Monday, March 30, 2009

The "Widow Card"

Yesterday I got a call from a domestic violence shelter that is interested in having me do some volunteer work for them. The woman calling asked me when I could come in for an orientation. Although I am flattered at their interest, this is not something I am jumping up and down to add to my life right now. I've done a lot of volunteer work in my past and I feel now is the time I need to be concentrating on earning some regular income. However, that is not the point to this story.

I told the woman I would not be able to come in this week because it is Spring Break for us and I need to be around for my kids. She didn't accept this answer and kept pressing me to come in for a meeting. I finally had to pull out what I refer to as "the widow card." I firmly replied that as a widow I am on my own and it can be difficult to schedule things. I then told her that I did not want to have to make an appointment to have to cancel it because of something that may come up with one of the boys.

This exchange brought to mind similar situations in the past where I've been put on the spot or pressured to conform to someone else's schedule with no regard to the difficulties I face as an "only parent." In the early days of my widowhood, I very much felt that I was always on the outside but having to shift all the obstacles facing me to fit in with everyone living on the inside. I often felt that no one ever made concessions for me and I always had to be the one trying to keep up. For example, carpooling - I was always expected in my circle of parents to drive as much as the two parent families. It is only since Husband #2 filed for divorce that I have had the strength and sense to start refusing to play this game. I make it clear that I can only drive one way or not at all.

I'm not sure why it has been so hard for people in my circles to put their feet in my shoes. I know I live in an upscale community and perhaps the people here are more self-centered than in other places. And I also think that some of it is that widows my age are in the minority - there are so few of us in my community that people don't know any. But come on, give me a break here. It is impossible for me to function as a mom would in a two person household - yet the same requirements are expected of me unless I speak up and say no. It just would be nice once in awhile for someone to offer me a break without me having to explain why I can't do something or other. In my mind it is obvious - I'm one person doing the work of two. But I guess for people who haven't faced my life, it is not something they can actually conceptualize.

I hope that when I enlighten people by saying no or explaining why I can't do something, that I am paving the way for others in my situation and expanding the understanding of those still lucky to be happily married.

Today I am grateful:

1. For having a place to vent, process and work out my feelings about widowhood, divorce and life.
2. For others who have the strength to blog about their experiences so I can gain from their perspectives.
3. That I have gotten up and am facing the day.


  1. Uncanny. Did you know I made actual cards to suit this purpose?

    The nursery at my church used to pressure me to stay and "work" since I was always late and my kid meant their ratio was up too high. One day I just said, "No. I really need to go to service, as an only parent and a grieving widow I can't skip this as it's my only soul food for the entire week." They respected my wish; and I was in the end grateful they'd given me a chance to push back and articulate it. The nursery worker apologized a few weeks later, and I thanked her for helping me clarify this important boundary.

    That said, I'm shitty at saying "no" and am overdoing it big-time these days.



  2. Am new to your blog. This is the third post about the "widow card" I've read today! I guess it's good to know that there are others who have to say no to things they'd rather say "yes" to due to grief and single parenthood. I will be adding your blog to my ever-growing list.

    Apologies for the "form letter" explanation below:

    I am working on a comprehensive listing of widow/er blogs and have just added yours to the list. Please feel free to e-mail me if you know of other blogs that should be listed, or if you do not wish to be listed, at It is so hard to find these blogs through regular web searches, and I would like to help change that. At least for now, there will be a growing, categorized list in at least one place. Thanks for helping others who are on a similar journey. Best regards, 3SF

  3. it takes courage to say no, however, I just say i'm exhausted as a widow, single parent, etc. also, I am not going to be able to do much in the next months as well. too many commitments and i'm already too stressed out to think of even tomorrow.