"Life's full of tough choices, isn't it?"
—Ursula to Ariel, The Little Mermaid
Life as a single parent of young children in a church that almost worships families is often very confusing. You have a foot in two very different worlds: the world of singles who must be in want of an eternal companion, and the world of raising children. One is filled with an endless parade of entertainment-driven activities, the other with a few scattered couples-strengthening and children's activities.
You are both a provider and a nurturer. You do not have the choice between taking care of your family or furthering your career, you must do both. You can gain more education and more earning power at the expense of being there for your children, or you can find a job that is able to let you be a parent when you need to be. Finding middle ground is possible, but difficult. And if you mess up, it is all on you. Other family members and friends can help a little, but you are still a team of one. Your children must learn to grow up quickly (both a blessing and a sorrow) and you must set your teeth and pick what you truly value most.
It is not a tragic thing. In fact, despite the pain it often causes me, I'm deeply grateful for the chance to dredge the depths of my soul for what I really want. It is one such dredging that has caused me to mostly abandon the singles' world. It has given me a chance to take a long, hard look at myself and choose the best part I possibly can.
This is why, even when a singles activity says you can bring your children, I don't. Bringing your children to an adult activity is not the same thing as bringing them to an activity scheduled to include them. And I don't care how attractive the men might be (even if there are any who show up) my kids are better company. This is why a YSA-style singles ward can never, ever work for me. If you can't relate to my children, you cannot relate to me, either.
This is why, when I'm sent an invitation that invites me to an activity to which I could reasonably take my children, but it specifically says "don't bring your kids," I do not consider myself even invited.
I suppose a part of me understands the desire to do without children for awhile. I have a very good imagination. I can imagine that people who stay home with their children 24/7 with hardly a break might look forward to some quiet time. They don't experience long weekends or empty holidays of utter silence. They don't know what it is like to let their children go into emotionally and physically dangerous situations because the alternative is worse. They don't know the ache.
They also don't understand what it is like to have to be home at 7 p.m. on the days normally reserved for activities that always start at 7 p.m. They have never had to schedule their entire year of holidays and plan based on whether or not their children will be there this year. They don't understand how I could long to be with my children even when their stubborn little hearts conflict with mine, and even when they whine.
Yes, I love it even when my children fuss and whine.
At times I see a mother or father, worn out from wrestling with their surprisingly strong toddler all day, standing in the aisle of a store with that blank look on their faces. You know the one. But I don't get upset when children are fussy in public. I smile and envy, just a little. I want to hold them and show them I love them, even when I don't know them and their parents would hardly appreciate the gesture. I have so much love for my own children, honed by their frequent absences, that it just spills out.
So thank you kindly for the invitation. I hope you enjoy your kid-free time. Me, I'll be piled on the couch with my two little miracles, basking in my blessings.