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Single and the Country

Categories: Colleagues and Comrades, Fighting the Stereotype

10 comments

Tonight, I feel like the Carrie Bradshaw of the Single Moms at Work set.

No cosmopolitans, no $400 Dolce & Gabbana pumps, no Mr. Big waiting under on 500-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Just me—alone—sitting cross-legged in my own place, tapping away on my laptop with my hair piled on the top of my head. (Carrie Bradshaw would not have had American Idol on the tube, but she had her constant cigarettes, so our bad habits balance out.)

As I do every Tuesday night for Work It, Mom!, I’m musing about this not-new-anymore life I’m living, but still can’t quite claim as mine. I’m staring at my laptop screen, trying to channel my inner Carrie. 

As you guys know, Carrie Bradshaw proposed a question each week in the Big Apple, and did her sassy, excellent, honest best to come up with a well-researched answer, about sex, relationships and the single life.

But she got out of the house more than I do. She had the shoes for it.

I don’t know many single mamas. I especially don’t know many single mamas (or papas) here in rural New England, where I live. In fact, I kind of count on you gals (and guys) for that. You help me make sense of how this works—this being single, raising kids while trying to earn a living thing. You’re my Mirandas, my Samanthas, my Charlottes. 

I think I need to find a few single friends nearby, too, for sanity’s sake. 

I have to say, I’d rather be writing Carrie’s column tonight. Pre-marriage, pre-kids, I used to live and work in NYC. I never thought I’d miss it. And I didn’t, when we were first married and moved to New England. No white picket fence, but two little girls and a sweet 100-year-old house seemed like the beginning of a nice life. Who needed New York?

Now, when I watch reruns of Sex and the City (as I’ve been doing this week, ad nauseum), I find myself missing it—the restaurants, the “I’ll meet you at 13th and 2nd,” the thrill of belonging to a place with so much history, so much vibrance. My best friend from high school was there. Some of my college friends were there. My grad school friends were there. D was there. Friends and family were always visiting, it seemed.

Sure, we worked crappy jobs by day to do theatre by night, but there was a camaraderie to it all that I wasn’t able to recreate after I became a country mom.

Maybe camaraderie is what I’m looking for. Maybe a way to erase my past as a married mom is also what I’m looking for.

Samantha would argue the case for some fabulous, meaningless sex, too, but that’s never been my thing. I ascribe meaning to everything, and thus emerge unscathed from nothing. Better stick with American Idol.

Anyway, this week, a friend wrote to ask me this:

What are the upsides of being a single mom?

I wanted so badly to impress her. I wanted to immediately tick off ten terrific reasons that it’s great to be a single mom, earning a living on my own. I wracked my brain, thinking what an early-season Charlotte I must seem like so far in this column—all about marriage, and lost without it. Where’s my moxie?

I came up with three half-baked responses:

1) I can watch whatever crap TV I want. And I can let the kids watch too, without as much guilt. I guess that’s something.

2) I guess we can eat cereal for dinner more often, too, and I can make it a “fun” thing.

3) I get the opportunity to be a strong, savvy, amazing role model to my girls.

Except I could do that before the divorce, too. No one was stopping me. Ditto for the TV and the cereal, really.

So for now, I guess can’t really answer that question with dazzling brilliance.

Which, I suppose, is an honest answer, for me, for now. My honest answer is that I have no great answers, yet.

Maybe it’s just a sign that I’ve got seasons to go, just like Carrie did, before I get the kind of answers that are going to be satisfying to both you and to me.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from YOU, my blessedly more evolved readers. What are the benefits of single parenthood, in your eyes?

Because, um, I’m a little stumped out here. And lost. And lonely.

And scared.

 

 

 



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10 comments so far...

  • Freedom to parent and work the way I choose. Freedom to manage my money the way I choose. Having more time / flexibility to run off with the kids and do something out of the routine. Never having to worry about someone else screwing up and having it affect me and my kids. Having less laundry. Being able to make dinner from a can or box or take the kids to Bob Evans or eat leftovers, whichever I choose. Not having to worry about birth control (or pregnancy). Not having to get dressed up and go to the social stuff “proper couples” do. Not fretting about whether he is carrying his share of the responsibility. No mother-in-law. Man, I’m on a roll! I have never been married/partnered, so I don’t have that sense of “loss” clouding my enjoyment of my chosen path. There is definitely an upside, in my view.

    SKL  |  January 12th, 2010 at 9:59 pm

  • I love SKL’s comment. You rock. I may print and paste to my fridge.

    Jenn  |  January 12th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

  • Everything SKL said. Also: No dirty socks all over the bedroom floor unless they’re mine. Not coming home to a house that looks like a bomb crater after “the boys” came over last night. Not having to watch soccer on TV every weekend. I’m not a single parent anymore, but sometimes I actually kind of miss it.

    Stine  |  January 13th, 2010 at 2:01 am

  • To me, it’s the part where sometimes the kids are with the other parent. I imagine sometimes (or maybe all the time) that feels awful, but from here it looks like it would be great to sometimes have a break from the relentless presence of the children.

    swistle  |  January 13th, 2010 at 6:33 am

  • Along the lines of what Swistle said: regular, guilt-free time to myself while my daughter is with her dad.

    Also, lots of one-on-one time with my daughter. Teaching or disciplining her without comments from the peanut gallery. A house that is ALWAYS clean when I come home, unless it’s MY mess, and even then I don’t have to clean it up if I don’t want to.

    Confidence that comes with taking care of things myself.

    Tess  |  January 13th, 2010 at 8:12 am

  • I’ve been a single mother for most of the last 14 years, and completely single (no dating, nada) for the last 4. It’s lonely and difficult and OH SO stressful, but there are many upsides, I think.

    First, I have undivided attention when my children and I are hanging out together. All of those little moments (like bedtime) where there is a single, strong connection between one of my children and me. I cherish that time with them more than anything.

    Second, there’s no one second-guessing or undermining my decisions and discipline techniques. This has made it much easier to stay consistant and keep things peaceful. There’s nobody for the kids to run to and get a second opinion about.

    Then there’s the respect aspect. My oldest (daughter) is almost 15, and she is really starting to pay attention and realize that, although she may not always like me, she respects how much work I have to do to keep them happy and safe. She’s showing this respect by spontaneously helping me out. I almost fell over dead the first time it happened.

    Over time, there are definitely more good things than bad, if you’re able to find balance. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get lonely - sometimes extremely so. There are some days when I would give up sleeping in the middle of the bed just to have someone else who could take the days off, make the lunches, and lay down the law. However, I don’t think I would change a thing, in reality.

    Rebecca  |  January 13th, 2010 at 8:49 am

  • um, you don’t have to shave your legs if you don’t want to, assuming you can wear slacks to work!

    memaw  |  January 13th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

  • The best thing for me is to not fret about how someone else is parenting my children. I know he’s doing things differently at his house, but i’m not there to see it and be irritated by it. It’s liberating not to have to negotiate and justify the way things happen in our house.

    As a single mom at work, I cannot imagine working full time, which I do, if I were still coupled. I suspect the distribution of housework would not be even and so I would be running myself ragged seven days a week. I am luckily able to leave my work early on days when I have my girls and stay later on days when I don’t. This means they come home right after school on my days, ie no after-school program. It also means I can get my job done on his days free of the guilts of leaving them at school until dinnertime. The guilts come for other reasons, of course, and though it is nice to get to sleep in every other weekend, it still feels like forced vacation most of the time. But it gets better and easier for everyone.

    Jen  |  January 13th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

  • Here are some other things:

    (1) I have a HUGE sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, that I didn’t have to rely on my partner/husband - I did it ALL MYSELF.

    (2) I can do whatever I want to my house - right now I have the dining table in the livingroom which is apparently against the ‘rules’ - and I don’t care. I have ‘me’ spaces in my house that are set up for the things I love and the things I want for my son. No wasted man cave type space.

    (3) I feel stronger and more able than ever before because I do it all myself. I’m able to save money the way I want to, make great decisions that will benefit my son and I, and no one can affect them or declare that things should be different.

    (4) No arguing nor disagreements inside my house EVER. We still disagree on some things but he doesn’t live here so all I need to do is hang up the phone or close the door and I’m away from it : )

    (5) At the end of a hard day, my son in bed, I get to relax by myself ALL THE TIME. No one I have to talk to, no one to do things for, just beautiful peace and quiet. No one complains that I’m up to late or on the computer too much, or watching the wrong show on tv. *sigh*

    (6) I can dream about a future relationship or fling I might have and can actually follow through with that dream without having to cheat or go through a divorce. HIGH FIVE! There is so much potential and I can go for it, or not, it’s up to me.

    (7) I own my own home outright, have my dream vehicle and can afford to buy anything I want … I accomplished all of that myself, none of it has to do with my ex, it was all me - that feels good.

    (8) I can pick up my son from daycare and do whatever the hell we want at a whim’s notice!!! No one else’s plans to consider!

    ~Monica  |  January 14th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

  • Wow…….all the comments of self reliance…..the feelings of accomplishments……..it’s an inspiring to read and to know that I am not out of mind because I see the benefit of CHOOSING to remain a single mom as opposed to staying in a marriage where my son would not know what a real relationship is. We are the role models for our children, whether son or daughter. Each of you show strength, independence, determination, unyielding love and devotion. What better role models for the future generation?? They will learn how to treat their future spouse by the examples we set. Hats off Ladies! You ROCK!!

    memberbychoice  |  February 4th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

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