My son recently got a job where he receives a weekly paycheck. I haven’t made the time to get him to the bank to open up an account (because I keep forgetting). But I’ve been putting his paychecks in my bank account via mobile deposit and hitting the drive-thru ATM to give him cash if I don’t have enough on me.
I was supposed to do this the other day while I was running errands. I desperately needed gas and an oil change, and we were out of toilet paper. Those things were at the top of my to do list. I was determined to get them done before I had to be home for a conference call.
On my way out, my son asked me to get the cash to cover his checks, but I returned home without the dough. Because I forgot.
The same thing happened when I was out last week at a doctor’s appointment—my oldest asked me to pick up some protein powder for his smoothies. I forgot.
And when one of my friends asked me to go to lunch with her later in the week, I had to tell her I’d get back to her. I needed to see how much work I could get done that morning and what my kids had on tap for the day. But then I forgot to follow up with her.
Like, it didn’t even cross my mind. It was as if the interaction didn’t even happen.
My kids tease me and tell me I forget things because I’m getting old. But that’s not the case, really.
Ever since I became a single mother, I’ve had to keep everything in my brain because there’s no one else to share the mental load. And, sometimes, I forget things.
I wish I had different compartments where everything stayed separate, but that’s not how a single mother’s brain works.
When you are at work, you are thinking about dinner prep, what you need at the grocery store, how you are going to get your kids from one place to another, and the fact that it’s time for you to go to the doctor for a checkup.
When you’re at home trying to keep up with it all, you’re thinking about that work deadline or big project. You are wondering how you can get ahead. When you can take a vacation. If you remembered to do that thing you were supposed to do by today.
You are paying bills while you are making a grocery list because, sometimes, that’s when it hits you that they are due.
You are cleaning the house and walking by the mirror and all the sudden it seems like your gray roots have popped out of nowhere. And you forget what you were doing in the process of making an appointment.
You walk into the kitchen to do the dishes and notice that the fridge isn’t working, the floor board needs to be repaired, and you wonder how long that leftover pizza has been sitting on the stove.
Being a single mother means carrying all the weight, all the time, and there is absolutely zero wiggle room to take a break because there’s no one else to rely on. Instead, things you need to remember, and want to remember, simply start falling out of your brain. There’s not enough room to hold everything, so your mind doesn’t even try.
My friends get this. They understand this is the way it goes because they are all busy moms, and some are busy single moms themselves. But my kids get really frustrated with me when I forget their favorite cookies or forget I said I’d take them to the mall to meet their friends. I can get frustrated with myself, too. But I know I’m doing my best and I want them to see that I’m trying. Trying to remember everything I need to do for work and the house, and trying to keep up with the three of them as well. And, no matter how much I try, there are going to be times when things fall through the cracks.
As a single mom, I want to normalize the fact that I’m going to forget appointments and gatherings and the darned toilet paper because I’m the one who has to remember everything.
And saying “I forgot” is a good enough reason. It has to be. We single moms already beat ourselves up enough as it is.
If there’s anything I’ve learned while solo parenting, it’s that there’s no way to do it all—or even remember it all. I tried, the first two years after my divorce, and I never won that battle with myself. So now I’m reminding myself, and my teens, that “I forgot” is part of being human. “I forgot” is something we forgive in others, and “I forgot” needs to be something we forgive in ourselves, too.