Rule #5 All Parents (Even Single Moms) Are Still Individuals

Stop Demanding Single Mothers – And ALL PARENTS For That Matter– Lose Their Identities
Single Mothers and all parents in general, are forced to or expected to put their own wants and needs behind those of their children. Slogans like “it’s not your life, it’s theirs” or “children come first” pop up all over the place. Now we’ve all seen the all-you-can-eat buffet of parenting blogs/articles proclaiming that this parenting style is the ONE and ONLY way to be a “good parent.” Nonetheless, I do believe the judgment and pressure is still harsher for single moms.
But damnit, I disagree.
YES, there, I said it! I DISAGREE!
I disagree that mothers should roll over and play dead as individuals – that they should be forced to give up any identity and name of their own once they become MOTHERS. Being or becoming a parent should not replace, void, or diminish one’s other qualities, achievements, personalities, dreams… and failures for that matter.

Example Time (I do love examples. They give ample opportunity for me to be as sarcastic and cynical as I please):

“I can’t believe she’d still dance like that and wear such a skimpy outfit now that she’s a mother. What a terrible example she’s setting bringing her daughter and husband up on stage while wearing a sequin leotard?!”

Kim Kardashian/West
“That’s disgusting! Posing naked! Have some respect for yourself…you’re a mom now.”

Charles Manson
“Sure he was a murdering psychopath who killed a bunch people and carved a swastika into his forehead but look how he always managed to take his son to the park and have you seen him with little Timmy. It’s just the cutest thing.”

Okay, obviously the last once is a little farfetched and completely fictional but you’re getting the idea here. Right?

Beyonce made millions… hundreds of millions… performing, dancing, singing and all out owning her image and talent. But now that she’s a mother, we expect her to start shopping at JCrew, gain twenty pounds and forget that she’s one of the biggest names in the world? She’s not allowed to be sexy, fierce, dramatic, and independent anymore?

Oooohhh that’s right. No, she’s not because a large majority of society wants to amp up the shame –

“Bad Mummy. You can’t have a career.”

Kim Kardashian, what little I have failed to avoid learning about her, made a name for herself as one of those rich, elite, party-girl heiresses in the early 2000s. Then she made a sex tape (that I’m sure was completely accidentally released to the public) and blew up along with the legend of her epic ass and complete supply of Spanx and contouring makeup products.

And then Twitter happened.

Heaven forbid a woman, already known for her sex appeal and nudity, continues to own her body and declares her sexiness after becoming a mother.

And dear lord! I can’t believe you’d crop out little, adorable North West and post an individual selfie. Don’t you get it Kim? You’re not allowed to be individual anymore. Nor are you allowed to simply want to display your own great hair day or hot post-baby body. You are a mom.

As Twitterers (oh God, the poor English language) so eloquently tweeted she is “somebody’s Mother”

Am I the only one that thinks this is just asinine? (I know cheesy pun but I couldn’t help myself.) If you work too much, you’re a bad parent because you don’t spend enough time with your kids. If you still dream of being a rock star every Thursday when you get together for a jam session in the basement, you’re immature. If you are a stay at home mom, you’re failing to teach your daughters to be feminists.

This isn’t a double edged sword; this is Robert Frost asking how you would rather die: in Fire or Ice.
What’s all this rambling mean? What does any of this have to do with my mother, my family, or dating single mothers in general?

Probably nothing or at least very little.

My mother survived on our left over dinners. Drank coffee from morning to night and smoked a half pack a day because in suppressed the pain of being hungry. The caffeine kept her awake while rest and peace of mind continued to elude her. She wore hand-me-downs from friends while we got pairs of bright, glistening Jordan’s every Easter. She worked overtime, cleaned houses, picked up a second job and pawned her guitar to pay for baseball, soccer, basketball, drum sets, piano lessons, boy scouts, 4H or whatever other random adventure we asked of her.

But still, she started college at seven months pregnant. She learned to play the violin after bedtime. She taught us to play chess so she could have moments of silence to read a few pages of Allen Ginsberg and Charlotte Bronte. She continued to scribble on napkins and sang us songs by the Beatles or Alison Krauss instead of Mary Had a Little Lamb and Hush-a-By.

Somewhere, in the mess that life lead her into, she realized one of the most valuable lessons she ever taught us:

Don’t let them tell you, you can’t.

Don’t content yourself with the easy road.

Don’t be satisfied by what society says you’re allowed to be.

Just because we were poor, didn’t mean she’d allow us to labeled by it at school. She always dressed us well because she knew all too well the stigma of wearing the same two dirty outfits day after day.

She knew education was our key to going wherever we wanted in life. It is one of the few things no one and nothing can take away from you. She taught us to value it, to love and aspire to learning…and she screamed about missed homework and bad grades.

She kept fighting to improve our lives. She never stopped fighting for her goals because she wouldn’t let the world and society be right: About her. About our family… About us.

She’d succeed because she needed us to know that we didn’t stop her. That the world didn’t stop her.
She’d prove we weren’t destined for factory jobs and GEDs just because the statistics said so.

So pick up that bass guitar again. Keep that project Corvette in the garage that you know you’ll never finish but damn it all, it’s a dream.

Put the hippy skirt back on, keeping rocking the funky hats and don’t turn your dark room into a play room.
Distract us by the TV for an hour each night so you can work on that novel.

You don’t have to always put us first.

Sometimes, it’s okay to say “This, this right here. This is for me.”

Because ideally, you’re teaching us (your children) something wonderful: passion, courage, family, individuality, and balance. Showing us to be passionate. To have the Courage to be passionate and unique. To balance the individual and the family.
As for Rule #5:
If you date my mother – or any single mother – or woman,

Pamper her like she’s still 18: bright and fresh without the layer of stress and jaded chip on her shoulder weighing her down.

But more than that, see her for everything see is and


Graduating to the Adult Table

In the years since I’ve graduated to the Adult’s Table and moved from juice boxes to coffee and from skunked PBR in the garage to Jäger Bombs on the bar and finally to smooth double stouts at my desk, I learned the stories and jokes I was never allowed to hear. I’ve sat with my mother, aunts, grandparents, uncles and the various family friends who like to remind me of when I ran around naked in their back yard or pooped in their driveway.

As children, our parents tend to shelter us from the harsh realities of the world…even the harsh realities of themselves. Then we become ass-hat teenagers unaware of the real people we live with because they’ve spent thirteen some odd years pretending to be Santa, hiding their sailor vocabularies, reading Sesame Street books and perfecting their imitations of Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. We assume the picture perfect happy face parent-teacher conference version of our parents is the real thing – the only version of them.

Somewhere in my late teens/early twenties, I finally caught on to one of my mother’s jokes I’d been hearing since I was able to pay attention to front-seat cell phone conversations:

She’d refer to herself as “Mama-Me.” The conversations would were always along the lines of

“No…I can’t. I’m Mama-me this weekend”

“I’m on Mama-me duty”

“I’m going to go home and be Mama-me until bedtime… Then I might attempt to get a shower. It’s been a couple days”

And in those few years where I bridged the gap between man and child, I watched the various versions of my mother peak through the facade; as our new found teenage independence meant the rediscovery of her own Pre-Mama-me Freedom.

Now I sit across from her retelling my heartaches, my every miserable mistake, drowning in the moment, swimming in my beer. It strikes me. She did this. Everything I’m feeling – all the bullshit, the lies, the money troubles and cracked radiators.

Every miserable first date. Drunken One Night Stand. Missed Connection. Not so gentle let-down.

“You’re too old to sigh like that.” She tells me from the table behind me – she knows the sigh. She filled all these same ashtrays with soot stained tears alone in garage while I watched Transformers and convinced my brother he could fly in he held a sheet and jumped from the top step.