My Daughter Is Going to Break the Cycle of Single Motherhood

Single motherI don’t hide much from Tween Girl. I maintain a pretty open policy in our house to make her feel comfortable to come and talk to me about everything that might be weighing on her pretty little pre-teen mind. Boys, school, boys, family, boys, fashion… you know — all the important stuff.

I also don’t pull any punches when it comes to explaining the experience of being a single mom. Sometimes I think parents, God bless ‘em for their protectiveness, try to shield their kids from the hardscrabble honesty of raising children solo because they don’t want them to feel guilty or obligated to shoulder their stress along with them.

That’s the way I operated for a long time too, especially when she was younger. You just don’t need to saddle a third grader with the vicissitudes of grown-up-ness. (Heck, if I had my druthers I wouldn’t be bothered with it myself.) Then I realized that being secretive wasn’t helping her. 

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There’s a cycle of single motherhood in our family. My mom raised me on her own, so all my life it was just me and her, the dynamic duo. Her sister — who pulls double duty as my godmother — was also a solo parent, and her son and I grew up more like brother and sister than cousin and cousin. But I desperately don’t want Skylar to add to the Harris Hall of Single Mother Fame. Survivors, yes we are. But there’s no reason for her to bear the badge of honor if I get to her early enough to show her firsthand that this route is not the route she wants to take.

So I purposely don’t make anything look too easy. I want her to see every struggle, every setback, and every hair-pulling juggling act up front and in person. At one point, like most kids her age, she had the impression that money fell in bountiful waves of supply from the benevolent heavens above and, to make matters worse, her father put a bug in her ear that he showered me with child support payments that, hear him tell it, should’ve supplied her every want or need. But it’s hard to stretch $50 a week over fantasy and reality both.

To quell those rumors, I had her sit down with me and go over our household budget. Rent, electric, phone, insurance, car note, the whole kit and caboodle. She was perplexed, thinking her math skills were failing her. “Mommy, there’s not enough money left over,” she half-asked. Hmph. My point exactly, my dear. It’s made her a lot more sensitive to the needs versus wants in our household, which is an added bonus for sure, but it’s also given her courtside seats to the magic act one person has to pull doing a two-person job.

Marriage doesn’t guarantee she won’t have hard times but it does mean she’ll have somebody to ride hard times out with her — if he’s a good guy, which he will be if he has my stamp of approval. She’ll have someone to help her pick the kids up and drop them off from school and practices and rehearsals, and a partner to call on in cases of emergency when the job sends her out of town and she can’t pick little Fabio up or her mini-her barfs all over her uniform at recess and needs a parent to pick her infirmed tail up before she erupts again.

There have been times that I wish I’d waited until I had a husband, when my limited time demands are stretched just thin enough to require me to be in three or four places at once. Most importantly, The Girl would have a father in the house, doing his duty. Not saying that off-site dads don’t do the right thing. But ideally, kids and parents are all neatly packaged under one roof.

My mom begged me to wait until I was married before I had children too, and me being the head-in-the-clouds kid that I was thought my romance was so original and groundbreaking that we’d defy the odds and get hitched. Almost thirteen years into being a “baby mama,” I regret not listening to my mother, not because I don’t love my child but because I didn’t learn from watching her experience. I’m more open with Skylar than she was with me, hoping and praying that seeing the uncut version of single motherhood will make her shudder and see that it really is as hard as it looks.

What behavior or circumstance do you not want your children to repeat?

 

Image via Baba Zuwa/Flickr

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