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'Mommy, Are You Going to End Up Alone?'

Photograph by Twenty20

I'm putting the kids to sleep and it's taking forever. They are masters at the art of procrastination. When they've run out of the obvious stuff—ice, bathroom, snack runs, one more book—they go for the jugular with another round of kisses, hugs and tuck in demands. During this last concession, I offer half-ass hugs and a lame tuck in because I'm exhausted.

Then My kids start drilling me with variations of this question:

"Are you going to marry Manboy X?"

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Skilled in the fine art of deflection, I side-step it with one-line zingers.

"But AJ," I tell my son, "I'm already married to you!"

"No you're not." He's smart for a 5-year-old.

I'm about to walk out when Aria insists she has something to tell me.

She pulls me in. "Mommy, are you going to end up alone, like Nana, with two porcelain dogs and butterscotch hard candy?"

Lonely? If (my daughter) only knew how much I cherish my alone time.

I'm blown away, as usual, by her attention to detail and dry delivery. Butterscotch?

"Aria, wow, you remember Nana's butterscotch candy?"

This is part of my avoidance ruse. "That is so funny. I have to write this down now!" I start typing this dialogue into my phone so I don't forget it. Hopefully she will.

She doesn't.

"Well, are you?"

"Oh baby, Nana is 83."

Aria goes, "You'll be that soon."

"You want me to marry Manboy X so I'm not alone?"

"Yes, I worry about you when I'm at my dad's. I think you're all alone and I get so sad for you." She's crying now.

"I think about how lonely you are and it makes me so sad."

My mind is spinning. First, is she faking these tears? Then ... lonely? If she only knew how much I cherish my alone time.

"Oh baby, I'm not lonely at all, in fact I never get lonely. I love being alone! Also, that's not a reason to get married."

"But mom, no one likes to be alone." She retorts.

"I do."

I creep down the hall, into my room and hop into bed, my oasis of solitude. I arrogantly spread out diagonally across the king size bed and relax into my portal to autonomy with my laptop, books and magazines.

My stuff. My bed. Solitude. Heaven.

You don't get this in marriage. You don't get nights alone in your bed to just be with you. Marriage and live-in partners mean the constant sharing of space and energy. And after years of it, four long-term live-in relationships (if you count my starter marriage at 23 that I mostly did to piss off my parents), two which procured children, two which ended in divorce, that's a lot of nights getting into bed angry, rolling away from one another, listening to the breath, snores, teeth grinding, nightmares and farts (men fart A LOT) of someone you just had a fight with. And I want none of it.

I love being alone. And I have carved a relationship with Manboy X where I can be alone and he's cool with it. We are together, sometimes. And we are always alone at nights. The most obvious reason is I don't want my kids experiencing a man in my bed. Ever. I don't want them to think a man in my bed is a norm, that it's a goal or a necessity, that we have to have a partner to be whole. When it ends (they always do) the loss of it will be another experience of loss for them. They've had enough of that with their dads moving out.

The only humans I want to wake up to are my kids. Nuzzling into the back of a head of hair, inhaling their skin, spooning them tight and double morning cuddles with both is inexplicable.

I like things how they are. Mom doesn't need to share a bed to be complete. Mom is whole on her own. This is what works for me.

The only humans I want to wake up to are my kids. Nuzzling into the back of a head of hair, inhaling their skin, spooning them tight and double morning cuddles with both is inexplicable. It's primal. I am a mama bear with my cubs. Everything else pales to it. They are my true loves—my only loves. It's probably screwing up my capacity for a deep, loving adult relationship, but I am 100 percent fulfilled with my love for them. There is no room for anyone else, no desire. At least, a year and a half out of divorce, not yet.

How do I tell my kids that for me, marriage holds no interest, that I love my alone time, my space and autonomy? How do I share that the thought of sharing a bed with one person for a night, let alone the rest of my life, is not something that appeals to me?

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When they ask about marriage, how do I tell them marriage is not the antidote to loneliness? I was never lonelier than when I was married. I believe in long-term commitment and monogamy. But I don't believe in contracts and the signing of names on papers.

I have to be careful not to shape their views and I try to stay ambiguous about it. I am terrified that for them unmarried means a lacking of something. Un-something. Un-whole. Unhappy. I'll try to find the words because I don't want them to worry about me. But how do I explain that they are all I need?

Because the truth is, I've never been happier.

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