Hi. My name is Monica and I am a bad mother. I am not a neglectful or abusive mother just a bad one.
I know this because good mothers do not resent their children. They do not wonder, “Am I just not motherly?”
Good mothers are patient and understanding. Good Mothers do crafts and picnics that do not end in frustration and confusion. Good Mothers do not spend fifteen minutes in the bathroom sobbing after picking up her child from day care. So, I decided I am a bad mother.
My husband and I divorced when my son Cole was 8 months old. We had invested nine years in our marriage but once Cole was born we couldn’t hold it together. Well, I couldn’t. He worked part-time, if ever, and I was the one who worked, and cleaned, and shopped, and paid bills, and kept asking, “Please help me, why won’t you help me?”
He never voiced it until the end, one of the last discussions we ever had as a married couple, when he finally admitted his feelings on the roles of men and women in marriage. He began, “Men take care of the outside, and women take care of the inside.” My response, “But we live in an apartment.”
“When we have a house of our own, I will take care of the outside.”
Trying to follow this logic down its path, I just nodded. Hoping this wasn’t going where I thought it was.
I knew I couldn’t keep doing it all once Cole was born. When it was just me and him, yeah, I could hack it but I wanted to go back to school and I could barely even make it through the day without falling asleep. I was begging. Then the truth shot out of his mouth like it had been dying to escape for years.
“If I had wanted to do bitches work, I would have never gotten married.”
I believe I asked him to leave our marital apartment about a week after that. The day after I found out he had connected with a seventeen year old high school senior.
Not only a bad mother, but a bad wife to boot. 0 for 2.
So we split and I delved into my role as single mother with a force not to be reckoned with. I was prepared to put my child first at all costs. No man would be altering my relationship with my child. I wouldn’t do what his father had already started, parading people in front of our child who wouldn’t be in the picture a week later. I would not succumb to petty selfishness that comes with doing what one wants when one wants to do it. I am a mother dammit!
Then the most unexpected thing happened.
My baby didn’t want to be with me. For 3 years I watched my chubby little toddler crawl his way to boyhood and each day I picked him up from daycare he would say, “Why are YOU here? I wanted my daddy.” I never knew a 4 year old could hurt me so deeply. Of all people to slice me open to my core it was one person on the planet I made.
The first few times, I dismissed it as a passing phase. Oh, he won’t keep doing that. Even at 4 he has to recognize how hurtful and how rude he is being. I politely talked to him and explained, “It is perfectly ok to miss your daddy, but you will see him on Thursday.” Each time he would look me in the eye and reject me publicly or privately I would explain it is ok to have these feelings, and that he would see him very soon. I promised.
In the meantime Cole kept accidentally calling me “Net” which was short for Annette. Daddy’s new live in girlfriend. “Hey Net! Oh, I mean mommy, can I…” The injustices rolled off of a non-stop conveyor belt. But for some reason, I kept to my plan. Which was, always being honest with Cole and treat him as you would want to be treated. I even used that for Cole’s father. Each time I wanted to be that Ex Wife who said, “You only pay me pennies a month, I am about to be evicted either you help me or you can’t see your child.” I never did. I did once breach the subject of more child support. Just enough to cover day care costs. I was told, “Well he could live with me and I could pay for him just fine.” I faced eviction, my car was about to get repossessed every month for years, but I always made it through.
I never pulled the “Ex-Wife” card because regardless of his opinions, or my opinions of him, he was Cole’s father. We made him together. Half and Half equaled our Cole so why did I get more rights? Yes, I worked harder. Yes, I kept random men out of Cole’s life. Yes, I struggled on my own without family help because that was my job. But it still didn’t allow me more rights to my child than his father. As painful as that truth is, it is in fact that. A truth.
All of this Ghandi-like single motherdom began to take its toll. I became an impatient mother. On the nights I didn’t have Cole I would drink. I never could drink while he was home; on the off-chance something went wrong in the night I had to have my wits about me. But the 5 nights a month he was with his dad, I drank to make up for the rest.
I would sum up, out loud, my life.
“So, you are poverty-stricken in a bad neighborhood divorced broke a horrible mother, no social life no prospects of a better job failing your classes lonely miserable about to lose the small amount of crap you actually do call your own.
And I would ask to the empty room, did I miss anything??
“Oh yeah, my kid doesn’t even like me.”
That would be followed by either wild dancing at the joy of this revelation and summation of my existence or a sobfest that would last about an hour. Depended on where I was in the bottle.
Those first six years were the hardest of my life. I continued to stick with the belief that if I did the best I could for him. Loved him, nurtured him, was as patient as I could be, let him know how wonderful and special and proud I was of him, that it would all turn around.
And of course it didn’t. This isn’t a fairytale. But, it did get better. And for that I learned one very important lesson, stick with your guns. Be true to how you believe things should be as long as they are fair and just. They pay off is almost non-existent except for the fact that when you look back on it all you will with pride. I know I do.
While Cole is now 9 years old and spends a great deal of time with his father who got him involved in numerous sports he calls me when his feelings are hurt. He asks to lay with me at night because he misses me. He doesn’t let go of my neck at night time when I tuck him in. And I know that I am a bad mom in the sense that I couldn’t give him the fairytale. But all day, every day, I am the best kind of mom. I am Cole’s mom.
*Work of non-fiction/fiction.