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Will I Hurt My Kid Because I'm a Single Mom?

Photograph by Leah Campbell

I’m not someone who falls in love easily, nor do I consider myself especially easy to love. I’m picky about the people I spend my time with, and I can be hard on those I care about. I'm quick to shut down or push away anyone I think might be capable of hurting me.

I could give you a thousand excuses for why this is, mostly boiling down to issues from my past. But I try. I really, really do. I’ve had years of therapy under my belt and plenty of time spent working on becoming a person I like, a person I’m proud of.

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I still have my issues, but I’m always trying to improve upon that person I am. And for the most part, I am happy. And strong. I’m a good friend. A good person.

And I like to think I’m a damn good mom.

The one thing I am not, is good at romantic relationships.

When I fell in love, I fell hard, often to my own detriment. Since becoming a mother, though, I’ve refused to go down that path.

I pick wrong, if I pick at all. I don’t fall very often for anyone, and years will go by before I ever feel a hint of butterflies. But when I do … it’s never actually been right. The men I choose tend to be pretty damaged themselves, and I’m not entirely sure why that is—why I have a proclivity for broken.

I’m a collector of broken pieces, someone who tends to try to hold everyone else together, almost in this effort to keep my own brokenness from ever being on display.

Like I said, I’ve had a lot of therapy.

Before my daughter was born, I wasn’t very good at protecting myself. When I fell in love, I fell hard, often to my own detriment. Since becoming a mother, though, I’ve refused to go down that path. I’ve refused to lose myself to anyone else’s brokenness.

It’s not an option. I have my little girl to take care of now. And while there have been a million beautiful things to come out of her introduction to my life, perhaps the most beautiful has been the ways in which she has forced me to be good to myself.

Unfortunately, in my refusal to go down the same old broken paths, I’ve found myself mostly alone. I'm unwilling to trust my own judgment and afraid of what might happen if I choose wrong.

My daughter and I have a pretty good thing. We are happy. We live a healthy and stable life. I’m able to provide for us everything we need and plenty of what we want. And on my own, I’m able to ensure that the home she grows up in looks a lot different from the one I did.

I’m able to create a world where she is safe and always knows she’s wanted and loved.

But it’s just the two of us. And I'm genuinely not sure there is someone out there for me ... I really do think I might actually be alone for most of my life.

When I consider that, there's definitely some sadness, but I'm mostly OK with the possibility ... for me. I would rather be alone than in a relationship that isn't right or that doesn't provide me and my girl with the same stability and love we’ve already surrounded ourselves with.

It’s only when I think about that possibility for my daughter, about the possibility of her growing up with only me, that I struggle.

I sort of feel like part of my job as a mother is to be the one to show her what a healthy romantic relationship looks like. She’s supposed to learn that from me, right?

But what if I’m just not capable of that? What if the fact that I grew up never seeing it for myself has stunted me in a way that I now may be stunting her?

My daughter and I would both just be better off with me giving up completely—with me accepting that I’m not someone who is meant to be loved.

Recently, I had hope. There was someone I had come to like. Someone I thought maybe there could be potential with. For the first time in five years, I had butterflies. That hope I felt really wasn't just for me, it was for her, too—for the possibility of being able to show her something good.

I thought I could finally be that mom who could show her by example what it means to love and be loved.

But before anything could really happen between us, he took his own life. And this weird thing resulted from that; outside the hurt and sadness I felt for his family and closest friends, I was also left with this feeling, in the pit of my stomach, that something must really be wrong with me. I’m someone who is far too drawn to broken to be trusted, and my daughter and I would both just be better off with me giving up completely—with me accepting that I’m not someone who is meant to be loved.

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And you know what? That’s something I am willing to accept. It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make, in order to protect my little girl from the brokenness within me that so clearly attracts me to the same.

But it also makes me sad. For me. For her. For the picture I’m pretty sure won’t ever be complete.

And now I'm kind of just stuck on this thought of what she's going to miss, because her mommy has never really been able to make love work.

For what it’s worth, the two of us? We make a pretty good team, and we have a pretty good life. I just … I wish she could have it all. Because she deserves it all. Because she deserves everything.

And I’m sad that I’m the reason she probably won’t have it.

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