By: Julie Gamberg
I spent years teaching in very tough inner-city schools, and I prided myself on my great teaching, especially my strong classroom management skills. I could take a group of kids who perhaps hadn’t had breakfast, or even dinner the night before, who had somewhat or very unstable home lives, who may have had drug-addicted or prostituted parents — kids who did not come to school ready to sit down, listen and learn — and create a sense of structure, and order. I could make the day feel “safe”and contained. How did I do this? Through the use of a tough, disciplinarian, take-no-prisoners style…one which was very common in the schools I taught in and which involved creating “rewards” with charts on the board and/or a clipboard, and acknowledging and lavishly praising wanted behavior while immediately punishing – with things such as time-outs and loss of privileges – unwanted behavior. There were also promises of future reward and punishments, such as ten minutes’ free playtime, or a withheld part of recess, based on behavior. These “consequences” were applied consistently, compassionately and extremely firmly, with no “wiggle room” which might have allowed for the child’s “manipulation” of me or the situation.
Parents of my students would sometimes ask me to teach them these techniques, so they could “try to get control” of their kids at home. I was thought of as something of a parenting “expert”, although in truth the techniques I was teaching and using were in no way creative, fresh, original, or hard to come by. Parents, if you really want to apply these techniques, you do not need to look very far, and you don’t need to work very hard. They are easy to use and they are ubiquitous. They are, for starters, in every playbook of every mediocre classroom teacher I know of. They are the worst of what a “great” teacher does, and the only thing keeping a bad teacher from a classroom of complete insanity. But they are nothing to be proud of. Although I know on our hardest days it doesn’t always feel like it, controlling kids is ultimately pretty easy. After all, until they become old enough, we can simply manhandle them if we want to. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, and we know a lot more about how the world works. We feed, clothe, and shelter them. They love and worship us. They are completely at our mercy. Being mean to kids in the name of creating order is not a hard feat. Being a little bit mean is also pretty darn easy. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are not being mean, just “firm,” yet even this is relatively easy.
The hard stuff begins when we decide that parenting with control, manipulation, rewards, and punishments, will no longer be in our own parenting playbooks. Letting go of those “tried and true” workaday “solutions” to the behavior of our littles that most troubles us, and seeking to raise our children through connection, listening, empathy, reasonable limits, and yes, some reading, some talking, and some hard work on our end…that is where our highest calling as parents begins.
As I began to come into my own in the classroom, I felt proud of my teaching accomplishments – I could keep a group of kids quiet, in their seat, and for the most part engaged, and happy to be there. I had good relationships with my students. However, something nagged at me. The part of my day that involved classroom management in a very authoritative style (a lot of the day) – one I slowly came to see as downright draconian – always felt…not right. These children were not seals-in-training. They were complex human beings with an array of emotional needs and wants which were going totally unmet. The only acceptable behavior in the classroom was my way. I began to think about alternatives, but really couldn’t envision managing so many children with such diverse and divergent needs, any other way. I think my crisis of thought at that moment – the fact that I simply could not see or envision another way – reminds me of the crisis of thought I hear from parents now. They feel, in their bones, that they want to parent another way, but on a practical, day-to-day level, they just don’t see how it can be managed.
During my last year of teaching, I was lucky enough to be at a small, inner-city public school, which was supplementally funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. The school attracted extraordinary teachers, and for the first time in my life, I began to see (some) teachers who were managing their classrooms without a reward chart, and without explicit punishments and consequences. These teachers leveraged their relationships with the students and the class, to figure out together how to solve any problems they encountered. They worked on building their students’ problem-solving capacity, and gently helped children communicate with one another, and discuss and solve their issues together. I realized, with no small amount of shame, that while I was giving my students “good days” at school –and, through external force, giving them an example of what managing their behavior might feel like –as well as warmth, support, and education, these teachers were going a million miles beyond that. Their students were developing communication, negotiation, conflict-resolution and self-regulation skills that would last them a lifetime. They were gaining confidence and mastery while finding intrinsic motivation and a love of learning. They were seeing a model of problem-solving based on caring, empathy, listening and working together, rather than discipline, fear, and control.
Although I was leaving K-12 teaching, it became clear that this was altogether a better method. Whereas I was working toward being a “great” teacher by the old playbook, these teachers were in a different league altogether. A friend who went to a prestigious law school once told me how brilliant and important he felt in high school and college, and then how dumb and inconsequential he felt when he got to law school. It is a humbling moment to realize that as much as you think you are doing, there is someone doing so much more and, more importantly, to realize that is who you would prefer to be.
I took these lessons into parenting. I vowed that if these teachers, and others, could do these amazing things with a huge group of students who came to school facing enormous obstacles to learning and socializing, then I could surely do that much and more with my one, or two, or three children who would have had (if they were hungry) dinner the night before, and breakfast in the morning, and who would be free from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and who would have a stable and consistent environment. I vowed to read, and join online lists, and talk to other parents, and watch and ask about good parenting when I saw it, and do the work that these amazing teachers did, so that I could give that experience to my child.
I am glad to have had so much teaching experience going into parenting. I know it has helped in many ways. Of course it would have helped so much more had I learned about these progressive and effective teaching philosophies while I was still able to practice implementing them. But ultimately parenting is very different than teaching. It is so much easier in that I have control over all of the variables, so I can stack the deck enormously in my favor. And it is so much harder because it’s 24-7. So far, I’ve found challenges that far surpass those of teaching. Such as having a colicky baby –requiring me to push at the boundaries of human exhaustion to care for her, or dealing with a full-blown tantrum over not being able to play with my cell phone. But I am grateful that in all of the hard and complicated moments, there is no part of me that has longed to return to the draconian days of “if you don’t x, I’m going to y”, “good job -you get a star!”, “time out!”, or any other methods of top-down authoritarian control that were such an important part of my arsenal as an urban educator. Mostly, I’m so glad that I’m able to deal with problems that come up without being mean. To all of the kids to whom I’ve been mean in the past: I wish I had known better. And to all of the kids who I will know in the future: I hope I’m always able to offer guidance and maintain limits without being mean. Because I have no excuse. I know better now.
By: Allison Norris
Christmas was a success. Baylor was utterly confused and excited by ginormous gifts sitting in his living room. I got him a fold-out tent that is the shape of a truck. It folds down into flat nothingness and pops up into a huge structure that takes over my entire living room. Genius and obnoxious all at the same time.
My mother gave Baylor Play-Doh. It’s all he wants to do. I’m sure when he finally closes his eyes at night, he dreams of dog and giraffe play-doh cut outs dancing around. Visions of shoving the soft, sweet smelling material into the fun factory where he can crank out noodles or long strips of blue dough force him to scream “DOH!” when I walk into his room each morning. It’s his new obsession. Specks of neon pink and blue are all over my floor and carpet. I try to clean up after each play time, but it manages to stick to my feet and then it’s tracked all over my house.
After screaming “DOH” since the day after Christmas, we walk out into the living room each morning and he gasps like there will be more new toys waiting for him. He goes over to his new tractor and truck tent and touches them like it’s the first time he’s ever seen them. His wonder and excitement fill the room and he plays quietly for the next hour, rediscovering his new treasures.
And then he locks me in the truck tent.
It’s a fairly small area, but with a door. Each “wall” has some sort of cut out – a window, a circle crawl space, or the door. With his chest puffed out, he drags me into the truck and shuts the door hard and fast. He then stomps around the room and finds items that he can throw at me through the door.Last night, he cracked open the door just enough to fit his juice cup and said “JUICE” and shoved it in my mouth. He took it back and shut the door just as fast as he’d opened it. Next it was a harmonica, a fruit snack, a raisin shoved into my mouth (who knows where it came from), and a dump truck. I was his prisoner and he totally loved it.
Christmas was a total success. Good food, great times, a truck tent and no drama. Everything I had hoped Santa would bring!
By: Allison Norris
The more mom blogs I come across, the recurring entry from all of them seems to be about the park. Different kinds of moms… different kinds of kids… snacks… bullies… the whole thing.
Baylor and I just came back from the park down the street from my house. We grabbed a coffee and a cookie and strolled the 4 blocks to the colorful playground complete with a merry-go-round and sandbox. Red and blue hats decorated the grounds from a daycare field trip and dozens of moms filled in the gaps with their little ones burning energy around them.
I am wearing my dark blue leggings and a grey tank top, fashionable zip up on top, hair in a pony, and my silver aviators to match my faux diamond earrings. It’s a “park outfit” and I put it on specifically to go to the park.
As I looked around, moms gave me the up and down glance without a smile. Baylor and I marched over to the sandbox and he started playing with a truck. The exterior ledge acts as a bench and pairs of moms sat discussing their parenting styles and how brilliant their children are…wait, isn’t that your kid eating sand? A man sat talking with a mom about how his social life has disappeared because after you have a baby, there simply isn’t time to hang out with anyone and you have to sit home alone every night. She agreed (in her alllll beige outfit… even her shoes. totally the lady who gets 100% naked in the locker room at the pool and does everything she needs to do, naked) and then explained to the guy why her son has such a huge belly and how she doesn’t think he looks like either her or her husband. He told her that her son was gorgeous, just like her, and I wondered how many people knew about their affair.
I realize that this is extremely superficial, and maybe even mean, but I can’t help it. Saggy pants, rubber shoes, puffy tops and frizzy hair – on all of them. Is this the ugly park? Is Seattle this casual? Nobody gives a shit about what they look like – at all? They might as well have been wearing their PJs.
Baylor was set on the slide – climbing up and down as many times as possible. A little boy about the same size attacked the adjoining slide and his mom followed behind.
“How old is he?” I asked.
“18 months.” She snapped back, wearing an oversized pea-green peasant top with oversized jeans that had holes in the knees that she had obviously cut with scissors to look fashionable.
“He’s cute… funny how they have to climb up the slide and scare us to death!’ I joked.
Guess we won’t be hanging out during the weekends or meeting for happy hour up the street any time soon. Got it. We left the cranky mom and moved over to the bouncy seesaw occupied by two moms and their girls. Baylor walked near the toy and stopped to stare at what the big kids were doing.
“I’m older than her because I’m 4 and she’s only 3,” explained the little girl in her tutu.
“Wow! You are very big,” I said back, hoping to win over someone at Mean and Ugly Park.
Like we had a sign on our shirts that said “RUN”, the moms vacated the area and the little girls followed.
Feeling rejected and like nobody wanted to play with us, I bribed Baylor with a cookie to get in the stroller so that we could go home.
Their outfits were ugly, their attitudes were ugly, and their park manners were hideous. I never want to go back to Mean and Ugly Park again (insert image of Baylor and me simultaneously throwing a tantrum with our backs arched and feet kicking)!
I know we have kids, but it’s called a hairbrush, ladies… and maybe a personal shopper at Nordstrom.
By: Sheana Ochoa
Being a new mom, anyone would guess my life has undergone a tremendous transformation, which in my case was compounded by the fact that I became ill post partum. Consequently my son and I were exiled (as I saw it) to the central valley so my family could help me with the baby. After spending a year and a half in the armpit of California, I was able to return to Los Angeles and resume/begin life.
Leaving LA on the eve of momdom, I entered a kind of limbo. And now, just five months back in LA, I’m realizing how different life with a child is from my previous life as a single, itinerant feminist circuiting LA in her Jeep Wrangler. Turning in the Jeep after its lease expired was excruciating for me. I kept re-leasing new Jeeps every three years and enjoyed the privilege. But Jeeps aren’t safe so it was the first thing that had to go.
The roommate I always had in order to have extra cash flow also had to go. The baby needed a nursery. And now I had to budget for diapers instead of mani-pedis. When we returned to LA, we relocated into a new neighborhood (more working-class, less hip) so I could stroll my son to daycare three blocks away.
So, a lot has changed. But mostly, I’m just so intrigued by this little angel/devil living in my house. Everyday there’s something new: a new word, a new gesture, a new expression, a new detail he notices. Before my son, life didn’t have such newness. I tried to be aware and appreciate life, but that task is so much easier with a child who is seeing and doing everything for the first time. Through the eyes of my son, I have been given a second childhood. In three weeks we get to celebrate his second birthday in our own home. I can’t imagine a better gift.
By: Craig Zagurski
August is LOVE month here at TNF, and while there are many wonderful flavors of LOVE, my mind is wired to go straight to ROMANTIC LOVE. Not a bad place to go, however, when 10 continuous years of RL come to a fiery stop. RL now tends to conjure up feelings of jadedness with a dash of melancholy.
It doesn’t feel permanent nor is there much suffering involved. I’ve simply upgraded my armor. My heart feels like it’s wearing a non-lubricated Trojan–it still throbs and is capable of feeling warmth, but there’s noticeable friction and the odds are slim it will produce anything that will require follow-up.
My divorce is rather unconventional. We share goodbye hugs that seem to last longer than the visit. Every now and then we send text messages to each other rehashing a sweet memory or sharing an anecdote only the other will appreciate. We poke fun at each other about our differences and the mistakes we made. We check in regularly about how we’re holding up on our own, emotionally, and discuss our observations about the many phases we’re going through as we work to regain our footing. We celebrate each other on our birthdays and Mother’s/Father’s Days. She still sometimes takes my breath away when I see her in a new dress or with a new hairstyle. And since we share two little miracles together, she and I will always remain family.
We also catch ourselves slipping into an old, corny inside joke that is now just received with a courtesy grin and a look to the ground…followed by awkward silence.
This month, for me, marks the first August in 11 years that I will not be married nor have an anniversary to celebrate, and yet, I’m happier now and more fulfilled than I’ve been in years. I still LOVE, dearly, the woman who was my wife. She still LOVEs me, dearly. It’s a comfortable and familiar LOVE. An unbreakable LOVE that is outliving the institution of our broken marriage. For that, I am very blessed.
Happy Anniversary, honey.
By: Allison Norris
Oh hey Al, it’s Mom. Just wanted to call and say “hi”. Where are you? Whatcha doin’? I made the best dinner last night. Your brother loved it. Have you talked to your brother lately? You should call him. Will you call him? And you know, I haven’t talked to your sister lately. What’s she been up to? If you talk to her, will you have her call me back? How’s the guy she’s dating? He’s pretty cute. Anyway, call me if you get a sec. Love you, bye!
The voicemail. I know what it’s going to say… and I don’t actually need it because I can see on the screen of my cell phone that she called. She will most likely call again, leaving another voicemail.
Hi honey, it’s me again. Just wondering what you guys are up to this weekend. I’m thinking about coming to stay with you. Where would I sleep? What is Baylor up to? Put this message up to his ear so that he can hear Gramma’s voice… Hiiiii Baaaaaaaylor! It’s Grammmmaaaaa! I’m gonna come seeee youuuuuu! Ok honey, call me later. Love ya!
Since she’s already had an entire conversation and let me know what shoes she’s wearing, do I need to call her back? Bay has heard her voice and for all he knows they had a great conversation… so I don’t see the need.
Then there are the voicemailers who leave the brief unnecessaries.
Hey, it’s me, call me.
So, essentially, there is no message. And again – I can plainly see the missed call from you. Do you not have a cell phone? Do I need to explain how one works? Didn’t I just talk to you an hour ago and I told you I’d call you back?
The collection agency voicemails are never fun. The automated ones that tell you to call a 1-800 number but it’s on repeat and you didn’t catch the first 6 numbers, so, oops! Guess we won’t be calling that one back.
I tried leaving a message on my phone instructing people to text me if they needed an urgent response as I never check my voicemails because, well, they drive me nuts… and people were offended. I should have asked them to email, text, or facebook me because I stay current on all of those methods of communication and don’t have to actually talk to anyone. Whenever I actually check my messages, I hear “hey Al, it’s Liz…” and then I hit delete. I’ll just call her back and she can tell me then.
I got one today that said, “Hey Allison… I just saw your missed call but didn’t listen to your message, so call me back.” This is a little more my style as I’ve been known to leave something similar. However, this person is someone that I may call once per year and if I leave a voicemail, it’s probably not to say “hi.” Most likely there is a reason that I called and left a message. If I hadn’t left one, it could have been a pocket dial and maybe he would have never called me back at all.
It’s all very complicated.
The absolute worst voicemails are the ones that you accidentally missed but wish you would have answered.
Hey Allison, it’s Danielle in Paraguay. I haven’t had access to a phone in over a month and I won’t be around one for another 6 months… but thought about you and wanted to check in to say hi and maybe hear Bay’s voice for the first time. Guess I missed you. Call you when I can!
How could I have not known that the unavailable number would be from someone who was literally unavailable. Damn.
I appreciate a creative voicemail, or the occasional prank… I also would rather hear the plan on the message rather than a beat up text that takes three tries to send and leaves me without the middle. So I guess they aren’t all bad. I just don’t have the time to sit and hit “7″ 14 times in a row to free up space so that it can get filled again with my mother telling me to “give her a buzzzzzz.”
I’m the one who needs a buzz. Right now. Where’s that bottle of wine I had around here…
By: Julie Gamberg
No sooner did I write about the sometimes cluelessness of partnered families toward single parent families, then I got an email from a fellow single mom by choice that seemed just as clueless, with clueless gravy on top. Clueless in the let’s-give-each-other-some-mutual-support way (or, more accurately, let’s not). And a little bit bitter. And maybe little bit sanctimonious? And I thought, do I sound like that? Bitter or sanctimonious about doing it on my own.
I’ve never met this mom, but she’s part of a small group of moms who have been trying to find a time to meet in person. She invited people to her house, which is a bit of a drive for most of the group, at 11:30 a.m. and I wrote back that my little one tends to go down around 12:30 or 1, so perhaps we could meet a bit earlier?
No, she wrote.
And then, perhaps forgetting that I had written her after she introduced herself with details of her circumstances when our little group first “met” by email, to tell her that I was a single mom by choice too! Who works full-time too! (Kind of a “Hello! Be my friend!” to which she did not respond), further response to my time change request read: “As a single mom who works FT, my son has never had the luxury of a strictly followed regimen… naps sometimes get delayed or skipped.” Ouch.
Luxury of naps? So bourgeois! Like meals. Or sleeping at night. Or having a poopy diaper changed. Those middle class American urbanites who really have it rough have to forgo the petty indulgences that most of us take for granted. They keep their babies up when tired!
Another mom who was copied on the email pointed out to me that the nap delayer/skipper had previously said she is feeling overwhelmed. This other mom is a kind, kind woman who makes me feel like a baby-eating troll.
I analyze my feelings about the nap delayer/skipper and I think about how we are sometimes repelled by those who are needing an extra lot of help. There is a mean part of my brain that thinks: I guess you shouldn’t have had a child if you couldn’t take care of him! And then I think of when my little one was outrageously colicky in her first few months and how thoroughly drowning I was, and how rough that was on those closest to me.
And that leads me to, of course, think of wilderness survival stories.
In wilderness survival stories there is always a pragmatist who wants to withhold the food and water from the already dying and reserve it for those-who-could-possibly-make-it. And then there is always a softie who sneaks the dying some water, some comforting pain relief instead of keeping it for the poor sod who needs to have his broken bone reset with just a jagged stone as a knife and a bare branch to bite into.
I generally think of myself as the softy in that situation – the one who can’t bear to see immediate suffering in the hopes of averting some future suffering which may or may not come to pass. But maybe I’m the pragmatist. The one who says buck up sister … we’re all in the same woods and if I can make it without water – me who adores water, well then surely you can trudge along too. If I can figure out how to get my fussy, fussy little one down for her much needed sleep … well you get the idea. I seem to be the obnoxious just-in-case water hoarder.
And I also realize that in the same way you can’t stick two seven-year-olds together and claim that since both are kids they will surely become fast friends, just finding other women who have chosen to have children on their own does not ensure that I am suddenly in gracious, tolerant company. Or, for that matter, that I am gracious, tolerant company.
By: Sheana Ochoa
When I discovered I was pregnant one of my major concerns was how I was going to integrate my dog of twelve years into what I knew would be an all-consuming, twenty-four-seven, new life. Throughout the years, Chloe had trudged with me through my battles with depression, addiction, chronic illness; she’d been with me through two major relationships and their subsequent breakups, and while the men came and went, she remained steadfast, as dogs do.
This time there would be no man to contend with because I chose to have a baby on my own, but Chloe was still going to have to adjust to a love interest other than her. All through the first trimester of pregnancy, hunkered over the toilet with morning sickness (which is a misnomer; I was attached to that toilet day and night), Chloe would curl up on the bath mat like a silent Buddha assuring me, “this too shall pass.”
Once I started feeling better I shifted into high gear preparing for the baby. I tuned into pregnancy podcasts, went to meetings with other choice moms, took prenatal yoga, became CPR certified, met with a lactation consultant, and read every book out there on pregnancy and parenting. One day I came home with my color chart and headed straight to the nursery, when I realized something was wrong. Chloe hadn’t come to greet me with her usual booty-shaking-I-missed-you-so much dance. I found her in my room asleep on the bed. Instead of wondering what might be wrong with her, my first thought was on my baby. I had weighed the pros and cons of cosleeping with my baby and decided it would be a good idea as I planned to breastfeed. Chloe was going to have to get used to a doggy bed.
In retrospect I should have questioned Chloe’s stark change of behavior. When does a dog not bolt to greet you when you get home? But when I saw her sleeping in the bed I only thought about how hard it would be to retrain her. She and I had been sharing my bed since she was a pup; we actually spooned, her backside curled into my belly, her long legs sprawled in front of her, my arms extended so my hands could cup her paws. In the end it only took a week for her to get used to her doggy bed, a little too used to it.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, with Braxton Hicks and swollen ankles, I spent evenings with my legs elevated watching movies. I would bring Chloe’s doggy bed out to the living room so she could sprawl out. Sometimes I would call her up onto the couch to join me, but she ignored me. Did she know a baby was coming, or had I just neglected her so much she was getting used to the lack of attention? One day I walked into my room, full-bellied, arms loaded with shopping bags of baby gear, which I dropped, letting plop onto the floor with a loud thump. Chloe suddenly stood to attention; that’s when I realized she had gone deaf. She hadn’t been greeting me because she couldn’t hear me when I got home.
Nothing went as planned after the baby was born. I became ill postpartum. After a month I had to give up breast-feeding because it was too physically taxing. I could barely walk across the room, and was mostly bedridden. I had to leave my home in Los Angeles and move in with my mother. I couldn’t sleep with my son because I needed the rest to recuperate. After the third month of spending all day and night in bed, unable to even answer my own baby’s cries, I began to lose my sense of self, my identity.
Chloe seemed to know she was allowed back in bed or maybe she sensed my desperation and sadness. My body had betrayed me and I could not take care of my baby. I spent many days crying, not from the physical pain of my condition, but from the fact that I wasn’t bonding with my child. And there was Chloe. In my darkest hours, when I felt the most useless, it was my dog who kept me feeling like a human being. A year and half later our family of three is back in Los Angeles and although life with a toddler is hectic, I make sure I find time out every day to look Chloe in the eyes and thank her for always being there for me.
By: Sheana Ochoa
There have been numerous studies showing that human beings are not naturally monogamous animals. We don’t need anthropologists and sociologists to tell us this. And it isn’t just the astronomical divorce rate in the States that indicates people are not necessarily meant to mate for life. The only thing we know to be true is that nothing stays the same. People change, get sick, fall in love, leave in order to pursue a deferred dream, or simply bail out and disappear for a while. Our puritanical view of a life-long partnership is an idealistic vision particular to Americans, since it seems in most other countries infidelities are tolerated or forgiven more often or simply accepted. Here, it’s the ultimate betrayal and shattering of the illusion of love. Love and sex however, in the animal kingdom, of which we are a part, are great when they go together, but they seldom do.
The problem arises when people decide to have children, because the emotional collateral of a broken relationship or marriage affects children and their need for stability in order to grow into confident, healthy adults. In most cases, women end up raising the children from these itinerant unions because we are the nurturing ones, we bear the children, and there just seems to be an inherent responsibility for mothers to stay with them.
Knowing this and knowing I wanted a child, I circumvented the whole daddy scenario. I won’t be disingenuous. If I had met a man who was my best friend as well as my lover, I would have mated the traditional way, but that is not what happened. And so when choosing to have a child on my own, I did not have to consider asking an ex-boyfriend or a gay friend to knock me up. I didn’t want to tie my life to someone else, or risk any future paternity issues. So I opted for an anonymous donor.
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha’s new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, investigates early human sexuality in hunter and gatherer societies, making the well-known argument that it wasn’t until sedentary, agricultural communities planted roots (forgive the pun) that humans became concerned with property and who would inherit it. Suddenly paternity became a matter of prosperity. Similarly, marriage was created as a way of uniting properties and increasing wealth. Women could not own property and were considered property themselves, along with the land they transferred from their family to their husband through the institution of marriage. It isn’t surprising that the Spanish word for wife, esposa, is also the word for handcuffs.
Actually, only within the last century have women been in a position to marry for love. And this notion of love has become inextricably tied to marriage and, by extension, monogamy. I am not proposing open marriages or relationships; I am simply stating the facts of human nature. Modern culture sees marriage dogmatically, not realistically. It’s not a bad thing to want to build a life with someone you love, to want to devote yourself to one person and create a family. This is the American Dream in a sense. But a dream it is indeed, and we need to remain cognizant of the latter part: creating a family. Because once a partner strays in our society, the marriage is doomed.
Perhaps the solution therefore is to go into a committed relationship or marriage as friends first and foremost. Friends treat each other respectfully, don’t expect perfection, allow failure, and work together when there are disagreements. And in the event that they go their separate ways, they have usually built years of tolerance for each other so that an amount of respect filters the severance. In this scenario, if children are involved in the separation, they can at least be dispensed of feeling at fault, used as pawns, forced to choose whose side they’re on, or any such other avoidable detrimental impositions. Sure, the family unit will be different, but it doesn’t have to become volatile or unstable.
I began dating after a two-year hiatus and all the issues of love and trust and marriage are coming into play. My number one priority is my son, but I have my own needs. What I’ve found is that following my heart instead of my head is a new thing. If I had followed my head I would never have had my son on my own. There were too many reasons not to. My heart will lead me to a relationship built from a friendship and I am finding, whether it is life-long or not, that is as good as it gets.
For more on how Sheana became a single mom, check out this article- We Wanted To Be Moms
[Illustration Credit: Jason Salazar]
By: Allison Norris
My best friend, Jen, is in town from Chicago. It’s always a beautiful reunion. We swap shoes, share a bed, and giggle before falling asleep mid-sentence. Then, I wake her up at 6:30 am with the pounce of my 10-month-old. I guess everything isn’t exactly the same as it used to be?
Since Baby Daddy is at his lake house all weekend, I knew that it would be solid baby time without much of a break and something that Jen wasn’t totally used to. I booked a babysitter for Saturday night, realizing that I hadn’t been “out” in over a year and a half. With the pressure on to have a great time, we made dinner reservations at our favorite little place, and then planned on meeting our girlfriends out to celebrate a birthday.
We weren’t exactly pumped on the location of this birthday celebration. Capitol Hill in Seattle is filled with hipsters, drag queens, and people who totally spent $200 on their outfit only to match the bum on the corner. Blonds wearing bronzer isn’t exactly something they appreciate… or so I had thought. Turns out that Capitol Hill has become the new “laid back” and a much-needed area of cool in Seattle. The night was looking up!
The bar was filled with our best friends and a few cute boys. We mingled, blabbed, and ordered a few drinks. My bladder was quickly filling and I searched for the nearest restrooms sign. The bar that we were celebrating in is connected to a music venue by a hallway where the bathrooms are located. I pushed open the door to the hall and was greeted by stunning 7′ drag queens in red feathers and chest hair. Feeling like I had hit a brick wall, I turned to locate the “women” sign and was greeted by another brick wall – gorgeous men. Everywhere.
Shirtless, sweaty, perfectly groomed, and in the tightest jeans I’d ever seen, a line of beautiful gay men were forming a line outside of the men’s restroom. Where were they coming from? What was going on? Why weren’t we invited?!
The loud pulse of techno music led me to the next door. Another beautiful gay had left the dance floor in search of the restroom and provided me with a peek of the party taking place on the other side of the door. Disco balls, fog machines, and strobe lights decorated an absolutely packed venue. Bumping, grinding, sweating and kissing was all I could see.
“Um, excuse me, Mr. Bouncer, how do I get in there?”
“You have to go outside and buy a ticket like everyone else.”
My mind spinning, I visited the restroom and began my plot to get into the gay rave happening on the other side of the swinging door. What could have been better? Beautiful men who were not going to grope me, deliver cheesy one-liners, or beg me for my phone number! I was ready to dance.
Back from the restroom with my friends, I found my sister and informed her of our next destination. We made our way back to the large bouncer and worked our magic.
“Hi. Just spoke with the owner of the bar who is actually vacationing on camano island this weekend, and he said that we are allowed into the party for free… oh, and three of our other blond best friends are allowed in too.” I lied.
With a “fair enough” and a wink, we were in with wristbands.
Liz and I assessed the situation and agreed that this is a little of what heaven is probably like. Just then, Jen and our other blond bombshell of a best friend walked through the door and the dancing began.
Before we knew it, our shirts were off and we were dancing in our push up bras while men showered us with compliments. It was like nobody knew that I had a baby and spent 90% of my days wearing whatever my son had for lunch. I was carefree, sweating, and truly enjoying myself for the first time in months. Jen let loose and danced her little heart out… it was a perfect night.
We re-capped the night the entire cab ride home and bombarded my innocent babysitter when we burst through the door at 2am talking of our new shirtless friends and Cher remixes. I fell asleep smiling with a loud hum in my ear from the music and woke up at 6:30 to be a mom again.
Oh, and yes, mr. perfect-pecs, I totally am a victoria’s secret model… thanks for checking.