I was deep into Downtown Abby a few months ago. Binging British accents with dinner gongs, Maggie Smith and a labrador in the opening scene? I’m in. Nearly had my husband calling me mi’lady. Personal goal: come up with the retorts worthy of Aunt Violet.
Anyway, there was a scene where a woman had to come clean to a suitor about her having a child out of wedlock. She was wringing her hands and upset – and of course the suitor called off their relationship. This scene spoke to me, having been a teenage single mom.
What did the scene say?
Liability. Your child is a weakness, a mark against you, a cross to bear, and makes you less. No one wants you + baby. Burden.
What did I say back to the scene, and to people out there who see single-momness as a liability?
I thought: This is crazy! All the shame I carried around for years has been going on since the freaking Edwardian age!
The concept of women as property seems absurd (at least to me), but it wasn’t that long ago that we were, dowry and all. “Thank you for taking over this burden of my female child, have a cow and some money and here are some blankets.” And way beyond that, the idea of a young single mom and her baby were just mind-blowing and hidden – orphanages and going on vacation and all of a sudden a young woman’s mom has a new baby. Even now – the harshest part of single momness is the societal view: single moms are a liability, to be looked down upon and judged.
OH THE JUDGING!
When I got pregnant, I was at an age when it was common for teens to be having sex, a lot of them already in “long-term” relationships. I just got caught, so to speak.
It was tough, and maybe I’ll write about that later, but also awesome. The hardest part was money and isolation, but isn’t that usually the case at any age when you have a baby?
I definitely wasn’t the perfect mom, but we had great times – we grew up together and have been on some fun adventures that I don’t think would have happened if I had her when I was in my late 20’s or 30’s. Trapeze classes, elephant rides, flying around the country, swimming with sharks, road trips, half-marathons, apartment hunting…just stupid silly stuff. I look at my middle-aged friends now, who have kids not even in their low teens yet (some of the kids not even in grade school yet), and I don’t know how they do it. Mine already graduated from college and is keeping an eye on her grandpa.
She’s old enough now so that we are 75% friends, 25% mom/daughter. Most of the time. Well, that’s how I like to portray it because my momness is going 100% all the time, but that’s just my momming style. She calls me a Tiger Mom, which I am NOT, but I feel like I have that potential. The most important part: we get to be together for a long time. I got an extra 10-20 years over everyone.
Perspective needs to be adjusted. Baby Burden Attitude was going on the same time suffragettes were being force-fed. Women voting is so accepted no one even thinks about it. I would love that single-moms, whether by chance or choice, become so accepted that they are not judged.