Friday, August 16, 2013

The In-Betweeners

Today I had FN (Former Nemesis) over with her adorable now six month old baby for a little dip in the pool. It was the first, and probably last time I have been in the pool this summer, mostly because it's been the chilliest summer I can remember (the water was only 75, which says a lot - normally it's 81 by this time), but also because trying to balance a swim with a toddler is just too much. For now the pool is a huge, expensive liability. But in a few years it will be AWESOME.

She mentioned she'd just come from lunch with a mutual friend who was her maid of honor and baby shower planner. I asked how she was doing, and my friend said, not so great. Apparently this girl, who is 37, single, and childless, just came back from a girl's weekend in which every woman there was married and had two children, and every one of them looked on her as an object of pity and according to her said everything on the "things not to say to your single friends" list, such as talk about freezing eggs, etc. My friend said her friend was really in a funk and had been for some time. Always the maid of honor, never the bride. 

My knee jerk reaction was of course, "just tell her to have her own baby!" as if there's any "just" about that idea, and as if that's a one size fits all solution to the Aging Egg problem women face over 35. It's definitely not advisable for everyone, for sure. I have met some people interested in this choice who probably wouldn't be the best candidates - too flaky, not set up financially, not ready to stop dating and focus on something else for a minute - and I believe many women just want All or Nothing; either they get the big wedding and the dream house and the two perfect over-achieving kids, or they want nothing at all. Which, to me, is a very narrow and self-defeating way of looking at the world. 

People who grew up poor and deprived like me know that sometimes you just have to take what you can get. I have a very street hustler mentality about everything in life - maybe it's the Brazilian in me; I'm always trying to find shortcuts to things I want, recognizing I am never going to get things in a normal traditional way. I weaseled around until I found someone who would get me a home loan, I started my own business so I would never have to worry about education or credentials, I made my own family with no man. The dark side is no, I did not get The Dream, like my friend did. But I also didn't say "either I get everything I want or forget it" like her friend did (supposedly).

I'm a bit of an In-Betweener in that sense. I did get the family, and that's wonderful and amazing. But no, no nice man to take care of us. So I *kind of* have The Dream. Sort of. 

I guess the important part is it's My Dream. I watched a show about celebrity custody battles and thought smugly, "see, my kids will never have to endure that. They'll never know the pain of loss or abandonment by a guy they knew as dad. They'll never know the pain I knew." Unlike me, also, they'll never painfully watch their mother chase men like a teenaged girl and pretty much sell her whole life short for male attention. That's another of life's little joys they have been spared.

So we return to the eternal question, is it bad to intentionally raise children with no father? Will I ever get over the fact that no man ever wanted me? Will it always feel second-best? Or is single parenthood by choice in fact awesome and one of the world's best kept secrets? I don't know yet, but I bet when I'm on my deathbed some day, I'll be so glad I made the choices I did and didn't let the lack of some pre-determined "ideal" stop me from pursuing my dreams. And hopefully my kids will be glad, too.


  1. I grew up in the ideal family, the nice house, financially comfortable family, married parents, with two kids and dogs. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that that type of family looks great on paper, but doesn't always equal happiness. My SMC family may be small, and we don't have a big house, but there sure is a ton of love and laughter. In the end, that is way more important!

  2. I think not wanting to let go if the dream (husband, house, kids) is what kept me from pursuing SMC until I was almost 40. I wanted it all. I think your little family is perfect. And having a mother who is secure with who she is and her direction in life is better than having a mom who us only with dad to "get the package deal."

  3. I grew up in WWIII and I never wanted that kind of family, but I think I instinctively knew I'd be a SMC, and something in me said it wouldn't be easy. The biggest irony of it all was I worked with the Dr. who help me have L and I said to him many years before, in my usual flip way, I will come back and see you at 35 and get a "frozen pop". Turned out to be a prophetic statement. I too have chased all kinds of losers, and even a year ago unloaded what I hope will be the last of them. I had a closet full of bridesmaid dresses but what I've learned from my friends and family is that the nuclear family ain't all it's touted to be. I carry around a lot o baggage from my childhood, much like your family situation and, with every carless word I say to my daughter, I'm terrified I'm repeating the same mistakes. What I do know is that my daughter was long awaited and very much wanted. She will get the love of one engaged parent, and if manage to find a good man, maybe two, but my choice was the best one for me. I believe our experiences have made us strong and very much in tune to the needs of our kids. Not to mention, they are loved beyond measure.

  4. I highly doubt no man wanted you! We tend to only remember the relationships that devastated us, and not the men we devastated by not giving them the time of day, not going on a first date, not eating a second date, or later breaking up with them.