I really don’t try to tell people what to do because you can do what you want! And me too! But, I can’t help myself today.
Yesterday, I was driving home from dropping the kids off at day camp. It was nearly 8 am and I’d been up since 5:30 getting the kids ready, giving them food, quickly checking my work email and appointments, feeding the dog and then racing out the door. As I was driving home to start my day (yes, even after all that my day hadn’t started) I noticed that two houses on my street, across the street from each other looked abandoned. For the past couple years there have been 3 single moms living in my neighborhood. Me and two others. These two houses belonged to the other two single moms. I knew one had moved in with her mother with her 2 kids because our kids used to play, but I didn’t know about the other one, with overgrown grass and a front door covered in letters and notices, presumably from the bank.
It makes me sad and above all, it makes me extra mad because I have a neighbor across the street from me who is harassing me about the state of my house. He complains that my trash can is in the wrong place and I have parked my (second) car in the wrong place. It was parked on the grass next to my fence so that my kids could play in the driveway instead of on the street. (And I’ve been trying to sell it for a year so if anyone wants to buy an old suburban with over 200k miles that runs great just let me know!) I am completely within my rights to do what I’m doing and it really (in my opinion and others) it all looks fine and is acceptable. But my neighbor is trying to sell his house. He wants the neighborhood and all the homes in it to look as pristine as his. He wants potential buyers to buy his house and buy into the neighborhood. He wants to sell the myth that if they buy his perfect house they will be buying the perfect neighborhood with the perfect neighbors and even buying the perfect life! Sounds nice. But he’s living in la la land and I’m across the street living in reality saying, “Give me a break!”
He is retired and mows his grass weekly on a riding mower. He pays a landscaping crew bi weekly to edge and trim and weed. And in all the free time he has from outsourcing this work he has been writing me letters and having his law office write me letters about where I put my trash can. (This is true).
This bothers me first because it is just wrong and there is nothing wrong with my trash can; he has singled me out. My trash can sits next to my garage. My house is on a corner and his house happens to face my garage and it is his opinion and also the opinion of his realtor that the location of my trash can is “negatively impacting the marketability of his house.” You can’t make this up!
It also bothers me because my house to me looks very nice and takes a lot of work. I am proud of my house and I do the best I can but in truth when he insults me and my house he is also insulting my friends, because while I am a single mom, I do not do all this alone.
So, here is why I am posting. I’m getting to the point! I hear from people a lot that I make it look easy to be a single mom. I want to let you know the TRUTH! It’s NOT EASY! I have a lot of help! I have a TON of super awesome friends who help me in ways that may seem small to them but are HUGE to me! I have an awesome friend who has come over and mowed my lawn and trimmed my bushes several times this summer. And another one who helped me jump my suburban so I could move it when my neighbor was freaking that I had it parked on the grass – MY grass. And I had yet another one check out my car before my road trip and let me know my tires were starting to show the treads (dangerous!) and told me to go get new tires. I have friends who have taken my kids to the beach and to the pool and to the park on teacher work days when I’ve forgotten there was no school but still had to work. And I know I’m totally capable of doing this stuff, but sometimes I forget and sometimes I’m just too tired to change a lightbulb. It’s true! I’ve had friends walk up to a dark porch then come in, grab my lightbulbs and a ladder, change the bulbs and then we go out. Same for my air filters. Am I lazy? NO. Am I overextended? YES. Do I have the best friends in the WORLD? YES YES YES…
So, here’s the point. Life is NOT pristine. Even with lots of help. Even with a good job and good friends and a pretty house. And, even more it is NOT easy to be a single mom. And it is also not easy to be a parent (even in a coupled household) of young kids. SO… if you happen to know a single mom, or a family with any children under the age of 5, I can guarantee they would love a little help. And a little help from you might actually take them a few steps back from the edge, might give them a moment to rest and avoid that nervous breakdown that very seriously might be around the corner. I’m not being dramatic here, it is THAT hard and I have lived in that space on the brink of losing it both as a young mom with a husband who was always out of town AND as a single mom who was suddenly doing all the parenting (which was not new) but ALSO suddenly had a new 20 hour a week hobby called legal divorce paperwork. Can I say it again, this is HARD and it is draining. And when a person is DRAINED emotionally and financially and physically, the tiniest crumb of help or encouragement or thanks is worth a million bucks.
So, as I passed these two abandoned homes I felt very grateful that my situation is what it is and also wished there was more I could do for others. Well, I’m going to do what I can to help people struggling and if I can do it, you can too! So… if you happen to know a single mom or dad, a parent to a child under the age of 5, or an older person or someone suffering from a chronic illness, do something to help. Here are things you can do without being intrusive.
1. Mow their lawn.
2. Change their oil
3. Invite their kids to dinner (not them.. if they go they will be on high alert trying to make their kids behave and have manners… let them stay home and take a nap on the couch)
4. Tell them you think they are doing a good job
Yard work for single parents and parents of very young kids is particularly hard. I could always get stuff done inside, like laundry, sweeping, cleaning, etc. But when you have a toddler to chase, there’s really no good time to go outside for an hour to mow. Not even if they are taking a nap, because you never know if that is going to be a 3 hour nap or a 3 minute nap.
But the point is, if their porch lights are out and their hedges look like Einstein’s hair and their trash can is sitting at the end of their driveway for 4 days and their leaves are all over their yard and their grass is sprinkled with wildflowers and their car is covered in dirt and pollen, don’t write them a letter to point this out. They already know. Write them a letter to ask if you can help them.