There are days I think I am raising a parrot.
As I hang up a conference call, my son pipes up with not one—but two—perfect British accents. One Northern, one Welsh-based. While he cannot tell me which accent hales from which region, he mimics the pronunciations perfectly.
Unremarkable until he does the same with Indian, Scottish, South African and Korean accents.
And I realize, this boy has spent far too much time in the background of my conference calls.
While many mothers drive to and from school chatting about the weather, or today’s test, my son usually tries to tune out with a book while executives from around the world discuss supply chain operations or talent strategy—whatever I happen to be working on at the time.
Yesterday, he told me he thought my allotment of screen time was an unfair “dispersion.” Hmph. It is hard to argue with someone little more than half your size who sports a vocabulary that rivals yours. Downright disconcerting, it is.
When working on a group project recently, he forgot a key piece he was supposed to bring to class. When a classmate heatedly told him to call his mother to bring it to school, he was astonished. He said, “Mom, I’m not sure what the other mothers do, but I told her you work. That you’re on calls and your computer most of the day. That your job is not to bring me forgotten things.”
I felt triumphant and awful at the same time. I am modeling for him what a strong woman does—what she can do—to support a family. And yet, I want him to feel I have his back. That he can count on me to pick up a few fallen pieces here and there.
It is a balancing act, this single mother thing. I used to bemoan not being able to provide what I did years ago—a warm, home-cooked meal most nights, strict monitoring of homework, the time to truly listen.
I bemoan no longer. Eating together takes precedence over home-cooked by me or a service like Dinners by Design. Self-reliance and responsibility evolve as my homework monitoring recedes. And guess what? Even in the midst of what feels like 5,000 things to do, I have learned that I can tune all else out and truly listen.
If he remembers only that, I will count myself victorious.