Rule #6 Our Bad Days are not Her Failures

The stereotype against singles mothers is such that every aspect of their existence is held under the microscope: is she went out, she wasn’t responsible; if she receives child support, she looking for a free ride and only thinks of the dad as a paycheck; if she gets a sitter, she’s abandoning her children; if she works too much, too little…. The list goes on.

This is especially true for “Young Single Mothers.” The women who had babies while still nothing more than kids themselves. Or the women like my mother who at 30 years old with an 11 and 9 year old standing beside her and a toddler wrestling an imaginary dragon in her arms was still frequently pegged in her early to mid-20s.

The preconception that my siblings and I were heathens was as quick as a glance at her ring finger. Women like her didn’t raise ‘good’ kids. Women like her didn’t care about values, morals or manners; if she had, she’d have married.

The truth is, this judgment doesn’t just follow single moms: it follows the poor, the minorities, the lower classes, the heavy Appalachian accents, tattoos, and any hint of hip hop fashion.

So when we decided to play football on tricycles in the middle of the store, she had to rush to contain us. She might have panicked under the weight of the scowling if she hadn’t already grown accustomed to the treatment. We weren’t just a couple of near-teenage boys being dumb, reckless and all out disobedient. We were an example of everything wrong with society. She was the classless whore sucking down welfare checks driving a Mercedes and popping out babies to buy crack instead of diapers.

(It’s a harsh thought, isn’t it?)

To be labeled a welfare-queen every time one of your kids decides it is appropriate to have a panic attack with screams reaching 150 dBA when chocolate milk is not ordered with their Happy Meal.

You must be a crack-whore, because there’s no ring on your finger and you can’t proudly sign a Christmas card “Happy Holidays From The Such-and-Suches.”

I firmly believe she would have raised us in much the same way even if she’d hadn’t been consumed with making sure society didn’t judge us and predetermine our fates. She was just so afraid that her choices would hurt us – She could take the looks, the invasive questions and stereotype but she refused to let it limit us.

But I can’t help wondering what she’d have been like without the weight…

Would she have scored a touchdown between the pet food and cleaning supplies?

Would she have worried less about doing the laundry and clean shoes?

Would she have swing danced with us in the park like she did in the kitchen on Sunday mornings making food coloring pancakes?

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“How’s does this whole thing work?”

Recently a friend of my wife’s started seeing a Single Dad she met on one of those “too busy/old for the bar scene” dating sites. I have inevitably become the “We need a male perspective,” “You grew up with single parents….” Guru for late night wine laced conversations in our living room.

At nearly thirty, I’m amazed how little changes in matters of the heart. Women blush and gush as they retell the story of the first date or some obscure cute text whether their 15 or 40, and men, we are just oblivious and simple no matter the age.

Brooke’s questions are sweet, comical and well intentioned. Oftentimes I just remind her “he’s still just a guy: make him a sandwich and put the hockey game on – You win!” to this they not so graciously wave me out of the room and I win!

However, lately she’s become my own personal social study/experiment of sorts. My wife’s parents have been happily married for over 35 years. Brooke’s parents divorced after she graduated college in Connecticut. She owns a decent house on the good end of town and her divorce ended in a lasting friendship with her ex-husband,  She has no kids except an English Mastiff that my daughter says is the ugliest pony she has ever ridden.

I’ll admit at this point, I’ve been drinking my beer in the recliner alongside the “girl talk.” As strictly research. I came up with the idea of these rules with people like Brooke in mind (albeit, I was focused on hairier, less pairs of shoes owning male population). Here I am getting to try out an altered version of my rules out in real life. How could I ever let this chance slip away?

Brooke’s Questions:

Is it too soon to reference his son by his name? What do I call him? He always calls him Orrie but that isn’t his real name…

He told you his kid’s name right? It says it like two texts up in the conversation? If the conversation is comfortable and the sentence sounds better than yes… Just don’t make it cutesy. You don’t know the kid but you definitely can acknowledge that he has a name.

                    — Complicated

Should I ask if he wants to hang out after his kid goes to bed? Should I explain to him that that doesn’t bother me at all?

If you’re asking if he wants to, he already knows it doesn’t bother you. If it bothered you, why on earth would you offer to do it?

                     — Complicated

Should I tell him that I like kids?

If you didn’t like kids why would you date someone with a kid? Are there people that dumb really out there?

                 — Complicated

What if his kid is a jerk?

Most kids are jerks… especially to outsides, new comers and anything that remotely resembles a Step Parent.

                  — Complicated

Can I take your kids to the park so he could bring his son and it wouldn’t be awkward?

You want to use my children to get laid?! That’s pathetic. No, you can absolutely not use children as wing men—-Wait? What am I saying? You want to take my kids to the park? Like we could have a Saturday afternoon of laying in bed eating Oreos and watching movies on Netflix?
Feed them lunch and keep them overnight and I’ll train them to talk in Irish accents and tell everyone you love football, make the best hoagies and open a beer bottle with your teeth!

                — Complicated

If it worked out I’d probably have to sell my house, do you think he’d be able to move out of his kid’s school district?

Yes, and if zombies attack I probably won’t have to finish paying my mortgage so I think I’m going to go buy a Porsche.

            — Complicated

He probably thinks I’m insane or an alcoholic because I go out sporadically through the week….

First, you are insane. Second, you are not an alcoholic. And third, single parents understand that people without kids have different lifestyles – what do you think they dream about at night? Doing another load of puke cover Disney Princess sheets while drinking cold coffee?

             — Complicated

Should I ask to meet his kid or wait until he offers?

He’ll offer it. Single parents all have different opinions on this milestone. Just be honest and open when he talks about his kid; don’t immediately change the subject to your dog or his movie collection. If and when he’s okay with it, he’ll bring it up.

              — Complicated

How do you deal with this whole can’t hang out for two more weeks thing?

(My wife answered this one before I had time to respond) “Are you kidding me! That sounds glorious…

Should I worry that he hasn’t asked me why I don’t have kids?

Yes, it means that he thinks you’re either a dried up old hag who hates babies or that you’re baby-fevered hunting for a cheap good looking sperm donor.

               — Complicated

Does he like me?

Men aren’t complicated, if he didn’t like you he wouldn’t talk to you.

                  — Complicated

He doesn’t really go out a lot; do I seem like crazy, irresponsible, party chick, etc.?

He has kids and bills. God, you women obsess over everything…

           — Complicated

He hasn’t responded all night, did he lose interest?

He may have fallen asleep; started dinner; took a dump; turned on the video games, or left his phone in the car.

“Oh Yay! He just responded: he was making dinner and busy with homework and bedtime stuff. Aww, that’s so cute.”

Facepalm                  — Complicated

Should I just wait for him to mention hanging out so I don’t ask him while he has his son?

Do you want to hang out with him? Then ask him when he’s free again.

            — Complicated

Should I wait for him to text me first so I’m not interrupting anything with his son?

If he’s busy he won’t respond, so just don’t act crazy. But if he already told you they have stuff going on, just wait for him or text the next day.

          — Complicated

How’s does this whole thing work?

The truth is, I don’t know if it does and I especially don’t know if it ever works out. There isn’t a how to guide for this; no matter how hard I try to make on.