Was I the mom I always wanted to be? Was I the mom I always dreamed of being? As an unexpected single mother 20 years ago, did I achieve what I set out to do?
Did I make the grade all these years later?
We all have our images in our heads when we are little girls of what our very own families will look like when we grow up. Growing up, I had 4 main baby dolls. One was named Victoria, a beautiful soft cuddly Madame Alexander baby doll that my grandmother bought me at the Bullocks Wilshire toy department.
Another baby doll was named Apple. A plush chubby baby doll with a full head of very styled hair way beyond her years.
The third one had no name that I can recall, but I loved her. I had a twin sister growing up and it was always my grandmother who bought us the beautiful dolls at Bullocks Wilshire.
I can remember vividly the day she bought this one for me. It was probably around 1966 and my sister and I were about 6 years old. We were in the toy department and we saw these beautiful dolls in beautiful dresses with the cutest ankle baby shoes. My sister Sharon wanted the white doll and I wanted the black doll.
Without even giving it a second thought, my grandmother took the dolls to the counter. I remember the sales lady asking her if she was sure she wanted to buy me the black doll since I was white? With no hesitation at all my grandmother replied very deliberately, “Yes! Of course, she wants that doll!”
And so, in 1966 I took home my sweet little African American baby doll and walked her proudly through the neighborhood in her stroller and I loved her for many years. I will always love that my grandmother had the forward and non-prejudicial thinking to not even flinch at my desire to love that baby doll.
The Watts riots of Los Angles had taken place a year earlier and it was a time of narrow-minded thinking towards the civil rights act. I look back at that meaningful moment and think my Grandmother was making a statement in her own way. All I knew at age 6 was that this baby doll was extra special and loved her that much more!
The fourth doll was again a Madame Alexander doll. She was a smaller version of Apple and her name was Ann. One day I was playing with her and set her down on the back step of my dad’s truck and went in for lunch. When I came back out the truck was gone and so was Ann!
Fear consumed me as to the demise of my dear little doll. When my dad got back to work one of his employees noticed that there was a doll lying across the step of his truck. She had made it without falling off for about 10 miles.
He called and asked if I was missing someone! My mom drove me down to retrieve her. It was my first real memory of worrying about someone I loved so much. I was 5 years old.
Does Divorce Keep Us From Being The Moms We Want To Be?
My maternal juices started flowing early in life for me. I have always felt this innate need to protect children. That of course was my first instinct when I became a single mother with a 4-week-old baby girl and a 4-year-old boy.
How was I going to give them what felt like the ideal childhood that I got?
How was I going to protect them when I had no one to protect me?
I’m not a woman who has felt the overt need to feel protected. But my marriage did give me that. I never for one day felt unsafe and I never in a million years thought that it would be my very own husband to throw me out in the cold. But he did.
With the swoosh of his sword in the air, I had no health insurance, no car insurance, no partner to help me raise my children. I was alone and felt extremely vulnerable. And I was vulnerable. Overnight…quite literally…
I was faced with finishing the home remodel we were in the middle of and caring for two small children.
Once I moved us into the finished home, I knew nothing about fixing my car that had broken down, fixing a plumbing disaster, fixing a heater, laying down sod on the new backyard and the list goes on.
I was taken advantage of at every turn simply because I was a woman. An exhausted overworked, overwhelmed, and over rot woman! I was an overwhelmed single mother on every level!
My children both just had birthdays. The baby girl is now 21 and the boy is 25. Both birthdays are somewhat milestones to me. My daughter is 21 and a beautiful woman now. Her dad left weeks after her birth for another woman, so her birthday is always a funny time for me.
I always go over the top to celebrate her day because I think internally, I feel some sense of guilt at her birth coinciding with his departure.
My son was born on Father’s Day 25 years ago. It’s Father’s Day today and while I was having a quiet glass of wine in my backyard sitting next to my little fountain among my flowers, my thoughts drifted back to that day. That day that I endured 17 hours of labor only to have an emergency C-Section.
Never in my wildest nightmares would I have ever known that Father’s Day 25 years later this new father would be married to a completely different woman with a completely different family. So, the question came to me. Was I the mom I had always hoped to be? Was I given the chance to be?
To me, I wasn’t the mother I had hoped but I was the best mother I knew how to be.
I bought them a home. Gave them a backyard to play in and a place to invite their friends to for sleepovers. I clothed and fed them. I educated them.
But the mother I had hoped to have still eluded me. Why? The stress and fear I lived with and hid for so many years in an effort to show my Bravado, took my memories with it.
I don’t remember my daughters first steps.
I don’t remember her first tooth.
I don’t remember really enjoying each and every cherished event that I now long for.
I was always so stressed out worrying about how I was going to pay for everything.
Even a trip to McDonalds was a well-planned event and many times I over-drafted my checking account in order to let them join their friends or let them participate in an event that required money or to buy the perfect birthday gift that they specially picked out for their friend.
I never wanted them to feel different. But the price of this was that in my own heart, based on the kind of mother I was when I started this journey of love at age 5, was high and it wasn’t what I thought it could be and it was a far cry from what it should have been.
I know my kids still feel quite different from their cousins because they all have married parents. Their cousins are not faced with feeling embarrassed to tell friends that their parents barely speak to each other or that their mom still counts every penny because she has to all these years later.
My daughter sent me a text this morning that said, “Happy Father’s Day to my 2nd Dad!” I laughed and said I had to agree!
My son made homemade tamales to celebrate Father’s Day with me. Their actual Dad is hold up in pandemic quarantine somewhere with his other family.
Maybe I’m being too tough on myself. No big surprise there.
I may be having the best time as their mom now! I love their company! I love their hearts and I love being their mom more than words could ever express! Though the Pandemic we are currently experiencing is causing me some sleepless nights because my work week has just been cut and with that came a second pay cut. But even through this I am the most present I have ever been as a single mom. We are all together on Father’s Day. And I am happy.
So…. a belated Happy Father’s Day to every single Mom who is also Dad on every other day of the year!