Sunday, May 19, 2013

Second best

This is kind of a hard post to write. I like to feel like I've really got my shit together, that I'm capable, that people think my choice to have a baby on my own is inspiring and brave. And I do believe all of these things are true at least some of the time. And I mean it when I say to any of my new "thinker" friends that before the baby there were times when I thought this route was second best, but now I rarely think like that. I do mean rarely. Not never.

I went to two more kids' birthday parties this weekend. Had a nice time at both. But. It's hard being the only single mama. Today it really hit me when I had to stay inside and watch B play while all the spouses could go outside with the adults and grab a plate, have a chat, get a drink, etc. I could do none of those things, because B can't be confined anymore. The hosts were very vigilant about bringing me food, drinks, a chair, etc. And I appreciated that. At a party a couple of weekends ago my friend's husband occupied B for well over an hour so I could chat and eat. I appreciated that as well. But there's a big part of me that wishes that weren't the case, that I didn't have to be "helped". I know none of these people look down on me or think I'm not perfectly capable; in fact I know it's quite the opposite. But every once in a while I feel kind of like a charity case, and I don't like it.

I wondered what the people at this last party, who don't know me, thought about my situation. I don't have a wedding ring and was there alone. Did they think I was divorced? Abandoned by some dirt bag (as my ex-friend told her son)? Made bad choices and am now living with "the consequences" (aka my gorgeous, brilliant son)? I found myself quaking in my boots that one of these new people would ask what my husband does for a living or if he has red hair like my son. Why? I've always been so proud to proclaim, "oh no, he's donor conceived," before - what's gotten into me?

It may have to do with a conversation I had Thursday night. An older woman of my acquaintance who I like very much has the unfortunate habit of revealing unpleasant things people have said about me. Back when it was about how sick I was from morning sickness at my 2011 event, she told me later "everyone" was saying what a "bitch" I was being and that if I didn't snap out of it my event would "continue to go downhill" (just for the record, my event is far from going downhill. Last year's attendance was the second highest ever in fifteen years). That comment has stuck in my craw for a couple of years now. Then Thursday night when I mentioned I was really enjoying taking a more active role in the SMC community, she said "when you first did this, people would ask me, why would she do that?" It really bothers me that there are people out there who think I did this out of some sort of last ditch attempt at having a family or that it was something I was forced to do. It bothers me because it's kind of true.

There's just no getting around the fact that unlike almost everyone I know, nobody ever chose me to procreate with. Now in the end this doesn't really mean anything - half these people will be divorced in ten years, and I'm sure more than one woman I know goes to bed at night knowing she settled for some schmendrick just so she could have a traditional family. But I'm sure, too, more than one person has had a little snicker at my expense, thinking how low I've fallen that I had to have a baby by a sperm donor. I will freely admit that in my less empathetic days if I'd heard some woman I didn't particularly like had done this, that's exactly what I would have thought.

So I put a good face on. I know B's feelings about his origins are going to be directly tied to my feelings about it. I try to act like this was the plan all along, that I never wanted to subjugate myself to some man. That it's a joyful, positive thing. And again, all of this is true. And the longer I live this lifestyle, and now even planning another child by this process as if to commit myself more fully, the less I have those feelings of inadequacy, of my lifestyle somehow being second best to that of my married friends'. Until I go to a party where it's all couples and I see the husbands watching the baby so mom can have a drink and talk to her friends. Then, just a little bit, I feel like I got the short end of the stick. 


  1. Prior to going the SMC route, I thought using a donor was such an odd concept to wrap around my brain...and yet here we are! I figure there will always be "those people" that talk behind our backs. If they weren't talking about us being SMC, then it would be about the shoes we wore to a certain event or our career choices. Some people are just super judgmental, and will always find something to say. My guess, is that the older woman was only saying what she was thinking, rather than what others have said to her. Just to throw her, next time she shares a comment from "someone else", ask her specifically who said it so you can address that person!

  2. We have a ton of new people at my work since I went on maternity leave, & I've always been open that Elena is donor conceived. I found out recently that most of these new people have just assumed I'm gay & a few of the older ladies actually believe I'll meet Elena's donor, fall in love & marry him. Very few people see it as a first choice. That makes me sad for Elena because I never want her to feel like she was my consolation prize.

  3. You mentioned the thing I'm most worried about -- people seeing that I'm alone and pregnant / with a child and assuming it's because I made 'bad choices'. I even considered wearing a ring, just so strangers wouldn't give it a second thought, but I'm not ashamed of choosing single motherhood. I think that, since I live in a small town, I'm going to have to be straight forward about my situation so that speculation doesn't start up, but oh well. I hope as the baby/toddler years pass for you, it'll be easier to manage social events without a partner and that you won't always be reminded of the difficulty of your choice!

  4. I TOTALLY get the feeling of finding that you are newly/increasingly sensitive to what people may think is your "situation." When I was pregnant with my daughter, I thought doing it on my own was the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I still think that but, as she gets older, plays with other children more, starts school, etc., I have found that what I really want to shout from the rooftops is that we are an intentional, classy, complete family; as much as any family with a mother and a father. I have taken to wearing an ambiguous ring on my wedding ring finger -- it is my daughter's birthstone and doesn't particularly look like an engagement ring, but does, I think, gives me enough "coverage" to help me feel like I fit in a bit more and may ward off some of the "I wonder what her story is" questions.

  5. Not being at this stage quite yet, I can only imagine the possible scenarios of being at a birthday party sans partner/husband. An adoptive mother friend of mine has told me that she does get treated a bit differently sometimes at parties, but she has also mentioned that she has observed such tension between some couples that she feels relieved not to be in those types of situations. Another woman I know has a husband who works very long hours so he is almost never available to go to things like that with her anyway, so she goes alone, although she does have the ring. People can always speculate - in her case they could wonder, "hmmm, I wonder if there's trouble in their marriage, why isn't hubby there"? I do get the odd reactions of a few of the older generation, strangely, for being single and pregnant. All the younger women convey a lot of support and respect for what I'm doing. The older crowd can be stuck in the limits and prejudices of their generation and that can take a lot to erode. Those are my thoughts. I agree with the first commenter who suggests asking the older lady "who did you hear that from?". It is something I always say to people who come up and tell me "they heard that....". Usually they are uncomfortable with my question and don't reveal who they "heard from", but it gets my point across that I don't respect information relayed in that way. I find it intimidating in fact.

  6. Totally agree with Ali's advice to call out that woman's "feedback." I HATE people who share anonymous, negative gossip. It's probably wildly inflated, if not invented, by her. She sounds mean spirited and i would keep my distance. It's about her, not you.

    As far as people "snickering" at your situation... I find that highly unlikely. I haven't found anyone to react that way to me, at least.

    There are disadvantages to every scenario. Of course many of us would have loved a loving, supportive partner and co-parent... but now it's hard for me to imagine a scenario that's better than what i have now... even though my current situation is challenging. Toddlers are challenging!

  7. Great post. I've had concerns about feeling the same way. But then again, I feel that same way now! I've been to Sooo many weddings and other things that are traditionally attended by couples alone that I would like to think I'm past worrying about it. (And I am absolutely not).

    Is it better to have them think that I'm a spinster because I "chose to have a career instead of a family"- which is what I think they assume when they meet me as a single with a career. Is that any better than to have them think I was abandoned by some sorry excuse for a man or that I was so "desperate" that I used donor sperm?

    There comes a point when you can't worry about what some other think-- and beyond that it helps to try to find friends and a community that appreciates a variety of life choices. But I totally get where you're coming from. And I can imagine myself feeling the same way.

  8. I'm currently working on getting pregnant and becoming a SMC, so it is GREAT to read about your experiences and feelings further down the road.

    I finally realized I am much happier ALONE that with the people I've been with anyways. The funniest thing was when I was asking the opinion of two old, dear friends about getting pregnant and raising a child on my own. They didn't bat an eye before saying "we're both married and pretty much raised our kids on our own, husbands were useless, they're like having another kid! Do it! It'll be easier for you!"

    I found that so interesting and insightful. And funny. I am really curious as to what people will ask me when I'm pregnant, knowing I'm single. I'm trying to prepare for it! Thanks for sharing.

  9. We had a weekend a bit similar - a family fundraiser on the saturday and a birthday party on the sunday. The saturday was toughest for me, I did find myself to be a bit envious of the two parent families, and sad for BB that he doesn't have that. Its a totally different dynamic.

    I am pleased I did it this way though - I was lousy at choosing boyfriends - Donor Daddy is definitely a better dad than anyone I dated would have been, even if it is just a couple of visits a month.

    The birthday party was fine though, BB is old enough now that he can play, and collectively adults keep watch, so we all had time to get food etc- that time is not far away for B

    I am also getting less forthcoming with the info though. I do still tell lots of people, but not everyone, I think when I was pregnant it seemed like it needed an explanation, now he's nearly two its not so odd so be on my own - lots of people separate before their kid reaches that age! I think I am also more conscious about people knowing too though. I used to believe that we would be moved back to Australia by the time he started school but now I realise we could still be here - I have started thinking about how other parents might explain it to their kids, and then how they will treat BB...

    It's a minefield - but I think we're doing ok!

  10. I'm glad there were other single moms at my son's birthday party over the weekend. (Plus one who isn't single, but you wouldn't know it by her husband's constant absence.)

    I know I don't have the same single experience as you, due to the way most people see adoption vs. donor conception (charitable vs. selfish, perhaps). I absolutely do not agree with those assignments, of course. But I do have a friend like yours who seems to save up insults for those days you're feeling great. I'm always blown away when she starts saying mean things that serve absolutely zero purpose. It's one thing to say, "You hurt Jackie's feelings when you snapped at her," and entirely something else to make sweeping generalizations months later.

    Anyway, the vast majority of the time, I'm very happy to being doing the mom thing on my own.

  11. Great post! Interesting, though, because so far, I've kind of felt the opposite... I used to go to parties and things as a single person, and everyone else there would be married and/or have kids. And I felt like the odd one out, and like people were judging me for being single and childless. But now that I have Jordyn, I feel like I actually fit in more, not less. I also live in a very liberal city (Boston), and there are all kinds of "alternative" families here! I've really never felt or heard any real judgement about my SMC status, and I'm pretty proud of it! But I'm going to a cookout later today, so let's see how it goes...

    I do get what you're saying though. I just hope people aren't really judging us, and it's only our perception, if anything.