It is now four years plus into my membership. Five, really if you include the pregancy.
For many women, and I have no statistics to bore you with here, just look around, they are not hard to spot, the life choice has been to raise and care for their child on their own. It is a choice because with a little effort you can put yourself back out there on the market for a significant other and hope that this other man's child will cause little to no strife in your new relationship. That in itself is a whole other conundrum of chances that many single mothers are afraid, stressed out as they already are, to contemplate when single parenthood is young and so is the child.
Generally single mothers are plucky individuals who have, before this, actually shown signs that would head in this direction. She is a leader and she is intense. There are moments when you think she has gone off her rocker on some new idea or theme that has her decorating her room in only purple or eating nuts for days because of some crazy new diet that she is on. Notice I have not mentioned her age, education level or even her personality type (as in introvert or extrovert).
She has to be inventive, emotionally sturdy and have a line of sight of her life in five to ten year blocks. The last is neccessary as she will have to make do and do with out in several instances in order to give her child the kind of care that she wants for them. She will re-learn to love her family and friends in a new way in light of all they do and say about her efforts at rearing the child. She evaluates others based on the swiftness, depth and frequency of their kindness to her and hers. She records this for ease of reference in times of trouble and doubt.
On realising you are pregnant, this is the instant you know if you are going to be a single parent or not. If you are still in a relationship, chances are you would have assessed your partner's potential for parenting and you are aware of any disconnect between him and yourself on this. You know that he is not ready and you know in an instant that even you are not ready now you will be in nine months. In a flash you understand the difference between sexual closeness and true commitment. If it is the former, you know (even if you won't acknowledge this immediately) that it will not last. The latter you hope will come but you know it is not present right at the instant of finding out you are with child.
That right there is a single parent trait you are going to need - Be honest with yourself first in assessing every relationship you are in. It saves time and a lot of heartache for yourself.
Now you get scared. On realising that single means alone and unsupported, you may start to panic and wander down a path of negativity and depression as to start to doubt your own capacity, readiness, knowledge, financial wherewithal and lifestyle preparedness for this kind of thing. You will consider an abortion, you will consider adoption and of course you will anticipate that the father may come around and you will not be in this without him, if not by your side, but in your corner should things get sticky. At this point, fear is a mountain and you have no plan (or so you think) of how to get out from under it. Added to this may be pressure from family members, friends who know you and even strangers who don't.
For a host of reason, personal to you, you decide to keep this child and go through the pregnancy. This is where the knot tightens.
For many, the first 2 years of membership was a series of first, best forgotten or fondly remembered. These are the defining moments of the membership in this club. You become a single parent based on the experiences that you have during your pregnancy and the first year of your child's life.
You look back at yourself later and realise that you have had to become a different person altogether in a short space of time. It is all a factor of repetitive and therefore learnt behavior. You develop discpline from changing 100 pampers in a month. You learn to budget because you have borrowed from everyone and have no more rabbit holes to turn to. You develop a second thicker skin because regardless of what they say about you your child's smile is all that matters at this point. You become irrational and stressed in a tiny pockets of time because you cannot afford to give over even that much time to yourself. If you have made it thus far, you are coping.
You start to see how this might work. You look at your old self and the circumstances surrounding the conception and you know you have walked on from there. You appear the same on the outside but where they cannot see, some things have been altered. Your accomplishments may not give you a promotion and they may not make you more popular with friends but they fit nicely on the fridge - crude hand drawn testaments to your patience and skill.
Planning takes on a new meaning for you. Especially if you were not doing it before, you may feel quite overwhelmed with all the decision points that now occur to you. Where should I live to bring him or her up in a nice safe neighbourhood? What will be a good school? Should I go back to school? Am I making enough now? Do I need a car? These kind of thoughts hardly, if ever, occured to you before the advent of a baby. Now they seem to haunt you in their exactness.
Do not expect to have all or any of the answers immediately. Still you should plan for them - design your life so that you can answer them in due course. This is where the single mindedness of purpose comes in handy. As little a bit as you can stow away for the goals of tomorrow, start now to do so. You have to, no one else cares as much to do this. Accept help but never take it as a given. No one has to care about your next steps as much as you do.
This is a defining stage to be in. This is where you realise you set the tone. And that you always have.
By now your progeny will have started to become their own person and also a reflection of your efforts at molding them. You can assess yourself - is your child rudderless and willful? Is your child endearing in his manners and ability to connect to others? Is your child sullen and angry?
The first means you have given up, you are along for the ride but you will not take charge. To take charge means that you accept that you alone are his care giver. You may have help and you may think it is up to them as they appear to know more about children and have experieces that seem far more adequate than yours thus far. You are wrong and for your child's sake, stop hiding in public. The only person who truly knows what a fever is doing to their child, how much that child loves cheese or what are their favourite colors this week is you. Granted you may not want to know but the fact is you do.
The second scenario is a child you have taken the time out to learn and provide support for. You read all the books and you sought lots of advice. But then you discarded all of that and sat down on the floor to investigate a dead bug that he or she was pointing at with great concern. In that moment you turned their fear into something else because you realised only you had the power to do so. Now you start to review all the men in your life in terms of your child - your father, your brother, your uncles and your boys. Suddenly you develop criteria for them to interact with your child. You pick and choose with a keen sense of awareness as to how will knowing this person impact my child.
Last scenario is one of protracted failure. You started with the best of intentions and then perhaps during the pregnancy, you finally faced up to the reality of being alone. Your heart was broken. By you. And this is what you resent the most. That you knew all along that you were alone but you tried to deny it. This in turn causes you to become a bit of a see-saw. You try to compensate by being happy, creating moments of levity with your child out of thin air and hoping they don't dissipate like the smoke they are made of. Over and over you do this, hoping to spark a fire. What in fact you are doing, is confusing and alarming your young charge. They don't know why you get so dark when you do and they have no means of coping with you. So they begin to resent you and everything surrounding you. You say "Say Hi to Grannie" and he gives Grannie a baleful look as if to respond "How will my life improve if I do that?" You are the key here, no other individual in your child's world has more influence on his wellbeing and self-confidence than you.
I want to continue this based on your comments. Please say exactly what this piece does or does not do for you.
Thanks in advance.