“Children always choose their mothers,” a psychic once told me. She believed that from the spirit world, unborn children made this decision which would then impact the rest of their lives. I forgot about the reading until I had my own children. Then I adopted her belief and often say to my children, “Thank you for choosing me.”
Because becoming a mother is indefinable. It is an honor, a challenge, and a paramount responsibility. It is amazing, frightening, difficult, rewarding, and emotional. The highs are highs and the lows are lows, and the emotions I feel as a mother can change instantaneously. And nothing can adequately prepare a woman for the experience of motherhood.
However unprepared for motherhood I may have been, my plan was never single motherhood.
I married and waited several years before I became pregnant. During my pregnancies, the images I played in my head always included my husband and me as parents and partners. When my daughter was born, I was excited about embarking upon life as a family.
Becoming a mother made me vulnerable in a way I had never been. I felt as if my heart was now carried by another being, and her well-being was inextricably tied to me. Eighteen months later, my son was born. I had been so frightened I would never love anyone the way I loved my daughter, but hearts are expansive, and, much to my surprise, mine doubled in order to include my son. I was more vulnerable than before as my heart was now shared by two little people.
Motherhood suited me. Instinctually, I knew what to do to care for my babies. And if I didn’t, I turned to my mother, my sister, and my friends for advice and support. The one person who could never be relied upon was my husband. He, physically and emotionally, began to abandon the marriage as soon as we had a child. When my son was born, he disappeared. One friend best described his abandonment when she said, “You are growing up; your husband has grown down.”
Most of the time, we have choices. I chose to embrace parenthood. My husband did not make the same choice. I love the imagery from the Robert Frost poem, “The Path Not Taken.” The lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” has always resonated with me. It is empowering to imagine oneself standing at a fork in the road and making a difficult choice. But sometimes one does not get to make a choice. A path has already been predetermined. That is how I feel about the path of single motherhood. It is not one I chose, but one upon which I was forced.
The path of single motherhood can be lonely, especially because my idea of a family always included a mother, a father, and children.
I actually had never considered any other version. However, that was not to be. And so I walk a path, I never imagined. And there is always beauty in the unexpected. The view from this vantage point, no less stunning than from the one I had originally pictured.
Most days, I have confidence in my role as a single mother. There are days I feel lonely and scared but never for very long. I am not perfect, but my children will have to the opportunity to witness my strength and courage in the face of the unexpected.
And so, I don’t need to be a psychic to realize I have made many good choices. Over the summer, my daughter threw a penny into a fountain and made a wish. She came running back and said, “Mama, I wished for a mom like you.”