Monday, May 14, 2007

Oops, I forgot to get married

Good night nurse, I’m a single mom. I've never had the kind of personality that lent itself to nicknaming. I have a hard time calling people I don't know well, I mean really well, by a nickname. It just doesn't sit well with me, makes me uncomfortable with a familiarity that has not been earned. And since my own lame name is a contraction for a real name (all my girls all have real names in case they ever need them, letterhead, prescription pads, that kind of thing), I've never had a nickname of my own, until now: the human blur. Kindly please refer to me in all future correspondence as either The Human Blur or, for short, just The Blur, but only where dictated by lack of space. Thank you in advance for your considered compliance with this request.

But, when I think “single mom,” I don’t think of me, you know? I’ve got resources. I’ve got support. I’ve got a good education and initials behind my name (although it has been my experience that only the truly affected JDs among us ever use their JD in print). My parents are still halfway hale and hardy. I have great friends with skills of the hammer swinging, spade fork yielding, pool filter fixing variety. I’m self-employed, and although that comes with its own uniquely excruciating worries, I was able to leave my office at noon today so I could scramble to pull a Ready, Set, Let’s Camp try-it badge together replete with 12 bandanas, a hand-out on lightening safety written by a girl who survived a direct hit, 12 two-foot lengths or nylon cord with the ends individually singed to eliminate unsightly fraying, AND every-one-can-help-make-trail-mix that even contained a home-made component. Now that would have only been impressive IF I was a single mom who worked a rigid, clock in, clock out, ask in advance for time-off, schedule, and lived on a limited budget and had to be creative AND thrifty (no trail mix with 12 exotic ingredients because I had waited to the last minute and that’s all I could think up while standing in the middle of the grocery store like the proverbial deer in the headlights), and didn’t have the luxury of stashing Mimi and Nora with the grandparents last night because kindergarten is on a 2-day hiatus this week.

So I squinted a little bit when the news article to which I did fully consent, the photographer didn’t have to pull a paparazzi to get the pictures, obviously, appeared under the sub-heading of a long-running Trib series: Single in Utah. Yeah, so, I’m single, and that’s relevant how? The single part, truly, truly, seldom crosses my mind. I just don’t define what I do day to day as single parenting. I just work and then I parent. Single doesn’t enter the equation on a daily basis. I never made finding a partner a goal, again, obviously, because I guess I could have been married a couple of times but was either too immature or too independent to make the final commitment. Because I didn’t and don’t have a husband, it never, ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t be a mother, ever. I did not realize that some people would be critical of that decision, never crossed my mind, ever. I did not agonize over the decision to become a single parent, ever (well besides the closest I’ve ever come to an anxiety attack in the Chongqing Marriott the night before Mimi’s adoption, but I recovered). Maybe I should have approached the adventure more thoughtfully. Maybe I should have actually read that big hardback book I bought while I was waiting for Ellie, but it was all filled with unwed mother angst that I just did not have. Who the hell should care whether I was married or not? I didn’t and I assumed that the baby I would bring home to be slathered with love, lotion and Baby Gap wouldn’t care either. And because I am the queen of self-delusion when I really really want something very badly, I never second-guessed the wisdom of my decision and then proceeded to surround myself with like-minded people who also thought a baby raised by a single parent was better off than a baby not raised by anyone. And besides, a strong mother and an ineffective father raised me; it just feels like I am repeating the pattern minus the guy in the short-sleeved poly-blend dress shirt and the clip-on tie.

So when Jennifer* took the focus of this article into the land of cheap sperm delivered to your doorstep, I didn’t see myself in it because I never felt that deliberate about the kind of choice I made. My mother and I in the delivery room together would have been so inconsistent with my lingering teen-age romanticized vision of giving birth with the right man holding my hand; it would have taken too much personal bravery to make that choice. But, I guess, that is how others must see me and others like me, all lumped in the plucky to be a parent category, but I don’t see it that way. I just don’t feel like in 2007 that the choices I’ve made could be viewed as bucking convention or trail blazing or even plucky. Parenting is a privilege, to be sure, but to me, because I wanted to and I could, it felt more like an entitlement. I was never told no and can’t begin to think how I would have responded if I had been denied the opportunity of loving a child because I could not find the love of an adult male person.

I am sincerely and deeply saddened for the potentially thousands of single parents who have now been told that the dream of parenthood will not come true for them in China. I am hurt for the children who will not be slathered head to precious toe in the awe and adoration of a mother who chose to love them and rear them because she could and she really really wanted to.

If I thought for one minute that giving the unknowable and unmovable bureaucrats a good piece of my mind would make any difference in this world, I’d be on the first China Southern cattle car out of LAX to hand it to them on a silver salver, so help me god I would.

*Jennifer Barrett is also an adoptive parent and we are connected through mutual friends and her husband is a professional colleague of mine. Made it hard to say no when she called with the idea of a Mother’s Day article about single parenting by choice. I ended up saying yes because, if there’s a woman out there who is on the fence and reads that someone as inept as I am can muddle through and keep four kids fed, clean, clothed and loved, then just about any monkey could do it too. And maybe that woman will pick up the phone and call a home-study provider and say: ”Hey, it’s time to make a few dreams come true around this place, who do I need to talk to first?”


Eliza2006 said...

My friends clipped this article for me wondering if I knew you! Why yes, I do! The Trib has made you famous! LOL!


Global Girl said...

Interesting article. You are humorous and honest, as always. I happen to think that you have a pretty great life :) As a single twenty-something, I am hopeful that CCAA will change its rules again, before I reach the big 3-0!

Take care,

Adriana Cassani said...

Marji Hurrah! I couldn't agree with you more. I wish they'd let those kids in China have at least one parent , than a life time in an orphanage! What about us moms who don't have the single label, who also on days feel like the Human blur? I mean isan't that JUST part of being a mom?
I mean after all even though I technically have a husband. I see him when? I mean he is gone 6 am to 6 pm , commuting to SLC and working. It gets old! Yes, I still have 6 at home, 2 married and one is expecting his first baby in November. So I have to stop adopting. That was my promise to my kids. Once we got grandbabies, we'd stop. In actuality though I am too old to handle any more. I turned 47 yesterday!
Which brings me to another question: 2 of mine from China have varying degrees and issues with attachment disorder which we are workign on with success. (When Love isn't enough, by Nancy Thomas) The other is doing fine. They are now 10 girl 8 boy, and 6 girl. I was tempted to go back and get one more little boy from Guilin who was also 6, but figured it woud put me over the edge. My emergency back surgery in November of last year kind of woke me up to that reality!
I am tickled to see your girls on line, and can't wait to read your adoption story. Best wishes to a VERY derserving mom for mother's day. You're right. if Prince Charming hadn't showed up for me, I would have adopted too! Life without children, I can't imagine it! Nah way too boring and I'd miss way too many wonderful experiences with children and opportunities for growth!
Best wishes from one of your biggest Fans. I am glad to know you!
Adriana Cassani!

Kimber said...

Wow. I am impressed..with your writing, your wit AND your mothering.