It Takes A Village

How many times have we all heard the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child”? Parenting is not easy at the best of times. Parenting alone is even harder. Why is it, then, that we vilify single mothers who utilise the resources and help available to them?

I have been incredibly blessed with supportive parents. They certainly weren’t happy when I came home pregnant at 19, but once I committed to continuing the pregnancy, they jumped on board. Mom was always there to listen to my pregnant gripes, to answer any questions and to share my wonder at the fluttery little kicks coming from my womb. Dad was always there to deliver greatly-craved green apples or strawberry ice cream in the middle of the night (when my daughter’s father refused to get up) and to indulge with me so I didn’t feel quite so alone. Both my parents were at the hospital to hear my daughter’s first cry and visited frequently during the week she was in the NICU. As she grew older, they always offered to take her for a couple hours or overnight when I had errands to run, wanted a night out, or simply needed some time to myself. When I left her father, they supported my decision, helped me move and helped me find the strength to get a restraining order. When the time came for her to start school and I fell in love with a ridiculously expensive private school, they offered to contribute the extra funding I wasn’t able to afford. My father is retired, and picks her up after school so that I can continue to work my decent-paying 9-5.

 My friends are equally supportive. I can’t count how many times they have played with my daughter, read to her, picked her up when Dad couldn’t, and helped me bake umpteen batches of cookies for school bake sales. This past January, several friends and I pulled an all-nighter to completely renovate  my daughter’s playroom from a boring blue room to a garden paradise.

Recently, I’ve received some flack for “not raising [my] child [my]self” and for “depending too much on others.” Frankly, I think this is complete bullshit. I work an average of 50 hours a week to ensure my daughter has a home, food, clothing and superior education. I wake her up every morning. I help her with her homework. I read to her before bed every night, tuck her in, and sit up with her when she has bad dreams. I watch her Tae Kwon Do class every Tuesday, and make sure that I take her hiking and bowling and to the library on our weekends. I teach her how to help around the house, and, once her chores are completed and allowance has been received, I have taught her how to save and donate a portion. I listen to her thoughts and feelings, validate them, and guide her toward being a better person. I discipline her when need be. I make sure that she always know that she is strong, smart, funny, compassionate, beautiful and loved beyond measure. In my opinion, this is what raising a child is about.

So yes, I am fortunate enough to have wonderful people in my life who love my daughter dearly and do whatever they can to help enrich her life. This does not mean I have passed the torch of raising my daughter on to them. This means, simply put, that I have recognised that through communal effort, we can create a better life for the next generation. Putting up walls and boundaries between our family and our friends may ensure that we, as parents, do it “all on our own.” However, I think this approach denies our children the joy of sharing their lives fully with their extended family and community at large.

Yes, I am proud to be a single mom. Yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished, both as a professional and  as a parent, despite her father’s absence. But I will never insist on going it alone to the detriment of my child. We can all use more love, more friends, more support, and it is shameful that so many mothers do not have the opportunity, or refuse to take it when offered. It really DOES take a village, and I am proud to say my daughter has the best “village” she could ask for.

Friday Five – February 15th, 2013

This week’s Friday Five:

  1. How well do you receive criticism? Not very well at all. I tend to take criticism as a personal affront.
  2. When did someone else’s criticism of you result in growth? My mother is often very critical of my choices. She’s right about 75% of the time. A lot of her criticisms result in major personal growth.
  3. What do you think of film critics? My taste in movies is a lot different than other people’s, so I don’t put much stock in what critics say. When I do sit down to read a review, I’m usuallly disgusted by the sexism and body shaming (i.e. Rex Reed’s current shaming of Melissa McCarthy under the guise of critiquing “Identity Thief”)
  4. What’s something you’d like to make a critical statement about right now? The blatant disregard for company policy (and common sense) displayed by certain coworkers comes to mind…
  5. Who’s the most critical person you know? Probably me. I’m relentlessly critical of myself (and, often, others).

An Open Valentine To My Girlfriends

Darlings,

You are fantastic. Beautiful. Amazing. Brilliant. Caring. Compassionate. Lovely from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

Most days, you would agree with me, but today you won’t. Today you’ll drown yourself in self-loathing and wine coolers, because you are a Single Girl On Valentine’s Day.

Somewhere along the line, you internalised the message that valentines from your parents, your children, your friends, your coworkers… just aren’t good enough. You learned to directly correlate your worthiness as a woman, as a human being with your percieved romantic lovability in relation to others.

That, my friends, is a load of bullshit.

I’m tired of the self-deprecation. Lacking a partner is not the end of the world, despite what society at large would have you believe. You don’t have to be upset, or feel guilty, or apologise for being the dreaded Single Girl On Valentine’s Day. People will give you sympathetic looks when they find out you’re single on Valentine’s Day, on Thanksgiving, on Christmas, hell, they’ll pity you for being single on a Tuesday night most of the time.

I know it’s hard to escape the atmosphere of “LOVE IS ALL AROUND US” and “EVERYONE HAS THEIR MATCH”… so why not re-frame the thought? You ARE loved. Maybe not romantically, but just look at the faces of your parents, grandparents, cousins, children, friends, coworkers. You ARE valued.

Who ever said Valentine’s Day had to be just about romance? Celebrate platonic and familial love. It truly is everywhere, in abundance.

And for goodness’ sake, stop with the wine coolers already. That shit is gross.

I love you.

-T

Suffragism, Through the Eyes of a Seven Year Old

There are moments when I really feel like I’ve done a good job at raising my daughter.

This afternoon, Allie told her Nanny (my mother) that she had decided on a Halloween costume for this year.

Nanny: Oh? What have you decided on?
Allie: I’m going to be a suffragist.
Nanny: (obviously surprised) Can you tell me what a suffragist is?
Allie: Way long long ago, before me and mama and you and GG (Great Grandma) were born, silly men thought women couldn’t do anything! They couldn’t wear pants or drive or even vote! Suffragists fought a big war so that women could vote, just like men. And that’s why I want to be a suffragist for Halloween, ’cause they were so brave!

I’m not going to lie, realising that things I say truly resonate with her made me tear up. If nothing else, I’ve given her a solid sense of equality and a strong grasp of right and wrong.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Friday Five – February 8th, 2013

This week’s Friday Five:

  1. What was your favorite breakfast cereal when you were a kid? Lucky Charms! Mostly because Mom never bought it and Grandma always did, haha.
  2. What’s your favorite breakfast cereal now? Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax 🙂
  3. Where does cereal rank on your list of favorite breakfasts? It’s about middle of the list. I much prefer a bagel and fruit, or a smoothie.
  4. What serial novels or films have you most recently enjoyed? I’m re-discovering my love of the Anne of Green Gables series while reading it with my daughter.
  5. What recently surreal experience have you gone through? Hmm… nothing really surreal… Although realising that my daughter is now seven is pretty unbelievable!