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My daughter is nearly a year old, and how the time goes by, a river that doesn't stop flowing. I wish I could capture some little drop of the water to keep forever, but that's not how it works.
And there are some polluted parts of the river that I wish could be washed clean with the rest, but they come back and haunt me from time to time.
Here's my mommy-backstory: I was living alone in a big city, which we'll call Funville, dating a man who was not my dreamboat, although we were having a good time. To make a long, annoying story short, we ended up not having such a good time in the end, and by then, I found out I was pregnant.
When he heard the news, he couldn't run away fast enough.
I waited many, many long years to have this baby, having suffered a miscarriage from a previous relationship and receiving several marriage proposals that ended with, "Um, oops, actually, I take that back." When I wasn't even sure yet but started to have the early symptoms -- you know, the cramping that isn't accompanied by a period and the sore breasts -- I started talking with friends about my pregnancy suspicions and howthrilled I'd be if I were right.
When my first pee-stick test showed the plus sign, I ran into the streets and told everyone I laid eyes on, "I'M HAVING A BABY!"
I knew she'd be a girl from the moment I confirmed I was pregnant. I didn't even care that baby daddy had vanished with very little trace; I wanted this child. And this is the happiest gift from the universe I could have ever hoped for: she's beautiful. I mean, just stunning (and I realize I'm biased, but everyone else seems to agree).
She's funny and fun-loving and clearly is an intelligent person who already shows an aptitude for language and music.
So what, you might ask, is my problem? It's this: I do not like to be seen as a victim of circumstances. I want to state unequivocally for the record, right here and now, that my name is not "Oh, You Poor Thing." There are several main perpetrators of this image, who probably mean well, but do a very poor execution of support.
For starters, my parents seem to think I can't be an effective care giver, because I am "alone." And I don't mean that I am attempting to raise my daughter without community involvement or friends or family, because we really do have lots of outside help. What I mean is, they think I can't do it without them or a husband co-parenting with me. They think I can't afford her clothes or toys, I can't provide her with an amazing education, I can't even support her dreams.
Another well-intentioned victimizing circumstance happens when others say, "I just don't see how you can even do it!" Well, I'll tell you my secret: I don't have a choice. Nor do most other single moms. We do it and survive because we have to.
I get the willies when I read blogs written by married mothers whose partners leave town for a weekend and they get all frazzled and bedazzled and then compare themselves to single moms. Inevitably, the married mom didn't plan ahead because they are used to sharing responsibility (which, believe me, I'm not knocking, because that would be nice), and then commends herself for luckily surviving a few days. The blog usually ends with, "I'm so blessed to have a husband! I just have to admire the single moms because it was really hard to do it alone!"
Please don't use me to congratulate your own life. I plan ahead because I have to, and that's how I get through. I can't take a single thing for granted. Not for a weekend, but for every day of our lives. I respectfully ask that you stop appropriating my experience in order to feel good about your situation.
I also do not want to be the poster child for all other single parents, because we come in many stripes. I happen to be well educated, make a decent living, put a reliable roof over our heads, and keep our tummies full. Some single moms are luckier than me, some work harder, some are much more successful. And some single moms are clinging on by their fingernails.
None of us are interested in being social experiments for the rest of the crowd. I thank the people who are gladdened that I chose to carry this baby to term and keep her, but this decision doesn't make me any more or less amazing than the next mother.
What I do not ever need is pity for the behavior of my daughter's father. He made a choice, and we will now deal with it for the rest of our lives, but he is responsible for himself, and I am not his apologist. Please do not feel sorry for me because he is a sorry person.
Finally, what I want most as a single mother is to be asked what I need, and for that, and that only, to be provided. I don't need 5,000 toys, I need for someone to watch her for an hour so I can do my dishes or scrub out the bathtub or get a massage. Indeed, the 5,000 toys mentality does us all a huge disservice in the long run, when my daughter grows up to be Paris Hilton's demanding, evil mini-me.
It's not really the toys themselves that bother. I mean, I'm not an ungrateful jerk. It's this: Well-intentioned or not, help needs to be helpful. It's harsh to feel obliged to accept charity stemming from a discomfort about my "situation." I don't need charity, I need solidarity.
All in all, I thank the universe daily for my beautiful daughter and our beautiful life together. And I thank the incredible parents and people I surround myself with on a daily basis, and I look forward to that day when people look at me and think my name is "Oh, You Blessed Mom."