Monthly Archives

July 2017

On free time, socializing, social norms and prejudices

July 28, 2017
free time

Even single mothers have some free time every now and then, or maybe they don’t, but they simply have to take a break to give the body and the mind a moment to recover. The perpetuum mobile hardly ever stops; we seem to be condemned to an endless loop of work, tidying up, ironing, taking care of the children and so on.

We also need to relax from time to time, and we want to make sure that both we and our children enjoy it.

So, what are a single mother and her child supposed to do at weekends, after shopping, lunch, tidying, etc.? When my daughter was only months old, it was so much easier. We used to take a stroll, go shopping, go to coffee shops. She behaved well, played with her toys, drank her juice and looked around.

When she grew up, however, things became a little more complicated.

Kids are social beings. They want to be around other kids and have fun. They want to visit other kids and invite them to their homes.

This is something I have been thinking about for quite some time now, but it took a while before I could put it into words. I’ve finally decided to tackle it, and it isn’t easy because it’s an unquestionable, but a delicate matter.

People around us mostly live in nuclear families. A husband, a wife and their children.

And couples like spending time – with other couples

You know how it works: a couple with kids is invited to visit another couple with kids.

Women chat about children, food, maybe movies, or hairstyles and fashion (this is less likely – they rarely have time for it), life in general.

Their husbands brag about their business prowess, talk about sports, maybe discuss politics.

Meanwhile, kids run around the house, make a mess, spill stuff all over the place, leave crumbs from their snacks everywhere.

What happens when a mother doesn’t have a husband or a partner?

Nothing.

A single mother is only seldom invited to the homes of other couples with children. She simply doesn’t fit into the previously described environment, unless it’s a birthday party. Sadly, it is quite normal. Single mothers with their kids are rarely considered a desirable company because they would normally talk mostly with the women. And what would the husbands or partners do meanwhile? A single mother would have to be extremely interesting, eloquent, successful and amusing to be accepted as a good, sufficient and desirable company and guest.

There’s another reason for this, as a divorced friend has recently revealed to me: her female acquaintances sometimes avoided inviting her to parties and gatherings for fear that their husbands would flirt with the divorced, ergo available woman (who would therefore surely be “more prone to affairs”).

And so…

I didn’t mean to complain though. I only wanted to portray the reality of a single mother and her child as it is, to point to certain clichés which are seldom discussed.

Having said all this, I can’t help but notice that I’m certainly not the only single mother, right? Right. I know many myself. So, why don’t we spend time with each other? Well, we do.

But…

It’s human (written in our genetic code, I guess) to want to live in a community – a mom, a dad, their children. Our culture considers everything but a nuclear family and traditional relations an exception. My daughter has never lived with her dad; yet, she loves him genuinely and innocently. When we go see other people, she often asks: “Can dad come along”? When we do (rarely, though) visit other couples with children at their homes, she notices that “Maya’s dad is home in the evenings, with her”. On such occasions, all I can do is gather all the remaining strength, put on my warmest smile and tell her: “It doesn’t matter. Her dad lives with her, your dad has his own home, and some kids don’t have a dad at all. It’s all fine…”

I repeat, this is not another sad story or complaint. Some “well-meaning” individuals have told me: “Surely you could’ve guessed what it would be like. You shouldn’t complain now.” And I’m not. I’m only trying to point to a fact that people often fail to notice.

I didn’t know and no one could predict what life would be like under specific circumstances. I didn’t know and nobody who merely observes my life from the outside can possibly realize what it’s like to live alone with a child in a society that stands on a totally different basis.

 

Raising a child is bliss, not a burden

July 22, 2017
child

Single mothers and those raising their children with a partner have much in common: I believe we are all equally dedicated to our children, regardless of our lifestyle or situations we face.

My daughter will soon be 6. She has never lived with her father; I raise her on my own. I make all important decisions concerning her. I do consult with my ex from time to time, but I’ve basically never had any illusions that he would ever be prepared to play a major role in her life. When I finally stopped deluding myself and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, my wits and experience (or, in truth, inexperience) were all that I could rely on to decide what’s best for her. Which kindergarten, what kind of daily routine, which sporting activities are optimum – all that was ultimately up to me. To maintain a good relationship with my ex, I occasionally ask for his opinion. I don’t really have to though because the bottom line is that I am responsible for everything.

All mothers are familiar with the seemingly endless list of regular chores that are supposed to be fit into a 25-hour day. I used to think it was nothing, the kind of routine everybody had, and I couldn’t quite understand why all those women with children always complained about something so normal and easily achievable.

Normal? Well, yes.

Achievable? It has to be since there’s no way around it.

Super hectic? Yes.

Easy? No. But we simply don’t give up because – there’s no choice.

To cut the long story short, all mothers understand this as they have first-hand experience.

First, we wake up at dawn because that’s when most small children open their eyes and start demanding attention.

This is followed by tidying up, a visit to the kindergarten, going to work, buying groceries, along with the usual lines:

Have you been to the toilet and washed your hands?; Will you please finish your meal?; Go brush your teeth and don’t play with the toothbrush; No more cartoons!; Time for bed; Put your jammies on, you are old enough to do it without any help…

And then, some more cooking, ironing, cleaning, and so on and so forth.

Sometimes I manage to stay awake a little longer in the evening and then I walk around the house and try… well, I’m not sure what I try, but it sounds good.

Most of the time, however, I just doze off next to her (yes, we sleep in the same bed).

Time flies

A (single, childless) friend recently criticized me for spending too much time with my kid, for being unaware of how quickly time passes… In short, she thought it was high time I started dealing with these things and spending more time doing something more interesting.

It crossed my mind that there could be some truth in it.

I never go anywhere, if we don’t count children’s birthday parties.

Theaters, movies, restaurants: I only remember those places, vaguely. I spend time with my friends when they find the time (between two boyfriends) and then we have some coffee at some “child-friendly” place while my daughter’s trying to charm the waiter to get more biscuits instead of only one they usually serve with the coffee.

So I thought: Why not? Why wouldn’t I make arrangements, get a baby-sitter, put some make-up on and check out the outside world by night?

But I didn’t

Because my (single, childless) friend also told me this:

“I don’t understand why you’re so committed to being a perfect mother. Don’t you realize that your daughter will forget you exist once she doesn’t need you anymore?”

I was speechless.

If I’d been able to at the time, this is what I would have said to her…

I would have told her that my child means a world to me and that every second we spend together is a billion times more meaningful than all that time she spends preparing for a wild night out.

I would have told her that my child is the most valuable person in my life.

I would have told her that I was so lucky to have this small person by my side, who can hug with no second thoughts, who can love so truly and openly, and who still prefers gummies to a new dress or a pair of shoes.

So I resumed my daily routine because this small person I’m raising has only one childhood and I don’t want to miss any of it, not even a single day.
I know time will come when she won’t need me as much as she does now. I know I will then be able to spend more time doing things for myself and fulfill only my own wishes and needs. Until then…

Hurry up! Put your shoes on! Go get your stuff, make sure nothing’s left behind. Why are you crying now? You’ve forgotten your doll? OK, we are going back to get it. Here’s a hanky, blow your nose. Don’t touch that! Haven’t I told you a hundred times never to touch the fruit at the supermarket? Why must I always repeat…

 

Ah, l’amour, l’amour…

July 11, 2017
amour

My daughter loves to sing. In the car, as we listen to the radio, she often joins in and sings her favourite songs at the top of her voice. Adele’s Hello is one of those (“Mom, when I grow up, I’ll learn to sing exactly like Adele“). Whenever she hears Adele’s voice, everybody must keep quiet as she starts singing her own version. And then she asks me: “Mom, what is she singing about, in fact”?

Well, I was at a loss the first time, I didn’t know how to respond. Most of those beautiful power ballads are about love. How can a five-year-old understand what life, passion, disappointments are all about? What does a pre-schooler know about love and should kids her age even be told about it?

Parents’ approaches vary. Some tell their children everything and would take any opportunity to explain life some more. A friend of mine takes pride in not having concealed anything from her son (who is now in primary school). When she’s happy, she laughs and bounces with joy. When she’s sad, she cries and lets it all out even if he’s around. I don’t think there’s a single correct approach; we are all different and our children are different, too.
When people say “all in good time”, they rarely ever really know when that time would come.

But, love, ah, love! It’s hard to believe how early in life kids start talking about it!

My daughter has never been in love (which is ok by me). So far, she has only told me about what’s been going on at the kindergarten (“Mom, can you believe it? Johnny fell in love with Nadia, but now he loves Nelly because Nadia prefers to play with Mina“). When she sees people kissing on the lips, she always says “yuck” and turns away.

So, we are still in the safe zone, and I hope this period will last.

As it is, it seems that boys find it easier to give their hearts away than girls: my daughter has already had two “suitors” and one of them even gave her flowers and presents! She just gaped at him in utter confusion, like she was wondering what she had done to deserve a red rose or a Barby doll a day before her birthday.
Meanwhile, the boys’ moms smiled and sized me up, like they were trying to assess if they should already start investing in the little princes’ love life.

Naturally, all those childhood crushes fade away quickly and my daughter was soon promoted into a good friend. I only wondered if any of them would remember those first flutters of the heart later in life.

Why do I still carry my child?

July 6, 2017
carry

I started thinking about all kinds of dos and don’ts even before my daughter was born.
Among other things, I was wondering if children should be carried, as a rule.
Some mothers carry their children all the time: their offsprings lie in their arms like baby koalas, in front carriers, in back carry wraps, on their heads… Be it their own decision or acting on advice, they surely realise at some point that this sweetest burden is also a hindrance. Children get used to being carried around and there’s no way for them to lose the habit easily, at least until they start walking. Having considered all the aspects of my future life as a single mother, I decided not to carry my child.
And, against all odds, I persisted!
Or maybe I was just lucky to have a child who’s not too demanding by nature, who knows?
Anyway, she spent most of the time in the crib and began to discover the outside world only after she found her way out of the crib. OK, that was obviously an exaggeration, but I really didn’t carry her much, and I’m sure this made my parenting much easier.

One sweet day, my baby started to crawl… and then to toddle, holding on to the furniture as she walked past it unsteadily. In time, she became more and more stable.

Don’t think I’ve never carried her at all

Far from it: for a long time, I did carry her down the stairs (we live on the third floor, no lift, oh joy!).
I used to carry her when she was asleep or simply when she was tired and cranky.
Of course I did; there’s no greater pleasure than feeling the tiny arms around your neck or the small legs around your waist.
Cheek to cheek, as she whispers into my ear: „You smell so good, mom. You are the best mom in the world“.

But, the child has grown… and become heavier…
Mothers are strong by definition, and single mothers are stronger still – they simply don’t have any choice.
Still, carrying a child who weighs 45 pounds can be a problem.

And so I started denying her that pleasure quite consistently.

Until one evening, we arrived home; she was exhausted, and I was frustrated with all the everyday worries and problems. She lay on my bed („our bed“ – she still sleeps next to me) and asked me to play some cartoons.
When I called her to have a bath, she just squealed – „I’m so tired, please, carry me…“.

My first instinct was to say no.

I thought: What if I hurt my back, who will take care of her and do everything instead of me?

Then I saw her pleading eyes and just extended my arms.

I lifted my big, heavy child and carried her to the bathroom. Pity no one was around to take photos. I’m sure the picture would be hilarious.

I carried her knowing that such occasions would soon become very rare, if not impossible.
Time will come when she will no longer want to be my baby. She will move to her room and shut the door when her friends come to visit.

I will soon remember those lovely moments with nostalgia, her arms around my neck, the sleepy child who will always be only my baby. One day, soon perhaps, my child will want more independence and laugh at my need to carry her from time to time.

Until then, I’ll be happy to take any opportunity, any occasion. I will live each blissful moment, each second of happiness to the full. I will enjoy her childhood, her soft cheek rubbing against mine and her thin little voice, whispering that she loves me into my ear.