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A Single Mom Story: This Single Mom is No Damsel In Distress

“You must do the thing you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

These words came to me the other night as I was ignoring the dull ache in my shoulders from plunging my toilet over and over again. I’m sure Eleanor wasn’t referring to plumbing when she penned that timeless quote. Yet it seemed it fit the bill for me.

That morning the toilet had overflowed—always a fantastic way to start a Tuesday. After work that evening I was back trying to solve the problem. After going to YouTube for master plumber tricks (Dawn dishwashing detergent and hot water are a dynamite combo), I roped my 19-year-old son in for help.

He gave it a try, and quit way, way too soon. This led me to a moment—a teachable moment as they say—where I lit into him about not giving up (shout out to Winston Churchill here) and not leaving all household issues to me.

This monologue left me frustrated. My way of handling problems is to try all options, and to do my very best before quitting. His way was to put in the least amount of effort and then slink away for someone else to take care of it. What’s a mother to do?

I try my best to lead by example when it comes to work ethic, exercise, eating right, and just plain being a good person. I remind him that now that he’s a young adult, we need to function as a team, that I need his brain and brawn when it comes to the hearth. It’s a frequent conversation that I’m confident has not fully sunk in.

The reality is that when you are a single woman you are in charge of everything. When you are a single mom, this increases tenfold. And when it comes to household issues, there is no avoiding the need to repair, replace, and reevaluate things.

The Personal Struggles Of A Single Mom

Back to the toilet . . . I went to bed frustrated about 1) Not being able to get it plunged properly; 2) Not getting decent help from my son; and 3) The thought of a plumber’s bill. I woke up early and went back in the bathroom to work with the plunger. Suddenly, the clog relented and cleared out, and all my efforts paid off. I was so thrilled and relieved that I did a happy dance. I shook my groove thing in the hall and yelled to my not-quite-awake son, “If you want something done, get a woman to do it!”

Honestly, that victorious feeling carried on throughout the whole day. And I reflected how just two days prior, we were having trouble with the garage door opener shutting completely. Since I just laid out a huge chunk of change for a new door this fall, having trouble with the opener was unexpected and irritating.

Why do these problems always seem to emerge on a Sunday when you can’t call for help? As I left for work Monday morning, the darn thing would not shut. I examined the sensors (like I know what I’m even looking for) and noticed a lone leaf, hanging by a spider web on the back of one of the sensors. Could this really be the culprit for the door’s reluctance to do its job? I removed it and VOILA, problem solved.

So here’s the thing. Life is going to continuously throw us curveballs, things we don’t expect and certainly don’t want to deal with. But unless we have a fabulous uncle or friend who loves to help a damsel in distress, it’s up to us to take care of business. While repetitively plunging a toilet is one of the most unappealing chores, I taught myself once again that working hard pays off. Same with the garage door opener; an easy fix but it would’ve been even easier to throw up my hands and call the service guy.

As I face life’s struggles – both big and small – I try to remember that each challenge is an opportunity to show my children how to handle things. It’s my job to teach them not to be a quitter, but rather, to be a warrior.

Renee Brown

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.