Friday, January 11, 2013

On Being a Single Mom Who Was Raised by a Single Mom

Warning, long and boring post. But I may stick a cute kid picture in the end, just to keep you interested.

I stumbled across an article in Slate that had reader responses to an article titled Single Moms are Better

I missed the window to be one to respond and be featured but I wanted to add some thoughts.

I am a single mom. I was raised by a single mom. I have some input.

I am a single mom by choice, having kids using the help of a fertility doctor with no known male in the picture. I was raised by a single mom who found herself divorced with a pair of preschoolers and a minimum wage job.

Most statistics say my brother and I should be drop outs. Some say I should have been a teen mother. They say that we should be addicted to drugs or alcohol. They say my brother should have already been in and out of jail. Lies, damn lies and statistics. 

And more. One state last year tried to pass a law that being a single mother was child abuse. Yes, child abuse.

We were somewhere between lower and middle class, (not lower middle, maybe upper lower?) We were not dirt poor. We were not receiving Welfare. We never had to skip meals. Sometimes we had new clothes; sometimes we had thrift store values. For us a new car was one with less than 2 previous owners. I did see envelopes arrive in the mail marked "Final Notice". We moved around, a lot. At one point, we did manage to get into a city housing project so my teen years had a more stable living environment.We grew up in some less affluent areas of town. Our high school was mixed though, with kids from “both sides of the track”. I think that helped a lot more than anything else to give me a sense of balance, of what could be. Segregation because of poverty, more than how many parents plays a huge role in outcome.

Some people argue that parents should work out their differences “for the sake of the kids”. Some say that parents should stay together “for the sake of the kids”. But I remember one friend, M. I thought she had the perfect family. They had a house, on the ‘good’ side of the tracks. They had dinner together every night, both parents and all three girls. They did things together on weekends ‘as a family’. I loved when I was included. Then, when we were in our last year of HS, her dad left them. And not just left. He had been having an affair for years, while pretending to be a good family man, loving his wife.  He was just waiting until the kids were older so they wouldn't be raised by a single mom during their formative years. It devastated M (she was the oldest, I think it hit her harder). She lost her self esteem. She became anorexic.  It would have been better for them to split before he had the affair. It would have been better for him to be a divorced dad who loved his kids and spent time with them. Better for them to be raised by a single mom than to think that everything they believed in was a lie. (My other best friend S had a similar family. Happily, hers was real so don't think I'm saying it's not possible to have the fairy tale)

And my parents? How did I end up with a single mom from such a young age? Would I have been happier if my parents stayed together and ‘tried to make it work’? HELL NO. My dad and I have a good relationship now, but back then, not a chance. He was in the Navy, on active duty. He was gone for months at a time. That in itself is not a problem. But as with many in the Navy, he was an alcoholic. And he wasn't just a drink and pass out alcoholic, he was a violent alcoholic. So yeah, my mom did the hard thing, the necessary thing, and they split up. My dad eventually joined AA (again and again) and the last time was the kicker. He’s been a recovering alcoholic for over 30 years now. Sure, I wish that he could have done this 43+ years ago, that we had been important enough reason for him to do it, but it was an addiction. It controlled him. And being on board ship for months at a time, I don’t think back then it was possible to be a recovering alcoholic. So I had a single mom. And yeah, there were struggles.

But it couldn't have been that bad. Both my brother and I have university educations. And yes, we paid for our own. In fact, I couldn't continue to pay for full time education and took 10 years to get my undergraduate degree, going part time while working full time.  But damn it, I earned that degree.  And more, when I finished, I had less than 3000 in student loans that I happily paid off within a couple of years.

My mom and I have been developing a relationship for a while now and I hope it continues to grow and evolve. Ours was not always great growing up. She didn't have the best example of being a mom from her own mother, but that knowledge didn't help me growing up. But all of it together, knowing her childhood, knowing mine, seeing my friend M’s family fall apart and my friend S’s family being so wonderful, I knew what I wanted and did not want for my family.

I have always wanted kids, always. I don’t think there was a moment in my life when I didn't want them, even at times when I thought it would never happen. And I wanted lots of kids. I still want lots of kids. (6 kids feels like the magic number somehow). It was discussed with my partners over the years, but it was never the right person or the right time. But even without a partner, I knew I had to have kids. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I have kids now, 2. (so far)

And I went into it with my eyes wide open. Unlike my mom, I knew I was going to do this on my own. I knew I wouldn't have someone else to share middle of the night feeds with. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in bed if I was sick. And while I wanted (want) 6 kids, I kinda thought I’d have them 1 at a time. I love having twins but those present their own challenges that I only sort of knew about.  But it’s good. It’s good, even when it’s bad.

How do the boys feel about having just me? They are okay with it. They want someone else at home so I can stay home from work. They know I work so that we have a place to live, food on the table etc. Sometimes Corwyn has asked for another mommy (he wanted 8 for a while) so I could stay home from work. Nathan has talked about a Daddy recently but if I ask him what he means, he doesn't know, he just saw it in a book "mommy and daddy". We talk about all the people they have in their lives. They consider themselves lucky.

When I was checking Reece's Rainbow daily, cheering for and promoting the orphans at Christmas, the boys would ask about them. I told them these kids have no mommy or daddy. And they would immediately pipe in with the people we talk about they do have that these kids don't “no E(caregiver) no aunty Shaun and uncle Joe; no Brian and Boun; no Gweny; no Monika and Aias.”  And the list goes on. It always includes the people I just listed and the others change based on who they interacted with the most recently.

Even without my trying, they see a mix of family types all the time. We have friends with no kids, single or in couples. There are gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples with and without kids. There are other single mom families part of lives (most of those are via divorce). They see it all, they take it in and we discuss it openly. Unlike when I was growing up, being raised by one parent is not so uncommon anymore.  They have role models in those who touch our lives. If it takes a village, my boys have that.

Sometimes I miss it, not someone to share the responsibilities with, but someone to share the joys with. Other times, I hear my friends complain about their partner and am so grateful I don’t have to deal with that. I’m happy that I don’t have to consult with someone else on my decisions.

But in case you’re wondering……I’m open to the idea of the boys having another mommy. 8 might be too many, but one more could be nice. 


wanda roberts laquidara said...

awesome! I am now following you!!!

Apis said...

Wonderful post, Chris. And for the record, you are one of the most amazing moms I know. <3 Hope we can get together with the kids soon!

Shazam said...

well said - I know it's only been 2 weeks but I miss my hugs and high fives. September seems a long ways off - will have to figure out a weekend afternoon soon.

K J and the kids said...

I agree. and the only single parent kids that I know are extremely well rounded and successful. In fact 2 of them that are close to me and come to mind were only children. They said that was hard for them. Not having a single mom. being the only child. :)
(I also know only children who were happy that they were the only ones)

Being a single mom is hard as you well know. It would be nice to have "back up" :) and I do hope that you get "back up" soon.

Anonymous said...

So happy to read this even if I did cry a bit, wish I was younger and closer so I could help out some but in my books you are a super mom and I love those boys so much it hurts. I really hope u find somebody to share your life and the boys with. Love u

Anonymous said...

You made another top list!

Viviane said...

Awesome great post! Thanks for sharing!