I am a mother. I do not recall what the fabric of my life was comprised of before I had my daughter. And, no, it’s not because I was in a drunken stupor all the time or because I’m *that* boring. It is simply because being a single mother or you know, a mother, has been at the core of my life for the past 10 years and I honestly do not remember what my life was like when I was the center of my universe.
I have always been a single mother. Hell, I may always be a single mother – I mean, have you tried dating in the 21st century? And, as if dating wasn’t awful enough, add being a single mother to the equation and it’s analogous to medieval torture. I break out in hives when I ponder, in brief, delusional moments, falling in love (is it wrong that I laughed as I typed that?), how parenting as a team would work … it is a foreign concept to me. Someone to help me? Someone with an opinion as to how I should raise my child? Sweet Jesus, pass the Xanax.
I realize that some people cannot distinguish between single parenthood and, let’s say, the plague. Yes, you, the self-appointed pillars of morality (straddled precariously) on your high horses looking down upon us lowly single parents who plot the demise of civilization through our abhorrent lifestyle choice, holding us singularly (ok, you also blame gays) responsible for the dissolution of the almighty traditional family unit. Bitch, please, ain’t no single parent got time for that. We are aware that some people think our choices guarantee a life (well-deserved, of course) of misery, poverty, and no education or opportunities … I could barely write that without vomiting, but I feel I need to address these individuals, henceforth to be referred to as “assholes,” before I write about my experience as a single mother. And so, dear zealots, pedaling your bigotry under the guise of family values, labeling single parents anathema to all that is holy, I speak to you: go fuck yourselves. Yeah, I’m not one of those people who takes time out of my schedule to write eloquent letters trying to convince others to change their perspective – some people you just can’t reach. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I really admire people who take the time to develop substantive, well-articulated, less juvenile retorts to assholes. I, however, am not one of those people.
What I am is a passionate, determined woman who is raising a kick-ass daughter. No, really, she could kick your ass. And to contradict the preconceived notions about children from single parent families, I would like to take a moment to mention (brag about) my daughter. She is one of the top students in her class, she is a remarkable and versatile athlete, she is a natural born leader and she has more confidence than I ever did at that age (hell, I don’t know if I have that kind of confidence now). Of course I’m hoping puberty doesn’t ruin all of that …
The Worst Question
You’d think the worst question you could ask a single mom would be whether she ever gets laid. And don’t think I’ve never been asked. I’d like to specify that “never has sex” is not a prerequisite for being a single parent. To tell you the truth, not that it’s anyone’s fucking (ha) business, but I figure I’ll take this opportunity to make those people jealous – we actually have as much sex as we want. We simply pack as many orgasms as we can into our free time – it’s like a carnival of orgasms! Mommy’s days off are actually mommy gets off days. Anyway, enough beating around the bush (groan) here. No, the worst question you can ask this single mother is “does her father help out?” That’s the real gem. Of all the asinine questions I have been asked in my life (and being a plus-sized woman, I have been asked many), this question is the one that I just cannot swallow (stop that, I know you went there). There is no way to answer that question that doesn’t involve 1. lying or 2. me sounding like an asshole. Do not ask me this question unless we are very close (in which case you’d already know the answer). Otherwise, swallow the question and shut up.
I knew that my marriage wouldn’t last longer than 6 minutes, but I was 8 months pregnant and, for the sake of the length of this post, we’re going to blame pregnancy brain for that decision and move forward. What I’m saying is that part of me always knew I was going to be a single mother and I accepted the consequences of that. My daughter’s relationship with her father is theirs to work on and develop. I am here to reassure her that he loves her, not involve her in the details of our relationship, which is non-existent, thank god.
I’ve been hearing a lot about ‘married single moms’ lately. I am going to be brutal here, but you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about. Not one iota. Do you know what being the person solely responsible for everything entails? No, you simply do not. I am not saying your marriages are all perfect and your husbands aren’t mouth breathers, but they must be contributing something, otherwise why are you staying? For better or worse? Don’t get me started on that …
In my experience, the only challenge of single parenting is the pressure of knowing there is no back-up. I.Am.It. Financially. Physically. Emotionally. I.Am.It. She needs me to be there for her, regardless of my state of mind or my physical state – kiddo needs me to show up. If I am tired one night, there is no one else to make dinner. My job supports us. There is no second source of income. There is no time for a breakdown.
It is never my daughter I tire of (we’ll see how that goes when she’s a teenager) and truthfully, it is not the day to day madness that drains me. I never worry about sleepless nights or terrible twos or any of those things people try to scare you with when you have kids. I just enjoy her and love being privy to the different phases she goes through as she grows up. She’s only with her father four days a month and I miss her dearly when she’s gone (when I am not basking, nakedly, in the glory of my 48 hours of solitude, of course). I never tire of her laughter, of her sense of humor, of her inquisitive nature. No, it is the weight of the sole responsibility for her well-being that exhausts me in a way I cannot articulate. So please, dear women with partners, I understand that comparing yourselves to single mothers is usually an attempt, albeit a misguided one, at commiseration, but the contrast is simply too sharp to endeavor such a comparison.
I don’t believe the bullshit about single-parent homes being broken homes. I cannot deny that the odds are not in our favor, that society is set up for couples and two-parent families, but there is nothing broken about my home. I know many two-parent families that suffer more dysfunction than I could possibly fathom (or stomach for that matter). And that as much as I believe we must recognize and tend to the needs of our children, we cannot be successful as parents and as human beings as long as we insist on maintaining toxic relationships and neglecting our needs. I cannot imagine raising my child in a situation where there is no love or where there is constant fighting and misery.
I want my daughter to know that you can start your life over a million times, that the end of a relationship is normal and not the end of your life, that you must never depend on another human being to fill any lonely place inside of you (or, if we are being practical, to pay the bills). That you must cultivate yourself as your own person. And that as a woman, your feelings and your needs count, that your dreams matter, even when you are a mother. I want her to know that you are never a prisoner to a situation, except in your mind. And also, that as a mother, no matter how busy you are, there is always time for a shower.
Kiddo is one of the funniest, most articulate, compassionate, brightest little humans I’ve ever encountered. Obviously, I am not impartial, but I do not suffer from the delusion that my child is perfect. She has a hell of an attitude and a goddamn big mouth (yes, I know, it’s the apple-tree proximity thingy). She is not perfect. But at times, I glance over at her and her beauty, all of it, and it astounds me. I wonder how I could possibly have had anything to do with this? With all the noise inside me, how could I have contributed to this beautiful soul, this magical human being?
Single motherhood does not make us special. Motherhood does not make us special. What makes us special is how we love and treat the people in our lives. If I know nothing else, I do know how to love my daughter. I love her for who she is. Everyday my goal is (other than ensuring that my nails are color coordinated to my outfit) to raise a child who will take my life lessons, which coincidentally includes a lesson on ‘how not to be an asshole,’ and help her grow into a confident, compassionate, loving human being who is comfortable in her own skin. A daughter who won’t disown me when she’s older because I totally fucked up … although I have set-up a contingency fund for a therapist, should she feel I ruined her life. I’m proactive that way.
I wanted more than one child, but I always knew I would have only one. And although she was not planned (I’ll save that story for another day), I was thrilled from the moment I knew I was pregnant – my breasts felt like I’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. I knew that my daughter (I named her as soon as that pee stick read +) was going to be somebody wonderful. And she has proven to be more than I could have ever dreamed of. Yes, there are days when I mourn the freedom of uninterrupted baths, movie nights with friends, or changing my tampon without answering 50 questions, but those moments are so few and far between, they’re irrelevant to me. “Get a babysitter and go out more!” my friends say. And I do, but it’s a rare treat. I actually don’t want to miss my daughter’s childhood. It’s already passing us by at an alarming rate. I want to be the one to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. I think the greatest gift I can give her is my presence. She needs to know now that I am here for her. One day I will be gone. I want her to know that she was the most important part of me.