Friday, April 20, 2012
Single Mom, Wonder Woman
There are a lot of us out there. Nearly one quarter of mothers now are single mothers and almost 50% of today's moms will be the sole custodial parent at some time. Almost half of single moms were never married. The other half are divorced, separated or widowed.
Lately, I've been fortunate enough to talk with a number of single moms. Each has her own unique story. Some were abandoned, as I was, during pregnancy or after. I thought that my story was unusual, (in my 40s pregnant unexpectedly and abandoned), but I actually met another single mom whose tale was almost identical. She was 40, became pregnant to a man whom she'd only been dating a month (just like me). He left her, without warning, at the three month point (mine was at four months). She was due in July (just like me!) but ended up having her son prematurely. Luckily he was a healthy, happy boy and is the light of her life. His father only came to see him once, in the hospital, just after he was born and made no subsequent attempts to be a part of his son's life. Of the other single moms I talked to, most were divorced. Some escaped toxic and abusive relationships (alcoholism and other substance abuse, infidelity, physical and psychological abuse.) There is also a new breed of single mom -- the single moms by choice who decided to go it alone and create a family without a man, either adopting a child on their own or using a sperm donor to have a child without a relationship. If you want to start a family and Mr. Right doesn't show up in time, improvise! Despite the differences between them, these single moms are all extraordinary women. I am in awe of their independence, strength and determination, the deep love and close bond they have with their kids. I never expected to find myself in this situation. I can only hope that I'm up to the task.
It can be a daunting task. Let's face it, in this economy, families struggle to survive on TWO incomes, never mind one. To earn enough to support her children and still have enough time to spend with them can be a challenge. A single mother has to be resourceful, enterprising, hard-working, organized, a master of time management, able to juggle the needs of career and childcare. Having the support of family and friends can be a great help. I am fortunate to have a mother and sister that are extremely supportive. I've had family and friends donate maternity and baby clothes. My sister is giving me her crib, change table, rocking chair, toys and many other items which is a HUGE help. Money will be tight to say the least. Especially when I go on maternity leave. I'm not actually sure how I'm going to manage, what arrangements I'll have to make before going back to work. The plan originally was for Mike, the baby's father, to watch the baby when I went back to work because he worked from home (yeah, if you can call it that.) Now I'm not sure what I'll do but I'm trying not to worry about things that are a year down the road. I'm taking it one day at a time and trusting that somehow everything will work out.
Of course I didn't stay alone for long. I ended up reconciling with an old boyfriend who was still in the picture as a friend. I wasn't very good at being alone. I always felt I needed to have a boyfriend. I'd go from one to the next with little or no break in between. I would stay in relationships too long even when they weren't working, because it was too frightening to not have someone there. Sometimes I would want to leave someone and someone else, usually his opposite would show up to give me a way out. I continued this pattern for more than 20 years. On a pendulum swinging back and forth between two types of men (strong but emotionless or sensitive but falling apart) when what I really needed was someone somewhere in the middle -- a man who could be strong AND sensitive. Right now, being pregnant and alone since the start of February is actually the longest stretch of time I've gone without dating anyone in the past two decades. My friend kept telling me I needed to be alone but I wouldn't listen. Now I have no choice. The baby is keeping me out of trouble! Of course I'm never really alone. She's always with me. I love feeling that bond, feeling her move, talking to her. No matter where I go or what I do, she's there. And when she kicks or nudges me it makes me smile and whisper "Love you baby." It's our secret conversation. I can't wait to hold her in my arms. This is a different sort of love than the romantic love I'd been seeking most of my life. It is a deeper love and one that I know will endure forever. Romantic love has so many conditions. The love you have for a child is forever, completely unconditional. It can never be undone.
In a perfect world, every child would grow up with two loving parents. In the real world, it doesn't always pan out that way. Sometimes Mr. Right doesn't show up. Or turns out to be very wrong. I think that a child having one loving parent is preferable to having two parents in a bad situation, who are unhappy, arguing, at each other's throats. Having no father in the picture is better than having a bad one. An abusive parent is more damaging than an absent one. Some people claim that they stay together "for the kids" and then subject their children to a toxic, hostile environment. A war zone where mom and dad hate each other. A nightmare where mother and children walk on eggshells hoping dad won't lash out at them. Children need to feel safe. They need to be loved. A single mom who has her whole heart to give may be all that they need. So if dad doesn't want to be there and takes off, frankly, he's done you a favour. And if dad is still in the picture but doing more harm than good, to you and your child, for Heaven's sake, get out.
I am a single mom. I don't know if I can be Wonder Woman. I don't have superhuman powers but I'm sure going to try to be the best Mom I can be. It's scary. Most of the time I can be positive but there are moments when I'm exhausted, when I feel overwhelmed, moments when I cry and doubt myself and I wonder how I'll get through. But I have a source of strength, a meaning and a purpose that I've never had before. This baby is my life, my reason, my hope and faith. I only have to think of her and then I know that it's going to be OK. She is a miracle. She was meant to be.