One of the most awkward things about dating as a single mom is explaining why I’m a single mom, or let me rephrase, how I came to be a single mom. It’s humbling and humiliating to admit to men that I was dating my boyfriend, Aaron, for just three months when I discovered I was pregnant. This humility, though, has changed my life and I see things in the world and behave differently. I came from a family with a mom, dad, two brothers and a golden retriever and a fair amount of drama — like all fams. My extreme-opposite family lifestyle is oftentimes hard to grasp. I didn’t set out to be a single mom and I, too, dreamed about a wedding day — I still do.
I recently met a single dad. We got to talking about how he came to be a single dad and it was, I’d say, the average way: he was married. They got pregnant. They remained married. Things didn’t work out, so they divorced and share custody. I don’t think there is anything humiliating about this, but for some reason my circumstance is always hard to share. I wish I could breeze over it or push it under a carpet, but I have a freakishly adorable, blond boy with giant owl eyes and his father is clearly absent. Of course people wonder. So, I have no choice but to be honest, even if it makes me red-faced … only every time I share the story with a man of how I came to be a single mom, I am overwhelmingly relieved by their reaction. Most recently from a divorced dad that shares custody with his ex and sees his kid every other day and every other weekend: that’s horrible. I understand that people break up, but your child should always come first. I agreed with him and told him I think his father is an alien with no moral compass. When I told him his father promptly fled to Indiana, married his ex and had another son, the guy saw red.
I found myself defending JD’s father, though, which is odd. I explained we were only (exclusively) together for three months when I took the test on an icy day in NYC. I explained he probably doesn’t visit because he left before I had a visible bump and this is not real to him, even though it’s real life in NJ. Messy, gorgeous real life. Running late for camp and work, trailing sand into the beach condo, bandaging a bloody knee, cutting up steak into little pieces, waking from a sound sleep at 3 AM because someone has to pee, doing an asthma treatment while we watch cartoons, crying and laughing at pre-k graduation … living … breathing … beating hearts.
The guy was not amused or sympathetic. A child comes first, he insisted. I like him.
I admitted I filed for child support when JD was 2 and that it was a humbling, numbing, odd experience. There I was in family court in a black dress with a hefty Italian lawyer at my side. I had survived 2 years of financially caring for JD on my own, but one day something just clicked, like, ting! and I knew I needed to make his father accountable and if a check was it, then so be it. So. Be. It. I did this more for JD than for anything else.
Money in my book is the root of all evil. We need it to survive, and I get it, but I’m not raising my son luxuriously. I filed for child support because I want JD to know that he’s never allowed to walk away from his responsibilities in this great life. So every month when that money shows up direct deposit in my checking account vetted by Probation, I know his father understands this, too. He can choose to stay away and not honor the court-governed visitation —but he’s accountable for the rest of his life. Financially, until JD completes his highest level of desired education. Morally, in my book, for eternity.
To this day, I haven’t met a guy who doesn’t agree with me. Who doesn’t find Aaron’s absence insane. Says a lot.
Single parents, do you ever feel nervous or pressured to share your single parent story with a first date?