I saw this pamphlet, titled ‘LGB Parenting for Family and Friends: Queer Parenting Info’ and picked it up to share its resources. I will leave the comments on for this post, feel free to add your experiences with these places, or if there are some you know of that should be added xo
A lot of people use the New Year as a reason to evaluate their lives. We look at the things we would like to change, the successes we have had, and where we would like to be. I live in a constant state of incompleteness; I convince myself that everything will come together after I lose ten pounds, write the perfect article, ace my next assignment, and have sparkling floors. In my mind, as soon as I get my shit together, I can start going out without having to worry about whether or not people actually enjoy my company. It will all be OK, once I finish this one last thing. I worry about a lot of things, but my mothering isn’t one of them. Of course I think about my role as Mother. I have made mistakes, and there are certain values I try to instill in my daughter. I evaluate but do not worry, I am really comfortable being my daughter’s mother, so comfortable I forget how much of a job it is.
I am a mature student, and like many post-secondary students I am often asked what I am doing with my life. The work that a university degree involves is ignored as is the fact that it is helping me as a writer, helping me heal from past trauma, and teaching me how to help others do the same. I am learning more about what is, and is not, important to me. I am succeeding in school and this has done wonders for my self esteem, as a kid I was told I should be held back, and in high school I was told that people “like [me]” do not graduate. I never had high standards for myself, and now I have a system where I do and am accountable to maintain them. Universities are indisputably problematic, they are unaffordable for most and products of neoliberalism. But, this is what I am good at and I think this degree is a tool I personally need in order to help others, this is my currency to use as nepotism and family money is for others.
“So, what have you been doing?”
“I’m a published writer, am invited to speak at academic conferences, and am organizing and volunteering all over the place. I am getting top marks in my school and my child is happy and active! I am really busy but also very happy!”
“When are you going to do something. The neighbour girl married a rich guy so we are going to attend five parties in her honour and buy her various objects made of crystal.”
Why didn’t I get this education earlier? Well, in addition to dealing with the fallout of a tumultuous childhood and teen years, my twenties were spent escaping not only an abusive relationship but the shadow it cast. These experiences are what they are and they have shaped the path I am now on. I am finally comfortable and happy. Yes, I could have earned this degree in my 20s, but what many – including myself- tend to forget is I was working hard in raising an amazing child and am continuing to do so. Additionally, the reason I am doing so well is because of the time management motherhood forces and the drive to inspire my little one. It is discouraging how little this labour is valued, but again, it is what it is. I will use this blog to inspire different thought patterns from those that all-too commonly mother shame, and that is all I know to do for now.
I am happy and comfortable with where I am and how I am raising my daughter. Since working on my self-perception, and my degree, I have met inspiring women and femmes who make me set my goals higher. I am so grateful to have these friends in my daughter’s life. My kidlet is watching me grow and will learn from both my mistakes and triumphs. I am confident that wherever we end up, I will continue to do my best for us. If others can get on board, that would be ideal, if they can’t, that’s OK too.
One night I went to check up on my sleeping five-year-old.Her bed was empty and her bedroom window was open. There was no screen to the window, just a child-sized entrance to our third floor balcony. I called out her name and no reply. I searched our small apartment and did not see or hear her anywhere. I expected that I would get emotional, that my ever-present anxiety would kick in and I would become a sobbing mess. Instead I thought to myself, oh so matter of factly, “She is missing and I need to call the police.” My heart did not race, instead it beat slowly and deliberately. My hands did not shake. Tears did not stream down my face and my mouth did not tighten. My mind remained clear, almost empty. I went into my room and reached under the side of my bed, where I keep my phone when I’m asleep, prepared to make ‘the call’. And there she was, curled up with a bed sheet, sleeping soundly.
I let out a breath, previously unaware of how long I had been holding it in. I gently woke her and guided her back to bed, locking her window and making a mental note to remind the landlord, yet again, about the screen. I tucked her in, she was already asleep by the time her blankets fell at her shoulders. I climbed into my own bed, getting under the blankets as my head settled heavily into my pillows, and cried.
I’ve been reading Adrienne Rich, Sara Ruddick, and Susan Maushart. There’s a lot to read about institutionalized motherhood and eading to the difference between authentic mothering and inauthentic mothering.
Institutionalized motherhood is what has been constructed in our capitalist, patriarchal culture. It is about being the perfect mother. It is about middle-class, heterosexual, married, white women staying home to cook and clean (buy buy buy) and not complaining about the labour involved in housework and childcare (so-called mothers’ work is useless and has no real value, despite the endless, strenuous labour involved).
For me authentic mothering is admitting to being tired, swearing, showing my emotions, and being unashamed of being unmarried and working-class. My inauthentic mothering comes out when I am outside of my comfort zone, and know others are watching me. It comes out when I am too tired to fight off the gender role training the world has worked so hard on instilling in me since pink balloons marked my arrival decades ago. It is obvious when I tell people, “Oh she isn’t usually like this,” as if it is my fault that my child, an individual person, is pissed off at the world sometimes.
Authentic mothering makes things a lot easier, in some ways. It is less tiring to pretend to be someone and something I am not. I don’t need to worry about buying the hippest mom and baby gadgets because I trust my gut, and my gut isn’t sponsored by any corporations. This mothering is allowed to change, grow, and compromise. This type of mothering is tailored specifically for my child.
However, this kind of mothering makes me an open target. I am vulnerable to people’s criticisms; I make myself stand out from the crowd. Some people don’t like to be questioned, and if the system works for them, they don’t want anyone shaking things up. I’m a sneaky citizen in motherhoodland. I have an awesome child who is confident and smart, when I’m not supposed to. Single mothers with tattoos, tiny bank accounts, and big mouths aren’t supposed to be good mothers – how inauthentic!
For whatever reason, I’ll keep being myself, and raising a daughter who does the same. This sounds strong, this sounds crazy, it is what it is. It is my authentic way.
If a dude is prepping himself for the dating world, AskMen has this advice, “For the bachelor not yet burdened with a family, few scenarios are as daunting as dating a single mother.” A daunting breed us mamas are.
I’ve never been a guy coming into a family scenario while dating. Today, though, I am putting away my truckloads of understanding and patience (For I have spent many a time putting myself if another’s shoes, researching, communicating, fielding questions, understanding, being fucked around) and asking this: Why the hell would a guy date a mom if he wasn’t prepared to date a mom? And what is the big issue if you are in a happy relationship with one? I’ve done my time with bad relationships, and none of them were with single parents.
In my case, the frustrating fact has always been: it is absolutely no fucking surprise that I am a mother. And I am a devoted mother. Being a mother is part of my identity and my daughter is a huge part of my world, as I believe she should be. Understandably, there has been shock from serious significant others with what this all may entail. I’ve never expected a boyfriend to take on the roll of father. I am actually terrified of that step.
An ex turned friend answered: “You’re just so awesome it is hard not to fall for you.”
That sounds sweet in theory, doesn’t it? I’ve compared it to Rogue – because I am crazy mature and compare most things to X-Men – A guy will fall in love me but he can’t touch me. I don’t even get the satisfaction of sucking them dry.
I am awesome. And a big part of my awesomeness is attributed to being a mom. I love shamelessly, I multi-task, I’m HAPPY (mental issues aside). I will listen to your problems; I give a fuck about your day. I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and want to make the most out of life. A woman does not have to be a mother to be and do all these things. But I do. I need this. I need this piece of the puzzle to fully appreciate life and to become a stable package that is a perfect compliment to a lucky person.
If you are thinking of dating a single mom – and this isn’t something to fuck around with, we’ve done our time with shitty people – stop worrying about the single mom part and view her as a whole person. If that whole person is everything you’ve ever dreamed of and more, don’t fuck it up. Communicate. Enjoy. Embrace that maybe your soul mate wasn’t what you expected, like all fantastic surprises.
The real reason is because my tresses were destroyed and uneven after dreads, sectional shaves, and many colours. Yet I heard my voice, tiny, telling the hairstylist it was because I simply did not have enough time in the mornings to manage it, what with being a mother and all. This was not the case; I never had a haircut before recently and the long locks hadn’t interfered. I said what I said because I’ve heard other “grownups” say it. I was feeling insecure, like a fraud. I am about to graduate a three-year journalism course and get a 9 – 5-office internship. I have a very intelligent daughter and building a decent support group and network of wicked friends. Like many women I have an extreme case of Imposter Syndrome. Even when knowing this is the case I feel inadequate in all I do. So this chopping of the curls, this was going to change that? Or was it the post-Christmas gift card stylish clothing shopping spree? Why does every other mom seem so much more together, while I am lovingly referred to as the, “big kid?” I don’t even mind being called that, should I?
At parent-student-teacher events, I sit with the kids. I always forget to read the school notices (P was all dressed and ready for the bus on a teacher strike day because I didn’t look at the memo until right before we left.) When P is tapping her feet in her dance class, I’m not talking to the other moms chatting about their children’s extracurriculars and forgetful husbands. Sometimes a stray dad gets trapped there, I want to talk to him, but he looks as scared me. It is easy to get spooked in parent land.
I don’t know.
As I scribble in my notebook, a little girl waiting for her big sister is looking at my tattoos. I doodle a picture of her and hand it over. She smiles and giggles loudly while her mother tells her to be polite and say thanks. If I am a grownup or a failed adult, I don’t mind. I want to be the notebook scribbler making kids laugh. Either way, my hair looks awesome.
Mother knows best. I tell my lil one this all the time, along with how I’m the smartest person in the world and letting her know who the boss is in our dynamic duo (Which really seems to be her but she thankfully cannot read this complex sentence.)
I’m not sure if parents truly believe they know what’s best, I don’t know anything it seems. Whenever I get to thinking I have a handle on things, my daughter will have a growth spurt, a new interest, new friend … TV is bad, well she loves performing so is it so bad? Girly toys are sexist, she loves all that stuff and when asked why she says, “Ladies are beautiful.” Do I take the stroller, she’s too big for the stroller, but she can nap in the stroller. Eat healthy, and get rewarded with a treat. Let the kid tantrum, shut the kid up.
This isn’t a case of parents having kids too soon, it’s a case of humans don’t know anything about anything when it comes to interacting with each other. Once it is accepted that your child is its own person it becomes easier. But it really doesn’t, because why the eff can’t you get a handle on YOUR own child?
It is your responsibility to make sure your child obeys all the rules you stumble to find important while raising them to be an individual. No one finds this easy. Facebook pictures don’t depict the whole story, they are what we look at when our children are freaking out to remember why we haven’t dropped them off at the local pound.