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Santa & The Single Mom: Christmas Stress

unclelewis

Last night, while making a right hand turn at a busy intersection (during rush hour no less), I was so anxious having a little cry and panicking about paying the bills that I drove into a snow bank, went into auto-pilot and put the car in neutral, and then stepped on the gas (while still in neutral), and basically scared myself back to sanity. I did not shit my pants and I consider that a victory.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

Any single parent knows how difficult it is to keep the ship afloat at home.  You finally get a little savings packed away, and voila, an emergency and then POOF, it’s gone. It feels like a really blue collar Harry Potter life without the magic of cool creatures.

No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on…

I love Christmas, and I love celebrating it. The reality is a single parent home is a vortex of anxiety and stress during the holidays. The best you can do is try to breathe deeply, and most importantly, remember that you always get through it. Always.

Now, getting through it this year has been a bit easier as we’ve had some exciting and positive distraction in our home thanks to my fabulously awesome kiddo.  I’ve also had a lot of practice throughout the years, so keeping that in mind helps to relax me a bit. If you have little ones at home, trust me; it gets easier. Not that the pressure eases, no, it actually gets worse. You become more graceful about it as the years pass if you try.

…and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

The truth is I get through the holidays with a few vices. Tipples in my morning coffee when I don’t have to go to work or be out on the roads. Knowing I can play my ukulele for distraction despite how badly I suck at it. Baking, stitching, and staying under my cozy blankets on my days off for as long as possible to meditate by counting my blessings. Oh, a fabulous drug plan, and a  good therapist go a long, long, way to always having a ho-ho-hold the stress holiday.

Mostly though, it’s counting my blessings and appreciating all of the fabulously weird, wonderful and kind people that I am proud to call friends.

And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

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Motherless Daughters and Daughterless Mothers

Painting by Saundra Lane-Galloway
Painting by Saundra Lane-Galloway

“Your mother took care of everything.” That’s what the girl in the sleek  red spa t-shirt and black spandex capri pants said to me yesterday morning upon my arrival at the spa. She said it as if it were absolutely normal. Like it was a sentence a woman hears every day.

In my case, and in the case of many other women, having a ‘mother’ who took care of everything is but a fairytale idea, right up there with prince charming, and the tooth fairy.

For women who have been orphaned by their mother, either through death, separation or circumstance, the absence of a real mother figure can be a painful space that gets revisited time and again as we make our way through various rights of passage.

In my life I have been fortunate enough to find women who have been there for me. During childbirth, my mother-in-law and grandmother. Divorce – my aunt. Mothering my own child, I cherished and held tightly to the advice of my old-school family physician – trust your instinct, and don’t let anyone tell you  any differently.

I parented fiercely, the only way I knew how. The only way that I knew how to show my child a mother’s love, and the lengths I would go to nurture and protect him. Something that I sadly lacked during my own youth and childhood, but had reinforced by the women that I have met and befriended.

So yesterday, as I turned my back to the woman at the counter, who was likely staring at my back, thinking, “Wow, that woman has a great mom.”, I thought to myself, “Yah. Yah, in fact I do have a great mom. The one that I was meant to find after so many years of feeling abandoned.”

If you were raised in an atmosphere that has made you turn inward, and lose trust in the women around you (I was raised to believe you didn’t get too close to other women because they’d steal your man),  open yourself up to the possibility that older women are great teachers, and younger women are hungry for female mentors.

Our romantic relationships flounder, our bodies change, our desires and the things that make us happy morph with time. It has been the older, wiser women in my life who have helped me understand, not feel crazy, and enjoy this ride we call womanhood. The younger ones remind me of the spitfire I used to be, and make me wonder at the more subdued version of my younger self whom I have become.

Being a motherless daughter has its obvious drawbacks, but there are benefits too. You get to choose your mothers and form healthy bonds with strong, wise women who are more than willing to light the path.

Open yourself to the possibilities that are presented to you. I wish you all the joy of having incredible ‘mothers’!

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Getting Mr.WantYouNeedYouGottaHaveYou & My Priorities Straight

Oneroom bathroom
Oneroom bathroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a man. A very handsome, powerful, kinky man. And I wanted him. All the time. Even when I didn’t feel  like moving or eating or breathing, the thought of him made my body feel like it was on fire. In a good sort of way, not like I’d caught some weird V.D. It was more like I was on a long, slow burn from the inside out, and his body was the only thing hot enough not to burn inside of it.

Everything about him turned me on. He was the only man I had ever met, EVER, who made me feel like a tongue-tied, fumbling little girl. Exhausted, and at my wit’s end, I would make time for him, steal moments to call, to email, to get my bikini line waxed and read up on foot fetishes, being submissive, and other wonders that took me away from single-parenthood and my work.

I didn’t see him often. Being unavailable was part of the charm that had me spellbound. He was a wizard of titillating anticipation always leaving me wanting more.

My  friends, I am going to tell you a story of how disastrous a hunger like this can be for a mysterious, powerful, man. It’s not nearly as dangerous for a mother, because us moms have our priorities straight.

Way back when, I had turned the tables on my Mr.Want-You-Need-You-Gotta-Have-You, and had become somewhat aloof and unavailable. Truth be told, I was beginning to realize that no, I would not change this power-hungry man. Instead, I would just keep getting more and more hurt by his lavish love-making, and cruel absences.

My aversion made him even more determined to have me fall head over heels for me. In his quest for being craved, he made plans with me for a Saturday evening. Curious to know what his motives were, and hankering for a thorough and proper….evening, I arranged to get a sitter, and have him over for a few hours. I never arranged for a sitter. But this, him, the thought of being lost in his wild fantasies for a couple of hours was too much to resist.

The day before he was supposed to come over, I came down with a wicked cold-fever and all.  I called to let him know that I was not well, and that I didn’t think seeing one another would be a good idea.  To my utter surprise, he said, “ Let me come over and take care of you.”

What? Was this really happening? Was this finally turning into something special? Was my Mr. Want-You-Need-You-Gotta-Have-You turning into Mr.I-Can’-Live-Without-You? Wow. Another shining example of why, at any moment, a single-gal’s bikini line should be immaculately groomed.

After I got my kiddy packed up for a few hours with his great auntie, I came back home. My kiddy was psyched for a few hours of play time, and for the very first time since I’d met Mr. Want-You-Need-You-Gotta-Have-You, I was excited in a relaxed way to see the number one guy on my man-list.

I slipped into some jeans and a cozy sweater. It was a far cry from the high heels, garters, and wicked lingerie that usually made it’s way to his fingertips. He was coming over to take care of me after all, and it was time, so it seemed, to let my guard down and be taken care of.

He called on his way, and asked what he could bring me. Not knowing the first thing about being taken care of, I said that I didn’t’ need anything. He arrived at my door with my favourite tea latte, and a stack of magazines and books that he bought, hoping that I might like some of them. A girl could get used to this.

With my stuffy nose, and jitters from my feverish chills, we snuggled up together on my duvet, and set about the business of cuddling, reading, and tea-sipping. This was the tenderness that I imagined couples indulged in nightly. I have such a good imagination don’t I ladies?

After a few minutes into the snuggling, he softly  kiss my parched lips, taking my chin in his large, strong hands. Surely to God this must be love, I thought, hoping that he wouldn’t take too long, because I couldn’t  breathe out of my nose.  I was snotty, and fevered, and he was kissing me! Yay! Triumph!

During round two of the tender, I-need-to-kiss-my-sweet-baby-girl-to-make-her-feel-better,  the phone rang. Now, any mother knows that when your kid is away, you jump at the sound of the phone ringing.

Who else could it be? All of my friends knew what was happening at my place, and wouldn’t dare call and interrupt.They would be far too busy crossing their fingers, chanting ancient incantations, and praying I didn’t say anything stupid and ruin it.

Nope the phone ringing could only mean one thing. My baby needed me.

I picked up the phone, “What’s wrong?” I panicked as I heard my son’s crying in the background.

“Something is wrong with the kiddy, he’s burning up.” I could hear the panic in my aunt’s  voice.

“I’ll be right there. Put a cold cloth on his head and make sure he’s not covered up.”

In an instant I turned from women-to-be-delicately-cared-for to scorpio-mom-on-a-mission. “Get up and get in the car!” I yelled at Mr.Childless-What-The-Hell-Just-Happened.

“I’ll just go home and let you do what you need to do,” he said, getting up and heading for the door.

“Get in the god-damned car. I might need to hold him and you need to drive.”

He knew by the sound of my voice that there wasn’t a choice. I would tear his testicles off with one swipe if he disobeyed. Within a moment we were in my car, and racing down the city street to get to the most important guy in the world.

Mr.Childless-What-The-Hell-Just-Happened  was tall. Very tall. Like over 6’4” tall. In his shock, and hurry not to lose his life to my mother-rage, he had stuffed himself in the front passenger’s side of the car, and hadn’t thought to move the seat back. With his knees touching  his ears, he looked like someone had abducted him at gunpoint. This was not the evening of manly caring for his little woman that we’d agreed to.

At my auntie’s home, I ran in, scooped up my kiddy and fastened him, his snotty nose, and screaming, fevered self into the car seat, and made a bee-line home.

At home, I stripped him down to nothing. “Ah, is there anything I can help you with, or should I just go now?” my servile sexy man asked nervously, still in his shoes at the front door.

His tone was obviously pleading, and although I knew he was out of his depth, I looked at him disgustedly, thinking, “You testicle-deficient coward. Of course I need you! I’ve got a sick, screaming kid and you’re just standing there like a dork.”

“Run a cool bath,” I said, as I took my baby’s temperature. 103.5. He needed a dose of acetaminophen and cool bath to bring this temp down.  My wee little kiddy walked to the bathroom, shivering from the cold he felt from being so fevered. His crying had subsided with some cuddles, knowing that mommy was going to take care of him.

Mr. I-Will-Never-Ever-Date-A-Woman-With-Children was so keyed up, that when he tried to turn the water on in the tub, he pulled the cold water off. OFF. Like, totally off the wall.

When I walked in the bathroom, my sexy man was standing there with the cold water knob in his hand, and my wonderful kiddy in his fevered state was taking a wiz on Mr.Wonderful’s designer pant leg.

This night had turned into more entertainment than I had bargained for.

“I think you should just go home,” I said, taking the knob from my man’s  hand and screwing it back into place.  I didn’t follow him out, instead I helped my wee little kiddy into the tub, and washed his little body down until I could feel that he was cooler to the touch.  I didn’t’ even hear the door shut.

I dried my kiddy off, got him in some light jammies, and tucked him in beside me, moving the swath of books and magazines that my Mr. Want-You-Need-You-Gotta-Have-You had brought for me to make me feel better.

With my little bruiser snoring quietly in my arms, two tea cups sat cold on the night table. Although I knew that the chance for the night we had planned would never happen again,  looking down at my child, I could have cared less. Dozing off with my babe in arms, I giggled out loud at the sight of my little one peeing on that man’s legs.  And the world was good.

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She Can Have it ‘All’, I Don’t Want It

“We have to be careful in this era of radical feminism, not to emphasize an equality of the sexes that leads women to imitate men to prove their equality. To be equal does not mean you have to be the same.”
~Eva Burrows~

 Our table of 7 was about to start the first course of dinner hosted at a private club, when a tall, fair-haired man asked “Where’s your husband?!”.

 It was very kind of this gent to be concerned about not starting to eat until everyone was seated. I like that kind of consideration. It was clear however that this man was fishing for information in a rather obtuse, ignorant way. Just as clearly as there was no Mr. ANDSHELAUGHS joining us for dinner.

Now, I could have answered in any number of ways, like; I’m not married, or He’s dead, or Which one, the good-looking one, or the rich one?  Instead, in my very droll fashion I looked at him very seriously and said, “I’m sure my second husband is waiting for me at our villa in France.”, and then I started my meal without so much as a hint that I was pulling his very arrogant leg.

You see, this man expressed his disapproval for me not having a husband as if I were missing a limb or had perhaps arrived at the event sans trousers. Whatever the case, he felt that I was not a successful woman because I did not come with a partner.  I, in his opinion, did not, “Have it All.” I’m sure that his wife would have gladly given him up if he weren’t loaded to the gills. I’m sure without him or his vulgar jokes his wife still would have felt content, as if she had it ‘ALL’.

So my dear readers, that brings us to the wonderful idea of a woman, “having it all’. Hmmm.  All? What is all? It has come to mean a great career, a fabulous husband, over-achieving children and a list the length of your arm of  material possessions.  All.  Poor me. I guess I don’t have it all. I love my job, but do I have a career that’s taken off like a meteorite? No. Instead I wiggled out a niche for myself in my area of expertise that allowed flexibility and a supportive working environment for a single working mother. My husband went the way of my 28″ waist many, many years ago, and my material possessions are enough to get by on and then a few extra pretty things.

An article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic with the not-so-shocking title, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” was suggested to me by one of my friends (who, by the standard of the author of this article also doesn’t have it all, despite having a husband, an education, a job and two beautiful children).

The article is written by Anne Marie Slaughter, a previous U.S. State Department worker who writes about the difficulty juggling work in Washington D.C., and her family back home in Princeton, New Jersey. In the article Ms. Slaughter says that she’s writing about her own demographic, “…highly educated, well-off and privileged”. I think privileged is the key here Ms. Slaughter. 

If anyone, male or female, chooses a career miles away from their family, and expects to not be bothered at work with parenting issues, not only are they privileged and well-off, they are out of touch with reality. I don’t care to hear the whining, even if it’s written in a well-reputed magazine like the Atlantic. This is a choice you have made. I don’t go around whining because I could have been a great author, wonderful CEO or world’s greatest lover BUT I chose to stay around to watch my kid grow up. Get real.

The article goes on to give a couple of sentences of thoughtfulness to poor souls like myself, ‘single mothers’,and my peers who are less concerned about having it all and more concerned about holding on to what they do have. Wait a minute here. I’m a single mother. You’re darn right I’m worried about holding on to what I do have, but maybe I have it all right here. Did you ever think of that?

 Yes, statistically women are underpaid compared to men, and the majority of household responsibility falls on the woman’s shoulders, and life certainly gets tough – just ask my tissue box.  But what kind of expectations are we trying to live up to? Expectations set by  the rich-getting-richer and losing touch with reality, (oh my god imagine it!) like raising their own kids, owning a single home (shame!), and not getting bonuses that exceed six digits ( gasp!). I’m sorry Ms. Slaughter, but no one on this planet, highly-educated-well-off-and-priviliged as they may be, is worth that much more than anyone else.

The sad part about the perpetuated myth of women being able to have it all is that it has been spoon-fed to generations of women by other women who have been there and know it’s all bullshit. The very people who raise and mentor us from childhood to womanhood are weaving a myth like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and good old St. Nick. “ALL”, needs to be redefined, and re-programmed into the social mindset of women.

I redefined “ALL” for myself a long time ago, and recently got a great kick in the rear end to look at it again. Despite not coming from a privileged family ( I actually come from a prohibitive family when it comes to personal success and achievement, but I’m saving that for my blog about booze, hookers and therapists), I have a decent education – university and two post-graduate certifications…more to come.  I also have a healthy child who not only was athlete of the year, is also an honour student and a highest achiever in some academic subjects. I have a job that is meaningful and pays the bills. Most importantly, I am healthy. I belong to a social club, a sports team, and travel once a year for holidays. That is “ALL” for me, plus some really nice extras.

I go back to the article in The Atlantic and ask myself, “Am I nuts, or are some people out there just really gullible when it comes to setting priorities?” Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges does a great job of deconstructing how we’ve bought into a culture that is taking away our humanity, and even the nature of what it means to be male and female.

I am not a big sympathiser of men’s issues.  They don’t give birth, they get paid more than me on average, don’t menstruate or get yeast infections. Men don’t have to wear bras, maxi-pads, or worry about nipples poking through t-shirts. They do, en masse, with very few exceptions, lack the emotional insight that females have, so I’ll call it even.

Men never talk about having it “ALL” because they don’t, and we don’t, as a society, have any expectations of men besides holding down a regular job. They certainly aren’t pressured to maintain the household income by going out to work every day, while getting children off to school, running errands, getting the groceries, do doctor’s appointments, then cook dinner, do homework and get all dolled- up in some kind of sexy-man lingerie so we can take advantage of the poor wee-man-things when we crawl into bed. I realize some men do this, but if the household goes to crap, it’s the woman who gets the hairy eyeball ninety-nine percent of the time.

Our modern, western culture has done one hell of a good job of dividing the sisterhood. Once we recognize that, we’ll be a lot better off. I love this quote from Eva Burrows, “We have to be careful in this era of radical feminism, not to emphasize an equality of the sexes that leads women to imitate men to prove their equality. To be equal does not mean you have to be the same. ”

As soon as women redefine, “ALL”, we will have it.  As soon as women stop looking down their noses at one another for staying home with their kids,  or not staying home with their kids, we will have it “ALL”. No woman should be uneducated, or struggle to have a roof over her head or not have care for her children.

We owe one another more support. Perhaps it might come at a small cost to ourselves, a bit of time, a few dollars, but it will result in amazing success when it comes to raising children with integrity, wisdom, and a sense of social welfare. If everyone grabs hold and tries to balance the boat, just think about what a happy little trek down the river of life we would have. Perhaps even some more hoochie-coochie ladies and gents.

Just in case you’re wondering, I really don’t care about your judgement, and I really could care less about sharing my table at a social function with a Neanderthal of a man who thinks I’m not whole because my husband isn’t by my side.  I will marry a man when being with him makes me a better mother. I will work at a job that allows me to truly support my family, not just financially. I don’t care that I traded some career success to be around when my kid has had a fever, or a special event at school.

At the end of the day, my “All” is that I lived with integrity (and a good share of mischief). I do have it “ALL”, and I’m not buying any more of what “THEY” think I should have.