Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Mother's Day To All The Single Moms

I have surrounded myself with women I can relate to.  I am so blessed in my life to have a literal brigade of women who I both admire and call friend.  This weekend is mother’s day and I find myself thinking about all of my friends who are also moms.  Probably because I was raised by one and because for a time I was one, I have been specifically thinking about single moms.  The life of a single mom is complicated at best and bat-shit crazy at worst.  When I was in my early twenties my friend Debbie was a single mom to a beautiful little girl named Ariel.

 I loved Ariel and, truth be told, I probably spent more time than Debbie would be comfortable knowing about thinking about how I could have her all to myself.  She was simply fantastic to be around, joyful and innocent, it doesn't get better than that, getting to participate in Ariel’s life is how I knew I wanted to be a mom someday.  Debbie worked her ass off to be a good mom and she was very blessed to have the help of her mom, Margie (both of them have been mentioned here).  Because Ariel was the first child among my friends, she felt a little bit like a group project; I’m sure it didn’t feel that way to Debbie when she was the one staying in on weekends because she didn’t have a babysitter.  I am not close with Ariel now, she is a grown up with her own set of friends but I think of the experience of enjoying her childhood often.  It is many years later, but I remember the empathy I felt for Debbie because while having a child is wonderful, when you are on your own it adds a level of complication that you just can’t understand unless you have been the child of a single parent or have been one yourself.  This weekend a very grown up Ariel will graduate from college.  I have it on really good authority that her mother and her Grandma are very, very proud.  While I’m sure Ariel deserves the credit for her education and her grades, I’d like to give a big shout out to my old and dear friend who sacrificed quite a bit to raise her daughter so well and who deserves to celebrate her accomplishments in grand style.  Well done, Deb, well done.

I have a good friend who is in her late twenties, she is a single mom and parts of her life are very familiar to me.  Becca is an ex-marine, she’s done multiple tours, messed up her body in service to her country (you know, when women weren’t in combat), she’s won  medals she doesn’t talk about unless you drag the information out of her (and even then it is all downplayed), and she’s putting herself through school on the GI bill all while single parenting.  
In addition to this she is six feet tall, blonde and ridiculously hot.  She’s the kind of woman I wanted to not like on sight but, as it turns out, she’s an amazing friend on top of everything else and I wish I could be her when I grow up.  Except, technically, I’m already grown up and like I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I will not ever be 5’10” (I can’t explain how hard that one has been to give up) I will have to learn to live with the fact that I’m not ever going to be as cool as Becca.  Even though she is much, much cooler than I ever was, I relate to part of what she’s going through, we have an uncanny amount of things in common and I remember what it felt like to be out there alone with a kid and dating.  
And if you think having a kid doesn’t change every single aspect of dating, well...you’re wrong.  Even if you’re smart and don’t  introduce the parade of idiots to your child, all of your decisions are informed by someone else’s needs.  You can’t make the same selfish, potentially destructive choices you did when it was just you.  Personally, I found that if I really worked for it, I could still make really bad decisions about men, I just had to make really good decisions about babysitters.  But, I digress; I have always been really committed to my bad decisions about men, I’m an overachiever.
Becca, like every woman I’ve ever met (myself included, which you can read about here and here ), has had her share of broken hearts and disappointments and all of them are amped up just a little bit more because she is a mom.

One of the things over which we’ve bonded is operating on instinct.  The entire basis for my existence on the planet is my sense of my own good instincts; they are, nearly always, impeccable.  In fact, the only time I ever falter in my life is when I choose, for one reason or another, to ignore them.  At 41 (wait, oh my God, I’m 42 not 41) it is much easier, more comfortable, more natural to listen to them than it is at 29.  The only time I failed badly in regard to my instincts was when I was around 22 (in case you didn’t get enough the first time I posted it, here it is) and it sent me into a tailspin.  I acted out, got myself into all kinds of boy trouble, drank too much and did too many drugs; I pretty much went off the rails until I was saved by an unplanned karmically (don't look in the dictionary, I made it up) induced pregnancy engineered by two failed forms of birth control both with success rates over 98% resulting in what will someday be the perfect man (Oh the irony.   And hey, Aidan?  No pressure to be perfect, girls like flaws). I thought my instincts had been wrong (turns out they weren't but that would take years and years to discover and is a story for another day) and what I perceived as a failure became the new, and thankfully temporary, basis for my existence.  Basically, if I felt it I was certain it must not be valid so I did what any highly intelligent Irish girl with boobs and daddy issues would do; I chased a lot of boys.  Eventually I learned to trust my instincts again and eventually I figured out that if you find a reformed bad boy you get the best of both worlds.  It worked out in the end.
But Becca....well, I don’t envy her.  I can’t even imagine having to date today.  The first, and to me, the most obvious problem is texting.  Don’t get me wrong, I love texting but texting with people you don’t know well can be dangerous.  Sometimes texting with people you’ve known forever can be dangerous.  It is very hard to read tone in text and if you don’t know someone very, very well then most of the tone gets lost.  Tone is, by far, the most important cue in a conversation.  Because dealing with boys via phone and in person when at least you had facial and voice cues wasn’t hard enough, they needed to add another new dimension to the the hell that is dating as a single parent.  A while back  Becca had her own derailment and has found herself not trusting her instincts, it’s too bad; she has fantastic instincts.  No amount of me telling her it is safe to do so is going to fix it; at some point she will figure it out herself and be okay.  I can hardly wait; she’s a fantastic friend and parent while she’s going through all of this crap; she’s going to be breathtaking after coming through on the other end.

You can’t explain to someone that no amount of avoiding answering the phone is going to protect you from getting hurt, and that sometimes it prevents you from getting a free breakfast with a boy you really like.  You can’t arbitrarily shut down your emotions to avoid getting involved or to avoid getting hurt. Well you can, but not without a price. If you ever want to find real, lasting love, there is every chance that you’re going to get the crap beat out of you along the way, my experience is that every single, solitary bruise is worth it.  I wouldn't  trade my bruised and sometimes broken heart for a shiny new one, not for anything, neither should you, Becca.
Happy Mother’s Day.


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