Hi Everyone! I'm the Sunday contributor and the "single mom". Thanks Char for inviting me to post here. Hope you're having a blast!
Charlotte asked for perspectives on parenting. I know we all have tons to say so I thought I'd write about what was important from my single mom's perspective...and also what is important from someone who swore she would never have children, never wanted children, and totally meant it.
This is Keenan:
He is the coolest human on the planet. When I found out I was pregnant it was quite a shock. I was NOT happy about it. Being pregnant was stressful and was not a happy time. The only thing I thought was cool about it was that I didn't have my period and I didn't have to suck my stomach in all the time (not that it helps ;). People would congratulate me and I'd glare at them. One of my friends initially exclaimed "Congratulations!" when I told her, saw the look on my face and said "I'm sorry?" and then threw up her hands and said "I don't know what to say to you right now". I told her I wasn't there yet. Truthfully, I didn't get there until Keenan was in the NICU for two weeks. He was 6 weeks early and going to the NICU was probably the best thing that could have happened. It's human nature to want what we can't have right? Anyway, back to him being the coolest human on the planet....he's the best damned thing that ever happened to me! Every night I watch him sleep (because he's in my damned bed...I know, I know) and can't believe how much I love him and how happy he's made me. He's hysterically funny, loves music and dancing and singing, is so so sweet, and is (as Charlotte can attest) a mellow kid. Sounds like life is perfect? That's where the single part comes in.
I'm single by choice. I married Keenan's dad which was a mistake from the beginning and turned into a total disaster. Seriously, anyone who knows me thought I was some alien being because I'm so not a traditional, conservative person and having to get married because one is pregnant is NOT something I support. I can only say that pregnancy hormones are evil and women really do go temporarily insane while pregnant though researchers argue otherwise. Yeah, they're probably all idiot men! Anyway, we're now divorced and I have 100% physical and legal custody of Keenan with visitation terms to be decided upon by me. This isn't because his dad is inherently awful...he just can't lay off the alcohol. This behavior can be overlooked when he's your "Mr. Excitement" but not when he becomes your "Mr. Youknockedmeupyoubastard" and you become the subsequent "Mrs. Youknockedmeupyoubastard". I was awarded this custody arrangement because he didn't bother to respond to any court filings or come to any hearings. But, all in all, I have to say he's turned out to be a pretty darned good baby daddy.
That being said, the tough parts about being single are many:
* It's absolutely exhausting! For me, I'm mommy, daddy, do drop-offs and pick-ups at daycare, RARELY ever get to go out because I'm very good at trying not to burn out my mother and only free babysitter, can never sleep in, can never go to bed early, have to parent when I sick and things are exploding out of my body, and have to be sole breadwinner and provider on top of all of it.
* All chores belong to me including yards, garbage, dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, etc. Whoever wrote about feeding their child bacon and cheese and chicken for dinner...I'm so with ya on that! Cereal...it's what's for dinner! ;) Seriously, cooking at the end of a long day wrangling a child out the door to daycare and then working full-time is a total pain inthe ass! Besides, doing any of these chores takes 3 times as long to do because I have a 2.5 year old who wants to "help". Every single thing I do requires a plan for containment/supervision (showers are a huge risk when you think about it but I have to take them).
* I've been furloughed one day per month which equals a 5% paycut. This will be tough to absorb because we live on only my income and an incredibly small amount of child support. I've decided I'm potty training him to offset some of the lost income. ;)
* When I'm grumpy and he's being naughty there's no one to tag team with and no one to at least say "Knock it off and do as your mother says". Thank god for Facebook timeouts!
* I got down to 21 hours of sick time this year because I'm the only one who is around to stay home with him when he's sick and can't go to daycare.
* I don't date and can't really see having the time and energy within me to devote to a relationship let alone a new relationship. Besides, I'm still doing his dad so I'm not totally missing out. There was one thing we were always really really good at!
* Seriously, the hardest thing though is when he reaches a milestone or does something amazing I'm the only one around to witness it and be awed by it. There isn't anyone to share those moments with.
There are some really great things about single parenting though as well:
* There is no one to fight over discipline with. There's no conflicting parenting philosophy and my ex wisely leaves these decisions on how to parent to me (or I'll kick his ass). That means Keenan gets one message and it's consistent. There's no one to undermine or disempower me and that has made him easier to parent. There is no one else to go to so he recognizes a losing battle and will usually come around when he's being naughty.
* Since there isn't anyone else around to do things I'm never irritated or resentful that someone isn't helping out or picking up the slack. If there are dishes in the sink, it's because I haven't done them. Keenan's dad will actually come by and do things spontaneously sometimes around my house and because it's so unexpected I'm incredibly grateful for that little bit of load that's taken off of my shoulders for the moment.
* Keenan and I have an incredibly bonded relationship. He has complete and total trust in me and the worst punishment I can give him is to withhold my attention from him. He loves his dad and grandma, etc. But our connection is so close and so amazing.
* Keenan has learned to do many things independently out of necessity. He clears his own dishes and puts them in the sink, is responsible for feeding one of the dogs, knows he has to pick up his toys when he's scattered them about (and does so about 80% of the time) and is getting better and better about entertaining himself with books and puzzles and yes, the evil tv! :)
* Keenan gets to go to daycare. I know there's lots of debate about this but I have a great daycare. Since he's an only child this is his opportunity to go and play with kids his age and learn valuable social skills he'll need for school. He's learning by leaps and bounds and it's helped expose him to the structure of school-like activities that I believe are preparing him for kindergarten. He's also caught every cold on the planet which I heard will pay off when he does go to school.
Single-parenting wouldn't have been my first choice if I were the kind of person who thought she might actually want children and then actually TRIED to have them. But I do have to say, my life is perfectly content. He and I are so happy together and he's a very happy and joyful kid. I know that if we still lived with his dad this would not be the case. I love every moment I have with my son and can't wait to see the type of person he's going to grow up to be. Even though I wasn't happy about being pregnant I couldn't be more thankful now to be a parent. I'm glad I had that unexpected pregnancy and didn't miss out on this!
Thanks again for letting me post on your blog Charlotte...and thanks to whoever reads this. And if you're parents..KUDOS to all of you! Parenting is a hard job for anyone even if you do have a full time partner around to help you.
P.S. I'm posting this now because there's NO WAY IN HELL I'd be able to do this when he's awake tomorrow.