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As a single mom to an only child, I constantly hear that I must have a unique bond with my son. If by "unique," people mean "super intense," then I couldn't agree more. When it's just you and a little one, there is no such thing as the favorite, or the out-of-favor, parent.

I am all and nothing.

I am the one my son jumps on for hugs when overcome with love. I am the one who, seconds later, is being growled at because his feelings just did a 360. All little humans find difficulty in learning to navigate these big feelings. And as a solo parent supporting my son through these, I bear the brunt and the beauty of Every. Single. One.

The intensity of our relationship isn't just because of the practicalities of being constantly together, but because of how our interactions occur with no one else around. The physical attachment my son has with me is intense to the nth degree. Perhaps the presence of another adult to hold him, or another child in my arms, would have curtailed this slightly, but that's not our reality.

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It's not enough for my son to sleep in my bed beside me; he must hold my cheeks tightly until he slips into sleep. Depending on how fast midnight is approaching decides how I take this abundant display of physical affection. While it sounds adorable, it can also be excruciatingly claustrophobic. We are like magnets spinning, alternately attracting and repelling each other with equal force, depending on the moment.

Our emotional attachment is arguably even stronger than this physical pull. I rarely go anywhere without my son and when I do, I wonder how I will manage. What will I say? Who will I talk to? It may sound unhealthy, but I struggle to know who I am without him by my side.

It's more an apprehension than a reality—on the odd occasion I am out alone, things are easier than I feared. And it seems my son has similar concerns. He's struggled with going to nursery school for most of the three years he's been attending. It's a rare occasion when he doesn't demand to stay home with me instead (despite me going to work) and there's been various phases of tears as I peel him off me at the door. Yet his teachers always report back that he's fine throughout the day.

With 50% of my genes and 100% of my nurture, I've created a chip off the old block in the form of a 4-year old boy. Imagine, if you can, your weaknesses confronting your weaknesses. Navigating a way around them without a head-on collision is a struggle for us both. As the only parent, there's no one to hide behind when apportioning blame for the clone-nisation of these traits.

At times it feels like I've failed. Would the presence of another person have tempered us and tamed our weaknesses? But then other times I'm proud of our similarities. I often look into my son's eyes and see exactly what he is feeling because it's how I felt as a child—it's like sharing your life with a living emotional diary.

There's a mystery to our connection, too. On occasions, my son has told me about his dream in the morning and it's been the same as mine. I'm not one for psychic connections—no doubt a shared moment was the trigger, yet that belittles the strength of our actual connection.

There are no obvious triggers for such shared dreams—like where we went that day, or the bedtime story I read—any link is too subtle to be identified by the conscious mind. Our brains have become wired to make the same coupling even in our sleep. It's weird and wonderful in equal measure.

There's no denying the intensity between us amplifies our challenges. We both feel the lack of another human distracting us from the exhaustion and annoyance we sometimes feel with each other. At times this pushes us to a breaking point, like when bedtime goes so wrong that sleep only occurs after screams and tears on both sides.

A partner, or another child, would change this relationship in an instance—for better and for worse—but change it would. Until that day, my son and I remain a two-person squad, untouched by outside influence, interacting with each other on the most fundamental level.

Together-alone, we are our ultimate selves and it's been a privilege to have these past four years with my son in this setting; living with traditions that only the two of us witness, or even know exist.

No matter what comes next, our unique bond has built a strong foundation for our relationship for the rest of our lives, and I'm incredibly grateful to have been given the gift of being my son's mother.

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Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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