? While you are managing the anxiety and trying to not get overwhelmed, you remember that you are only responsible for getting through this day.


One definite mistake I made was thinking that my father was the standard for all men. We often try to align our mates with the example we experienced through our paternal figures. My father was the consummate parent and made sure we had what we needed, emotionally and materially. He was imperfect like we all are, but I can still feel his love today, even though he has been gone for 14 years. This was normal for me. It took me a while to understand that my husband had a reputation to uphold and whether it meant recklessly using credit (this totally caught me off guard especially since he was an accountant) or misrepresenting reality, he struggled in high-pressure situations. (Is that diplomatically stated?)




Anxiety does have a way of creeping up on you in the most unexpected times. I clearly remember being at the baseball fi

eld with the fellas, while they were all in elementary school. Nothing, in particular, triggered this thought but I became overwhelmed at the thought of getting three children through college. How in the ham sandwich was that going to happen? We were making ends meet for our day to day expenses. There was certainly no college fund waiting for them, And then, as God does with me when I get ahead of myself, I was reminded about the Hope Scholarship in Georgia so I calmed down. (None of my children selected a Georgia public school so it ended up being a moot point. They managed with scholarships and some loans which we are close to paying off. They also worked on campus so it worked out, but as their mother, I had a moment.)


Now I know my job is to focus on what I can control, which is very little and continues to diminish as they get older. But the guilt was hard to manage. Now that they are adults, I still see moments when it would be good for them to have "a full vested, committed, I will love you no matter what, and here is my experience to learn from" father. I shouldn't be surprised by that because there are times that I wish I could still chat with my late parents.


There is no real cure for this malady. You work through it praying that God will direct and keep them. I giggle at myself from time to time thinking he may have been off, but he was the only one brave or crazy enough to ask you to marry him. LOL I appreciate the friends, neighbors, coaches, and other adult figures who support and encourage my sons. Their contributions are greatly appreciated. To the young women selecting life-long partners, (because even our divorce couples are connected if you have children) choose wisely!







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Atlanta, GA

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