Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Bachelorette Emily, Single Mom

I don't watch a lot of TV but there are certain shows I can't miss. One of them being The Bachelor/Bachelorette series. During Brad Womack's season of The Bachelor, there was one girl that really stood out for me, it was Emily Maynard. Not only was she a charming southern belle, stunningly beautiful, but she had a heartbreaking background story that made you love her even more. She had been engaged to her high school sweetheart, Ricky, a racecar driver. Tragically he died in a plane crash while enroute to a race. Devestated to lose the love of her life, she was about to get another shock -- finding out that she was pregnant with his child! She was grateful to have his child, a part of him still with her. Though she was heartbroken she had to be strong for her daughter. She named her child Ricki. She got through the toughest loss of her life by focusing on the unexpected gift of a child that would share the rest of her life.

It's tough enough to meet someone worthwhile, never mind when you're a single Mom. Finding someone worthy of your child, who would make a good father as well as a good partner for you is no easy task. Even finding the time to date while you're trying to raise a child can be a challenge. So Emily went years alone as a single Mom without a relationship. She went on The Bachelor looking for love. And found it.

When I saw them on the show, I could tell that Brad was in love with her. When it was down to the last few girls especially, I knew he was going to choose her. A fellow avid Bachelor viewer who had been a single Mom herself sneered "No way. He'll never choose her. No guy is going to pick someone with a kid!"
"But he loves her! I can tell!" I insisted.
I was right. He picked Emily. Out of 25 women, he had fallen in love with her. He proposed to her and she said yes. They made a beautiful couple. It seemed like the perfect fairytale come true.

But there was trouble in paradise...All that glittered was not gold. For whatever reasons, it didn't work out and the couple broke off their engagement. I heard that it was largely because Brad was unwilling or unable to offer the kind of stability Emily needed for her daughter. It sounded as though he expected Emily and her daughter to just uproot and come to him at his whim. It also seemed that he was unprepared for the responsibilities of being a father, that he wanted Emily to himself, wanted to go away on last minute vacations, have the sort of carefree, spontaneous life you would as a single person, not a possibility for a loving Mom. Your child comes first. So they went their separate ways.

Once again, Emily was alone and heartbroken. She'd had such high hopes for Brad. He seemed perfect. The problem is that a lot of men appear to be perfect and show their best side when they are trying to win you over. As time goes on you discover their flaws, find out how different they are from you. Some things can be compromised if you are both really committed to it. Other things are non-negotiable.

Being a single Mom, Emily's daughter was her whole life and kept her busy. She was happy and had a lot of fun with Ricki. Of course your child means the world to you but it can still be tough as a parent on your own and deep down she really wanted a family. To share her life with a loving partner and have a family together, with more children. Emily confessed that she got lonely after Ricki went to bed at 7 pm at night. At night can be the most difficult. You miss having someone next to you. Those are the times that you wish you had a companion, a partner, a romantic love relationship. Emily is a knockout and a sweet girl. Naturally she had no problem attracting men, the problem was finding the right one. That's the toughest thing as a single Mom -- meeting a good man that you feel a connection with, a man who wants a family and is able to love your child as his own. A man might be drawn to her beauty, but would he be ready for the responsibility of being a father as well?

When the show approached her about being the next Bachelorette, she was reluctant. She had already left Ricki when she went on The Bachelor and didn't want to leave her again. Her daughter was her top priority. But the producers were willing to break with tradition and film in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina so that she could be close to her daughter and still do the show.

And so for the first time in the show's history, the Bachelorette is a single Mom. I think it's awesome. It's a sign of the times. There are a lot of single parents out there, each with their own story. Emily's tragic story is rather unique (a widow who discovers she's pregnant after she's lost her love). Others are single Moms as a result of divorce, some are single Moms by choice (either adopting or having IVF via a sperm donor).  Others, like myself, become single Moms unexpectedly. I didn't plan to get pregnant to a man I'd only been dating a month. He originally promised to stick around but I guess he changed his mind about being a father because he disappeared when I was four months pregnant. No matter what their stories, the fact remains, there are a lot of us out there. While I believe it's better to be alone than to be in a bad relationship, ideally many of us would like to raise a child as a family with two loving parents. The challenge is finding that worthy father figure. Plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes, but a lot of them sharks. When you have a child to think about, you have to be even more selective.

What's most encouraging about the show to me is that there are 25 men very eager and excited to be with her, to win her hand. They know her story, they know that she has a child and yet are not scared off. Mind you, she is probably the sweetest girl in Reality TV history and is drop-dead gorgeous so it's not hard to imagine men wanting to be with her! The real proof will be how they are with children and with her daughter specifically. As she learned the hard way with Brad, a man can seem to be perfect in front of the cameras and then let you down when it comes to daily realities, off camera. In abstract, it's easy for a man to say "Yes I'll be a father to little Ricki." It's quite another to actually be there on a daily basis. Taking her to soccer practice. Helping out at home. Realizing that when you love a single Mom it's a package deal. You have to love her child too.

One of the bachelors actually told Emily that her being a single Mom was one of the most attractive things about her because it proved that she was strong, independent and capable of unconditional love. That was great to hear. A man who has been raised by a single Mom especially seems to have a deep respect, admiration and sense of protectiveness of other single Moms. So single Moms raise sweet, sensitive men, which frankly the world needs more of! One of the sweetest men I ever dated came from a single Mom household. His father was an alcoholic and left them. He was very protective of his Mom. Growing up in a house of women, his Mom and sister, gave him a unique understanding of women and respect for them.

I hope that Emily finds love and gets her happy ending this time. I'm sure a lot of single Moms out there, like me, are rooting for her.

I could be very cynical after all that I've seen and experienced myself but I'm still a hopeless romantic. I haven't entirely lost faith in love. It does exist. It can work. It's just a matter of finding the right person. I didn't. But I'm not completely giving up hope that he could be out there, somewhere, someday. The good thing about being a single Mom is that it has raised my standards very high. I will be much more careful from now on, because I have to be. I made some reckless choices in the past. "Oh I know he seems dangerous but it can't hurt to go for a coffee with him." Famous last words. I went for a coffee with two Scorpions last year and ended up falling in love with both of them. And they both stung me. The last one even got me pregnant. I knew they were trouble before I even went out with them. But I went ahead anyway because I was curious, looking for a thrill. I have to be much more careful now. Any red flags, warning signs and I am outta there! I just can't risk hurting my child. Apparently hurting myself was OK! If only I had been as protective of myself as I am of my baby. Still, sometimes you have to follow your heart and make mistakes along the way. The biggest mistake of my life led to my greatest joy, this baby, this unexpected miracle.

I remember reading that there are two types of men -- boyfriends and husbands, boys and men. Most of the guys I dated were boyfriends. It's not that I planned it that way consciously but part of me was afraid of commitment. In a way it was easier to go out with boys that gave me an escape route -- younger men, flawed men, men who couldn't or wouldn't commit. I always had a way out. Mind you, some of the men I dated were husband material, particularly the long term ones -- 2 years, 4 years, 9 years. Even then I had an out. The problem was I was looking for the perfect man. I wanted passion, excitement and romance on one hand, but I wanted stability, friendship and contentment on the other. It's really hard to find both in one person. Usually it's either/or. So I would swing like a pendulum between the two opposites. I ended up with some very damaged men who were fun, exciting, passionate, sensitive, romantic and made me feel alive but would tear my world apart. They were flighty at best and psychologically damaged, substance abusers at worst. It was a rollercoaster. While rollercoasters are fun, constant ups and downs is no way to live in the long run. Then I would run toward someone safe, kind and stable for normalcy. These were good men, but they felt like friends rather than lovers. They didn't make my heart race, my blood boil. I missed the drama and intensity of the more complicated guys. I couldn't win. With both types of men, it always felt like something was missing. What may have been missing was loving myself and feeling whole and complete on my own but I never gave myself that chance. I kept diving into one relationship after another, hiding from myself, thinking I needed someone else to love me, to make me happy. Always disappointed.

One friend of mine, a very strong independent single woman, was always lecturing me about needing time alone, not dating for a while. But I was afraid to be alone. And I had no trouble meeting men, almost instantly. One relationship would end and I'd wind up in another. Most of my boyfriends I met in bars. Even I finally realized this probably wasn't the best way. I tried dating online and that turned out to be even worse. I met a string of really shady characters. But it was my pattern. The only way I could ever get over one man was to date another, usually his opposite. Unless I was still pining for him and then I'd look for his twin. Case in point, I didn't learn my lesson dating one Scorpio who was a slim, blond, tattooed, dangerous, 6'2" complicated, mesmerizing, intoxicatingly sexy character with a ton of baggage. I proceeded to fall for another months later and he stung me worst of all -- knocked me up and ran out on me. A cad, a coward, a cruel, deceitful, heartless monster if there ever was one. (Ok I have been working on peace and forgiveness but sometimes a little bitterness still seeps out. I think I'm entitled!)

My baby's father, (whom I will refer to from now on as "M") was insanely possessive and jealous of my previous relationships. He didn't like that I had photo albums of former loves. He even sabotaged my computer and wiped out my hard drive with thousands of pictures (luckily I had many posted online and backed up on CDs so all weren't lost, but many were), likely because of the large number of photos of my former male model boyfriend, posing shirtless. M had made a snide remark about me living in the past and hanging onto photos and then suddenly the external drive containing all my photos is corrupted and all my data lost. M denied doing it but it happened right after he moved in. Too much to be a coincidence. Given his psychological issues with jealousy, suspicion and control and after him leaving the way he did, abandoning me without a word, I saw just what he was capable of and knew it had been him. M used to sneer that he was probably just the flavour of the month to me, just another bump in the road, that I would leave him for someone else. I certainly would have had an escape route with him. He had a billion red flags. He was the worst prospect I could find. But when I found out I was pregnant with his child, I was committed. He was my child's father so I wouldn't have ended it with him. Even when he got on my nerves. Even when I realized he was a financial and emotional liability on me. I never imagined that he would run. He had told me I was stuck with him forever. It broke my heart when he left but it was a blessing in the long run. Baby and me are better off.

I do want to fall in love again someday. There is part of me that worries if men will run for the hills once I mention a child. Of course the wrong ones will. If it's the right one, he'll stick around. I know myself that even though I thought I didn't want kids, I was still attracted to a couple of single dads and I wound up adoring their kids. It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to the kids when the relationships ended. So I know that you can love someone and their children. I know that children can add so much to your life. I had so much fun with them and will never forget them.

I know a lot of women who were single Moms for a time and they didn't stay that way. They did meet someone and start a new family and a new life together, some of them with other single Dads forming blended families, and others with men who were not afraid of taking on a family and becoming a parent to their loved one's child. Others find that life is happier and less complicated not getting involved and choose to stay single parents. Whatever will be, will be and I trust the Universe to lead me in the right direction. The most important thing to me now is this baby. In the beginning especially she will be my whole world and there won't be room for anyone else. It will be a while before I would even have the time or inclination to date. So I'm finally forced to take my friend's advice and be alone. I have been alone since February (which really is a record for me!) and it feels good. I don't feel lonely. I actually feel a constant connection with the baby, especially when I feel her moving around. I feel at peace with myself, enjoying my own company and getting back into my hobbies again like writing (this blog means a lot to me!) painting, all the things I neglected when there was a man in the picture. I have more time to spend with family. I feel fulfilled. Now, if and when, I meet someone I wouldn't be looking for him to complete me and fill a void in my life, I would only like him to add to my life and share the love of my daughter and I.

I wish Emily the best. I hope she gets her happy ending.
I hope we all do. Whatever that may be for each of us.

The problem for many of us is that we grow up on fairytales and we expect life to be like that. Of course the fairytales end on a vague high note -- "And they lived happily ever after." It glosses over what happens next. We read these stories or watch movies and they're so seductive. We cry at the end and think "That's what I want!" Our expectations are so high. Can real life measure up? Life isn't perfect. It isn't scripted, with Prince Charming who says and does all the right things. Life is messy and complicated. When you're caught up in the excitement and newness of a relationship it can seem perfect but it's getting past that honeymoon stage and into the daily business of living that's the hard part. Living happily ever after includes sometimes having arguments and working through them, getting through challenges, loving each other even when it's not easy, even when you're exhausted and things go wrong. It's not all hearts and flowers. It's putting out the garbage and doing the dishes and morning breath and credit card bills. It's loving someone even when they're annoying. It's making it work even when you're tempted to run. For better and for worse.

Emily is different this time around. She's asking more pointed questions. She's seeing past the fairytale romance, past the glamour of the show. She's thinking about the big picture after the show is over. Who can really fit in to her life. Who is on the same page, has the same goals. Who could really be in it for keeps and make a good husband and father. I hope she finds him.

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