Several years ago, I worked with a company that specialized in marketing to moms. They were very good at what they did. When one of the leaders was asked to do a talk about single mothers at an industry conference, she gathered data, and talked to a few women.
The problem was she wasn’t a single mom, but a happily married millennial mom of I don’t know how many kids with a Fitbit, time to jog, a nice car and shiny blow-dried hair. She could make sympathetic comments and that face that people make when you tell them that you are a single mom. She did not have a clue.
Raising children with an ex who writes a monthly check that doesn’t cover much and doesn’t participate is the hardest job you can ever have. My saga is not atypical, although I wish it was. When my daughter was five and my son was eight my ex (who was in the throes of a forty something midlife crisis), picked a fight with me and announced in the middle of our downtown that “I am no longer your husband and I am no longer his father.” Imagine how my son felt later that night when the little girl said to her brother “Daddy said he’s not your daddy anymore.”
He moved out and we tried couples’ therapy after he returned from two weeks in Brazil. I did say it was a midlife crisis. That ended when he said “I solved the problem, I left.” The first couple of years are a blur but some moments come to mind. When my son put on war paint and ran around the house screaming in what I dubbed “The Lord of the Flies” incident. My five-year-old daughter crawling into my bed and never wanting to leave.
On my daughter’s eighth birthday we went to a local pool and I booked space for the girls. All was organized and planned from the pool set up to noodles and floating toys. Within half an hour a bright sunny day turned into a torrential downpour and they kicked us out. I was in a parking lot with a dozen girls and a Honda CRV that seated five.
One father took his daughters and a couple of other little girls in his car and waited for my return then decided to leave ending her party. The other father drove off without a word. That day party I began to understand that I was truly alone.
Child support was OK in the beginning, but as it kept shrinking. I spent every cent I had in savings. We were the only family we knew who needed scholarships for many activities. Our vacations, which we took every couple of years, were long weekends combined with a family event or national holidays. One year I sold my grandmother’s jewelry to pay for five days at the beach.
Our savior was the three of us grew closer. We talked about everything that happened, they learned too much too young, but as they got older it paid off. I knew which kids had messed up parents, who got so many Christmas gifts that it took five texts to list them. That year my kids got socks. When my son was in high school he and his posse went off to a mountain cabin for a couple of days a furious parent called me. He got even angrier when he learned my son had asked and been given permission to go. When it came to the big things we told each other the truth.
My daughter is now in college and my son graduated last year and is working. When people ask how they are doing I like to tell them that my kids stayed in school and are not in jail, a place I have fetched one of them from as they waited in handcuffs.
Life went on. Finances improved. I am a survivor and so are they. Single moms are the bravest women I know.