Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Single Mother's Perception, or This Hamburger Will Be Just As Good Cold

As a mom, I've found that I spend a lot of time walking a fine line - and not with my child, either, but with other adults. I've noticed just how quickly adults respond to me with negativity. Not in an "Oh, you're not married?" kind of way, but in a "yeah, being a parent really sucks, huh?" kind of way.

I'm pretty much an optimist. I like to see the bright side of things, and having a child has really made me more laid back. Personally, I think my subconscious is so busy worrying that one day she'll die in a terrible way to really lend me the brain function to stress over what time I get dinner on the table. But that's not what I'm talking about right now. Wait, what was I talking about? Right. Optimism. (I haz it.)

So, let me give you an example of what I'm talking about: today my Dad and I (and the baby, obviously) went to lunch and Carrie, as always, got hungry right before it was time for me to eat. So the server comes by to ask how everything is and sees that my food hasn't been touched because I'm feeding the baby. I say "I'm sure it will be great, when I eat it. She just seems to have a sixth sense about when it's time for Mama to eat!" and the server responded by saying something like "Mine were like that, too!" She should have left it there. But that would just be too easy, and then I'd have nothing to blog about. (Nothing to blog about! See what I did there? I made a funny.)

So this server goes on to basically trash-talk her children every time she interacts with me for the remainder of my meal. "My daughter was very vocal at that age, too, and now I just can't get her to shut up. It's like 'don't you see I'm working here?' and she never gets it!" And it's not just her, this happens all the time; this leads me to two questions:
  1. Are these people just frustrated? Or do they truly see these less-than-perfect moments as representative of the whole relationship they have with their children?
  2. Will I be like this one day?
It worries me, because I'm not like this at all. I don't mind that she wants to eat at the same time as I do. Who cares? We'll both get to eat in the end. I don't mind when her diaper explodes on her cutest outfit right before we leave the house. Not like she doesn't have plenty of other cute stuff to wear. Am I just in some sort of honeymoon period where her cute factor is outweighing all of the cons of having a child in my life? Will those scales tip one day (say, around her 13th birthday) and change the way I perceive my daughter? God, I hope not. Cause, let me tell you: being a mother is a blessing.

I just explained this to someone the other day, some complete stranger at the park with her 5 kids. We chatted a bit and it somehow came up that I'm single and she gave me the standard sympathetic head tilt followed by the line I hear most often: "that must be hard." Well, actually, it's pretty easy to be single. Being married - now that's work! She actually used the phrase "single mom," and I almost disagreed with her without even thinking about it. I just don't view myself that way. Yes, I'm single; and, yes, I'm a mom. But I definitely wouldn't define myself as a single mom. That label just has too many connotations of struggle and poverty and emotional breakdowns on the bathroom floor at midnight and trying to raise your child in ignorance of your daily battle with depression. And I'm just not there. She's just mine, and I'm just hers. And she is her and I am me. We complement, not define, one another.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of challenges in my life. I'm trying to find a job with a degree in theatre in an economy with about as much stability as a Jenga tower towards the end long, booze-filled game night. I'm a grown woman living with my parents who are, at the best of times, control-freaks with mess-ophobe tendencies. Plus, I hate my haircut. What I mean to say is: I got 99 problems, but the kid ain't one.

It's not a job for me to wake up in the morning and love my daughter. I can't look at her and think "damn, this sucks." Dropping what I'm doing to feed/change/bathe/entertain her is not the low point of my day. And people don't get it. They seem almost disappointed when I'm not upset about being a single mom. As if they don't understand that a woman could have a baby and accept all of the twists and turns on that path. Make no mistake, I am totally lost in the woods at this point in my life. But choosing to have my baby was like finding the iPod in the bottom of my bag. I might have no idea where I'm going, but at least I'll enjoy the walk now.

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