This post is a shout out to all the men and women who are doing it all on their own. Literally. Whether you’re a single parent with no family and friends to really help out in the day to day activities, or even if you’re like me, with fur kids (I hate that term) and trying to find time for yourself. Yes, I realize that it sounds silly to mention people like me, who don’t have human kids. Most people would look at me and think I have it so easy. And I do….in some ways. But here’s the raw, honest deal…..
I should first mention that I’m not writing this to toot my own horn. I’m writing this to toot a lot of peoples horns. I’m only using my own situation as an example, since that’s all I have and can speak to.
I don’t have any close family, other than my brother and sister-in-law, who live an hour away and have their own life going on. I also don’t have any real close friends, and yes, that is mostly by choice. I own my own home (and live alone, no roommates), I have a corporate job that keeps me away for 50 hours a week with commute time, and I have 3 animals (1 dog, 2 cats). If I were like most pet owners, I wouldn’t take my pets into consideration for most things day to day. But I do. My cats are my babies and they demand my attention. My dog is my co-pilot and best friend, on top of being high energy and requiring a lot of mental and physical stimulation. I should also mention that my dog and cats can’t be out together, so that makes daily living a bit more complicated. We have a routine, so it’s not as bad as it was at first, but everything still takes longer than it should. I know how to work on training for this, but it’s hard to do with one person, a 50 lb dog, and 2 cats that do whatever they want.
Because I’m gone for 10 hours a day, I can’t ethically leave my dog home. So she goes to daycare 5 days a week, and sometimes I can save a little by doing 4 days a week since I get an extra day off every other week (I work longer days to get this). My daycare bill ranges from $540 to $600 per month. I have her enrolled so I can get a decent discount, but this also means that I pay on the enrolled days whether she goes or not. I often take days off of work, but still bring her to daycare, which allows me to get things done that are difficult to do when I have my dog, and it also allows me to spend quality time with my cats. Don’t fucking tell me that they’re just cats. Just don’t. They are indeed cats, yes I know that. But I believe that animals should live enriching lives, spending as much time as possible with their humans since they live such short lives.
This all being said, if you hadn’t figured it out, I spend my days either working, spending time with my animals (like agility training with my dog), or spending time doing things FOR my animals. That leaves very little time each week to do things for myself. I had a very hard time finding any sort of balance in my life after I adopted Peach (my dog). I didn’t adopt her alone, so I didn’t anticipate needing daycare or needing to spend all my free time with her. She was supposed to have another human in her life, but he abandoned us and everything I had given to him/for him. People are shitty, what can I say. I don’t abandon my commitments. I know what it’s like to be abandoned and what that feels like. I will never do that to another soul. Period.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been slowly finding a little balance again and am finally feeling better about my life. I’ve actually hung out with friends on occasion, am even making new ones, and I am lifting weights again whenever I can fit it in. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life with my Peach, Mario, and Yoshi. But it’s been hard and was a rude awakening for me. Before I adopted Peach, I used to skydive (I’m still a student and haven’t been able to make any jumps in quite some time now), I used to go zip lining, hang gliding, flew a helicopter, would go out to brunch with friends, get my nails done twice a month, go out on dates, etc etc. Life after a 16 year emotionally abusive relationship was damn GOOD. I really lived it up. I was in the gym lifting weights 4 days a week, would ride my bike 20+ miles on any given day, and was in the shape of my life. To go from that to a single dog (and cat) mom was quite the change. When you literally have no one to help you with anything, and you are trying to maintain a home and keep the animals happy, it does become a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. It was a huge lifestyle change. I don’t have anyone to vacuum the house. I don’t have anyone to clean the litter boxes every day. I don’t have anyone to make a quick dinner. I don’t have anyone to go get groceries (which is probably why my fridge is almost always bare). I don’t have anyone to spend time exercising Peach. I don’t have anyone to mow the lawn or snow blow the driveway. I don’t have anyone to help me clean my car of all the fucking dog hair. I don’t have anyone to rake and mulch all the leaves in the Fall. I don’t have anyone to stay home to meet the furnace guy or the plumber guy when shit breaks. I don’t have anyone to drop off or pick up Peach from daycare every day. You get the idea now? That’s the just the easy stuff. The other part is the emotional stuff and the anxiety and pressure that I feel every single day. Here’s why…..
When you have family or a partner or both, you have someone to fall back on. If you lost your job, you still have some income, you still have emotional support, you still have someone to float you while you look for another job. People like me don’t have those things. If I lose my job, my whole world is fucked. That mortgage, that car payment, those groceries, all that expensive cat/dog food, that oil to heat the water and the house, that power bill, you name it. If I can’t pay for everything myself, my whole world crumbles down and I don’t know what I’d do to be honest. That being said, I wouldn’t change these things for the world. While it would be easier to rent a condo or an apartment, my childhood dream was to have a home. I never felt like I had an actual home (literally and figuratively). And there were times where I literally did not have a roof over my head as a child. Thankfully, my mother had a handful of close friends that helped us out more times than I can remember. I guess she and I were opposite in that way, and that is probably why psychologically I am the way I am, never wanting help. My father not wanting me and telling me I’d amount to nothing is what has made me feel the need to “prove” that I can absolutely make it on my own. What he did to my mother is why I vowed at a very young age to work to make a good life where I don’t have to worry about money and putting food on the fucking table. I’m a text book case, clearly. But despite these pretty horrible things from my childhood, I don’t see them necessarily as negative, because they made me a good, hard working woman. The only thing that still fires me up about my childhood is the effect and toll that it took on my mother. That is all.
It’s not a secret that I don’t like my job these days. We went through another merger and this one is a bit different because I don’t feel like there are positive changes coming. In the past, I held out some hope and stuck with it and things worked out. This time, I’m not getting those vibes. Could I find another job and quit? Yes. But it’s not that simple since I don’t have anyone to fall back on if the new job doesn’t work out. I make really good money, but can’t afford to take a pay cut. In a perfect world, I would quit my job and start my own business, working with dogs and helping people. But I can’t take any chances because I’m alone. This eats away at me every single day. It’s constant pressure that I put on myself. But it’s also reality and I’m a realist. I’m trying to make little changes and do things to perhaps put me in a different place at some point in the future, but financially it’s more than likely just a dream. Since I’ve found passion in dog training, I’ve been studying dog behavior, training, got my certification in pet first aid/CPR, got my certification as a canine conditioning coach, and am now looking into becoming an actual certified trainer. But there is a voice in the back of my head saying, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? These things aren’t going to make me the money I need to make for a single income. So, I’m still torn every day, but I’m still plugging away at my hopes and dream, because it’s good for me and my dog, and because it makes me happy.
Again, this wasn’t a pity party. This was simply me sharing my life experience because I often think about others who are working HARD every single day and don’t have the support that a lot of others do. Whether you’re like me, or whether you are a single mom to human kids, or whether you’re just a single loner trying to make ends meet….take the time to reflect and BE PROUD of yourselves. After all, we don’t have anyone else who will be proud of us!
Every day, I think about how lucky I am. I’m lucky to have a roof over my head, I’m lucky that I can afford to eat. And I’m super lucky to have such amazing animals in my life that keep me going every day. I didn’t come from much, but I worked fucking hard to make it and will continue to do so. While things may not be perfect, it’s what I have and what I built. Despite my daily anxiety, I do still check myself and put things into perspective.
We ALL need to check ourselves. Appreciate what you have. And if you have a partner or family that helps you in any way, tell them what they mean to you. Tell them today.
Here’s a solo bird that I photographed this summer down in Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine.