I became a baby mother by default or maybe because I am my single mother’s child.
I was married for seven years before the marriage failed and I filed for divorce. I felt that the marriage was so volatile that it would only produce unbalanced children. I did everything everyone else said to do to save the marriage, but in the end, we make great co-parents, and horrible mates.
When my ex and I divorced, I was very bitter in beginning to raise our children alone. When I say alone, I mean no family, no friends, just me. I had relocated to an area for an employment opportunity that placed my children and me two hours away from any friends or family.
It seemed as if my ex-husband had moved on with his life. He relocated to Texas. He was in the clubs every weekend, getting DWI’s, buying new cars, not paying child support, not visiting the children and changing women like most people change underwear. I, on the other hand, was stuck at home raising kids, working two jobs at one point, and paying expensive daycare fees on my own.
I felt trapped, but I looked at my kids and felt I was their only hope of survival. I love my children and sometimes their smiles were the only thing that kept me from becoming clinically insane. I felt so overwhelmed, I would cry at night. It wasn’t just the finances being tight, but my daughter also suffers from asthma, and my son had severe infections that caused him to have to surgery.
My daughter was constantly being bullied at school due to her being on honor roll, quiet, and very studious. Being everything for my children was not what I signed up for, but these were the cards I was dealt and I played them the best to my ability.
I called my mother (a single mother as well) to tell her of all of the pressures of raising my daughter and my son alone. She listened and let off a giggle. My mother’s words cut like a knife, “Baby, that’s just the pressures of being a mother.” There was no comfort in the words at all, just facts stated.
I hung up the phone with a heavy weight on my shoulders. I didn’t know how I was going to handle my daughter coming home crying every afternoon from school because the kids thought she was weird because she would rather read a book than play on the jungle gym or how I would juggle the food budget to pay for my son’s daycare fees, but by a miracle I always made it work.
I called my ex-husband to tell him the struggle of what was going on in my household and he was not interested. If I were him, I wouldn’t have been able to receive the phone call either. I didn’t talk to him; I let out all of my frustration with being alone and raising the children on my own, in yells and expletives. My vocabulary was held to four-letter words only. I gave him all of the tears that I cried while our children slept. I gave him everything. I put it all in one phone call. He would hang up, and I would call and leave more on a voice mail.
I was totally irrational and trying to catch bees with vinegar laced dynamite. I was inconsolable, unable to make coherent sentences without tears about the bitter life that single motherhood and divorce had left me.
I was no longer a woman, but a pit bull.
I was vicious, biting familiar hands that had once fed me, growling at anything that didn’t seem to help me and my children. The pit bull in me began to fester and turn into a fungus being spread to my daughter and son. My kids began to not smile as much due to my constant tense conversations with their father and the fact that he would break promises to them. My kids were angry, sad, and slowly becoming bitter.
One day, I was sitting and having a conversation with my children, and I asked them to give me three words to describe their dad. My eleven year old daughter said invisible, deadbeat, and broke. My six year old son said tall, skinny, and brown. My daughter began to cry and say she wished she had a relationship with her daddy. She wished that he loved her like I loved her. That conversation broke my heart.
I made it my mission that day to fix and repair the relationship with her father so that my daughter could feel the love that I knew my ex-husband had for her. I enrolled in counseling. I knew I had unresolved issues with their father that was poisoning my kids’ chances of having a functioning happy relationship with their dad. I knew I couldn’t call my mother anymore. Her advice was about as helpful as a paper umbrella in a category five hurricane. My counselor told me something so simple, but profound, “You didn’t have those kids alone. Let your ex-husband be a father. Although it may not be how you would like it, he has things he could contribute and should contribute.”
All of the years that I had been protecting my kids from the disappointment of knowing that their father would fail and not show up and break promises didn’t help them; it hurt them. Disappointment is a part of life; it is nothing I can protect them from. While an ideal childhood should be filled with cotton candy, Ferris wheels, and Cosby-kid smiles, it doesn’t always work like that.
I called my ex-husband and waved the white flag.
I told him that I was no longer fighting. I give up. I wanted him and needed him to be a father to the children. I needed him and me to come to some type of understanding so that the children would see how a healthy adult relationship works. I also told him that his daughter truly loved him and missed him as a dad.
I am willing to do anything to keep my kids from hurting and the pain in her eyes cut me deep. I had to do my best to fix her pain. I didn’t like my ex-husband, but I knew he definitely loved our children.
The conversation was productive. My ex-husband told me how he felt about everything. It was a hard lump to swallow to hear him say that I was a witch spelled with a “B” to him and that I made it impossible for him to be a father. I never looked at it in that way. I just saw my kids’ faces when they would be waiting for him to arrive and he never showed up. I told him that it is a horrible feeling to feel that I have to protect my kids from their father because he’s such a disappointment. We agreed that night to go forward as friendly co-parents with open and honest communication. Things aren’t perfect, but they are better, our babies are happier and I have traded in my pit bull persona for a woman again.
Nesha Finister is a 32-year-old single mother of an eleven-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. A product of a single-parent home herself, Nesha unintentionally kept the tradition of single parenting going. She has a full-time job in the oilfield sector, which makes for a blue-collar lifestyle at work and a nurturing life at home. It is hard to be both roles, but she makes it work.