Dating as a parent comes with its own set of challenges, but don’t let the challenges turn into excuses. It’s time to put the single mom card away, Darling.
To carry a membership card signifies inclusion. It says, “Check me out, I’m in the cool kids club.” Members of the ACLU, MENSA and a host of other organizations carry their cards loud and proud. There is power in numbers, yes? And with that power comes privilege. Whip that baby out and you get moved to the front of the line, so to speak.
I’ve played many a card in my life. As a student, my high GPA got me places. Pointing to my blonde hair while giggling took attention away from bonehead moments. When my first husband came out of the closet, I was instantly presented with that card. Oh man, the sympathies that came flooding in were off the chart! I recall being in situations when being presented with whether or not to whip it out … unconsciously thinking, “Will this give me a leg up?”
Then that husband died. I’m pretty certain if these cards came in physical form, a widow card at the age of 35 was gilded in gold. My wallet was bulging with cards and included in the lot was a single mom club membership.
While there weren’t always tangible benefits, I recall feeling justified in my suffering. About a year after his death, I noticed the worn edges of my card and wondered if it was time to end my memberships. Surely, it had more miles on it—not to mention receiving validation from society that it came with benefits. Or did it?
A female disc jockey was on the radio telling the story of traveling with her son through the airport on their way to a tropical island. She insisted people were observing and judging her for being a single mom taking such a family-oriented trip. She was appalled. Now, who is to say if that’s what the onlookers were really thinking? Yet, she had no difficulty accepting sympathy help with baggage. Definitely a card-carrying conundrum she found herself in.
Articles written by single moms are focused on teaching men how to date women in such situations. Come on! You are a woman. You date with the intention of finding a mate. Do we really want men looking at us like we have special needs or a third appendage?
While I agree offspring feels like a handicap at times and the situation requires navigation, I am still an individual. Are men discerned against for their job or the task of caring for an aging parent? It seems as if we are training men to look at our children as obstacles, while at the same time resenting them for it. I experienced a handful of men decline dating me because I had children. Not fun.
Fast forward to the year my boyfriend moved in with us and I noticed people in my life eluded to, “Now that you share the household with a man …”
What?! I was still a widow with kids. Managing the household continued to be my domain. The only difference was that I had companionship. Okay, so he was available to take over the traditional male tasks like mowing and light bulb changing … some of which I had merely hired out before his arrival. I could not understand why society was trying to pry the membership cards from my hands simply because I had a live-in partner.
It was time to take a look at my attachment to the unofficial club memberships and really get in touch with the imagined freedoms they granted me, especially the single mom card. This one came with a badge, a symbol of distinction. “Look at me, I’m doing this on my own!” People weren’t accepting it because a man was living in the house with us. They assumed he helped to look after them, contribute to the income stream, and reduce the workload for me. Here’s the deal though, I had babysitters, social security death benefits and a person who cleaned my home. The single mom card really provided nothing in the world of ego. Because if we get honest with ourselves, the ego is the only one who flaunts the card.
Upon this discovery of ego and the membership cards, I began to actually feel awkward in flashing them. They have no true power. I know plenty of married moms who claim, “I might as well be a single mom!” What’s up with that? When did a woman caring for the kids and the household become such a burden? Is it a result of the women’s rights movement? Before that, I don’t recall historical or biblical accounts of women congregating around campfires to complain about their men not helping around the hut or with the wee cave kiddos. Is it simply not part of what women do? We are the child bearers and nurturers. The men are the protectors and the hunters. Hold on there, sister, put your lighter away and let’s talk biology. At a cellular level, men and women are different. It is what it is, not right or wrong.
On a biological level, a female egg requires male sperm to begin the process of life. (Duh!) Humans were made for coupling. When you take out the proud ego and cries for equality, one can actually get present to the joys of companionship. That is all I desired after the boys’ father died. I wanted my family of four back because we felt out of balance with the adult male energy absent. I wanted my boys to witness me being in relationship with another adult. There was no need for them to watch me carry the burden and to learn guilt at such an early age.
With over half the U.S. population choosing to stay single, I make this plea to the women with children and no partner. If you are one who has put her love life on hold, please reconsider.
If you are of the conviction that you don’t need anyone else, I say you do, for the sake of your kids. They need to see you be in relationship. To watch you give and receive love from another adult. If not, little girls are headed onto a path of solitude and our little boys learning to satiate physical needs in the form of one-night stands. This shift into collaboration is necessary because couples are the foundation of humanity, giving rise to larger and healthier structures of family, community, and society.