Monday, March 7, 2011

Single Mothers, you CAN succeed!

I've been wallowing in self-pity for a while since my (ahem, divorce) entering single motherhood for the second time around. Despite having other amazing things going on in my life right now like the honor of being elected President of Fundacion Pro Lechi Mama Aruba and my business' new line of baby carriers ~ Bella Sophia (meaning beautiful Sophia, my daughter's second name) I've been feeling down in the dumps where my personal life is concerned. While it is rare that I go into detail about my romantic relationships on my blog unless it will empower other mothers, I decided to write about what makes me feel so crappy and how I could make myself feel better and potentially help other single moms too.

Things I fear about Single Motherhood

  • The dreaded "Who's my real dad, and why don't we all live together?" question. I know this is a part of life and in many instances, a real frequently occurring part of life, but this doesn't translate into it being easy or even pleasurable for me to want to answer it. 
  • The second dreaded "How it is possible that I have a brother that is 2 and a half months older than me?" question. This fits right up there with the first, except, I know it'll take her longer to come to the above mentioned realization to be able to ask this dreaded question. I don't want to be a "Don't-ask-don't-tell" kind of parent, but honestly, how on earth am I supposed to explain this in a neutral and respectful and yet honest manner? 
  • Step-moms/absent biological fathers/step-dads/mother-caught-in-between. Let's be absolutely frank, when a man and a woman have a kid together and then separate, and then [insert whichever option most acceptable to you] re-marry, there will be inevitable tension at some point in time. Step-mothers usurping the authority of birth mothers, step-fathers taking the initiative to raise a fatherless child and then the real father gets upset but he shouldn't because he was the one who was absent to begin with. I can't seem to find my niche in all of this. I've tried and this blended family thing is frustrating for me. The other woman in this story grew up in a blended family herself and told me that these things are common and that I should just let go and embrace it. When she told me this, I didn't know if I should have laughed or cried, all I knew was that I wanted someone to shoot me. 
  • Will I be able to raise a child on my own? I've spent the last 3+ years worrying and fretting about this, and the funny thing is, I've been doing it unwittingly. We humans are tenacious and adaptable and while I worry myself to death (I'm a terrible worrier) my daughter who was once a babe, is now a happy, vivacious, care-free, 3-year-old that is surrounded by more people who love her than she could possibly lack. My parents ended up being co-parents (odd and frustrating at times, but in the long-run worthwhile) and I've learned even more how much I can rely on them. I've heard many other young moms admit that they never felt such a strong attachment and love for their mothers until they were pregnant. It's not that we never loved our moms it's just that epiphany like state that you float in when all of a sudden you feel the love your mother felt when she carried, birthed and raised you. So I did not end up raising her on my own. 
  • Not having a constant co-parent to step in when you need a time-out. This is one of the hardest things about being a single parent. It's the end of the day, you had a pretty lousy day, your child seems to have had the same day and is also in a "mood", you're tired, you've got things to do, chores to take care of, bills to figure out how you're gonna pay and a kid to get ready for bed. Then, your usually sweet and adorable child starts acting out [insert, due to over stimulation, stress, boredom, tiredness] and is defiant about taking a shower and getting ready for bed. This is where it's hardest being a single parent. You have no back-up to call and take over for you to take a breather or a long walk. It's you, yourself, and your short fuse. At these times I usually just break down and cry, and at times it's in front of Dahlia and then I feel worse because she gets so sad and starts consoling me by telling me "Don't worry, I'm here, don't cry mama". I'll just chalk this all up to a real life lesson in empathy and hope my kid takes away from it that even mamas are human and cry. 
  • What others will think of me. It is not a secret that people judge. People judge young mothers. People judge young single mothers.Besides being a terrible worrier, I am also a person who cares just a tad too much about what others say/think about me. My mom once told me that "40 % of people will love you, 40% of people will dislike you and the other 20% will remain undecided." Uh, how is this supposed to help me Ma? It basically means, just make sure you're in the right things, (because a thief can't get angry for people talking bad about the fact that he steals) and forget what everyone else has to say. How are you supposed to live any kind of life if you're constantly worrying about what everyone might be saying about you. 
And my number one thing I dread about single motherhood is...

  • When will I have another child? This is the thing that freaks me out the most. Because of the mess I went through with Dahlia's biological father, I swore never to have another child out-of-wedlock. I also swore never to get divorced. And then I got divorced. I'm stuck in this limbo of not knowing what situation will suit me best. Stay single or unmarried for the rest of my life? Take a chance again at marriage? Microsoft Word has an undo button that if you click it enough, it brings you back to a clean white page, right where you started. I have often times wished my life had an "undo" button. But then I think, what if I undid my past with Dahlia's father.. I wouldn't have Dahlia now and I wouldn't be where I am right now, experiencing the happiest of times in my life because of the love of a child. And then I acquiesce and all of a sudden I realize I don't need that button anymore. So back to my concerns. Because of my single motherhood status I wonder when will I have another child. In my plans were about 3-4 more children. Not in my plans was divorce. But I guess even the best laid plans...go awry. I try to comfort myself with my age. I am merely 22 and I don't have my "clock" ticking (YET) so I console myself with affirmations that if I take the time and do it right this time around, I will have my truck-load of kids with a man who wants them and who wants me, even when I'm old and wrinkly and can brush my teeth while I have a full-blown conversation. 

Things I [insert love] learned about single motherhood that made me stronger

  • If it doesn't kill you, or make you commit suicide/end up on anti-depressants, it just might make you stronger. Do you know what is stronger than bone? A broken one. Once a broken bone heals up, it becomes stronger than before making it even harder to fracture a second time around. When I became a single mother for the first time, I was terrified. Terrified about what people would think, terrified about being just another statistic, another stereotype and then, I said something to my child's father that echoes in my head to this day. And I quote " I will walk out of my house with my daughter and no wedding ring on my finger and I will hold my head up high because I was strong enough to leave a bad relationship." And then it was done. I handed it over. All my shame, I gave it back. I had nothing to do with feeling ashamed of being a single mother for making the right choice. 3 Years has since passed and although the darkest moments envelopes you like a black cloud leaving you gasping for air, they are far too few and in between to be able to come near to the best moments of your life that you spend with your child. 
  • It takes two to make a kid, but if only one is left, that one is certainly capable of raising a well-adjusted, integrated and loving human being. Some of the most respectful men come from single-parent homes in which the single parent was the mother. Note that I did not say that all men who come from single mothers are respectful, nor did I purport that men who come from dual-parent families are disrespectful, but often times a young man who sees the struggle and triumph that his mother goes through while raising him (and possibly other siblings) is more likely to be empathetic towards women. More understanding, more in touch with a sensitive and reassuring side. Single mothers, you might not have a father figure in your son's life, but you are more than capable of teaching your son how a real father, and man is supposed to treat a woman, with dignity and respect. 

And the number one thing I learned from being a single mother is

  • Parent as if you had a co-parent, live as if you lacked nothing. A lot of people complain that they are not the happy, patient people they know they are or can be because of their present circumstances and although I completely understand that difficult situations can dampen our moods significantly, at the end of the day we all stand responsible for our own actions. Don't say, 'If only I had a partner to make me feel complete, then my child could actually see a happy mommy'. Your child deserves a happy mother whether you are single or not. Even though to some the pain of singleness feels like birth pangs, I dare you, I challenge you to parent your child as if you did have a partner, treat your child as if you had infinite amounts of patience and love your child as if you lacked absolutely nothing in the world because in fact, your child loves you even if you lack everything else in the world. Is that not worth it all?

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