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I was a single mom for 10 long years. During that decade I relied on welfare, housing assistance, and food stamps to help me support my daughter while I earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
I was an independent woman working to achieve my goals of self-sufficiency, a meaningful career, and to be the best mom possible. But underneath my professional ambition was an even stronger desire: to get married and become a stay at home mom.
I yearned to know what it was like to raise a child with someone else, to share knowing glances with the other parent when our child said something cute, or to argue about who was going to take out the trash. I wanted a traditional family more than anything in the world. I had invested a lot of time thinking about it, and decided that was the way I wanted to parent my daughter: with two parents, with siblings, in a real home.
I hoped that I would meet a smart, kind, dedicated young man at college who would fall passionately in love with both of us. This Wonderful Man and I would get married and have more babies. We would buy a house with a yard and I would stay home with our children while he worked his good job. Everything would be great.
The only problem was that I didn’t meet this guy while I was an undergrad. At 25, I was considered an Older than Average Student already. Most of my classmates would party on the weekends, while I got up at 5:00 am to do homework before spending my daughter’s waking hours taking care of her in the public housing where we lived. I couldn’t relate to most of the students there and graduated without dating one Potential Husband. Not one, mind you.
When I left my modest hometown for the Emerald City, I was sure I would meet the man of my dreams at University of Washington. It was a huge university in a huge city. There was bound to be someone I would connect with.
I quickly found that most social workers are female and that all of our classes were held in one building located close to, but away from the main campus. There would be essentially no intermingling with students from other fields of study.
If I didn’t meet a dude in class, then I wasn’t going to, because evenings were devoted to my kid and my studies. I pretty much gave up going “out” when I gave birth to my daughter.
Even though I wanted to meet Mr. Right in grad school, I earned my master’s degree without going on one date.
When I started working full time at a public preschool program, I was 31 years old. I’d been a single mom for eight years without ever living with a man, and only dating a few.
I was the kind of single mom whose kid does not spend the weekend at Baby Daddy’s house. Baby Daddy was initially addicted to crack, and then meth. He was busy expanding his criminal history and making other babies not to take care of. His mother was dead and he’d never known his father, so there weren’t any grandparents to fill in where he didn’t.
Baby Daddy did not pay child support either. He preferred to work in the underground economy to avoid this obligation, something that he has successfully done for most of the 16 years of our daughter’s life.
As a single mom, I handled every tantrum, sleepless night, and growing pain on my own. I did all the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and wage earning without a partner.
I loved my daughter ferociously, so much so that I wanted to share her with someone else. I wanted her to have siblings. As crazy as I was about her, I didn’t want it to be just the two of us, because I wanted her to have someone else out there in the world in case I died, which I eventually would. I wanted her to have a brother or sister and an actively involved father figure.
Even though I yearned for adult companionship, my daughter and I had a lot of fun together. We would go to museums and parks and libraries. We had a schedule and routine. She took ballet, karate, and art classes. Because we were so poor, it was easy to get full scholarships for her to participate in recreational activities. Really, things were relatively pretty good.
But still, I longed to meet my mate. There was a hunger inside that wouldn’t go away.
Two years after I got my master’s degree, when I was 33 years old, I was invited to go out to dinner by a hot single father from the preschool program where I worked. His son had graduated from the program a couple of months before. This alleviated some of the anxiety I felt about dating a former client.
I was in my third decade of life and had not ever been out on a formal date where the guy calls you, invites you to a restaurant, and then DRIVES you there. The fact that he had a real job, his own car, and an apartment were all strongly in his favor. He looked like Donald Trump compared to Baby Daddy.
Fortunately, my friend Larissa was willing to have my daughter over for a sleepover with her daughter.
I can’t even begin to tell you the level of anticipation I felt as I applied my makeup that evening. The idea that a handsome young man was driving to my apartment to pick me up was huge.
He took me to the Outback Steakhouse. I had NEVER had a guy take me to a steakhouse before, ever. He told me to order WHATEVER I WANTED. This, too, was a first! And then, just when things were going to so great, he told me I could order a margarita. I sorta wanted to avoid alcohol, but, well this was pretty exciting: steak AND a margarita, why not?
After dinner and a couple of margaritas, I wasn’t ready for this thrilling night to end. He took me to a bar, and I drank a couple of Coronas. I was out of the habit of drinking because I had essentially no social life, so I was inebriated after this.
On the car ride on the way home, I confessed, “I think you’re really handsome.” We kissed. It was exciting. When we arrived at my building, he said “Do you want me to walk you upstairs?”
“No, it’s really messy, but maybe next time.”
To which he replied, “It’s OK, I don’t mind.”
In that moment, all the girlish anticipation I’d had before the date dissipated and was exchanged for the old He wants what he wants, so I may as well get mine type of thinking.
The next morning we watched Animal Planet, which was a little endearing.
A little over a month later, on my way to work, I stopped at Target to buy a pregnancy test. My breasts had that tingly feeling and I felt…different.
Moments later there were both a plus and a minus sign on the test indicator. What the fuck does that mean? Pregnant and not pregnant? A little bit yes and a little bit no?
My friend told me to call the pharmacist, who suggested that I read the directions, before I found out I was, indeed, pregnant for the second time in my life. At the age of 33, as a single mom, still living in the projects.
And yet, at the same time as I worried about what to tell others, I was also excited. My dream of having another child was going to come true. My daughter would have a sibling. It didn’t really matter what other people thought.
When I told others, of course they questioned my sanity, my decision-making skills, and how the hell I was going to raise two kids on my own. You always lose a couple of friends in this process.
And in case you are wondering, Dear Reader, I am happy to let you know I’ve been married for five-and-a-half years now to the father of my second child. We've been together since that first date, about six years ago.
My son is about to start kindergarten. I work full time and own my own house. Welfare is history. And I am pursuing my newest goal of becoming a successful freelance writer.