Single Mother Blues

This weekend I had big plans: DJ Jazzy Jeff spinning on Thursday, pedicure and Black Eyed Peas after-party at Enclave on Friday (STFU, I like the Black Eyed Peas), a party for a work friend on Saturday, and a road trip to a few wineries on Sunday with the girls. This weekend, I will be hanging with my four-year-old daughter because I don’t have a sitter. I’m not upset about it, because I genuinely cherish every single day I get to spend with her. We have fun when we hang out together and for the most part, she’s welcome almost everywhere I go. I get a little sad sometimes, because I realize I’m singing the Single Mother Blues, a song far too many of us know the words to – words we had to learn on center stage the night of the big show. Some of us never expected to be understudies when the star backed out at the last minute. We were supposed to be singing a different song, The Family Song. I’m not speaking for the perpetual “baby mama” who has multiple children by multiple men nor am I speaking about the single mother who was single before the baby and had no intentions of having a relationship with the child’s father. I don’t know the words to their songs, and I’m afraid I don’t even know the melody. I can only sing my blues, the Single Mother Blues.

I recently asked a friend what he does before he takes a trip out of town. His answer: Buy a ticket. Ask any single mother what we have to do before we go on vacation and of the million things we have to do, survey says “buy a ticket” would NOT be the number one answer. The one thing fathers without full custody of their children fail to understand is that by choosing to be a full-time mother, we’ve given up our freedom and they haven’t. Even with visitation on the weekend, things just aren’t the same. I will never complain about having to “watch” my own child, but I will always resent the fact that my freedom is compromised, while Cinda’s daddy can come and go as he pleases without a second thought about what to do with the baby.
He’s never been late to work because Jacinda won’t let him comb her hair. He’s never gotten two hours of sleep because he spent the night awake holding a hot baby praying that ibuprofen knocks the fever out. He’s never had to choose between school clothes for her and a new winter coat for himself. He’s never had to eat spaghetti three nights in a row because that’s all Cinda will eat. He’s never had to sacrifice his freedom on a day to day basis, the freedom to do simple things, like pee with the door closed and listen to music with bad words in it. I gave up those freedoms to be Cinda’s Mommy. I’m not mad about it, but sometimes I miss the days when I could just get up and go.

I’ve hinted at the envy I feel when I see families: man, woman, child. I had that. I purposely chose to wait until I was in a committed relationship, MARRIAGE, before I chose to become a mother. This is how I believe things should go, and while others may not mind conceiving and birthing a child out of wedlock, I do. I never wanted to be a single mother, and although I planned a pretty picnic, it rained cats and dogs. Marriage doesn’t guarantee permanence, however, I believed (and still do) that it was a lifetime commitment so when I woke up that cold day in February of 2006 and realized that I was on my own, I thought my life was over. I didn’t want to be a baby mama. I didn’t want a baby daddy. I was a wife, he was my husband and this was our family. I resent him for ruining my family, for forcing my daughter to grow up without a father – I had one and so should she. We’re so used to black families being headed by a single mother, people tend to look at me crazy as though my expectations about my family are unrealistic. Being a baby mama may be good enough for some people, but it was NEVER good enough for me and I resent the fact that not only do I have to be one, but the society expects me to be something I never wanted to be.

What I’m most resentful about though, is that Cinda’s daddy ruined my family and that sucker might go out and get himself a new one one day. I find it hilarious when people ask if we’ll ever get back together, or if I still love him. Hell I don’t know, but what I DO know is that, as crazy as it may seem to people who don’t understand, he ruined my dream of happily ever after. I’ve moved on, but a secret that most of us have is that deep down inside, we don’t want the father of our children to EVER have a family. (Yes! I’ve spilled the beans!). How dare they make it work with someone else when they couldn’t make it work with us?! Not only should they never have another family, but they should spend the rest of their lives regretting the fact that WE never worked out. Before men get all excited and say “I KNEW she wasn’t over me!!! WRONG!!!! We ARE over you. What we aren’t over is the failure of our family. No matter who’s fault the end of the relationship was, no matter how well we wish you, no matter how happy we may genuinely be when you’re happy, we’re like Miss America hoping Miss Canada trips and falls on her pageant gown and gets disqualified for posing naked for Hustler. Yeah, Canada is our neighbor to the north and although we both don’t want those damn Russians to win anything and we giggle together when she can’t remember the words to her song, I swear to GOD we’ll be damned if you take home the crown. Runner up will do. We’re allowed to win. You’re not.

My song isn’t the song of a bitter woman. As a matter of fact, contrary to what the world may think, most single mothers AREN’T bitter and filled with despair. We’ve accepted our starring roles, most of the time unexpectedly, and we get on stage and perform our asses off. Most of us are not retaliatory against the actions of our children’s father. We’re not angry. We’re not greedy. We’re not scorned. We’re not sitting at home waiting on you to fail. The media portrays us in such a negative light, it hurts me to see women complain about getting more child support, withholding visitation, and being a bitch in general. These women are acting very immaturely and out of hurt only a single mother can understand. Jacinda doesn’t get a dime from her dad, she’s seen him twice in two years, and I’m nice to her dad whenever he pops up, because that’s what’s healthy for the three of us, but I swear to teenage Jesus, if that bastard cleans his life up and has a baby with a white girl, I PROMISE you I’m gonna pinch the shit out of that kid and blame it on Jacinda.

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Aside

Let It Go

We all have baggage. Some of us carry ours in a cute little bag that we hide in our underwear drawer and only take out when we’re PMSing while others lug theirs around in a Louis Vuitton Speedy 40. There are some who keep theirs in a garbage bag on the front seat of their car and others who’ve locked a laundry bag up tight in the front hall closet only to have it come spilling out anytime a guest comes over and tries to hang up their coat. No matter how loudly a woman proclaims to not have any baggage, she does. Our lives are shaped from our experiences and how we handle them and not one of us has emerged from a life-altering tribulation without a package. Some situations take a lot longer to let go of, but life can’t go on until you’ve emptied some of those huge bags, put them in a storage unit, and buy some smaller, compact bags incapable of holding much more than what you need to learn from your past.

Superficial baggage is the most common and the easiest to shed. You were poor growing up, your mother gave you a Jheri curl, and your clothes came from Kmart. Yes, I’m talking about myself. I didn’t hit my fabulous peak until college and even then I was a little sketchy. So what your body is flat in all the wrong places or someone posted and tagged bad pictures of you on facebook. Get over yourself! No one gives a rat’s ass. I used to drive a 1994 Ford Tempo…in 2000…and I STILL valeted my car WHERE EVER I went! I care very little what others think of me and I refuse to let the purse that I carry contain foolishness like the fact that I could only afford the medium patent leather handbag and not the large one my best friend bought.

Friendship baggage is almost as bad as boyfriend baggage. Women tend to hold on to mediocre friendships for the sake of sisterhood when in fact, friendships are quite similar to relationships. You wouldn’t keep a lying, deceitful, untrustworthy man around so why on earth do women hold on to other women who possess the same characteristics? I try not to tell too many personal stories (to protect the not so innocent) but I had a friend who didn’t trust me…for good reason, but I digress. She wanted to “make it work” when all I wanted her to do was keep her crazy ass away from me. Everyone isn’t meant to be friends and shouldn’t try to be. Now she hates my guts…and NOT for good reason, when all she had to do was realize our friendship, like a relationship with a guy, just wasn’t going to work. If you have a crappy girlfriend, treat her like you would a crappy boyfriend and LET HER GO!

Family baggage requires more than just a wise-cracking, smart ass with a blog and a summer’s worth of posts about random foolishness. If you hate your mother: YOU NEED THERAPY! If you’ve been sexually abused by your uncle: YOU NEED THERAPY! If you just met your father for the first time and you’re 30: YOU NEED THERAPY!!!!! Before someone gets offended, hear me out. All of these things are traumatic and potentially damaging to one’s psyche and emotional well-being. Many black women look at therapy as a sign of weakness when in fact, seeking help for a situation you can’t handle is showing great courage and strength. We could all use someone to talk to during a difficult time, and if your entire childhood was difficult, you can’t just sweep it under the rug and rock an S on your chest for Strong Black Woman. So what you read TD Jakes, Iyanla Vanzant, and Steve Harvey; they don’t have the cure for what ails you. A licensed therapist does and as long as you continue to pretend that you can handle being beaten daily as a child with a broomstick, you will always drag a very large set of luggage. Do yourself a favor, call the bellhop and let someone help you with those bags.

I’ve tried to rid myself of baggage, it’s a daily struggle and a work in progress. I’m taking baby steps to empty one bag at a time. What’s crazy about an empty bag is that someone or something always wants to try to fill it up again. Make the choice to either get rid of the bag or zip it up and put a lock on it. Let. It. Go.

Useless Emotions

I do things slightly different than other folks do. Some of my friends call me crazy, and at first I used to get offended, but now I realize that they’re just saying that my reactions to situations are not what everyone else would do. I’m not like everyone else, though. I’m not the unique artsy chick that spells her name with a “G” instead of a “J” or finds cool clothes in thrift stores. On the outside, I’m pretty plain…nothing too exotic and interesting. But on the inside, it’s a whole different ballgame. I’ve tried to do away with illogical emotions, emotions that make zero sense and do the most damage to one’s psyche. These are feelings that can rot a person from the inside out and make the most sensible person a raging lunatic. I try very hard not to let jealousy, embarrassment, and hopelessness get the best of me.

Jealousy When I was younger my mom told me about a lady at her church with a huge house, brand new luxury car, fine clothes, and expensive jewelry. One day, my mother told her, “Oooh girl, I wish I had a nice house like yours.” The woman looked at mother sadly and replied, “I wish I had three beautiful children like yours.” Heavy, I know. No matter what someone else has, there is always something they DON’T have and I’m pretty sure there is an email being forwarded around that says the same thing. I’ve had women treat me like garbage without knowing me because they see what’s on the outside and assume they know what I’m about, when the truth of the matter is, my looks are last on my “Cool Things About Jennifer” list. Envy is a natural emotion, it happens to us all. What one does with this envy is what controls the situation. If material possessions are what you’re after, go out and get them, but do it with the understanding that things don’t make a person happy. What you seek should be what makes you happy, and what someone else has may not be it for you. I spent a great deal of time having desires for things that just weren’t meant for me to have, and I’m sure I missed out on a lot. I can’t say that I never feel a pang of jealousy when I see two parents and their children playing together in the park, but I look at my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Embarrassment One day I was out at Ice Bar with some friends (I’m old) and there was this chick dancing, spinning her ass off. It was the single most funny thing I had ever seen in my life and of course, me being the asshole that I am, decided to imitate her. I began spinning around, flailing my arms like a bird. I spun my silly ass right on my back. I laid on the ground for what seemed like an eternity while a small crowd gathered around to see if I was ok. I opened my eyes and laughed like a wild woman because guess what? THAT’S WHAT I GOT FOR IMITATING THE SPINNING CHICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got up, fixed my hair and continued partying without even a hint of embarrassment. I don’t get embarassed. Perhaps that’s why I say and do whatever I want. I don’t take myself seriously at all. Why should I? I’m a first grade teacher who likes men, wine, and shopping. Nothing about me is serious, so why should I care if people laugh when I do something funny, whether it was on purpose or not. I learned a long time ago that life just isn’t that grave and if you’re not out curing AIDS or stopping the Gulf Coast oil leak cleaning the Gulf Coast oil leak, your life isn’t that serious, either. You’re not too good to make mistakes and once you realize that, life will be a lot more enjoyable. **spins away**

Hopelessness
One of my favorite Lauryn Hill lines of all times is “I was hopeless, now I’m on Hope Road”. I’ve been through a lot. A whole lot. More than I ever thought I would EVER go through and I’m only one-third of the way through my life (God willing). When people say it could be worse, they’re right, it could. The difference between hopelessness and a bad situation is your reaction. I haven’t handled every obstacle with finesse, but I’ve never been unable to handle anything that was thrown my way. I could have sat alone and wallowed in my own sorrow, which I find to be the most counterproductive activity known to mankind. No matter what you’re dealing with A) Someone else has gone through what you’re going through and B) Things could be a lot worse. I’m not a sun is shining down on me optimist. I’m a realist and even when I’m feeling despair, I’ve surrounded myself with positive people who pull me out of the doldrums when my hysteria gets the best of me. Life is the farthest thing from easy, even for those who seem like EVERYTHING always goes their way (see section on jealousy). I’m not always happy, I’m not always content, and I’m not always positive but the one thing that I ALWAYS am is hopeful. I’m hopeful because I’m sure that things will get better. They always do.

It took me a long time to get to where I am now. I try not to hold grudges, I don’t argue with fools (wise man said you can’t tell who is who), and of my 99 problems, not a nary one is a bitch. I have a wonderful family, fabulous friends, and a love for life that keeps me coming back for more. Since I’ve used up about 1/3 of my life, I’m not about to waste the last 2/3 of it on useless emotions.

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