A couple of weeks after I left my ex, I found out he was dating again. This news broke my heart, not because I wanted him back, but because I was jealous of how easy it was for him to move on. I wanted to move on. I wanted to date other people and forget about the awful mistake of a relationship I had just gotten out of. Maybe I didn’t want to move as quickly as he was (he had professed his undying love to another girl literally two weeks after I left him), but I wanted to be able to, at least.
The problem was that I was already gaining weight. I felt like crap most of the time, always exhausted or hungry. I had terrible gas, my skin was a wreck. I didn’t feel confident enough to go to work, let alone date. And even if I had felt confident, I was certain no one would want me ever again because I had been stupid enough to get knocked up by such an obvious loser (they’re all obviously losers when the relationship ends, so much so that we forget how wonderful they made themselves seem in the beginning). He could move on, sleep around, go about his merry day, but he had ruined me, and I would never be worth anything again.
I was a wreck. Logic, had I been listening to it, would have told me that none of those thoughts were true. I was not ruined, and even if I were a pizza face for the rest of my pregnancy, that was still only 9 months. Truth be told, I probably would have stayed single during that whole period even if I hadn’t been pregnant, to heal from the abuse I suffered in the relationship and to evaluate my mistakes so that I wouldn’t make them again. But the part of my brain that produces logic had either gone on vacation during my first and second trimester, or had been beaten into submission by my raging emotional side, so instead I had to turn to support groups.
The more time I spent in those groups, the more I heard other girls express the same fears I had. The difference was that when I heard other people express those fears, it sounded irrational (though natural and legitimate). Slowly, I came to believe that my fears, though natural and legitimate, were also irrational. After I came to realize this, I was able to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.
I am still involved in all those single mother support groups (most of them on line groups) and every time there is a new member, she expresses those same fears. Who’s going to want me now? My life is over. Etc. Worrying about being able to one day find a man who will love us and our children is perhaps the biggest fear of single pregnant women and single mothers (besides the obvious fear of something happening to our children). But at the same time that this fear is widely shared by single women, there is a certain shame of expressing it anywhere but amongst other single mothers.
Society teaches us that we should be ashamed for having gotten pregnant out of wedlock. We were, in whatever way, irresponsible, either by failing to use birth control, or choosing a bad partner, or by having premarital sex, and society says we deserve what we get. Society ignores those who get away with this behavior, it is easy to pretend that they are still pure even though they participate in the same activities because they do not have the evidence of those activities protruding from their abdomen. But those of us who got pregnant are dirty, foolish, even considered to be evil, and therefore society says that it is wrong and selfish of us to want the same thing every woman wants; to find a man who will love us and raise a family with us.
Oh, that bias is much more subtle now than it was 70 years ago, when unwed pregnant women were shuffled off to “homes”, but it still exists. Somewhere along the line we were told that a single mother can never have a social life again, and shouldn’t want one because she is a foolish, disgusting, disgrace of a woman. It is a lie, of course, but its easy to believe when all your friends slowly stop calling, none of them show up to your baby shower, and a sales clerk, noticing your lack of a wedding ring, has the gall to ask why the father hasn’t popped the question yet.
Too many single mothers believe this lie. They allow themselves to be ashamed of their pasts and of their children. They don’t go out and meet new people, they don’t make themselves look nice each day, they don’t attempt to excel at their careers or education. They only thing they do is take care of their children as best as they can, children who society will probably also shun as bastards, so that it can ignore the incredible disservice it’s done to that child by handicapping his already struggling mother with lies.
I am here to remind you, in case your logic center has taken a vacation, that society is lying when it says that you have anything to be ashamed of. I am here to remind you that society is lying when it claims that those who did not get pregnant, yet still had sex outside of wedlock, are any more pure than you. I am here to remind you that you brought or are bringing a beautiful life into this world, and you are doing it all on your own, and that is certainly nothing to ever be ashamed of. Its something to be DAMN PROUD OF! I am here to tell you that you are still beautiful, you are still lovable, and as you grow as a mother, you will only become more so.
And most of all, I am here to tell you that you can still be a wonderful, caring, hard working and responsible mother, and date. That’s right. Single mothers, like all women, can balance dating and everything else in their lives. You might not be able to date the same way you did when you were single, and you certainly can’t be dating the same kind of guys, but you can still date. In fact, the kind of dating you can and should be doing now, will be vastly better than the kind of dating you were doing before.
Don’t let that false shame dictate how you shape the rest of your life, and certainly don’t pass that false shame onto your child. You have the power to shape a happy and fufilling life for you and your family, whether that involves finding a partner to share your family with, or choosing to go it alone. When you let yourself become handicapped by societies lies, you handicap your child as well. Teach your child that you are capable of acheiving anything, and your child will believe the same thing about himself. Let yourself get bogged down, and you bog your child down with you.
I know that every single mother posesses inside her the power to overcome the lies society tells us. I hope that together, we can make ourselves heard as real, proud, beautiful women and wonderful heads of families. I hope that by doing so, we can create a better world for our sons and daughters.