Browsing Tag

parenthood

Fathers have a heart too

October 27, 2017
fathers

A few days ago, I took my daughter to a birthday party of a boy who was going to the same daycare center for a while when they were both four.

God works in strange ways. I became friends with his mom when we learnt that her son had a crush on my daughter. They later moved to another place, and changed the daycare center. She and I kept in touch, as we were brought together by children’s love and the fact that we both bring up our children on our own.

From one birthday to the next, we exchanged experiences and watched our children grow.

Just like me, my friend Supermom had separated from the boy’s father before he was born. Maybe she did it out of pride, maybe she had no choice, or maybe love simply vanished.

Anyhow, the boy hadn’t seen his dad much until recently.

I never commented her decisions. I don’t judge other people and I expect them not to judge me. Everybody knows what’s best for them.

I was delighted when she told me that the father and the son had finally established contact. It won’t be easy to make up for all the years gone by. It will take time to build the relationship based on trust and intimacy. That might never even happen. My opinion is that children should meet and see the parents they don’t share their house with, provided of course that at least the basic conditions for this are in place.

My daughter sees her father regularly, and that has always been the case. Not because I’ve managed to discover all secrets of parenthood or because I’m this noble person who places her child’s interest before conflicts and ugly situations that have come up from time to time. The reason is that her father has been persistent enough despite the fact that I condemn his way of life.

Our characters, habits and principles are completely opposite. We have confronted each other about many issues countless times. I disapprove of many aspects of his life, and that is unlikely ever to change.

However, he once said something that left a strong impression on me. We quarreled about where our daughter’s scooter would be stored in the future (oh yeah, a scooter can also be a good reason for an argument). When I told him that she didn’t live with him (and therefore the scooter should be kept at my place), he replied:

In my mind, all my children live with me.

What he said really made me stop and think.

Fathers have a heart, too

They are often selfish, like men are due to a lack of responsibility. They lie and cheat. They rarely manage to understand the children’s interests and daily needs the way we do. But in that fragment of a second, this admission that came directly from his soul really got to me. I realized that his lack of commitment and responsibility, which I always tried to neutralize by lavishing care and attention upon her, didn’t necessarily mean the lack of love.

Fathers can love, too

Is that the consequence of the established tradition and norms? Do mothers simply carry a gene that makes us act the way we do?

I don’t know, and I don’t care anymore.

My daughter is six. I’m not sure time really heals everything, but the years I’ve spent raising her alone have helped me learn plenty.

Nothing is just black or white,

To forgive is divine, as some say, but I’d also add – it is often the only thing we can do if we wish to be in peace.

Answers sometimes literally fall from the sky. All we have to do is remember to look up.

I wanted to tell the friend I mentioned at the beginning all about it, but I haven’t had the chance. One of the reasons why I’m writing this post is so that she can read and understand it.

 

She’ll soon let go of my hand

October 6, 2017
hand

This is more than a photo. A mother and a child, hand in hand, a symbol of love, of parenthood.
It’s an everyday occurrence, a part of our routine. But I know it will soon end.
A little longer, and it will all be over.

Hand in hand means so much more.
Love.
A reminder that time passes, inevitably and quickly.

A shiver went down my spine when I realized that I had no idea for how much longer my daughter would want to hold my hand.

And only a few years ago…

I wasn’t one of those mothers who make their children start to walk as soon as possible, who hold their little hands and encourage them: Come on, you can do it, there you goooo…. I let her crawl for as long as she wanted. I’m surprised her knees didn’t leave a permanent imprint on the nursery floor.

I just let her do thing at her own pace. After all, nobody crawls forever.

One day, she just stood up. She made a few unsteady steps in my direction before she fell in my arms. She started walking at 13 months of age. I wrote down the exact date in a colored notebook I will keep with me forever.

Since then, the two of us have always walked together, hand in hand.

I admit I hate to let go of that little hand.

What if she falls? What if she gets hurt? What if she runs into the street?

The symbol of parenthood, of growing up, of love.

My daughter has recently invented a new game.

The idea came out of the blue. “Mom, let’s pretend we don’t know each other. Like, I’m a grown-up, taking a walk on my own.”

My baby is growing. She is still a small, insecure child, she gets scared sometimes, but she’s also increasingly curious about what it’s like to be a little more independent. Even walking a few meters away from her mom counts as an adventure.

So we walked, side by side at first, and then she suddenly moved away and pretended to be a big girl who walked alone. She wanted to feel what it was like when she no longer needed her mom’s hand. A few minutes later, the game ended abruptly when a car or something else passed and the big girl got frightened, grabbed my hand and said: “Mom, let’s know each other again…”

I admit I was eager to squeeze those tiny fingers that had found their way back to me. I was happy.

And I already know that the whole point of our most important task – the parenthood – is to eventually let them:

fall because they have to learn to get up,
fly using their own wings,
taste and grasp life on their own.

I know that the day will come, maybe soon, when we will stop hugging before we say goodbye. And I know that the day will come when her small hand will stop looking for mine and the game will become reality.

 

I’m just not ready for it yet.

So what if I had a baby at an advanced age?

September 28, 2017
age

For those who are new to this blog, let me introduce myself. I’m a Supermom. It sounds better than a single mom. It’s more powerful, more positive. And we who raise our kids on our own need that power and loads of positive energy, day after day.

My daughter will soon be six and she attends a daycare center. I’ve already written about how I was forced to enroll her in a nursery at the end of my maternity leave. Since then, our daily routine has been pretty much the same: nursery (then a kindergarten) – work – chores – home.

At some point, we joined the stream of endless birthday parties, thrown in rented playrooms, filled with happy, energetic children and us, parents.
Single parents often face some sort of social isolation. Couples with children usually invite to their homes other couples with children so that the men can talk to men, and women with other women, while their kids run around the house, making a mess.
At children’s birthday parties, things are different. Normally only one parent would drop the kids off, so on these occasions I manage to blend in and rarely ever read the eternal silent question in other people’s eyes: what about the dad?

My daughter’s birthday calendar is quite full and each party resembles the other: kids run around the playroom, the birthday boy or girl sits at the head of the table while the attendees sing “Happy birthday toooo yooouu” … I talk to other mothers and feel like a rightful member of the parents’ community.

On one of those occasions, I spoke to a mother whose kid crawled through a labyrinth with my daughter, both doing their best to get stuck in there.
I knew that she was young, but when she told me that her mother was almost my age, I tried hard not to blush.

Every woman has her own concept of life. Some decide to start a family early, and I must say they’re right. They’re right because that’s what they want, and that is the most important thing.

Others prefer to wait until their careers take off or they simply can’t find the right man so quickly. That is fine too.  

I belong to the third group of women because I didn’t really know what I wanted until life itself pointed me in certain direction.

This is why I now spend time at kids’ birthday parties with other mothers who are much younger than me, although our children are the same age.

Does it feel awkward? A bit.

It seems to be in human nature to judge other people by certain norms and standards. Truth be told, other kids’ parents have never offended me, but the look of surprise on their faces, their curiosity and condescending smiles make me feel ill at ease.

In short, my story is as follows: for a long time, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted. Then I found out. I started trying to get pregnant quite late in life and when my wish finally came true, the relationship with my partner fell apart.
It’s my mistake I didn’t become a mother sooner.
My age doesn’t bother me though. Despite my confusion and occasional errors, I do my best in every way.

Each one of us has her own concept of life. Or not. But that is also human.
Some women become mothers when they’re young.
Some, like me, when they’re not so young. That isn’t so bad.
I now know what I want.
I know what I can do, and that’s plenty. Life has taught me that much.

I may be trying harder than others. Why? Because I always think about how old I’ll be when my daughter starts going to primary school, to secondary school or to the university.
I have doubled my efforts because I feel that my time is more limited and I have to prepare my child for life.
I also do my best to look well, not because of vanity, but because I don’t want my daughter to suffer when I’m compared to other, younger mothers. And people can be cruel and mean.

Dear women, we are all different. We have different characters, wishes, capacities, and destinies. Some start dreaming about a happy family at an early age. Some spend more time searching and find themselves later in life.

Try not to be biased or judgmental.

Older mothers are not strange and curious creatures.

My daughter would probably be happy to have a young mother who would live to meet her grandchildren.
But even though that cannot be, what she does have is a strong, capable mother who has learnt not to take anything for granted and who would do whatever’s in her power to make sure her child has plenty of love, attention and a bright future.

 

My daughter’s real home is daycare, but that’s ok

September 15, 2017
daycare

I often joke that my kid was born in her daycare and that it’s her real home. But, there is a grain of truth in every joke, and here are some of my ideas about the nursery, daycare, socialization and immunity.

*****

I’m an avid reader of many blogs which sum up people’s experiences, victories and fears. I’ve read hundreds of posts about „saying goodbye“ to children and the pain of „separation“, about the mothers following with tearful eyes their offspring turning away from them for the first time and entering a new space with some new kids, together with the detailed description of the mother’s state of mind and depressing ruminations about life in general. In the end, common sense usually triumphs and it turns out to be a growing opportunity for both mom and the kid. All this expressed in five hundred words and illustrated with a photo of a two- or three-year old moving away with a backpack on his back, waving goodbye to his mom as if they would be apart for good, and not only for a couple of hours.

The trick question for all parents is whether they should enroll their kids in an institution or hire a sitter. In reality, they rarely think about it before it becomes an urgent matter. Most are confident they would come up with something or that maybe at least one grandparent would volunteer. Some parents also make enough money to hire a sitter on a regular basis.

I started dealing with this issue when my daughter was six months old. My mom is over 70, so I couldn’t ask her to take care of my daughter. We don’t have many relatives, so that wasn’t an option either. I therefore first tried to find a babysitter.

Many parents believe that children should spend most time at home until they are three, or maybe even longer, and then they start considering taking them to the daycare from time to time to „learn to socialize“  before they start going to school“.  But, why should children stay at home before they reach three years of age? This is something I always asked the advocates of this theory, but I never got a clear and reasonable answer. They usually looked utterly perplexed (what the heck is she going on about? It’s only natural for small kids to be mostly at home) and offered the arguments such as: kids should at least start to walk, get rid of the diapers,  become stronger, have better immunity, etc. before they are enrolled in a kindergarten. However, it seems to me that they just opted for an easier solution. Or maybe they just managed to find a grandma willing to accept the task. And who at the right mind would be prepared to wake a small child so early in the morning and get them ready for the kindergarten or nursery? That would be too stressful and exhausting (agreed) and so the kids would stay at home for the first couple of years of their lives.

Since I had no choice, I simply had to send my daughter to the nursery.

Yes, that’s right, I am the cruel, heartless mother who took her baby to the nursery when she was only eleven months old. She wasn’t even walking properly, she still used a milk bottle and rarely ever took the pacifier out of her mouth.

What was it like? It was fine. I spent the whole first day at the nursery with her. During the next couple of days, I would leave her there, take a walk and return in a few hours. After two weeks, she fully adapted to the daily routine in the collective.

Heartless as I was, I surrendered my 11-months-old to the mercy of complete strangers. In my defense, there were other kids with her, also abandoned by their cold-blooded parents to toddle in all directions, put other kids’ pacifiers in their mouths and occasionally burst into tears for no apparent reason.

Many years have passed since that first day at the nursery.

Every morning is still a battle: she often watches cartoons and refuses to get up or runs to her room to play and won’t come out. We always argue over getting dressed, combed, washed, about her shoes, the cartoons and an endless list of other reasons.

Was the nursery, and then the day care the best option? For the two of us, it most definitely was. In fact, it was the only option. And I don’t regret it.

I’m not saying that others should do the same. We all have our reasons, paths and criteria. All people are different, and so are their kids.

What was acceptable for my child and me may not be for others.

Some situations only single mothers can fully understand

June 23, 2017
situations

It was a beautiful Saturday at the beginning of June. The day was sunny, warm, but not hot. Everybody was in a great mood, and we had reason to be. The pre-school end-of-year play was about to begin, all our kids were on the stage, happy and excited because they were about to perform for their moms, dads and relatives, having rehearsed their lines for months. Their proud parents were waving, taking pictures and clapping as the sweetest creatures in the world showed up on stage before their loving audience: little ballerinas wearing tutus and hair bows; the angry, glaring pirates; Snow White and the seven dwarfs in a contemporary version of the tale…

All the people who mattered to the performers were in the audience: their teachers, parents, friends, relatives.

After the play, the ecstatic kids ran into the arms of their delighted parents. All dads were there except one. My daughter’s father had better things to do. My daughter came running to me and asked me how come her dad wasn’t there to watch her perform. I had no idea how to respond and make it sound ok. I couldn’t tell her that her dad’s interest in anything, including her, lasts only for as long as the object of his interest is standing right in front of him. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that to her dad, what comes first is himself, and then… himself, and then… well, again himself. In fact when I asked him to attend the play, he said I was bullying him and trying to make him feel guilty because he had other joys in life.

This introduction, however, is not the central theme of this post. Things are as they are, our lives are as they are and they are unlikely to change. I don’t want to spread gloom and write sad stories. I know some people live harder than us and I’ve learnt to be content with the fact that both my daughter and I are alive and well and cope as we know best.

A couple of days ago I told a friend about what happened at the play. It was the way she reacted that made me realize how hard it must be for the people who live in traditional families to understand what us single mothers and our children go through.

She told me that her husband, with whom she has two children, also occasionally indulges in the activities that do not include his family.

This grossly inadequate comparison left me speechless. This is what I wanted to tell her:

It’s not the same:

It’s not the same at all when the child has a father who always comes home.

It’s not the same when a child asks: “When will I see my dad” (and gets the answer: “When he calls; you know how busy he is”) and when that question is never asked at all that because dad lives in the same house and is around every day.

The fact is that there are no ideal fathers (my sincere apologies to those who are; in my defence, I don’t personally know any, so…). It’s also a fact that children who spend time with their dads only from time to time usually suffer. Those who live with their dads (even if dads are not ideal) normally don’t suffer as much even if their dads are not one hundred percent there for them all the time.

Do you really think that my child and your child are in the same position?

I remembered another friend who often complained about her husband: all he does in the evenings is look at his mobile phone, and he only lifts his head when she tells him that dinner is ready. I do understand her plight. Her kids, however, are probably not bothered by his behaviour and they never ask her what my daughter asks me: “Why does dad never come to our house in the evenings to play with me?”

Again, I’m not complaining. I just wish to pinpoint that it makes no sense to compare what it’s like for the kids in traditional families and those who grow up with single moms.

 

The day my world collapsed

May 8, 2017
world

All single parents know how difficult it is to bring up a child alone. It’s even physically demanding.

In the mornings, you have to prepare everything for you and your kid(s).

You’re late for work because you have to drop off your children at the daycare or at school. Or at least see them get on the school bus.

When you finish work, you have to run to pick them up.

In between, you have to buy groceries and do a number of other things.

Weekends aren’t any less busy.

And you do everything on your own.

It’s also financially strenuous; there’s never enough money.

Emotionally, you’re often close to the edge. You try to avoid thinking about the past and focus on your children and their needs.

Children should grow without frustrations, happy as they can be. They should maintain close contact with the other parent (if there is one to speak of). They should never witness your arguments and conflicts…

I am a happy woman because I managed to have a child when no one had expected it anymore, me least of all. I am happy because my daughter is healthy and smart. I am happy because she has a father who loves her and whom she loves back. Her father has another family and more children of his own. They are all little, they have no clue. That’s all very good and I could go on counting my blessings. But…

A few months ago I had to go on a business trip. There was no other option but to leave my daughter at my husband’s for the long ten days. To make things worse, she got chickenpox two days before I left. I spent the ten days with one hand glued to my cell phone.

We survived. In fact, I did; she had a great time. She was in the house full of kids, she had loads of fun. No rules, no restrictions.

It’s probably how it normally works. Mothers impose rules. I like order. My daughter eats and goes to bed at more or less the same time, and she knows why she’s forbidden certain things. When it comes to her father, it’s always fun being around him. She never has to do anything and is allowed whatever she wants.

So, she had a great time with him. She missed me, of course. She called me each morning and each evening. We talked on Skype, we waved at each other, sent kisses to each other.

The other day, she asked me timidly when I would go away on business again so that she could spend a few days at her dad’s.

I fell apart. The world around me collapsed.

My daughter is a healthy, cheerful, smart little girl. She loves both parents. And that is good.

But, I was so hurt by her question. So much so that I couldn’t hold my tongue and I offered to go away forever if she enjoyed spending time at her father’s so much.

My reaction was wrong, tactless, inappropriate.

We both burst into tears.

I felt betrayed.

Instead of feeling happy because my daughter loves being with her dad and her step-siblings, I was afraid that she would want to leave me one day.

I’m not sure that will ever happen.

Being a single parent is not easy, we all know that. Our days are often collages of duties and chores. We are often nervous and tired. We don’t spend enough time with our children, although all we do, we do to make their lives better.  

It’s easy to be interesting and amusing for a couple of hours or several days. That is often so. The fathers who do not have full custody (and who rarely have a major role in bringing up their children from other relationships) will do their best to make sure their children have so much fun for the time they spend together. After that, the children go back to their usual routine, until the next time.

Life is not only about fun; that is something us single mothers know so well. We are simply persistent in giving our children the love and attention they need, and hope for the best. For the children and for ourselves.

What’s the definition of successful parenthood?

April 24, 2017
parenthood

I often wonder how I should educate my child and in which direction I should push her. More specifically, how can I help her become a happy person? But then, an inevitable question follows: what is happiness and how can it be measured?

Is it to be well off? Is it to have a nuclear family? Will she be happy if she’s well-read and well-spoken? Finally, what should I do, which goal am I supposed to pursue so that one day I could say that I was a good parent? And what does it actually mean to be a good parent?

In our material world, parents are often considered to have succeeded in their mission if their children have a university degree and live comfortably. If they also manage to start their own family, their parents can reasonably expect to be worthy of the highest praise. But, what about those people who cannot afford to put their children through university? And what if my or your child simply doesn’t develop an affinity for studying and resents pursuing a career that requires university training? Would that make us bad parents?

Don’t get me wrong. I do want my daughter to be educated, and I sincerely hope she has a big, happy family one day. However, despite all my good wishes and best efforts, I cannot guarantee that that’s how it’s going to be. So, apart from teaching her, the best I can, how to conquer the world, I also want to teach her:

to be hard-working. Whatever she does in life, I hope she gives it all she’s got. I want her to be able to understand the value of her and other people’s work;

to be honest to herself and others. To be loyal to her friends and family;

to be decent and polite;

to be moral;

to be open-minded, tolerant to others and full of understanding;

to be a noble soul.

I will be happy and will consider myself a successful parent if my child becomes a well educated, hard-working and highly moral human being. For now, I can only do my best to make it so one day, and time will tell if I have done it right.