for the single mothers.

July 16, 2011

sometimes the washing machine is broken and the pipes in the basement have decided to rain shitty water on the dirty clothes and who knows what else and the reality is that those clothes must get washed and dried by hand or we will have a Public Health Situation on our hands, or the car is doing that thing again where the engine just turns off and we’re in the middle of traffic and i remember why we went car-free for so long but the reality is that with my two kids and my girlfriend’s three kids and my girlfriend’s busy job and my sometimes desperate scramble for money anywhere i can find it, two single mothers sometimes need a car. even if one of them is opposed to cars and car culture and breathing exhaust (or making others breathe it) and a frenetic lifestyle…

sometimes other mothers laugh and say they would love the break from their kids and joint custody sounds about right to them but the reality is that even two days a week can be too much when you aren’t asking for it and it doesn’t come at the time that works for you or your kids and maybe you need childcare some other time and there’s this event you want to take your son to on the weekend but those are the two days a week the Powers-that-Be have you on record as agreeing to, and you wouldn’t want to seem uncooperative, now would you? no one likes an uncooperative single mother.

sometimes your friends see those two days a week (or one, or three, or a weekend a month, or whatever), and they say “wow, s/he is so involved, you are so lucky, isn’t it wonderful that he pays for that class, isn’t it wonderful that she took her to the park or that birthday party” and nobody says “oh, wow, you are so involved, yr ex is so lucky to know the kids are taken care of, you pay for all the basic needs and then some, isn’t it wonderful you go to the park so much and play seven rounds of chess and go to every birthday party humanly possible, even the ones at Flashing-Lights-Loud-Sounds-and-Animatronic-Monster-Animals-Pizzeria” because that’s just what you do. you are the single mother.

on the rare occasions someone does try to valorize you, to praise you, there will be a voice raised to remind everyone that you get help, “support,” breaks… whatever it is. the speaker doesn’t know: it could be $9.35 or it could be $0 or a trip to court and you’d better pay for and bring your own lawyer. never mind that if a storm comes and your roof caves in you handle it alone for your kids. never mind that if the car breaks down and your kid has school/a doctor’s appointment/a homeschooling playgroup it is you who figures out how to get there or how to break the news… on the weekend it is rarely time to say “i’m sorry, we can’t make it because of this problem or we can’t buy that because of a lack of money or our values around consumption.” weekends are for leisure and during the week shopping has been done, for necessities and for presents.

behind many a stand-up-guy there is a single mother being told to sit down or sitting herself down in order to assemble dollhouse furniture for $1 a perfectly completed piece. working from home means you are so lucky! you set your own hours, and there are a lot of them.

you will do what it takes because that is what you do, and sometimes people will see what you were willing to do and they will judge you from the comfort of their almost-totally-owned townhome with the two kids and the two parents and maybe a dog whose shit no one wants to pick up, but just keep on keeping on, girl… it’s just what you do.

9 Responses to “for the single mothers.”

  1. grannychronicles said

    love love love this! and you.

  2. Anna said

    I love you! And you are such a great writer…and a wonderful Mom.

  3. That sounds so tough. Seems like folks are more interested in telling others stuff about the others than in listening to stories like yours. Let’s start a listening revolution.

  4. Sarah said

    Katie, I think you are awesome! As in truly awe-inspiring. I try not to take my non-singleness for granted and I honor what you do every day.

  5. thanks… i’m not sure which sarah you are, but i think it is neat that you try to appreciate your non-singleness, although of course partners come with their own sets of challenges, and there is really no more vulnerable, miserable, and thoroughly judged moment than when you consider leaving a partnership and becoming a single parent and frankly that can happen to anyone currently in a partnership. most of us don’t see it coming or we lie to ourselves and others about how perfect things are until things wildly explode. 😉 anyway, thanks for the appreciation. –katie

    • Yes you know it Katie! I want to back your last point up with research on couples. I hope you don’t mind.
      The later break up couples have a habit that can be detected in the honeymoon or early love phase and most people including me miss(ed) it. I shall say once I learned this I changed my habit-but it is something that most have NO idea really matters. The happy long term couples respond to each other in those micro moments of what is called “bids” like this bid-“wow it is cold today.” And if they listener responds even with a nod or a “hmm,” and even up to an enthusiastically positive reaction then that is a long term happy couple habit. If they have a prickly reaction “It is NOT cold” (eye roll)-then they are in the early break up group. If they ignore then guess what? Late term divorce. We who tend to ignore have thoughts like, “can’t she see I am reading this very important book on couples? Maybe he will stop talking about chit chat if I keep reading.” And often the thing said is very much minutae but the point of it that is missed by ignoring is that the bids are for connection and they add up over the years -without them you can’t last as a couple. Of course there are other habits that can be repaired in ailing relationships but this one thing is what can predict break up and at what time point with something like 94 percent accuracy! I can see it with friends too.

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