Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Decisions, Decisions.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I made my decision about what to do with my life.  Finally.  After this, I will quit talking about it.  Promise.

I told myself the other night that once Caroline was in bed, I was going to sit down on my couch and figure out what I was doing once and for all.  I’ve been going around in circles for months and nothing is going to change, I’m not going to have any sudden epiphanies… I needed to just sit down and reason it out and decide.

So I did.

I’m not joining the Army.  I’m not moving to DC with Tyler, where he’s accepted a postdoctoral position.  I’m not staying here in my apartment, either.  I’m going to look around New England for jobs, try to stay within a reasonable distance of my family and friends so that I don’t lose my support system, and I’m going to move wherever I find a job that I am happy with.  And because my program director was kind enough to offer, I’m going to stay in my residency until the end of the summer to take the pressure off of immediately finding a new job (and apartment, and preschool).

It is somewhat disappointing to let the Army thing go, but more of a relief, really.  I don’t want a legal battle with Tyler, which he threatens on and off, I don’t want to be incredibly far away from my family and friends, I don’t want to risk being sent away from my daughter to serve in a war that my hippie self will undoubtedly not believe in… I don’t want to be away from her at all, really.  I guess the truth is that as the reality of the situation approaches, and sets in, that career choice is not worth the sacrifice to me.  I will still be a dentist no matter what I do.  And if the idea of nine weeks away from her for training makes me want to cry, then I can’t even imagine up to a year or more of deployment…

Whenever I am faced with a decision in my life, I think I am often drawn to do the crazy thing.  The thing that most people are afraid to do, or wouldn’t choose.  I take a lot of pride in it, for some perverse reason.  I’m afraid that this is one of those things that I would do simply for the reason that it is different, and that I would regret it (and its effect on my daughter), and I’d still have years stretching out ahead of me with an unbreakable commitment to the military…

I made list after list and thought about pros and cons and all kinds of logical things.  And it helped me make the decision, I’ll admit.  But what I couldn’t get out of my head was this:

I had picked Caroline up from Tyler’s place on Sunday afternoon after she had spent the weekend there.  I was giving her a bath that night, and from out of nowhere she looked at me and said, “At night time at Daddy’s house, when it starts getting dark, I sit on the rug and I think about Mama.”

I can’t risk leaving her.  I just can’t.  Not for my career.  Not for anything.  She would be traumatized and I would be miserable.

Maybe I’m finally growing up.  (Just kidding.  That’ll never happen.)

I do need a change, though, so I’m going to move somewhere else in New England.  Honestly, if Tyler were moving permanently to DC, I would probably pick up and move there too, just so she could have as full of a relationship with her father as possible.  But even he admits that he is most likely going to bounce from postdoc to postdoc for years on end, so I am going to put off relocating with him until he’s settled down, and then I’ll see where I’m at in my life and reevaluate the situation.

It feels good to have a plan, and one that I am happy with.  I came within mere inches of doing the crazy thing, but I am turning my back on it and walking away.  It sounds a little anticlimactic from the outside, maybe… but I think it’s the perfect solution, and I couldn’t be more at peace with the whole thing.

I get to have my new start, and I don’t have to leave my baby.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but I’m glad that I did, in the end.

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Conversations with a 3 Year Old

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Three-year-olds can try your patience from time to time (okay fine, on a daily and/or hourly basis), but you’ve got to admit they’re pretty hilarious people to have around.  They’re even better than comedians, because 99% of the time they’re not even trying to be funny.

Here’s a few actual real-life conversations I’ve had recently with Caroline, for your laugh-out-loud pleasure:

Caro: Mama, do you know what “important” means?

Me: Yes, I do.  What do you think it means?

Caro: Um, I think it means when you have to get out of the tub right away and go potty.

Me: You’re right, that is important.

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Me: Caro, time for bed.

Caro: No, mama!  I’ll email you when I’m ready.

Me: Uh, this is not a business proposition.

Caro: Pass me that iPad.

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Caro: I want veggie sticks.

Me: I want a million dollars.

Caro: Well, you can’t have a million dollars, Mama.  You need to have five dollars first.

Me: Caroline, you have no idea how right you are.

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(It’s 6am, and Caroline runs into my room, completely naked.)

Caro: I want Cheerios!

Me: What?… Why are you naked?

Caro: (disgustedly) Because everything tastes better naked, Mama.

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Me: What did you learn in preschool today?

Caro: (sings) The flowers are all gone, it’s still wintertime, it’s not spring yet, there’s no animals anywhere.

Me: Wow, that’s pretty dark.

Caro: I don’t make the rules, Mama.  I just follow them.

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Caro: (yelling from other room) Mama!  Come see what I did in here!!

Me: Am I gonna like it?

Caro: Uh, I doubt it.

(In case you were wondering, she had mixed the pieces from three puzzles together “to make one big, beautiful puzzle”.)

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Me: Caro, use your fork like a big girl.

Caro: I never expected to be a big girl, Mama.

Me: Well babe, me either, but here we are.

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Yup, no matter how much they can drive you crazy, preschoolers are funny little people.  Any hilarious conversations with your little ones you’d like to share in the comments?  Feel free!  I mean, we’re parents… we could all probably use a good laugh.

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More From Wisconsin: A Ban on Divorce?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

This just in: the state of Wisconsin is trying to make me have a stroke.

In defense of the bill that proposes a “public education” campaign maligning single parents for their alleged contributions to child abuse (previously discussed here), Wisconsin state representative Don Pridemore is saying that no one should ever be allowed to choose to get divorced– not even women abused by their husbands. Essentially, he states that these women should sit down and think about why they got married in the first place, and that should pretty much take care of the issue.

Now, I don’t generally take issue with people taking a personal stand against divorce. To each their own, and freedom of speech, and all that. Just because divorce was the right choice for me doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone, and it’s certainly not a decision to be taken lightly.

But… saying that divorce shouldn’t be allowed to be an option for anyone– even for people in abusive relationships? You can’t be serious. Who are these guys, anyway? What exactly qualifies them to speak for (and give orders to) battered women?

Hey, Pridemore and Grothman? Yeah, I’m talking to you. I know you think you’re standing up for your beliefs and trying to make America a better place and defend the innocent children from all of us loose, divorced women or whatever. But listen, there’s a reason these things aren’t politically correct to say. It’s because they’re a bunch of judgmental, discriminatory bullsh*t. If children that result from abusive marriages need defending, I’m fairly certain it’s from the men who are beating their mothers and not from the women who are strong enough to stand up and walk away.

Pridemore states that children are more likely to go “astray” without the disciplinary influence of a father in the home. What is this, Little House on the F*cking Prairie? Sure, okay. Let’s just conveniently ignore all of the actual research about children and divorce and just throw around a bunch of outdated, misogynistic opinions, because that means more than science and psychology anyway, right? Forget the studies that show that it’s not divorce itself, but the way divorce is handled, that has the most influence on the psychological development of a child. Forget the common-sense truth that a child is better off in a single parent home than in a dual-parent home where they’re being abused. Actual facts are so lame and boring. Those don’t get you votes or publicity. Am I right?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there’s an important document somewhere in this country’s history that states that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Well, Pridemore, I’m pretty sure “liberty” includes the right to find your way out of a failed marriage, and I wouldn’t have my happiness if I hadn’t had the right to get divorced, so how about you mind your own business and back up off it, already.

Sheesh.

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Wisconsin Bill Aims to Penalize Single Moms

Monday, March 5th, 2012

There is nothing that makes me go quite as postal as hearing someone equate single parenting to bad parenting.

(Prepare to hear me go postal.  Hold me back, ladies.)

This bill, introduced in Wisconsin by a man who has never been married and has no children, states that single mothers should be penalized because their unmarried status is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect.  The bill would require the funding of ad campaigns to “educate” the public regarding the ill effects of single parenthood on children.

Imagine it: you’re a single mom (from the language, this bill is clearly aimed at women).  You collapse on the couch after a long day at work and feeding and bathing and getting your kids to bed, all by yourself, as usual.  You click on the TV to relax, and some ad pops up and pompously, self-righteously, ignorantly tells you what a crappy parent and child abuser you are, just because you aren’t married.  I don’t think so, Wisconsin.

Now, I don’t know in concrete terms what the aforementioned “penalty” would be (nothing is mentioned in the text of the bill), but it doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out the real danger here: the passage of a bill like this would set a precedent for legitimizing the usage of a single parent’s marital status as a “black mark” against them as far as the best interest of their child goes, and that, my friends, is straight-up discrimination and a giant step backwards for hundreds of thousands of women and children in this country.

The senator who introduced the bill would also like to underscore “the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect”.  And what role would that be, exactly?  Too often, a single mother is single because the father up and left her.  How about penalizing those deadbeats instead of the hard-working, self-sacrificing women who pick up their slack?  Watch out, Caroline.  Don’t you dare ask me for that third cookie.  I might just freak out and do something crazy with all my female hormones and emotions running rampant and no level-headed man here to stop me.

No doubt this piece of judgmental trash masquerading as a state senator is one of the Limbaugh-esque far right conservatives who don’t believe contraceptives should be a covered service for the very sector of the population which contains the vast majority of single mothers.  I try not to get political on my blog, but really people, it’s the elephant in the room and I can’t hold my tongue: you can’t get birth control, you can’t get an abortion, and you can’t keep the child because then you’d be a single mother and, apparently, an abuser… so your only option is what, adoption?  But then he goes on to say that a child should be raised by two biological parents, so adoption doesn’t work either.  What exactly are we going to do with all these children?  Perhaps they will all just conveniently disappear?

Some of my regular readers may remember that I actually wrote something along the lines of this topic months ago. Statistics don’t lie: single parenthood is a risk factor for child abuse, plain and simple, and that fact should be recognized.  But in order to truly make a difference for abused children, it is critical that we distinguish between offering guidance, support, and practical resources rather than forwarding a cruel, judgmental, and purposeless smear campaign against women who face more than enough stereotyping on a daily basis in addition to all the other challenges of raising children alone.

Honestly, I know that this bill is too ridiculous to ever have a prayer of passing, and I shouldn’t even give it the publicity of a blog post.  But I couldn’t keep silent on the topic, because discrimination and an ad campaign tantamount to slander based on marital status is not okay, in this country or anywhere else.  I hope it never is.

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For New Single Parents

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

A friend of mine recently became a single mom, in such a difficult way that I can’t even pretend to begin to understand how she is feeling.  She is scared, and I don’t blame her.

It’s been long enough for me now that single parenthood is just my way of life.  I don’t even think about it most of the time.  But I do remember how it felt in the beginning. It was nerve-wracking, earth-shattering, free-falling.  The way we got there might be different (and certainly some ways of getting there are more traumatic than others), but all of us who end up in this place could have used some words of encouragement in the beginning, when single parenthood is new and terrifying, and your entire world has shifted, and the earth even feels different under your feet.

So, these words are for you… the new single parents.

Right now you are afraid, not only of the overwhelming responsibility of raising a child (or children) on your own, but of the dizzying possibility that you may never feel normal again.  Maybe you don’t even want to feel normal– you don’t want this to be your reality.

Even the little things seem like insurmountable tasks.  Going to the grocery store on a weekend, for example.  Not just physically missing the help with the kids– you can handle that.  Watching the “complete” families, the “traditional” ones.  That’s the worst.  Feeling the unsettling void of the support of a significant other.  Having no one to share the struggles and triumphs and proud moments of parenthood with.  You’ll be jealous of the people you see who have that.  You’ll feel cheated.  You’ll be afraid that you will never have that again.  Single parenthood will feel unnatural and impossible, like trying to breathe underwater.

But remember this.

You will have something incredibly special that they will never understand.  The love shared between a single parent and their child is fierce and beautiful and overwhelming and is, in my opinion, an entirely different kind of love than anything a coupled-up parent can ever know.  Everything will be more intense for you: the challenges and stress of parenthood, yes, but also the attachment and bond to your children that develops when you are the only one they rely on, day in and day out.

You might be afraid that you can’t do it, that it’s too much to handle, but you can do it, for the simple reason that you have to… because if you don’t, no one else will.

And there will come a day, in the not-as-distant-as-you-think future, when you realize, in a quiet moment reading to your children before bed, or seeing the wild excitement in their faces as you walk through the daycare door, that you not only don’t remember how it was before, but you don’t miss it… and you truly wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  Single parenthood will feel like all you’ve ever known.  It will be happy, and peaceful, and there will be joy and laughter and more love than you ever could have imagined.

The hard times will pass, like the good ones do.  This is only one moment out of your whole life.  You will be proud of yourself and your children and how far you have come.

Everything is going to be all right.  I can promise you that– because I’ve been there, and now I am here… and someday soon, you will be too.

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