Table of Contents
FROM THE EDITOR
Work’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’m about to make a career change (though not necessarily change careers) and figuring out what’s best for my daughter and me has been, well, challenging. 9-5, no weekends? Less structure, more stress? Mommy track, fast track? It’s hard to determine what will be best in the long run. I asked this month’s authors to think about work and being a Single Mother by Choice. Their articles gave me a lot of food for thought. Let me know what you think.
Laura Isabel Serna
P.S. The next issue will be devoted to the topic of “play”, broadly construed. If you have an article idea send me an email at email@example.com.
SETTLING FOR LESS AND GETTING MORE
For pretty much all of my life, I’ve been able to scoff at people who hate their jobs but keep doing them. The curmudgeons, the deadbeats, the complainers, the slackers. The coworkers who ooze negative energy, hate every boss, and think every project is stupid – but sit there, day after day, collecting their paycheck. I scorned them for their lack of passion and willingness to waste their lives doing a job they hated. I loved my job, worked hard, and excelled. They were sell-outs.
Then I became a mom – a single mom by choice. I was still in my globetrotting phase of my career, and I lived far from family. My best friends were scattered around the world. And though Claire was wonderful and perfect, and my job was exciting, I was lonely. Then it got worse. When my daughter was just a few months old, my mother fell ill and needed open-heart surgery. We flew home to Canada on a ticket that cost $1800, but the surgery was postponed at the last minute, and I had to leave again, with the baby, and wait and worry from afar as my mom (thank God) survived and began her recovery. After much soul-searching, I decided to move myself and the baby closer to home. My company, where I’d enjoyed more than a decade of rewarding, challenging, fantastic work, offered me a transfer, with a pay cut, to help me with my personal life. As I prepared for the new job, I quickly realized it was going to be mind-numbing work — complex financial reporting about an industry that befuddles most. A huge step backwards. But I swallowed my fear and my pride, and I accepted the transfer, and packed up the baby, and we moved to my new life.
And now I hate my job. I rationalize a bit, noting that some days I don’t hate the job so much as I simply am not that interested in it. I enjoy my colleagues. The work is challenging, but not in a good way. And the smaller salary I accepted to get the transfer makes my budget really, really tight. It took eight months to sell my house in the States, at a loss. Eight months of paying a mortgage in one city and rent in another. Claire, now a toddler, needs childcare, and though we can find nearly-new shoes at the thrift shop, the grocery bill is still hefty, and I splurged on a membership at the zoo. I need electricity, and a phone (though no cable TV or internet access). And I pay for gas, and I bought my girl some markers and paints, and a snowsuit, and swim diapers for our twice-a-week evening of free swimming at the local pool. And insurance – oodles and oodles of insurance, to mitigate the risks of single parenting. And a final, delicious, necessity: IVF fees for baby to-be, my little turnip, finally kicking hard enough for me to be sure, every day, that it’s real. Hello, little one.
And my job pays for (almost) all of that. Even though I don’t really like the job, and do it with little passion, the job pays for me and my daughter and all the comforts and necessities and even luxuries of our lives. I just have to show up, and put the hours in, and do what is asked of me. And I do try to excel, with moderate success. In return I get paid. I work only 40 hours a week. I get health insurance, and paid sick days, and a generous amount of vacation. And free coffee in the lunchroom. Even though I don’t really like the job.
At times I worry that my decision to take an imperfect job, a career downgrade, sends a bad message to Claire. I want her to see that a woman can do anything, not that we have to settle for less. SMCs are often careerdriven, successful women, who have wrestled very personally with the desire to have it all, sometimes belatedly. So I’m proud to be a working mom. I want my children to see that a woman, a single woman, can do what it takes to provide for a family. I am determined to give them a good life, so that when they talk about their childhood, they’ll say “My mom was single, and we didn’t have a ton of money, but she was strong and we were happy,” not, “My mom
was single, and worked long hours, she loved her job, but I wish I’d seen her more.”
My parents, always proud of my career success and impressed by the fun things I’ve been able to do, have watched me grow up a bit in this last year. I haven’t complained much, but the change in my circumstance has been obvious, and they’ve had the grace not to say “Welcome to parenthood.” My father was a truck driver, my mother a teacher. They weathered difficult jobs and hateful bosses. And my brother and I had piano lessons and went to Disney World and rode new bikes. The closest my mom has come to acknowledging the universal truth of parental sacrifice was to advise one night, when I confided my dismay and weariness: “Keep your eye on the prize, kiddo.”
Ah, the prize: The time at home with my girl, close to family, after a decade of long travels and foreign places. By the time Claire was a year old, I’d lost track of how many flights she’d been on. Now our big trips consist of the grocery store and the local play group. We see my parents and Claire’s cousins regularly. I don’t have to decide between a juicy assignment and quality time at home – my workday ends at 4:01, every day, and I’m the first parent on the playground in the evening and the last one you’ll ever find on the laptop over dinner, trying to multi-task.
It’s not perfect. I still lust after fancier assignments and occasionally regret the path forsaken. I calculate how old my kids should be before I can ramp my career back up. But after years of thinking my job was my life’s calling, and disdaining those who hadn’t found theirs, my eyes have been opened. Where I once saw unmotivated cubicle dwellers, now I see determined parents, eager to get home to their kids, their hearts in a different place. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I can admit that, boy, was I wrong about the whole job thing. Turns out you don’t have to love your job. You have to love your kid. You have to love your kid enough to earn your pay, so that you can come home happy in the late afternoon and go to the playground. And when the ice-cream truck jingles by and the daughter points and pronounces her newest words — “eyes key” – you can reach into your pocket and pull out a bill and barely even wince when you hand over $3.50 for a small chocolate vanilla twist. Because THIS is what life is about. Who knew? I thought it was about the job. I thought doing a job you hated was selling your soul, being a coward, letting life pass you by. But it turns out doing a job you hate for someone you love isn’t selling your soul, it’s buying a little freedom, a little security, an entry into responsible parenthood, plus a new snowsuit, a whole lot of diapers, and the joy of hearing “mommy, mommy” while the sun is still in the sky and there’s still plenty of time to whip up dinner for two.
SINGLE MOM --- UNEMPLOYED:
Having no income stream takes on new meaning when responsible for another human being
by Nancy Nisselbaum
Eight months ago today was my last day at work. I’d been with Boating Magazine for 10 years, the longest I’d ever been anywhere. Yes, I was bored— how many boat reviews can a person edit without wanting to bang her head against a wall? But it was a good job. It paid well—relatively speaking for the publishing world. I had a great boss, who understood when I needed to leave early, knowing that I would still do whatever it took to get the magazine out on time. I had staff that respected me and listened to me, accepted my edits or told me why they didn’t work, answered my questions about horsepower and the differences among types of boats.
And then it was gone. I knew it was coming. But I ignored the warning signs. When my company stopped contributing to my 401(k), I should have taken the money that I was putting into it and put it into something I could access later. But surely, I thought, whatever company buys this wonderful magazine will certainly want an expert managing editor to keep running it. When salaries were slashed by 20 percent, I rolled with it. When I was looking to buy a two-bedroom apartment because my son and I were outgrowing our one bedroom, I asked my boss his opinion. He said he wouldn’t do it. I ignored him. Nine months later, I thought maybe I should have listened to him. But then again, imagine what life would be like now if the two of us were still in that cramped space.
I’ve been unemployed before. It’s almost par for the course when you work in magazines. But never have I been unemployed and out of work as I am now. There was always freelance work. Magazines always needed someone during the closing week, the time when each monthly issue was sent to the printer. My friend Margaret hired me when I was laid off, and I hired her. But in these economic times, Margaret’s staff was slashed by three and she was told there was no money for freelancers. She’s holding her breath that her magazine stays afloat.
And then there’s the time factor. As a single woman, it didn’t matter if a magazine needed me till 2 a.m. I just took car service home or rode the subway if that particular company was cheap. But with a little boy at home, it didn’t make economic sense to work so late when I’d have to pay a babysitter to cover the time that after school didn’t. So I’m also not as available for the limited freelance gigs that are out there. Sure, there are writing jobs available— 500 words for $5. I’m used to paying people $1 a word, but in the new online world, people just want to get published and will work for peanuts. I’ve done it but it doesn’t make me happy, nor does it put food on the table. My severance money is running out and the weekly unemployment stipend barely covers my mortgage and maintenance. I admit, though—I’m lucky. My parents are willing to help and have. But then there’s the underlying shame at times of being a 48-year-old woman who relies on her parents. I’m not foolish enough to say no, and they certainly don’t begrudge me the help, but still…
Then there’s Marshall, the light and joy of my life. You’d think—I thought—that since I was home, our relationship would grow stronger, we’d bond and understand each other better. But honestly, I’ve felt strangely disconnected from him. As a working parent, I strived to find the time to spend with him, to make each minute matter. But now that the minutes are endless, the TV is on more, we don’t play as many games, there’s not as much money so we don’t go out as much. He stayed in his after school program because he wanted to. He has his friends there and he participates in clubs. I’d want to go there too. I pick him up on Fridays in the schoolyard, but that’s the only change.
Maybe it’s him getting older so he doesn’t need to engage with me as much. But I feel it differently. I feel as if I’ve pulled away from him. And I don’t know why. There’s no reasonable explanation. I certainly don’t love him any less. I certainly enjoy the time we spend together and the interaction that we do have. But I don’t enjoy them the same way. Work was my time. I was an accomplished, well-respected professional. I had friends, I went out to lunch, I engaged in conversations that had nothing to do with Pokemon or Transformers. My friends at home are wonderful. But many of them are stay at-home moms who don’t work outside the home, and they have their routines and their lunch dates (many of which I can’t afford to join anymore). And when we get together, we talk about the kids, not about horsepower or the state of the publishing industry or mailing and paper costs. It’s just different and not as satisfying.
And when I do get together with old work friends, we talk about the job hunt, which is frustrating and heartwrenching. I shouldn’t still be unemployed. I am talented. But my industry is tanking and it’s hard to transition when there are so many people out there also unemployed who’ve been doing what I want to transition to for x number of years. I got a call the other night from an ad that I had answered—Director of Communications and Community Outreach. Sounds great. It needs the skills I’ve used but turned in a slightly different way. It sounded intriguing. She was interested in me. And then came those magic words—we’re paying $30,000. In New York City, that’s impossible. It wouldn’t pay my mortgage and maintenance, no less buy food. I had to say no to the interview. I realize that my desire to enter the nonprofit world will mean a cut in pay, and I’m willing to go back 10 or 15 years salary-wise, but 20 or 25 years? I just can’t. I can’t afford it.
I HATE CATS
I love cats. To me, a house isn’t a home until there’s a furry beast wandering the hallways. Currently, Marshall and I have three cats and a snake (no, they don’t mingle). After eight months, I never want to see a cat again. I can’t stand their meowing, their jumping, their fighting, their neediness. Hey, I’m needy too. Who’s going to listen to my whining and reach down and scratch me behind the ears?
As a working parent, there was a secret joy in being home alone in the apartment. No kid running around asking for things, a beautiful silence that was only interrupted when I wanted something to make noise. Now? I can’t stand being home-bound. I volunteer at my synagogue, do some stuff to get out of the house. But I can feel these four walls pressing in on me. I miss riding the subwa (believe it or not). I find that I’m doing less reading. Why? Because I read on the subway. That was my routine and it’s hard to feel okay about lying on the couch with a book when I should be looking for work. What if the perfect job is posted while I’m reading Chapter 8? I didn’t say these thoughts were rational, but they are a reality.
Marshall’s vision of me these past eight months has been sitting in front of the computer. Some of that time is searching job sites, some is spent on Facebook, some is doing the few freelance projects that I’ve managed to acquire. He wants things. I want things. He looks at me and says, “I know, I know. After you get a job.” He understands, but then again he doesn’t. I’ve tried not to change too many things about our lives. No, we don’t go out to dinner as much, but we’ll have friends over. School winter break starts today, and we’re not going anywhere. There are no vacations planned for our future. He’ll go to camp this summer (thanks to my tax refund and my parents, if necessary). We’ll go to movies and I have museum memberships. But a friend called and told me about a program the Museum of Natural History was running. It looked like an extraordinary camp for this week of school break. But it cost $500. I had to say no. That money could be much better spent. Had I been employed, I would have signed him up in a flash. But he’s using his own money more. He buys apps for his iTouch (the one my sister gave him when she upgraded to an iPhone) and hands me the money. So he knows, and that’s a good thing. He’s always been pretty good with money. He saves when he really wants something and spends like a madman when it suits him. Just like his mom, I guess.
So after eight months, what have I learned? That this economy stinks! That there are too many people out of work and that companies are making do with under-qualified people doing the job of three. A friend told me a story. There was a job opening at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. It advertised that it was paying $32,000. They got 4,000 applicants. How did the employers narrow down their search? They only interviewed people they wouldn’t have to give a parking spot to. Sheesh.
So, single mom unemployed. There are things I should have done differently when I saw the writing on the wall. I need to try to reestablish my relationship with my son. We’re good, but I feel that disconnect and I hope it’s not projecting onto him. And I need to get out of the house more. Hopefully, this will turn around soon. Working at Trader Joe’s is looking pretty good right now. But I don’t think they’re hiring. Single mom unemployed. It’s depressing. Wish me luck. Another job that I can apply for just got posted.
DEAR MS. ESSIE
Have you changed your career trajectory since becoming a mother, and how do you feel about that? If you are as ambitious as ever, how is that working? If you’re still awaiting motherhood, what are your plans, your hopes or your fears vis-a-vis work-life balance? Ms. Essie once again turned to her best informants, fellow SMCs.
On an emotional level, since I spent over 25 years working hard and reaching the level I did at work, it’s hard to be mommy tracked. But then part of me is so focused on the children and being a mom, and uninterested in work, that I kind of don’t care either. It’s sort of a feeling like if I’m going to be at work,I want to be competent and well-regarded, but, honestly, I really don’t want to be at work. I’d rather be a full time mom who doesn’t have to work outside the home at all.
I just wanted to weigh in on the career issue as a single mom with a 6 1⁄2 year old (also 27w w#2). I have been able to keep my career going even though I travel for work. (I am a pilot, so all I do is travel for work.) I am fine and my son is great –smart, independent, caring and very flexible. He stays with my parents or various friends when I am traveling (about 10 days per month). The great part is the other 20 days of the month that I am not traveling I am at home full time.
I’m not going to say it is easy to leave my son for 10 days per month, but I will say that the benefit of that sacrifice is that it allows me a lot of quality time at home while still being able to pay the bills. Right now I am in a non-flying position temporarily due to pregnancy. This position allows me to work from home – and, go figure, I miss the travel.
So, there are always tradeoffs to be made, but I don’t think that as a single mom, or in thinking about becoming a single mother, it is necessary to give up your dreams for a career. It just depends what trade offs you are willing to make to create the balance that is right for you.
I am completely content with my career at the moment. It isn’t the most important thing in my life, and I’m fine with that. I have many years to work ahead of me and my take is that the work will still be there when my son is grown. I don’t want to miss out. My priority is no longer work. I enjoy my work and my identity is somewhat wrapped up in my work, but being a mother is…what’s the right word…primary, maybe? Being a mother is my first job, the rest will still be there when I’m ready to pick up the pace. Not sure when that will be…
My boss tried to make an example of me by showing everyone that a single mother *is* promoteable. I was promoted 3 times in the three years after my daughter was born. However, with each promotion came increased responsibility and more hours (I’m a CPA, working for a publicly held company). It got to the point that I felt my daughter was being raised by babysitters. I had a breakdown one day and said that I couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily, I am well respected and well liked in my company (been there for 12 years), and have been “mommy tracked” ever since. However, I LOVE being mommy tracked! I only have to work an 8-hour day, and everyone knows my time constraints and they work around it. I have the flexibility to work from home if I need to, but am expected to be at the office most days. I’ve also never had to take a cut in pay or a demotion in title…in fact, just got a promotion…in title only. Yes, the work isn’t as challenging, but seriously, I don’t need any other challenges in my life…other than motherhood!
I work for a Biotech company and hold a regional sales position. I cover 3 states. I have been very fortunate in my career, both with recognition due to success and also income/bonus. Honestly, I used to be a lunatic- always having to be ‘in the know” and always stepping up to the plate when something needed to be done. I think the only reason I have been able to scale back some since having Noah is because I have “proven” myself over the years and I am a very valued employee. It’s been difficult for me personally- no one holds me to a higher standard than I do. But, as my boss reminded me, its ok to not be operating at 125% all the time…95-100% is just fine. I’m definitely not the “go to” person anyone…at least, I don’t feel like I have all the answers like I used to. I don’t have time to read and keep up to date on the latest literature and studies related to the disease state that I work in.
I was never extremely ambitious to begin with – while I’m a hard worker and do very well – it’s never been my goal to be a partner or a managing director. The reason why I became an SMC was because my boyfriend didn’t want any more biological kids and then died on me -not because I was working so much and getting ahead that I didn’t have time to date. I’ve never put getting ahead first. So, I had no problem with going to a reduced schedule after my daughter was born. Of course, reduced schedule in my profession (CPA) is a 40-hour week with some 50-60 hour weeks during busy times. Even with being “mommytracked” I still got promoted and there are only 2 levels above me(3 below) and I’m quite content to remain at this level. However, if for some reason I ever desire to become more ambitious, I always have the opportunity to do so, but I doubt I ever will. Heck, I’m already counting down to when I can retire.
I’m glad you raised this issue. I am a thinker and my greatest concern about whether to go ahead relates to work-life balance. I am a corporate lawyer, probably a just a few years away from partnership which (in part, at least) is when a lot of the hard work I’ve put in over the years really starts to pay off, not just financially but also in terms of autonomy. I also really enjoy my job, so I’m not looking to leave it if I become a mother.
All in all I think I have a great balance. Of course it helps that my mom watches my daughter, does the cooking and laundry and I have a cleaning service- that way, pretty much any time I’m home and my daughter is awake, I can spend with her. It’s been almost 6 years since then and I’m still mommy tracked at my own behest. I’ve had chances to get back into management and seriously considered it, but even though my son is now 7.5, I still wanted to have the flexibility that the job I’m performing has. I’m also able to work at home part-time now, which I wouldn’t work at home part-time now, which I wouldn’t be able to do with the managerial job. The job I’m doing now, I can do it very easily and it’s fairly non-stressful. I also have flexible hours and have more time with my son than I would have otherwise. I do get bored at my job and I’m sure that I’d be more mentally engaged if I was back on the career track, but to me there are still too many negatives. I keep telling myself that I can always reassess this at any time.
I just did a presentation today, which was a sales update on my territory. At the end, I announced that I did not win the Presidents Award in 2009 (which was the first year in 7 years that I haven’t won). However,I put up a picture of Noah and said, “I won the Mommy Award”, which is the best award I could ever hope for! Thankfully, my company and colleagues have greatly supported me through the process and they understand that I have different priorities now. Its hard though for me and I think back about life before Noah and how I didn’t have to feel like I was racing against the clock all the time. I’m learning to balance though!
I had worked my way up the ladder into a highly responsible, managerial position, only to wind downgrading to a position with much less responsibility when my son was about 20 months old. I just wasn’t able to keep up with the demands or the hours needed. I was very upset about it at the time, I’d worked hard to get to the position where I was and I felt like everyone would see it that I couldn’t hack it in the position. I didn’t get a monetary downgrade, but I also sidetracked myself so that I wouldn’t really be able to advance after that.
I live in Ontario, Canada, where maternity leave is generous and it’s not uncommon for women to take up to a full year off after having a child. So my “plan” (such that I have one at this stage) would be to take 6 months to a year off and then have full-time childcare after that to allow me to return to work. After returning to work, I know I would have to organize my time differently and become a bit more efficient, but I do think it would be possible to continue to progress in my career while raising a child.
Editor’s Note: In this feature, the wit and wisdom of our very smart and very together SMC—Ms. Essie Emcee—is tapped to answer some of the question that SMCs may face. Other sources of extraordinary wisdom can be found on the SMC listserve groups. If you have a question you’d like Ms. Essie to answer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to Box 1642, Gracie Square Station, NYC 10028
A DAILY BALANCING ACT
by Lara Donachie
Participating in a couple of on-line communities, one being for single mothers by choice, the topic of balance or priorities seems to be a hot one. Not surprising that this is a topic that I frequently discuss with the mentors in my life. Being a mom, self-employed, a women in recovery and all the other roles I play, often leaves me questioning what is the priority or who? My children will always be at the forefront but there’s also the facts that I need to work and that if I am not taking care of myself I will be of no use to them. So I have been on the search for balance since before my twin boys were born more than 2 years ago. I have tried taking them with me on work trips, dragging them to my recovery meetings and cutting back on those things. Those were not the answers.
What I have found is that overall balance in life is a misconception. It’s not possible in my world. But with that said I can achieve balance within a day. I can prioritize and reprioritize as needed and the more I let go of the outcomes and stay in the moment, the less defeated I feel and the more joy I am present for. This idea takes practice like anything else in life. It is not natural. My natural tendency is to stress about the details and feel defeated if it all doesn’t work out as I so perfectly planned. My experience is that rarely does it work out how I planned and always if I let go it works out better than I could’ve planned.
Some of the challenges have been how to find time to do paperwork, exercise and play with the boys while getting all of the housework done. I work outside of my home about 24 hours a week as an independent consultant for a few companies that manufacture and support insulin pumps/continuous glucose monitors. The big upside to this work is that I can create my own schedule for the most part and the boys can travel with me for most overnights.The difficult side is that I am contracted so I only get paid when I work, so I need to be available and flexible all of the time. With my need for a flexible schedule I now have a live-in caregiver that is scheduled 30 hours a week, she has been with us for almost a year. The other six hours that she is scheduled and I am not working, I use to take the boys to a tumbling class and most weeks we are at the doctors at least once. So the time I have to get household stuff done really has only been when they are sleeping. Our Nanny is very helpful with the day to day upkeep of the house however I still need to do the laundry, cooking, deeper cleaning, organization etc. Unfortunately, as they have gotten older they require less sleep. I have sometimes been quite resentful that the only “me” time I was getting was on the ride to and from work. So I have improvised in numerous areas.
A few of these changes are:
1. We now have an “active” play area on our top floor where I also have my exercise bike. So I put on some music and they jump in their jump-o-lene or climb through their tunnels and tents while I get 30 minutes of exercise in.
2. I set them up with crayons, paper and scissors while I do some paperwork. Sometimes they watch a movie for an hour so I can get paperwork done.
3. I have also started involving them more in the chores around the house. They have gotten very good at stripping their beds, putting laundry in baskets and “sweeping” with the little broom and dust pans.
4. I have educated myself on how to use my blackberry to its fullest potential. I have any e-mail, phone number or addresses that I think I might need while on the road. Then I make a list in my Microsoft outlook that I have synced to my blackberry, which allows me to make most of my phone calls while on the road.
5. One of the things I have really missed since having them is reading. I used to read two to three-books a week and now I am lucky to get in a book a month. So I have started borrowing
audio books from our local library and dumping them on my iPod, which I then listen to while I am driving or exercising.
I am sure that as time goes on I will have to change my current strategies and find new ones. I am frequently challenged by my mentors to approach life as a willow tree that is able to bend with the wind as opposed to an oak tree that has no flexibility. I have found the more flexible I am the more possibilities and choices I have in how to find balance in a day.
ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES
Single mother by choice at the age of 40 – that almost sounds like it was planned. But my life has rarely been lived according to a plan, which is how it has to be because when I make a plan it never seems to work out. Married with children was a plan that ended in divorce at the age of 31 – with no children. I spent nearly the next decade selfishly single and just took opportunities as they came. I swam around Manhattan, did an Ironman triathlon, moved to the Bahamas and traveled through most of Latin America.
“No plan” was working out pretty well for me. So when, at the age of 39, I started dating a 47-year-old guy who had never been married or had children, I thought I’d roll with it once again. We weren’t in love – but when you’re 39 and 47, relationships, even pretty casual dating ones, often come with sex. And when the topic of birth control was broached, I said something like, “hey, I’m 39 and I wouldn’t mind getting knocked up.” So I left it up to him and he bit! Low and behold, in the second month of intimacy, I was pregnant for the first time in my life. Maybe it was time to start planning.
Or not. Without going into too much detail, that young relationship ended with my first trimester of pregnancy and I was on a road toward single motherhood – and happily so. I had never given it much thought, but I suppose that the idea of single motherhood never frightened me and I never felt that I wouldn’t be up to it. I just never thought that I’d specifically choose it. But it wasn’t a choice – I had landed on this road and was as happy as could be. I was going to be a mother. I loved my baby as if 39 years of pent up burning desire to be a mother had been unleashed. Now it was certainly time to start planning.
Or not. At my 18-week ultrasound the doctor found some troubling markers. At 20 weeks gestation, I got the results of my amniocentesis and my precious, wanted, beloved little boy was diagnosed with trisomy 18. The textbooks call that one “incompatible with life.” Babies with this condition, who are born alive, live very short lives of struggle. My baby had an omphalocele (part of his belly and intestines on his outside). A few days later, on October 23, 2007, with a shattered heart, I said goodbye to my first son. His name was Bennett.
So there I was… knocking on the door to 40. No partner. No baby. Screw planning! I was running on instinct and adrenalin. My first call to the fertility clinic was in November of 2007. My first visit to the clinic was in December. My test cycle started in February. My first insemination was in March. My second round of IUI was on April 6th and 7th of 2008. I turned 40 on April 10th. And low and behold, in the second month of “intimacy” (with a syringe), I was pregnant for the second time in my life. My healthy, beautiful second son was born on December 16, 2008. His name is Rafael Darwin.
Single mother by choice at the age of 41 – that’s where I am. Of all the punches that I’ve rolled with in this life, none has turned out so wonderfully as my rushed choice to be a single mother at 40. I have a healthy, smart, handsome and funny one-year-old son who is my everything. I give passing thoughts to how I’ll tell him his story. I have moments of anxiety about him not having enough male role models. But mostly I just go from one day to the next, loving my son, and trying to be the best mother I can be to him. Maybe it’s time to give this “planning” business another shot?
WHAT'S THE BUZZ?
A Review of Maverick Mother
(FFC; Screen Culture Pty. Ltd.; New South Wales Film and Television Office/2007).
When I was given a viewing copy of Janet Merewether’s documentary Maverick Mother I was advisedit was “very Australian.” And, indeed, it is. Documenting her journey through trying to conceive (initially pursuing AI she ends up “falling pregnant” as the Australians say after hooking up with a Swiss surfer at a rock concert), pregnancy, birth, and the first year of motherhood, the film uses highly stylized studio sequences, archival photographs, video-diary footage, and interviews with her family to track how she went from a thirty-nine year old anxious for motherhood but missing the man to the happy mama of baby Arlo.
The film, perhaps paradoxically given its focus on single-motherhood, contemplates the meaning of fatherhood. From the moment she discovers she’s pregnant Janet tries to contact the one-night stand that made Arlo a possibility. To no avail. It’s not until the very end of the film that he appears and even then it’s not clear what his role will be in their lives or how his involvement might alter Janet’s relationship with her son. As a counterpoint to this yet to be determined father relationship, throughout the film, Merewether interviews her own rather old-fashioned father repeatedly asking his opinion about her choices. He foresees doom and gloom, but never rejects her out of hand. The nice thing about both of these threads is that Merewether—unlike Hollywood and a little more like life—offers no resolution.
Merewether’s witty take on single motherhood (the good and the challenging) and the film’s hybrid documentary style offer a refreshing Aussie counterpoint to less self-reflexive mainstream depictions of Choice families. Clever girl that Janet—combining motherhood and work, literally!
Dr. Stacy DeZutter is the new Contact Person for Jackson, Mississippi and she can be reached at (601)366-8370 or email@example.com.
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Into our hearts and into our home we welcome Yoko Anna Crislip. Born in Ohio May 31, 2007. In our arms October 10, 2008. – Julia Crislip and Big Sister Amelia
Marcia Harris is thrilled to welcome the birth of my lovely daughter Genevieve Isabella on November 25, 2009. She weighed 6 lbs. 4 oz. and 19 inches long. Icouldn’t think of a better way to spend the following Thanksgiving Day than to stare in awe at my beautiful daughter.
Shannon Leigh Keating and four year old brother Liam Daniel (ADI, same donor), are tickled pink to announce the safe arrival of la petite Emilie Shaye Elaine. Emilie was born in Ajax, Ontario, Canada on January 28, 2010. She was 6 lbs, 14 oz , 19 inches and is truly a mini Liam, with the same little chin and dimple. With all the boy vibes, her gender was a wonderful surprise to all but Liam, who had his heart set on a little sister with each planted seed. This miracle took longer to sprout and weathered many storms, including mommy’s H1N1, so she will surely grow into a strong young woman worthy of her grandmother Elaine’s name. We are ever grateful to Grandma for never ceasing to believe.
Kate Korger is happy to announce the arrival of her twins, Gavin (7 lbs 1 oz) and Greta (6lbs 7 oz) on August 19, 2009. They’re lovely and exhausting!
Jodee(JoJo) Gibson is excited to announce the arrival of her long awaited second child. Murphi Strausbaugh Gibson was born on December 11, 2009. She was born one week early at a healthy 10lb 1oz and 21.5 inches long. She’s a dream come true!! She joins her big sister Alex who just turned 17 in January 2010. We’re one happy family.
Elated mom, Julie Lund, announces the birth of her daughter, Cora Isabelle Lund. Cora was born on February 27th, 2010, and weighed in at 7 lbs 3 oz. She is beautiful!
Stacy Shapiro joyfully welcomes her newest addition, Ari Jacob, born 4/2/09. Ari weighed in at an impressive 10 lbs 11 oz, & was 21 inches long. He receives big hugs & lots of kisses from his big brother Drew (12/25/06) who couldn’t be more thrilled with his baby brother. Drew was my dream come true; having Ari fulfilled a dream I never even dared to have.
ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
This newsletter is published quarterly by Single Mothers by Choice, Inc., a nonprofit founded in 1981. Annual subscriptions to this newsletter are included free with a membership ($55 for first year, $35 for renewal) or by subscription at $25 per year. Give a friend a gift. We are a nonprofit 501(c) corporation, and donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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SMC accepts advertising at the rate of $1,000 per page (adjusted proportionately for fractions of a page). Classified ads or announcements from our members for noncommercial ventures are accepted without charge. Jane Mattes, CSW, the publisher of the newsletter, is the founder of SMC and author of Single Mothers by Choice: A Guidebook for Single Women Who Are Considering or Have Chosen Motherhood. Jane is also a psychotherapist and can be reached at (212) 988-0993, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the SMC office at Box 1642, Gracie Square Station, New York, NY 10028.
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