It wasn’t very long ago that I came home and the electricity in my apartment had been turned off because I was so far behind on the payments, only about six years ago. As a single mother, times were always tough, money was always tight… But I fell into a really weird pocket of poverty — at the time, I made $40 too much to qualify for any state assistance.
I fought so hard in court to get the child support that my son deserved and it came back to bite me in the butt because I was earning too much money.
And, let’s be real… My annual income that year (2008) was just over $10,000 for the year. I was in school full time, working part time and living beyond paycheck to paycheck. My best friend Nancy, one time, offered to “Dave Ramsey” my budget. She was certain she could find some wasted money in my spending. But at the end of all her calculations, I was -$12/month. Whomp whomp.
I recall this period in my life in spurts — there are large pockets of time missing. I guess it was my way of blocking out the pain and shame associated with being so very poor and that, no matter what I did, I could never get a leg up. There was always something — a doctor’s bill, a broken down car, an illness that prevented me from working which left me with a short check, an attorney’s fee for the ongoing battles in court with my exhusband, $10 for a field trip at school or a request to bring food to a party at school…
I was reminded of these hards times recently on a trip to Target with my son.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, in therapy mostly, on my time from about 26-28 years old when I was at the lowest spot of my journey as a single mother, just before my Saturn Return.
One of the things I realized today in session is that I’m really struggling with how I identify myself now, in this current space, separate from my identity as a single mother, or really, a mother in general.
I looked at my life this week and realized that my life revolves around my son. My work day doesn’t start until after I’ve gotten him to school and it only runs until it’s time to pick him up from school. I don’t have a lot of time for self-care, something I’m becoming increasingly aware of as a need and not just a want. I found myself this week becoming resentful because my husband doesn’t have to do any of the shuttling and, after some introspection, it’s not because he’s DONE anything or that he’s shirking his duties. Quite the opposite, he’s really super dedicated to our son.
What it boils down to is that he’s not available because his schedule is work has been set a certain way. In elementary school, his schedule afforded us the opportunity to really share the duties of parent responsibility — we alternated days on who had to get the boy up and off to school. But now, in middle school, he goes to school an hour later and my husband is already at work and well into his stride by the time we’re heading out the door to get to middle school. My husband hasn’t changed — I haven’t changed — but our circumstances have changed.
Adjusting to these new circumstances has me kicking and screaming (who knew that I didn’t like change?!) because my position in this equation is changing. But it’s so unnecessary.
I’ve chosen a career path that affords me the opportunity to create my own schedule, around my life and our family’s plans. I’ve crafted a professional life that should support the flexibility that this transition is requiring.
So why am I still over here kicking and screaming?
It’s because I feel like I’m turning into a soccer mom and I do not like soccer moms.
Let me rephrase that. I don’t dislike soccer moms. I dislike that association I have with what they represent to me. For nearly ten years, as a single mother, I struggled… I didn’t have a community of peers in my real, day to day life. I didn’t have anyone I could relate to — my friends were either unmarried and childless or happily married and had children. There was no one else like me and it caused me to feel… otherly.
There was a lot of isolation in the grit and grind of single motherhood. The capacity to open up and learn about someone else and create and cultivate friendships was so hard because I was SO tired and the logistics of connecting with other single moms when neither of us had a partner to lean on — we couldn’t afford babysitters.
And there was also the judgment from the soccer mom types — whether it was implied or overt — that I was otherly. “Can you commit to volunteering?” was always met with a no because I didn’t have time, couldn’t afford to take off from work and often didn’t have money to contribute to teacher gifts, cupcakes on birthdays, etc.
And at the root of my dislike for the soccer mom types was jealously.
This is taking a lot for me to unravel because I am really not a jealous person, but I was so very jealous of the moms I knew and my perception of their lives — especially those who didn’t work outside of the home. I wanted an opportunity to volunteer, to participate in my kid’s school life, to go to all the practices and be engaged and to be able meet him off the bus after school.
I was angry that my life was hard.
I wanted to have a partner to talk to at night, share my day with, hold and be held… And instead, I was putting my kid to bed and left with the darkness and the stillness of night.
And now, I’m on the other side of this… I’m no longer the single mom. I’ve crafted a life of flexibility that gives me the freedom to drive my son to school and pick him up from school — because this is important to me. I volunteer at school, I want to go to PTA meetings, I want to be on a first name basis with all of his teachers.
With the exception of the minivan with the stick figure family stickers lined up on the rear window, I am a soccer mom. And it makes me feel so conflicted — how can I be irritated with the soccer moms when I am over here, being a fucking soccer mom?
And the crux of my issues, as of late, become clear: how to define myself and my role in this new, beautiful, positive well-supported space? I spent so long scrapping and fighting and trying so hard just to make those damn ends meet — I was so heavily armoured against the world… And now, the battle is over. I’m on a great team – my husband is my best friend. We have a great life… And I’m over here, wearing armour still… Clanking around in it and wondering where the noise is coming from…
As I peel back the unaddressed layers and layers of trauma, I’m sure I’ll rediscover lots of things like this… Old ways of thinking that I’m white-knuckle-clinging to out of habit and not out of current need… It’s tough. But, damn, I just feel really grateful to be on this side of it…
Maybe being a soccer mom isn’t all that bad after all… I certainly won’t be driving a minivan any time soon and if you ever see stick figure family stickers on my rear window, you have my permission to smash that window in, okay? That’s not me… But I’m hoping this empathy I have, from the experience on both sides, will help me be a better soccer mom than the ones I ran into when my kid was really young.