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Saturday, March 31st, 2012
I would have to say that the most interesting thing about writing this blog is the email I get from my readers.
I guess it comes with the territory of revealing so much of your personal life for so long, putting it online for anyone to read. I had a good friend tell me once that when she read my blog for the first time, a lot of it surprised her, because she had had no idea that I had felt that way (before my divorce). I’m fully aware that this is a ridiculous statement, but for some reason I almost find it easier to talk about things here than with people in real life. I have a lot of people contact me and tell me they feel like they know me after they’ve read the whole thing. I do get so personal here that I guess that in a way, they’re right.
Enough about me. Back to you guys.
I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail, certainly, for my more controversial posts (see here and here and here). I mostly try to ignore that. I’ve had people email me and ask me questions that I can’t possibly pretend to know how to answer, like “should I get divorced?” or “should I have an abortion?” (I have to say that although I’m always glad to offer a listening ear and a sympathetic shoulder, I don’t exactly feel qualified to offer concrete advice.) I’ve had guys email me and ask me out, women email me and ask me for advice on how to go about getting a divorce, people contact me for dental advice or to talk about going to dental school. And of course I always love the encouraging emails, when people contact me just to say that they love reading about my life and Caroline’s, and to keep it up.
But the kind of correspondence that really makes my day is these: the single mothers who tell me that because of things I’ve written here, they feel more inspired to go back to school for their children. The working moms who tell me that they take comfort in knowing that there’s someone else out there going through the same struggles, and feeling like their compromises and sacrifices are worth it.
If anything I write makes even one person out there feel less alone, then hey– I’m happy. If I get just one of those emails for every ten pieces of hate mail, it’s been more than worth it. So, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has let me know that putting myself out there on the internet like this has made a small difference in your lives. I can’t express how much it means to me.
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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.
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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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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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Monday, February 13th, 2012
Sometimes, the hardest thing you ever have to do as a parent is make a decision for you.
People keep asking me why I want to join the military. What the draw is for me. “Don’t do it just for the money,” they tell me. “Don’t do it just for the travel. Don’t do it just for the adventure.”
I’m not doing it “just” for any of those things. And none of those things are the major reason for me, anyway.
If I just wanted to travel and do field dentistry, I could volunteer abroad a few times a year. If I just wanted to leave Connecticut, I could move. If I just wanted financial stability, I’d go into private practice. If I just wanted to do dental work for soldiers, I’d be in the civilian service of the military or work at the VA. If I just wanted loan repayment, I’d work for the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service. If I just wanted to avoid dealing with the business aspect of dentistry or malpractice, I’d work in a community health center. If I just wanted broader experience with procedures and new technology, I’d do another residency.
I don’t “just” want any of those things. I want all of them. With the Army I can have them, and more. I can do all of those things, and move with my daughter to a brand new place and join an already-established commmunity. I can do for my patients exactly what they need, without worrying about insurance coverage and whether or not they can pay for the treatment I believe they should have. For that reason, the military is a fantastic place to train as a new dentist.
According to all the Army dentists I’ve talked to, I should assume that I will deploy at some point just to be mentally prepared, but with Iraq over and Afghanistan winding down, it’s more likely that I won’t be deployed than that I will. If/when I am, it will be for around 4.5 months, and I will be doing the field dentistry that I love. (I had tried to do the Air Force, because they have shorter and less frequent deployments, but they don’t have any openings for general dentists at this point.)
Obviously there are downsides and hassles and risks. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider being sent far away from their child if the overall package wasn’t something they were very interested in for many reasons. Do I think I’ll make a whole career of it? Maybe, but probably not. But for the next three years, at least, I believe that this is the best career decision I could make. It isn’t spur-of-the-moment, either– I’ve talked about doing this off and on since I was in college, eight years ago.
This is hard for me to say, but I have always been completely honest in what I write and I don’t plan on stopping now…
When you have a child years before you plan to, and your career is very important to you, you are bound to hold some degree of resentment toward the immense, sometimes overwhelming responsibility that is your child… no matter how much you love them. I love my daughter more than life itself, but there are already enough things that I have no control over because I have her, that I wish I could do or wish I did not have to do.
I can’t let this be one of them. I will always wish that I had done it and I don’t want to resent being a mother.
The last time I did something like that, I took a year off from dental school to stay at home with Caroline, and back-burnered my own career so that Tyler would not have to. I sat at home alone, feeling like I had no control over my life or anything that happened to me. And I ended up stumbling around in a haze of postpartum depression and I could barely take care of my daughter, let alone myself. Even the memories of that time are foggy to me now.
To raise your child happy, you have to be happy. That is why I got divorced. That is why I’m doing this.
If I truly believed that I would be harming her, then I would not do it. But what is the cost to her, really, in the grand scheme of things? She moves to a new place. It gets harder for her to see her father, who hasn’t been consistently involved in her life anyway. If or when I get deployed, she will miss me terribly for a few months. And I will miss her. I know it will be unimaginably hard to spend that much time away from my daughter. But a few months spent away from her, one time, will not matter that much over the course of our whole lives. She will be with people she loves, and I will talk to her every day.
She will have amazing experiences, she will be part of a close-knit community, she will have financial stability and an undergraduate education paid for under the GI bill (assuming I stay in the reserves long enough). She will have a mother and a role model who is happy and fulfilled in her career. And she will be proud of me and the things I have done. I wrote not too long ago that being a single parent should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream– it should be the reason you do. I believe in that statement, totally and completely.
And if none of those things work out the way I had hoped and we both hate it, then, well, it was only a few years of our lives and at least I followed my heart and did what I felt was right, and I will have no regrets or lingering resentment for what might have been. Sometimes… you have to take a leap of faith.
If I were the kind of person to play it safe, I would be sitting here still married to Tyler and wishing, every minute of every day, that I had a different life. If you want a certain life you can’t sit around and hope that it will come to you. You have to step up and take it for yourself.
This is me, stepping up.
Army, here we come.
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Caroline, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler | Categories:
Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance