I’ve seen A LOT of these “Things to Know Before” articles: before dating a nerd, strong woman, body builder; before starting college; before getting married; before adopting; blah, blah, blah… The list goes on and on.
And yes, I acknowledge my own writing is very similar but… at least I came up with a slightly more original title. Small Victories!
On to the Point:
This is not a Things to Know Before article. This is not even a rule.
Why mess with getting into a relationship with a woman that comes with so many COMPLICATIONS?
I’d like to point out EVERYONE HAS COMPLICATIONS!
For many it might be crazy parents or maybe it’s no family at all. A crazy Ex. Divorce. Bankruptcy. A suicide attempt. A bad reputation.
EVERYONE HAS BAGGAGE.
And guess what? As a couple, you’re going to pick up some more baggage together: death, unemployment, illness, miscarriage, relocation.
No matter what you choose to do in life, Life is going to fuck with your plan. Life is going to screw with you and knock you down and kick you in the teeth every once in a while.
We’ve all got some shit.
Now, do you tuck your bankruptcy in a night, go to your divorces school plays and kiss booboos for that “oh god what was I thinking?” thing you did? Probably not. But to get biblical – Don’t throw the first stone. Lest you be judged. Glass houses. Fuck ass. And what not. (Yes, that was a Boondocks Saints reference. Congratulations, if you caught that!)
I promised a point didn’t I?
What do you gain in a relationship with a Single Mother?
1. She’ll be the Mickey to your Rocky and Vice Versa
She’ll cheer you on. She’ll push you to do your best. She’ll call you out on your shit.
She’s too old and too tired to put up with the nonsense any more but if you prove you’ve got the heart she’ll have you’re corner against the biggest, meanest Russian you can find.
2. She knows how to enjoy life
Whether life is going her way or not, she’s learned to take it in stride and enjoy. These women learned to fake a smile for their kids but eventually those smiles somehow become real.
This ability to smile in the face of anything is a strength hard to come by. More importantly it’s infectious! Single moms don’t have time to wallow; they don’t have time for drama or bullshit. They’re going to enjoy everything!
There will be no pity parties.
3. She gets it.
Being a single parent is like the ultimate “overbearing, dominating relationship” you can imagine. As a single mom, you crave the peace of a long bath, the fun of a treasured girls night out, an uninterrupted conversation. Those quiet hours after bedtime are for adult conversation, catching up on chores and doing all the things she just didn’t have time for while us kids were up.
So she’ll completely understand your Poker Nights, Man Cave, or Jam Sessions. Single mothers understand the value of independence, individuality and friendship. They understand that relationships and friendships do not satisfy the same human needs. They’ll understand your obsession with Tuesday night jam sessions in your buddy’s basement because they’ve been there. (Well, hopefully, not literally “in your buddy’s basement” but you get what I’m saying.)
Furthermore, she’ll actually enjoy the time you are away as much as the time you are together. She’s gotten used to alone time – her sanity probably depends on it a little. So those evenings you’re out will not only be understood but she’ll encouraged.
4. She is an Equal.
These women have taken care of themselves AND other human beings. They’ve been Head of Households. The Bread Winners. They’ve brought home the bacon and cooked it too. They’ve done it all. They can manage every aspect of life.
They can even kill spiders, unclog a toilet and take out the trash.
5. She’ll choose you.
I don’t mean she’ll choose you over her kids… I mean She chooses You.
Because she’s survived, paid the bills, balanced kids and a full time job, dinner and bath and bedtimes, a single mom is able to enter into a relationship with a completely different understanding than most singles.
She knows she doesn’t need you. That she has, can and will be fine without you. But she wants you. She chooses you. She chooses – willingly and mindfully – to be with you and to let you into the family that she treasures and protects more than anything.
6. She’s not going to say “Just wait until your father/stepfather/etc. gets home”
Guess what? These women have rocked the disciplinary role of the house. They don’t need to instill the fear of anyone to get their kids to listen or understand what’s going on.
You don’t have to step into disciplining us because you’re a “step dad.” She’s got this. She’s got us.
7. We’ll be you’re Jay to your Silent Bob
(Last movie reference I promise) And yes this has a vice versa to it as well!
Single mothers and their kids are a whole unique adventure all to their own and like no other. We have quirks and phrases you won’t understand at first. Sometimes we’re loud and crazy and getting into trouble… and we’re going to drag you along for the fun. You may be content watching the world and standing against the wall but if you get the chance to join one of these families you’re getting a partner in adventures you had no idea were even possible.
Like spending an entire evening filling 2,000 water balloons.
Putting pixie stick powder on ice cream cones.
Dressing up as Power Rangers for Trick or Treat – Yes, my mother was the Pink Ranger!
The vice versa – you get to be her Jay. Single Mothers are constantly having to consider all the options, responsibilities, budgets, and scheduling. When it is just the two of you, you have the opportunity to take her on adventures and expose her to things! Take her to the punk shows, to museums, mosh pits, whatever it is you enjoy – the things she’s never allowed herself the opportunity to experience.
Single mothers are tough cookies; there’s no two ways about it. They’ll smile (and maybe even blush) if you buy them a drink but they’re also going to buy the next round because guess what?
She wants you to know the kind of women you’re talking to.
Most single mothers I’ve known over the course of my life have stopped wanting. They’ve convinced themselves that they don’t need or want anything in order to survive. They don’t want fancy shoes. They don’t want more to eat. They don’t need sleep. They don’t need love.
It is far easier to willing eliminate a possibility than to be told you can’t have it.
When my mother was young, she learned quickly not to want the things she couldn’t have. If she didn’t want it than it didn’t matter that she couldn’t have it.
– It didn’t matter that she didn’t have it.
– It didn’t matter if she didn’t find it.
– It didn’t matter if she couldn’t afford it.
The lack of it wouldn’t burn a hole in her soul because she didn’t want it anyway. And if she didn’t want, she couldn’t miss it. Her heart wouldn’t long for it.
She learned to take care of her own mother this way. She learned to check the price tags before she asked for something. When she was a kid, she learned to deal with dirty cloths, empty stomachs, gas station bathroom baths, warming water on kerosene heaters to wash her cold face in the dark. They’d had no choice; my grandmother would work three jobs for years to get them back on their feet. My mother and her siblings learned to take care of themselves so that their mother didn’t have to.
Her mother wouldn’t have to tell her that they couldn’t afford her dream prom dress because she’d pick one on clearance. Her mother wouldn’t have to tell the school they couldn’t afford the AP class college credit test, because she dropped it as soon as she found out it cost money. She protected her mother.
My mother never wanted us to learn this.
I couldn’t protect her.
During long lonely nights at the kitchen table filled with endless scrap paper jostled by budgets and crinkled with rage, she tried to figure out how to afford little league, guitar lessons, field trips, nice cloths, new shoes, haircuts, Christmas presents, birthday parties, and good schools in nice neighborhoods. Suddenly and likely for one of the first times in her life, she found herself wanting all the things she’d spent so long convincing herself didn’t matter. But now she wanted them all for us.
And it crashed down on her during those smoke filed night. All the pain she’d ignored – all the want she’d refused to feel crumbled onto the the kitchen table alone in the dark staring at the numbers that taunt their inadequacies.
So they eat a little less. Smoke a few more cigarettes.
Sleep a little less. Drink a little more coffee.
Pick up a second job. Crunch the numbers again.
She figured it out. She always figures it out.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
What if his kid is a jerk?
Most kids are jerks… especially to outsides, new comers and anything that remotely resembles a Step Parent.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
Does he like me?
Men aren’t complicated, if he didn’t like you he wouldn’t talk to you.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?!”
“That’s disgusting! Posing naked! Have some respect for yourself…you’re a mom now.”
“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
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.