Last night, Brian was telling me about his “friend” whose girlfriend had their first baby last week. Throughout the pregnancy and since the birth all I’ve been able to do is shake my head and feel so profoundly sad for the girlfriend – yes, she knows what kind of person she’s with, but when she got pregnant I imagine she thought he would step up and be a worthwhile partner. She’s been disappointed (or, I guess, I would be disappointed if Brian had turned out that way). Yesterday I finally couldn’t take it anymore, so I spoke out on Facebook.
I tried to say what I needed to say as diplomatically as possible. I really am grateful for Brian, and I really do feel sad for women who don’t have a real partner by their side. While my intent was to call out partners who aren’t acting right, though, the comment above opened up a whole new train of thought in my head.
“Um, so you know you just insulted every single mother on your friends list?”
Like I responded, I didn’t intend to do that. Feeling sad for the single mothers certainly doesn’t equal feeling sorry for them. I was raised by a single mother, and I am still in awe of how she managed to juggle everything essential and still had the energy to participate in school events, ask about our days, and genuinely enjoy us. My mother loves my brother and me fiercely, generously and completely, like every single mother (and father) I know. She loves our spouses, and her grandchild, just as much. I am insanely proud of the woman she is, and I am sad for her.
The fact is, the vast majority of single parents don’t set out to be single parents. There are some outliers who choose single parenthood for their own reasons, but far more parents bring a child into the world and their partners slip out of the picture somewhere along the way. I’m not trying to lord over my fellow parental warriors when I say I’m sad for them. I don’t know what it’s like to be a single parent, but I know that it would be the greatest slap in the face to offer any single parent as condescending a sentiment as pity. Instead, they have my admiration. And my support, as does every parent who is making a legitimate effort to do their best, whatever their best may look like. If I pity anyone, it’s the partners who choose not to take an active role in bringing up the beautiful life they had a part in creating.
Parenthood is a unique and dynamic journey. Those who choose to take that path – biologically or otherwise – need to stick together.