When I look back at old posts, I sometimes think, “How many times am I going to come to the same conclusions?” Every time I think I’ve learned something about myself, it’s like I have to learn it again and again until it sticks. Every time I think I’ve come to love and accept myself for who I am, I find myself going out of my way to reaffirm it, explain it, justify it. I’ve gotten a bunch of hits on old posts lately, and whenever I see someone reading something I said two years ago, I can’t help but look back to see what I said two years ago. And what’s interesting is that it’s often exactly what I’m saying today. (Or, of course, knowing me, it’s sometimes the complete opposite.) In my first post from 2012, when I was still happy in my relationship, I had this unnerving feeling that I’d rather be single. In my most recent post, I went on and on about how I realized I wanted to be single all along. I knew it in June when I first recognized the feeling of true love, the fact that I’d never felt it before — and I also acknowledged that committed romantic relationships aren’t for everyone. But then I hop into a cab with a driver who lectures me that I shouldn’t buy a house because, *when* I get married, the man I marry will benefit, and I realize that not everyone lives in this modern world where women can define their lifestyles and have children without partners or even have same-sex partners or partners that they’ve chosen not to marry or any variety of family structures that doesn’t look like man + wife + babies. Or I get on an Amtrak train to New York, and a conductor asks me “Why are you traveling on your own?” — a question that would’ve never been posed to a man traveling alone with a child in the middle of the day on a Sunday, or probably at any time. Or I hang out with a guy who immediately assumes that “it must be hard to get out of the house, i’m sure you try” — and in trying to comfort me, you’re actually patronizing me. Because, actually, I do get out of the house quite. a. bit. As it turns out, babies are transportable, sir. And I know that no one means to be cruel or condescending; you’re speaking out of ignorance, or maybe out of some experience you’ve had with someone else, and you’re applying that mindset to every single mother you meet. Which, really, is still just ignorance. Here are the facts: Some people just want to be mothers, and some of us know deep down that we can do it best on our own. Would it be nice to have a second income around here? Sure! Would it be nice to win the lottery? IT SURE WOULD. But hey, for me, money isn’t a good enough reason to get married, and I can’t think of any others. I’m someone who has always forged my own path. I leap, and I go in my own direction. My past relationships have worked out best — or rather, most seamlessly — with people who have chosen to follow me. I know that’s not fair. I have credited myself with “improving” some of their lives — moving them in the direction of “better” careers, “better” educational opportunities. In other words, I imposed my values on them and made them “better” in my eyes. I pushed them to embrace things that made me happy, not giving worth to the things that they may have actually wanted. I know now that I was wrong. But I also know now that part of the problem was that I didn’t want a relationship that would force me to adjust my life in any way. I didn’t want anything that wasn’t incredibly convenient. To quote my drunk self breaking up with a college ex before falling asleep and telling him we’d talk about it in the morning, I just feel happier and more comfortable and more confident when I’m single. That still rings true for me. And that’s okay. What I will admit, though, is that there has been one point during which parenting has been particularly hard for me — and that’s while I’ve been dealing with seasonal depression. It usually starts around Thanksgiving and gets progressively worse until it peaks in February or March or whenever it’s really cold. It made it hard for me to follow through on all the things I wanted to do for Max’s birthday, and it made me disappointed in myself for failing to make the party as perfect as it should’ve been. It makes it hard for me to remember that I’ve ever been cheerful, that I’ve ever done anything right. It makes me question myself and question the people around me and push them away and pull them close and confuse them because I don’t know how I feel about them and I don’t even know how I feel about myself. It makes me self-conscious. It makes it hard to fall asleep at night and hard to wake up in the morning. It makes me less likely to go outside where I have to face people, and it makes me feel guilty for staying inside. It makes me eat more, and sometimes it makes me eat less. It makes me slack as a parent. I was so good about morning routines and bedtime routines and healthy dinners and reading together, and then I just fell off. I couldn’t keep up. I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to be better. I felt guilty for not being better. It was an endless cycle of feelings of insufficiency and self-hatred. Literally all because it got cold. And the cold is relative. I know because I faced the same seasonal depression in LA. It would rain for days in January, and it’d be 40 degrees, and I remember being stuck in bed playing “Robot Unicorn Attack,” telling myself I’ll just give myself a break today and tomorrow I’ll go outside. Tomorrow I’ll get something accomplished. When the sun came back this year, everything changed. Sure, it was followed up by a small snowstorm during which my son got pink eye and I got a sinus infection, but then the sun came back again, and everything was fine.
I wonder if I can really settle and stay in DC when I know that I’ll feel this way just about every winter. I wonder sometimes if it’s worth it to stay for the sense of community and the incredible career opportunities available here. I built a community in LA, I built a community in DC, I can build a community in Honolulu. Maybe I really do need to get out of this place. It’s lucky babies are transportable. UPDATE: Everyday Feminism has published a few amazing articles on this subject — not specifically regarding single mothers but singledom in general:
- 7 snarky responses to annoying questions people asked single women who date men
- Things not to say to single women