Overcoming Single Mom Self-doubt
When I told my co-workers that I was pregnant one of them offered me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard, "all you've got to do is love them and do whatever you can to not to make your problems, their problems."
At the time I was 13 weeks pregnant and I'd already come up with a long list of problems - the most unsolvable of them all being that I was so single.
Since then I’ve received a ton of advice from a variety of people, but I frequently go back to those words, and am constantly assessing whether or not I am being successful at my goal of keeping my grownup problems off of my daughter’s list of things to worry about. The only tiny issue with that is at 18 months I can tell Ellie is a worrier. When she sees my toenail polish she thinks it's a booboo and gets upset. If I stub my toe - she cries. I tested out a power-folding stroller for work and it scared her (which is weird) and she wandered around the apartment for 2 weeks whining and asking where the stroller was, while shaking her head “no”.
I've really tried to shield her from the concerns I have about certain aspects of our life. But I’m beginning to wonder if in the nature verses nurture battle - nature might win this round because, you see, I'm a worrier. Big, huge worrier.
I worry that something I will do will turn her into a sociopath that is reckless with people's feelings. I want Ellie to be intelligent and driven and hard working, but I also want her to be compassionate. There is nothing more important than being a good person. Nothing. And I worry that raising her in a competitive like New York City, could drive that out of her.
I worry that questions about her father will hurt her feelings. The little girl that Ellie loves to play with came over this past Saturday with her Mom. She looked around my apartment and asked, “Is Ellie’s Daddy at a meeting?”
I paused long enough to catch a glimpse of the horrified look on her Mom’s face and then smiled and said, “Oh I am sure he has a meeting somewhere…”
This answer seemed to suffice. Then her mom jumped in and said to her, “By the way, your father is at a soccer game – not at a meeting!” I smiled and mouthed, “It’s okay.”
I know this is just the first of many of those types of questions, and situations where it is obvious that we are not the conventional family and I never want Ellie to think this is a reflection of her self-worth.
I worry that no matter how much I explain to her that this - me being a single mom - has nothing to do with her, that she will somehow feel responsible. Kids have such a weird way of blaming themselves for things that have nothing to do with them.
I worry that she’ll follow in my footsteps and get pregnant without planning to do so - and face all of the heartache, judgment and stress that I've had to face. I wouldn’t trade my life with Ellie for the world. But as I said when I got pregnant - I always wanted Ellie, but I never wanted this circumstance for her.
And that’s when I usually snap out of what seems like endless worry and I remind myself of another thing I repeated to myself over and over again when I was pregnant, “People have done a lot more with a lot less, and at the end of the day – we are very blessed.”
And I remember that for the most part, children learn by example and I am constantly trying to set an excellent example of how to treat people.
And I remember that even though her biological father is not actively involved in her life, there are plenty of amazing men that she adores and she in fact will likely be whining about how many men she has to make Father’s Day cards for.
And I remember that Ellie knows nothing other than being raised by just me, and judging by the response she has when I try having a conversation with someone other than her – I think she is juuuust fine with not having to compete for her single mommy’s attention.
And I remember that while children can make the same mistakes as their parents, they also can learn from their parent’s lives and in doing so make theirs even better. After all, that is the goal of being a parent – to give them a better life than you had, and the way to do that is to by being honest and giving her a chance to learn some great lessons.
Recently, I read one of those inspirational quotes – ya know, the ones with the waves and the sunset, or maybe it had thunderclouds and lightening…anyway it said, “Worrying is just praying for something bad to happen.” And the reality is that I only have space in our lives for amazing things to happen. Ellie started that trend.