Its OK to have “Just a mom”.

   Hold me to this. I have an idea. One that will some day hit Barnes and Noble. With my name on it. A children’s book. A classic , award winning series”. I will call it “One is enough”.  I will even illustrate it (there goes my art skills in action). And it will be dedicated to my sweet daughter.

  My story will be meant for children all over the world (offered in every language and in every library). It will discuss various situations in life where one parent was enough. I will make a series for fathers and for mothers who are single. From being widowed, abandoned, divorced etc. For all of those situations. The ones where people wonder, stare and question (sometimes out loud) if one parent is enough. Guess what?

   It can be.

I have had a rough but enjoyable journey with my daughter.

My ex had tried a few attempts at being in her life, mostly due to my dumb encouragement on giving her a chance to know who he was. It did not stick. It just did not work. One of the two of us was mature and ready enough to be a parent at 16. The other, not so much.

I have stressed and thought over and over about what is best for my child. Not what looks best. Or sounds best. But what is functionally best for her well being. For her future. She has on her own questioned things. All she has ever known is mom. She has literally been with me her whole life without view of another parent for any of her milestones. I have packed every lunch. Set every bath. Kissed every booboo. Wiped every tear. I have 100% supported her life and well being. But some insist that it is still not enough. It cannot be enough for her to have one parent. She must be lacking in something from deprivation. She must have some ugly or bitter trait from not having two parents. She must be forming “daddy issues” or not comprehend where babies come from.

Even some judge, somewhere, will tell me “that is not good enough”. The american, hetero-normative parenting diagram states that it takes two to tango. So when one parent skips out of all the responsibilities, memories, milestones and bills, its still inappropriate and lacking for a child to have a parent who does it all. That’s simply not enough to meet everyone’s standards.

Of course not everyone admits this out loud. They do it through actions. Its so normative to have two parents that a child with one is questioned out loud if their other parent is dead. Or disappeared. Its natural for kids to question things. But who fills their heads with the idea that it is OK to ask another if they are missing or lacking something? How does that child feel when other kids ask them why there is no dad or mom. Like shit probably.

  I have not raised my daughter to go around asking people why they have or don’t have a parent. I have told her countless stories about families of all colors, sizes and orders. Some families have two moms. Some families have two dads. Some families have just grandparents. Some families have a mom and dad and sisters and brothers. Some families are made of many relatives living all together. And then, there are some families with just a mommy and a child. And that’s OK too.

Its such a sensitive thing, explaining reality to a child. Those moments we have to burst their innocent bubble and fill it with the grime of the earth. The things we hope to not cause them pain or anguish. Yet we have to. Some information needs to be explained so that other kids don’t fill their heads with bad feelings about it. I have had to sit my child down when she asks why some families have dads and some don’t. She has asked me why I do not have a mommy or daddy. In her eyes, I am everything. And I have all the answers. I am the all knowing mommy god. I try to be light in detail but truthful. Since those times, some kids have asked her about her parents. She simply tells them ( in a strong statement), “I don’t have a dad, I have a mom”. 

  I do not wish to fill her head with negativity. I do not think it is my job to give her every detail and explanation on why my ex is not involved. Why he chose to make bad choices. I know some day he will have to answer to her when the time comes. That will be for him to come to terms with. What I try to focus on is what mommy and her accomplish. It is not about what we don’t have. Its what we do have. We have always had each other. That’s what we will always have. No matter what.

  Being a parent is a full time job. It is exhausting and beautiful. To be a parent, you have to invest your full attention. Your every days. Your heart and soul. You have to be willing to sacrifice your last dime for them, your only piece of bread and your last breathe. They are a part of you. A literal part of you, only outside of your body. My daughter is like my heart, walking around on this Earth. With her own personalities, ideas and dreams. My daughter has a little bit of me but she is 100% her own person. She knows what she wants and likes, even at five. She is preprogrammed. She is not a toy or a puppy but a real person with a bright future.

I hope that as she grows, from the love and encouragement I give her, that she can be who and what she wants to be. She has had such a fulfilling childhood already. A normal one. Filled with friends, dance classes, stuffed animals, VHS tapes, classic bedtime stories and so many people who love her. We have a wonderful family built up by the friends we have made and real love we have been shown (not by blood family). It does not matter how anyone is related to us or not. We have been just fine.

  To all the people who have had and will have the future audacity to ask my child why she does not have a father: it doesn’t matter. Its none of your business. Its none of your concern. My child’s single parent lifestyle is not contagious. It will not make your child rebellious or low income or crazy. In fact, having each other is pretty damn awesome. One really really is enough.

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She’s a brick house!

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation out of the bricks others have thrown at her“~ anon.

  I have had a super rough week trying to adjust to my new schedule. With my daughter still getting over being sick and my homework quickly piling up, I have been frazzled and twitching. I did manage to get many things accomplished. However, my patience has been tested all week by people around me.

   I am not sure why people need to stare at me while I’m on campus pushing a stroller, but they do. This past week, some jerk guy decided to make fun of me for pushing a kid in a stroller on campus. He mumbled things to his friend as they hurried past me. My friend over heard it and told me parts of what he said. I was ready to pounce but I refrained.

  I had no choice but to bring Bella to my night class, sociology of reproduction. We had a lecture and a movie about childbirth. My daughter sat quietly watching Netflix on my phone and munching on a granola bar. I was totally entertained by the faces I got and the comments. Though most people find my daughter adorable, I know its not the norm. seeing a small child on a college campus. That’s cool. That’s fine. But leave it at that and don’t make me feel like a weirdo for having a child.

    What more people should be saying to themselves is “wow, look a young mom can still do normal things like attend school and hold a job”. I get increasingly frustrated by girls who become pregnant and then throw away all of their ambitions. I strive to set a good example and reach out to other young mothers. Though I do still struggle to make everything work, I am not ashamed of being a mother. I am proud that I have been able to follow my dreams. It worries me when I don’t see many moms. Not because I am expecting an epidemic of teen moms. I just know that the ones who are out there and are not married also don’t likely choose to follow through on getting an education. I never mean to put anyone down. I do not think I am better than anyone for having an education or certain privileges others might not. It just worries me how few girls are encouraged by society and the education system to get a degree and eventually a career.

   The biggest problem I have seen with the education system (mostly because of the state) is that there is very little support or encouragement for mothers to stay in school. There are not many scholarships for single or young parents and financial aid is scarce for students because of budget cuts to the state. The facilities like childcare and after hour care are dwindling because of dropping budgets or no state workers and many colleges don’t even offer it. There are very few colleges that have family housing or spouse housing. Families just don’t fit into the college equation. I suppose that these systems just haven’t changed with the changing times.

  As much as 40% of babies are born to unmarried couples over the last few years. The percentage has steadily increased over the last three decades alone. This could be due to economics, culture differences, absent parents or religious differences. Some couples are choosing to have and raise children without the institution of marriage. Yet young adults are still encouraged to earn a degree out of high school. If not, where will their income be earned from and what kind of family will they be able to support with a minimum wage job? My choice was clear. I researched colleges when I was 17 and had a newborn. I was not just determined to head off to college to prove a point to anyone. I knew if I had no parents and no father for my child, I needed to be independent and earn a steady income for my child. That way we could live comfortable when she was growing up and I could still fulfill the goals I had for myself.

   Even though I have researched and inquired to many colleges about their facilities for parenting students, I have yet to figure out a main idea on why there is so little support available. Surely this is the twenty first century and I am not the first or last teen to get pregnant. It is also not a new thing that families are being started at a younger age. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped according to recent studies since the 1990’s.  But it still exists. And its nothing like MTV’s TEEN MOM. There are real girls out there. Who are dreaming of goals beyond being a mother. Who are in relationships or not but are happy with their decision to be a mother. So why is it that so many states in America offer little assistance or aid to them?

   I am not referring to aid as in welfare. What I mean is actual support groups. Benefits through jobs. Tax credits for being single mothers in school. Schools that offer classes built around daycare hours. A real certified daycare facility on each campus with its own budget and workers. Trained staff. Did you know that new York state offers a SUNY grant to help pay for daycare?

I don’t make this stuff up people. I am tired of being “One more teen mom”.

I want to be “One less statistic”.

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Repeat after me

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Always give yourself the credit you deserve. Try not to compare yourself to everyone else or compare your child to another. We are all unique and living our own lives. Everyone has obstacles that they must overcome. Remember its OK to take a breather. Give yourself some air and regather your thoughts. Your a good mother. As long as you try your best each day. Its all we can do.

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Mini me

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  I wonder how many times a week all of you get mad at your kids for doing bad things. Awful and teeth gritting things. The things you do and have taught them. Here are some fun things I have passed down to my daughter.

*Leaving socks on the floor and/or not matched in the laundry

* Not putting a dirty dish or cup in the sink from the table before going to play or watch TV

*eye rolling

*Screaming due to tiredness/crankyness and no real reason

*leaving caps off of markers, pens and highlighters

*not thinking before speaking

*giving ultimatums and not following through

*Giving two choices and hearing your child pick the other “you better walk or I’ll carry you!” Oh damn, she chose carry.

*not refilling the toilet paper when its all used up

*saying dammit (or worse)

* lying to get off a phone or away from someone (but that could be useful)

*walking over to the fridge and staring into it. With no real commitment to any object in it. (I do that a lot)

*stashing candy.

*laughing when I am angry. (I can’t help but laugh when she is livid because its so dang cute).

*saying No.

I think there are a million more things I have taught my child that I in return hate when she does. I’m sure many of you are guilty as charged. Anyone else totally see themselves in their child’s mistakes?

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Dear daughter, The most successful people are those with many scars.

   I have many scars. Some are visible, some are deep and burried within my heart. The ones that hurt the most are the ones not visible. Ever notice how after you get hurt, your skin heals up but leaves a shiny patch of skin? I have a theory. Here’s what I think.

   Everyone comes from a past. Some better than others. Some people have had a wonderful childhood. A picket fence! A loving family of married parents and well groomed siblings. Childhood memories of holiday marches and festivals. Warm Christmas and delicious Thanksgivings. Funny times that made them topple over laughing from that thing their cousin did at the lake house. A camp memory of learning how to make knots and bestest friends. Some trophies on a shelf from sports and activities they excelled in. A room filled with home made quilts, photos and stuffed animals given by many ex’s and relatives. They have those memories. Those sweet and awesome memories. Even that little scar from skinning their knee while learning how to ride a bike with their father for the first time. A scar on their side from doing ballet on the furniture and wobbling over. Those are precious. You will have them too. Hold on to them. Pass them down to your children.

    I have some memories too. Most of them I lock away, as to not share them with you, my child. I do not want you to know the late nights I waited for the fights to stop. The Christmas Eve my tree came down with my drunk mother gripped tight on its straggly branches. The Christmas she lost twins, my almost half siblings. The Christmas she made me lose yours. I have scars. Some others caused. Some I caused myself. I made mistakes. I experienced loss. Pain. Its all part of growing. Its what I told myself happens to many people. So deal with it. Burry them memories. Hide the scars.

   I’m writing you now to tell you something very important. Something vital to your existence. Do not hide them. I want you to promise me something. Roll those sleeves up. Rock your scars. You will have some too because you are human. Do not be afraid or ashamed. For the longest time I was. I was mortified to tell anyone what I went through. I may have not had it that bad. I have learned a lot from reading, daughter. Remember to always educate yourself. Read about the great women in history who have scars. Its their war wounds. They show these scars off, these shiny parts of new skin. Skin that says, “I survived this”. You will make errors. But no matter how heart throbbing, you will survive them. And flourish.

   Many women I look up to have scars. Pain and emotional scars from being victims of rape, abuse and torment. They are so brave. They took those horrible memories and made them into something. Like a craft. It is a craft to take something ugly and recreate something beautiful. That’s what you are to me.

    The greatest women I aspire to be like are women like Maya Angelou. Strong, curious and independent. Not ignorant of their mistakes and proud of their scars. You will read about strong women. I want to inspire you too. I want to show you how to craft beauty. You won’t ever have to hide any pain if you know how to put your emotions to use. You will be told to silence your emotions. To accept your positions in life. To not press forward or cause a scene. Do not listen. Push boundaries and you will be one of those exceptional people. The ones who are not perfect but know how to tactfully contribute to advocacy and human rights. That’s what I have decided to be. Its one of my many purposes. Some day it could be yours too.

    Recently I was reunited with some memories that were not so bad. Old photos from my childhood, when I was just a baby. Photos of my parents dating. Of my mother pregnant with me. I have seen things I never did before. Never knew before. I always thought I would never forgive or want to look back. I now have these memories I never experienced. My mother’s grin. My father embracing her. There was a time when they were in love. Before I was born, a lot of great things happened between my parents. The trouble arose when I was less then three. I used to be so angry about their divorce. My mother’s new marriage. Their drug abuse and alcoholic dependency. I blamed losing my childhood on their addictions. I still partially do. I have also realized that they both have their own scars. That smile my mother had in my father’s arms….I have never seen it. Ever. He produced that. And when they divorced, I am certain he took it away. They hide that truth. But I know it.

    

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  Its funny how scars can reveal themselves too. These memories of before me, now hurt me. I cannot process why I was born or why they got married. Yet every time I accomplish something amazing, exceed my own expectations or look into your eyes, I know why. Things just happen. We do not choose in life who we are given to. We cannot have the ability to choose our parents or family. Not every family is perfect. Not every family is ideal. You will have a choice someday on how to start a family and with whom. Choose wisely.

   I leave with you as few memories I have as possible. Although you are my child and we had a natural order of things, I opted for another life. We are able to make new memories without having to repeat my past. But don’t be fooled. You cannot ignore your pain or scars. It can come creeping up on you years later in the most peculiar ways.

   The best way to take on your past, present and future is to take it head on. Remember that no matter how bad life gets, there is always a way through it. If you know that, then you will move mountains.

feministingmama

Sale-a-holic

   So… I have a confession. I am a sale-a-holic. A functioning one. I do cut coupons. I also love to stock up on sale groceries. But my madness goes so much deeper. My brain is literally hardwired with knowledge of shopping. Where to do it, how to do it and what to pick out for others. When I have to shop for something, I plan it out. I make lists and compare prices. I think of what I have already that would match or go with whatever new thing I want.

   I do not wing shopping. It must be well thought out and saved for. I dig and delve through racks. I like to even go back and circle the same spots in stores like Home Goods, Marshalls and Target. I know if I look hard enough I will find awesome things. So this year,  for my daughter, I went kindergarten clothing hunting. When I say hunting I so do not joke. My friends are always blown away with my finds. And I’m proud of them because I know it took deep thought and plotting to achieve sale shopping.
  
   I love to go to stores like H&M and Gymboree for my belle. I also find awesome things in the racks of JcPennys kids section. I raid the clearance first. I shovel through sizes and sections, grabbing things I like or love. I grab anywhere from a 6x to a 10. I have learned that different materials stretch or shrink on my child. I have also learned what is worth splurging for as well as what is a complete rip off. For instance, elastic waisted, adjustable pants are a total keeper. Those spandex leggings however are a complete waste because they fall throughout the day and give a lovely view of my five year olds ass crack. I also look for cuffable jeans and leggings that scrunch because she can wear them much longer without her ankles having to dangle out from her crazy growth spurts. All this stuff below was from children’s place, H&M and gymboree. Leggings were $4 each. Skirts all on clearance for less than $6 each. Socks five for five.

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   I have remembered and/or noted what colors stain easy. For instance, as lovely as white lace is for my daughter, I always avoid stark white tops. I avoid shirts that have attached necklaces or beading because they always break in the wash. Patches however are awesome. I wish I had a whole bucket of patches for when she rips a hole in her favorite pants or sweater. That’s what my grandmother used to do. I ask my daughter what she likes and she just shrugs, continuing to run around like a nut. So I have gotten to know her quirks. She does not mind tags like some kids. However she hates those pants with the weird little slip cuff button and zipper. Loathes them. So we do not do those. 

   I have come to adore handmedowns. My aunt has given me many bags of clothing, which always spruce up our clothing selection. What I do not like just goes into donation for someone else. And anything too stained or worn— do not throw out people. I have asked my digital spouse what to do and I learned how to make headbands from old shirts! That’s right. There is a use for them after all. Here is proof:

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I made all of the above headbands from old shirts and beads. By hand too. I will post about that another time!

   I have bought clearance shirts from various shirts and then spruced them up at home. Its a good way to save but also unique. I can assure that half of what my daughter has, no one else will. Sure a bunch of six year olds won’t care. I am thrilled because my inner fashion designer is getting to live a little.
  

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    I couponed for Gymboree and children’s place recently. The clothing is always priced pretty good but I know if I go on certain weeks, the clothing is on sale. I’ll buy a bathing suit or jacket for my daughter to wear the following year. I go as far as grabbing things a whole year ahead because it is that dang cheap to do!

  

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  Sweater shopping for kindergarten was the best. I hunted like crazy for comfortable sweaters in a size 7 or bigger so she can wear them a good two solid years. The butterfly sweater was $6 at GAP clearance. The bottom two were from marshalls for $9 each. Still great even though that was their full prices. Adorable. Versatile. Able to be washed and worn a million times.

    My greatest find of all had to be saved for last. Mostly just to see if everyone is still reading. My drum roll find from searching over an hour-no joke and going through every shoe box in the damn kids section were two pairs of Sperry’s. Both were on sale and in awesome colors that match everything. In the mall a pair is about $65 for kids and adults its well into the $90s. Gross right? What the hell are shoes made of that they cost so much? I have always wondered. At marshalls I was able to find these adorable babies for $20 each. That’s $40 for two pairs of shoes….whaaaa???? Unimaginable.

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      All because I am a sale-a-holic.

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