Single parenting at age 30: Rant

When I was in high school age 30 sounded old to me. Now I’m 30, living in the nation’s capital feeling young as all hell. I just finished taking my son to his elementary school (he is enrolled in PK-4), always reminded of the show House of Cards since the beginning pans are one block away from where he attends. We prance through the alley closest to the front door and we run as we have three minutes to sprint to his class on time (which always seems impossible because they don’t allow you to run once you enter the building, for understandable reasons, of course).

It always seems as though all of the other parents just have their shit together. Or is it just me? I’m certain it’s not just me, because even in our (boring) conversations, they really do have their shit together. They have a college savings already opened for their children with loads of money in it, they own their homes, they own their cars, they have their flexible careers, they’re married, their children are in karate, swimming, ballet, and even attend special care centers on the weekends that teach them more (unusable) extracurricular activities. Not to say that many of them are even enrolled in sports, and the parents cook dinner every night, some have nannies who pick up their children before and after school, and they go on elaborate vacations during the summers.

Not to say that some of those things I am not guilty of, because maybe DC has, in fact, rubbed off on me. But to do that every day, every week, every month, year after year, while maintaining stability and healthy relationships – that’s almost impossible for a single, bipolar, and “young” mother like myself.

Let me rant.

  1. Is it fair that we Americans live in a society where we are held to standards and judged by these? I was raised in a low-income house by a mother who was a teacher and a father who was (and still is) a pressman. These are no six figure jobs here. These are hard-working blue collar careers. My parents raised three children on their salaries and we had everything we needed. A roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs. My oldest sister got a full scholarship to school and went onto getting her master’s degree at an ivy league college. Our middle sister got married and is a homemaker. And I was lucky. I went to a private school from elementary and on (academic scholarship), had a scholarship to one of the best music colleges in the world, and am now struggling. Ain’t that something? Living in America (not as an immigrant) is rough. But it’s even more tough when you’re raised as an immigrant by immigrants. Why? Because you’re left behind in a race you didn’t know existed (paraphrasing Justice Sotomayor here). Land Rovers, Louis Vuitton luggage, David Yurman bracelets, trust funds, savings accounts, juicing, baby classes and books, psychiatrists… If you mentioned any of those things to me I would have said as a young adult “Those are things rich white people have.” Not that that’s necessarily true, but that was my perspective. And half of those things I didn’t learn of until adulthood, sadly. When you don’t have these things where I live – you’re not one of them. And no matter how much I ignore it – it still hurts.
  2. Why in God’s name do people wait until their 40’s to start having children? Apparently we are most fertile in our 20’s. I had my son at age 25. I was pregnant at 24. Yes, it was definitely not planned. But it wasn’t a mistake. A mistake would have been having an abortion (which everyone had told me to do). I know there are trade-offs in having children at a later age. Nannies, more financially set, more likely to be married, etc. However, I don’t want my son to ever feel like he doesn’t have things that his classmates and friends have because I just cannot give it to him. And I know much of it has to do with the fact that I had him at 25 and everyone else in his damn class has parents in their late 40’s and early 50’s. So, of course, they’re going to be able to supply much more. Ugh. The only upside is that I’ll be 39 when he enters high school. And all of the other parents will look old.
  3. Is there some linear path I’m supposed to be following since everyone seems to have the same damn life and I’m nothing at all alike to them? So yeah.. I did things somewhat backwards in comparison to most. I lived with my ex-boyfriend. Then we lived apart in different cities. Then we broke up. Then I got pregnant. The day he was born, we moved in with each other. Then we broke up when he was 2.5 years old. Now I’m a musician again. I think I wouldn’t feel so bad about being me if there were more individuals somewhat similar. But in a city like Washington, D.C. There are many clones. And all of the mice seem to be happily dancing to the Pied Piper’s tune while I’m listening to hip hop in my corner. My ex-boyfriend (NOT my baby daddy) left me after we dated for over a year and I was still completely in love with him. And he told me that I just wasn’t part of his plan. Someone who was bipolar, went to AA meetings, and had a child wasn’t part of his plan. He wanted to be engaged by 32 and have his own children by 34 and be set in his career (which he was fully on the right track) by 37. He was 28 at the time. He basically said he had only 4 years left to find his (Jewish) wife and since I wasn’t that person, he had to go.
  4. Is there some secret society I didn’t know of where you learn how to be a parent in this world that I missed out on? I read blogs, magazines, books, religious literature, parenting.com, etc. But much of it has to do with how you were raised. And I was raised very differently than most of my current peers. I went to church 5+ days a week, barely had a normal childhood, and had two siblings at least 11+ years older than me. My idea of a parent was to allow my child freedom and everything I didn’t have. Someone who lives in the now and supports their child. But I was never really raised to think much about my future. This is where I struggle.
  5. Why do people still have cliques past the age of 22? This is pretty self-explanatory. At Kai’s baseball camp this summer a couple of the mothers (white, rich, everything I’m not) assumed I was my son’s nanny. One even went so far to tell me since we bonded over being Indiana Hoosier alum after camp one afternoon. I thought all of this time, maybe it’s my age. No wait, maybe it’s because I’m brown. Or maybe it’s because I’m single. No, wait, maybe it’s because I drive a Honda. Nope, it’s definitely just all of the above.
  6. Single parents, should have their own sliding scale in society, in everything. Making less than $37K a year is crazy and that’s the cut off for any sort of government assistance. I don’t want to be married, okay?! I’m very happy living the life I want to live. And this bullshit of getting married makes everything easier, makes it especially hard on single parents.
  7. To be a minority in this society is to be left out of most things. I am biracial, a lefty, short, curvy, brown, and single. Let that marinate for a minute. But the worst is definitely being a single parent. I live in a nice neighborhood. No one seems to understand. However, I’m pretty sure most of them secretly envy me. At least that’s the gut feeling I get when they ask me what it’s like to be a single mom because their husbands work 80 hours a week at the capitol and don’t see their children.

Overall, this can be extremely terrifying at times and really, really tough. When you throw a mental illness/disability in the mix, that wrench just makes it fun. However, I made my choice and I need to stick by it. Maybe one day I’ll have true help – financially, emotionally, and physically. But for now, I’ll stick with my struggles that will eventually make me stronger.

Sidenote: Here’s an article I wrote a few years back for the New Latina online magazine. It got many hits and many laughs.

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