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Once a Fortress, Always a Fortress

3 May

Certainty and security are never a commodity in a single mother’s life. Love and fatigue are our main resources. We live for our ability to love our children and the people who love them (and us, if possible), we love them endlessly. We strive, thanks to daily schedules that bring us to the end of the day breathless, and with an empty mind and weary heart. It is easy to receive our kindness, for we are full of empathy and compassion for anyone who has endured hardship. It is even possible to win our love. We’re used to caring for others. But it is nearly impossible to love us, fully. And even more difficult to gain our trust.

This is why, the single mother, is forever single. This sounds tragic, and maybe it is in a sense. But I don’t necessarily mean for it to be. We aren’t alone. We are surrounded by friends, family, and lovers, who care for us, help us out, listen to us, pick our little ones up from school if we’re tied up, or make love to us quietly, in the dark, after bed time. We have each other – other moms like us, who share the impossible bond of lonely togetherness, that I think only we can truly comprehend. And still, we are single. Even with boyfriends, or live-in partners. Even if we marry again.

The single mother’s heart is a fortress. It’s been penetrated and broken before, and it shall never be broken again. We will never again allow heartbreak to take us by surprise. We are prepared for any scenario, and we anticipate the worst. (We know that He is going to leave us, and we leave Him first.)

So in order to love us, to stick by us, it takes more than romance, more than companionship, more than terrific sex, more than love, more than trust. It takes endurance. It takes stubbornness. It takes a man who can bear never being given the benefit of the doubt. It takes a man who can tolerate the constant measuring and sizing up, the fear, the doubts, the half-truths, the “I love you – but”s. It takes a man who loves our hearts, along with the brick walls that surround them, walls made strong by the powerful forces of abandonment and betrayal.

It takes a man who has the patience to take apart that wall, slowly, carefully, not tearing it down, but cautiously dismantling it, one brick at a time, knowing that there is a chance that it will grow back in, like like a lizard’s tail, but wanting enough to try, hoping enough to succeed.

I am lucky to have found such a man.

And though, from time to time, I make an honest attempt to push him away, he surprises me with his acceptance of me and my story, and his willingness to take part in it.

 

 

 

A Meaningful Narrative – The Challenges and Pleasures of Secular Parenting

3 Apr

My son is nearing four now, what an incredible age! When allowed to freely explore, ask questions, and wonder about life – this is an age of outstanding discoveries, of vital first impressions of the world, of discovering who is trustworthy, what is permitted, where one can go and where doors are shut.

I have two strong guidelines in my parenting, that have been guiding me from the day I brought my Boy back home from the hospital. Be authentic. Tell the truth. There is a lot more of course. I try to listen to him, I mean really listen, as much as I can. I try to set boundaries where they are necessary, I try to support his urges to be independent and guide him and be supportive, and not lose my patience and maintain composure, even if he throws a fit because his sunny-side-up is leaking and now he won’t eat it.

But I honestly believe, if I’m authentic, if Mom-Me, is not an entirely different person from Professional-Me, and Intellectual-Me, and Friend-Me, and Lover-Me, then I’m doing something right. So I tell my son about my day when I come back from school. He listens, and then he tells me about his day at preschool. I joke around with him, because I can be silly like that sometimes. I say I’m sorry when I make a mistake. And I tell him the truth, or a version of the truth that he can take in, when he asks me the big questions, when he wants to know how life begins and what happens when it ends.

Yes, he’s not even four yet. But my son has already asked if everyone dies, and if I’ll die one day. I couldn’t tell him some ridiculous story. A part of me wanted to go with the heaven-story. It’s a good one, really. It comforted me when I was younger. But I didn’t. I said we live forever in the hearts of those who love us. It’s a good narrative. It’s as close as I could get to where I really am vs the death thing. He accepted my narrative the way only four-year-olds can, absorbing it, inscribing it into his own narrative, into the truths that he will now grow up with.

Now he knows, because he asked and I answered, that the male and female bodies fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, that the sperm and the egg yearn to unite and form a baby. That they have to wait for love, because only when a man and a woman love one another, can they unite to form life. He knows that I think it’s a miracle. And so he finds if miraculous as well. And it is, isn’t it? He is too young to feel confused about it. Too young to be weirded out. The narrative I chose to deliver has now become one more truth that he will measure future stories about sex, love and child bearing against.

“How does the baby come out?” He asked.

“A woman body is amazing,” I said with wonder. “It widens for the baby to come out from between her legs. They in narrows again.”

“Really? It can do that?”

“Yes,” I answered. “Isn’t it amazing?”

 

 

 

Timeline of Joys and Sorrows

21 Nov

September 2011: Preggers. Feels like I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Feels like he’s been dreading this all his life.

December 2011: He goes away for 3 months. Turns out I can do stuff on my own.

March 2012: He returns to find that I have evolved into a giantess, no longer vomiting every two seconds, and about 20+ kilos heavier.

June 2012: Beautiful, healthy son is born.

September 2012: We have the talk.

October 2012: He leaves. I grieve.

December 2012: I start to live again.

January 2013: I try to love again.

March 2013: M is sick. It’s going to be alright.

June 2013: Promotion!

June 2013: ONE!

July 2013: Besties in Berlin! It’s going to be alright.

July 2013: Trying and failing to get back together.

August 2013: Trying and failing to find a new home.

September 2013: Staying put. M is still sick. Love is gone. Everything sucks.

March 2014: Hope for a new start.

April 2014: A new home. A new start. Dating again.

June 2014: TWO!

June 2014: Coping. Empowered. Life is complicated, I can take it.

September 2014: I can’t take it.

October 2014: I have to take it.

November 2014: Low point. Depression. Unkind to myself.

November 2014: I tell M about a good first date with D. I try to keep it together.

December 2014: Limbo.

January 2015: Unspeakable pain.

February 2015: Unspeakable pain.

March 2015: I slowly begin to reclaim my life.

April 2015: I celebrate a birthday, dramatically, with my best friends, with my boyfriend.

May 2015: Girls gone wild memorial. Besties in Santorini, remembering M.

June 2015: THREE!

June 2015: Officially divorced at last.

July 2015: A trip to Barcelona with D.

July 2015: Adorably insane Charlie joins our family, chewing and biting and acting crazy 90% percent of the time, being the best dog in the world the other 10%.

September 2015: OK. We’ll keep you. Just please stop biting.

September 2015: Let’s introduce our kids.

October 2015: Playing family.

November 2015: Celebrating a year together. How lucky I am to have love in my life. Hope is renewed for a future of togetherness.

Fearing January.

Knowing I’ll make it through January.

Navigating under the Influence

28 Sep

Picture this: I’m on a highway, my left hand on the steering wheel, my right holding a beer, my left foot on the gas, my right up on the dashboard (I’m a righty, just in case you were wondering). Loud music is playing – and I’m on the highway. Driving.

Suddenly, I spot a cop, and I freak out. I try to put my right foot back down, to toss my beer somewhere, but everything is happening so quickly, I’m driving so fast, I feel like I’m losing control of my car. How could I have been so reckless? Suddenly, I feel something cold and wet on my foot, soft, velvety, it’s a tongue. It’s licking my foot excessively. Charlie, our dog, has woken me up, and thank god for that.

My son and I collapsed together on my bed after lunch today. That hasn’t happened to us in a really long time. It was a big day for us, well, for me mostly, because honestly I’m not sure how much of it he’s really taken in – despite being the brightest, most insightful 3 year old I’ve ever met (and we all know that as his mother I’m completely objective).

Today, I met D’s twin girls for the first time, and he met my son, and they met me, and my son, and my son met them. All of that happened in one quick hour over ice cream.

We’ve been dating for about ten months now, and I guess it just felt like it was time. I had been kind of pushing the agenda of meeting the kids for a couple of months now, and when he finally said yes, I totally freaked out. This was a serious step. What would I tell my son about D? How would I introduce him? True, his father has a girlfriend that spends every moment of their visits with them. They’re pretty serious – they go abroad together, they take our son on so called family vacations. I hate her guts, but I also think it’s a good thing, in principle. Our boy likes her. She seems to have a head on her shoulders and her heart is in the right place.

But this is different. I the past 3 months, custody has shifted a bit. I have gladly allowed our son to sleep over at his dad’s twice a week, instead of once. It’s been very good for the two of them. Still, I’m the one in charge of raising him. I’m the one who makes the big decisions, the one who gives him stability, who sets boundaries and stands behind her word. I’m pretty freaked out about letting a man into my life – well, about letting a man into OUR life. Because, actually I’ve already let one into mine.

The meeting went well. The ice cream was sweet and cold and the children licked it vigorously under the blazing midday sun. We walked by the water, and I had brought some bread to feed the fish with. The kids loved watching the little fish pounce one over the other, fighting over each bread crumb.

I looked at my man. He was as handsome and sweet as I always feel he is. But there was a softness about him, the way he handled his girls, the way young dads do, fumbling through early parenthood, with a charming clumsiness, a complete contrast to those power moms that blindly push through everything and have answers to all questions and a datebook full of plans for every minute of the week. I’m in love with him, and his girls, and his problems, and his shortcomings. I wasn’t sure for a while, but now I know, I’ll accept the whole package, if he only offers it to me.

Still, I got back home and crashed – well, we both did. Though I had made a huge effort to make our little outing as little a deal as could be made, my son, being a constant reflection of my emotional state, must have felt the tension. I told him: we’re going to meet two sweet girls, new friends. Their dad is mommy’s friend. We’re going to all go have ice cream together at the marina, feed the fish and look at the boats. Won’t that be nice? He said: Are they 3? And I said: Almost. And he said: If I’m older than them I can teach them things. Like, if they don’t know Anna and Elsa I can tell them about the story, and how Hans was bad in the end and how Christof was good, and about Sven and Olof the snowman. He was excited. When we left he said: Can we meet them again soon?

After lunch I felt so exhausted I told my son mommy needed a nap, and he could play if you didn’t feel tired. He crawled into my bed and snuggled by me, and at once we both fell asleep. I don’t know what he was dreaming about, but I hope it wasn’t about his mother’s extreme and untypically reckless driving.

Am I being reckless in my life? Maybe I am. I love D, but I don’t know where this is going. I didn’t wait for certainty before making introductions. Maybe because there could be no certainty before introductions. Maybe because there will never be certainty. There will just be a togetherness for a while, for as long as we both shall enjoy it.

I don’t know.

I guess for now, the DUI is on me, and all I can do is pray there will be no great repercussions. Let this go by smoothly, please! For once, let something be easy.

Every Day is a Different Kind of I Miss You

24 Jul

I haven’t written in a while. Not really sure why, I just wasn’t in the mood and decided not to force it until the moment returned when I felt that I wanted to write.

A lot has happened. I’ve finished the school year, with the end of the year show and goodbyes to my 6th graders, who will start Junior High in September. I received a shitload of validation, and a few gifts. I got time off – summer vacation. It got fucking hot and my AC began working overtime.

I went to Barcelona with D and spent 4 intensive days together. I learned a lot about us and where I wanted us to go. I confronted D about wanting to take our relationship to the next level: Meeting the kids. I listened as he explained why he wasn’t ready. I adopted a dog and learned what it is to truly love your pet. I had a huge fight with BD about custody stuff. I helped E pick out curtains for her new place to which she is moving with her husband and son, two hours drive away, after having been neighbors for the last 18 months.

Finally, this morning, I cleared out The Drawer. The one where all my old jewelry and makeup and knickknacks are. I found my wedding band, and engagement ring, and all those earrings M had bought me at various fairs she’d happened to stop by throughout the 15 years in which we were friends.

A lot of stuff happened – and she was gone the whole time. She was gone when I made her cinnamon pancakes and they came out perfect and my son ate four. She was gone when I bought “happy pills” for our friends in Barcelona. She was gone when I ate the most delicious octopus salad in the world last night.

Every time something happens to me, she still gone. She is always gone, and she will be gone forever. I can’t tell her about BD being an idiot. I miss her getting angry at him and cursing. I can’t introduce her to Charlie, our dog. She would have loved him. She would have given him a silly nickname. She would have mentioned him and asked about him every time we’d speak, completely acknowledging that he is a part of our family now.

I can’t consult with her about D and what I should do. I bet she would have thought I should break up with him, and I’d discredit her opinion, maybe even get offended and refrain from telling her stuff about him, until a couple of months later when I’d tell her how I felt and then we’d be OK.

No more dirty chai lattes in funny mugs. No more arguments or offences. No more compassion and patient, silent listening. No more funny faces to cheer me up when I’m down. I could cry now because it’s unfair she died, but I feel like I’m done with the WHY???? Now it’s just a quiet kind of sadness. A sort of constant regret. I regret that she’s gone. I wish I had been closer to her. I wish I’d made more time to be with her, especially after she became sick. I wish I could tell her how fucking horribly absent she is from my life.

 

 

“Damaged Goods”

24 May

I told D I was ready for our children to meet. So far, we’ve been having a secretive affair, mostly meeting at night, sneaking out and leaving by dark. I haven’t met his friends. He’s met mine once, at my birthday party, where we were all crazy drunk.

He said he wasn’t ready. And I couldn’t let it go.

So I wrote him a letter, about the separation we’ve created between our relationship and our lives, how we’re conducting an affair within this bubble of nightly encounters, in which we love each other and have great sex, and offer one another a brief moment of peace before going back to our hectic schedules. I presented it as if it were a bad thing. I said I was ready to take our relationship to the next level, the one where it is integrated with the rest of our existence. Where we meet during the day as our kids play, or have Friday evening dinners together.

He answered kindly. He said he loved me, but he wasn’t ready. He said he’d only recently been given back his life, after eight years in which he felt like he wasn’t allowed to be himself. And now, he’s healing, and it’ll take time. This is why he can’t move any further with me.

The first thing I sensed from his letter was love. It was tenderly written. Then I saw the immense pain, the scabs and wounds, and I was thankful he shared them with me. Then I realized, I’m still following my pattern. Falling for men that aren’t there yet, that like me, are damaged, that like me, are in the midst of a healing process. And it made me really sad. Because until recently, D was exactly what I’d been craving. A solid relationship, where there was love and understanding and warmth and comfort and great sex, but that was completely separated from the rest of my life. When I met him, I still said things like, “I don’t see myself living with anyone again.”

But now that’s changed. I’m craving such closeness, to have the man I love become a true part of my life. But more than that, I want more than anything for him to choose me – to really choose me. Not just to be with me. I spent 13 years of my life loving someone who loved me a little less, who stopped loving me at one point, who thought about leaving me for six months without my knowledge, through the end of my pregnancy with our child, who left me with a four month old infant. So I’m constantly looking for proof – that I’m not just wasting my time, my energy, my emotions on a man who might never be ready for the next step. My insecurity is really getting in the way of my patience.

What’s odd, is that actually, our little arrangement meets my needs perfectly. I do love my life, and it is FULL, I mean, it’s hard to squeeze a pin in. My job, my son, my close friends, who are like family to me, my grief, my growth. It almost feels like the only reason I want to move forward with D, is to know that I can, like I’m still seeking proof that he wants me, that we’re not just passing time.

I’m damaged. He’s damaged. I guess that’s what relationships in your thirties are like. It’s more complicated than it was when in our first time around, falling in love, testing out the waters of closeness. There’s a knowledge that you can’t un-know now, that things end, even when you think they’ll last forever. That people may betray you, even if you think they’re trustworthy.

I do love D. He is the perfect prescription for my loneliness, my grief, my need to be held, enveloped, complimented, loved. Why can’t I just embrace the gift that he is and not constantly worry about what’ll happen when it expires?

Tomato Paste Math

22 May

tomato paste

I love grocery shopping with my boy. This probably has to do with the fact that I love food and cooking, but also because almost a year ago, when he turned two, I realized I could actually get stuff done around the house, if I only stopped trying to keep him busy while I cleaned, cooked and set the table, and instead included him in all these activities. Since then, cooking together has become a ritual, and grocery shopping one of our favorite activities.

He sits in the shopping cart, and as we shop I tell him stories about where all food comes from. How the bread is made of wheat, and the strawberry yogurt he loves so much is made of milk that we get from cows and strawberries. That the pasta we buy is imported from Italy, but the tomatoes we use to make the sauce grow locally. I give him tasks: “Sweetie can you please pick out three beautiful zucchinis for me and put them in the bag?” And responsibility: “You are in charge of eggs. We can’t forget to buy eggs so when you see the eggs you have to remind me, OK?”

Yesterday, as we were shopping I noticed a sale on tomato paste. Six containers for a special price. They were small plastic containers, connected at the top in pairs and in fours. “OK honey, we need to get six of these. Let me see… Here, six!” I said and I handed him a pair.

He looked at them and laughed. “That’s not six! One, two.”

“Oh my, you’re right. Let me try again.” And I handed him four. “Six!” I said.

He seemed convinced this time, but he counted: “One, two, three… four! Mommy it’s four. It’s not six!”

“Oh no, what are we going to do?” I asked sadly, holding the pair in one hand and the four containers in the other. “We need six.” I brought my hands closer together. “And we only have four and two.”

He looked and the containers. Without saying anything else he began to count: “One, two, three, four, five, six! Mommy there are six!”

“Oh my, you’re right! Together there are six! Four and two are six!”

And that’s how my son got his first addition lesson ever at the supermarket.