Monday, January 9, 2012

Domestic Enemies of the Unwed Mother

In this plentiful world of mommy blogs, there are some that are, how shall I say, more successful than others. Or in other words, are way more bad-ass than others. There’s one that I follow often called Rants from Mommyland and it's a blog that is pure hilarity. If you enjoy me, you will love Kate and Lydia. And while I encourage you guys to check out their site, I should mention that I'm not getting paid to advertise for them, so I'll get to my real point. 

One of the many on-going series that Kate and Lydia often write about is called “Domestic Enemies.” It’s basically a place where they can bitch about stuff that bugs them. Wait, I guess that’s what most mom blogs are about. Well, let’s say that the Domestic Enemies series is a little more specific in what is bitched about. Anyway, click here to have a look at the original Domestic Enemy post and here for the rest of the editions, some written by Kate and Lydia, and some submitted by their readers. I wrote a piece hoping to have it included on RFML, but alas, some dreams just aren't meant to be. So while it never made it up on RFML, I wanted to include it here. Because really, there hasn’t been a good angry Alice rant on here in, what, a few weeks? That’s a new record.

So here it is – the world-famous highly-anticipated post that is probably not actually as funny as I think it is, the Domestic Enemies of the Unwed Mother.

As most of you know, before Dawson put a ring on it, I spent the better part of two years as an unwed mother – not a single mother, just an unwed one. While sometimes these two titles are synonymous, this was not the case for me. For the purposes of this post, an unwed mother refers to a woman who is not married to her baby daddy despite the fact that they are in a loving relationship. If you’re new around here, you can catch up on how I fell down the rabbit hole into Mommyland. Despite the fact that our non-married status was totally by choice, I still managed to become an expert in the enemies of unwed motherhood, including but not limited to the following:

Wedding Rings – Do you know what’s really fun? Having someone see your big preggo belly and smile and start to fire off questions in an excited frenzy, like “When are you due? And it is a boy or girl? And will you get the drugs? And let me tell you about the time I was in labour for 427 hours! And...” Then they catch sight of your empty ring finger and quietly trail off and avoid eye contact. It’s like once people realize that your baby is, *gasp*, a ‘baby out of wedlock’ – oh the horror! – they no longer want to talk to you for fear that you’ll start crying about the deadbeat baby daddy or perhaps take the opportunity to hit them up for money and/or diapers.  Don’t people read celebrity magazines anymore? Babies out of wedlock are all the rage these days. Brangelina did it. So did Nicole Ritchie and Joel Madden. An empty ring finger does not necessarily equate a ‘bad situation’ or an ‘unwanted pregnancy.’ My daughter may have been unplanned but she was not unwanted, by the baby mama or daddy. I even experimented with wearing a faux engagement ring to see if there was a difference in how people treated me or if it was all in my crazy, hormone-filled head. And it actually proved that I was totally not crazy. No awkward stares. No horrible gasping sounds or beady, judge-y eyes blazing a trail all the way from my left ring finger to my belly. So naturally I just started wearing the ring all the time. It might seem like a backwards solution but it really just helped me not feel so awkward about other people’s awkwardness.

Grandparents – I guess I shouldn't complain too much on this front because despite our grandparents’ displeasure with the situation, they didn’t cut Dawson or I out of the family or anything. They also must have forgotten about their misgivings once Thumper was born because they give us dresses for her every time we see them. However, in the beginning we did receive a stern letter or two from one set of grandparents, and weekly lectures about “doing the right thing and getting married...for the baby’s sake” from another. Then there’s Dawson's paternal grandmother. She has dementia and could never remember who I was or whose baby I was carrying. She would repeatedly ask when the wedding was and why she hadn't been invited, which led to the repeated awkward conversations of us trying to tell her that we were, *gasp*, having the baby out of wedlock – oh the horror! At least with our other grandparents, we didn’t have to relive telling them for the first time over and over each week.

People from your past – I guess this is technically a domestic enemy of anybody, parent or otherwise. But in the unwed mother’s case, it’s doubly bad because if this person from your past has heard nothing through the grapevine* about your pregnancy and/or the relationship that produced the baby in your belly, then they, like people looking for a ring on your finger, will assume the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy are sketchy. They will either tip-toe around the subject trying to pry answers out of you without sounding like a jackass, unaware that they are already sounding like a jackass, or they’ll refrain from asking you any questions at all, leaving you unsure of whether you should bring up the elephant in the room, and if so, how should you go about it? Should you make a joke? Should you just spit it out? Should you tell them they’re acting like a douchebag? Then you’re so confused you decide to say nothing and your silence will have basically confirmed their suspicion that you’re a slut with at least seventeen potential baby daddies.

*These days the "grapevine" is really just Facebook, but still.

Careers – If, like me, your unplanned but totally wanted pregnancy happens before you get the chance to make use of your college degree or diploma, then your once most sought-after dream will soon become your nemesis. Because the more time you spend in Mommyland, the more unattainable your desired career becomes. You can’t really write “been busy making babies” on your resume** to fill in the space between the present and your college graduation and/or your last job. And even if you did write that, something tells me it’s not going to win you the job. And so your dreams of winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay or writing a weekly column for your favourite magazine serve only to taunt you with what if’s and ain’t never gonna happen’s. Your non-existent career can also come back to haunt you when you run into people from your past; you might run into Cindy from high school and she’s all like “Last I heard, you were going to move to California to pursue you writing career.” And you nod your head in the direction of your offspring, who is probably smashing something expensive or causing a traffic accident of some sort, and Cindy’s already slowly backing away, like “Oh, I get it...”

**But I really wish you could.

Yourself – Like all moms, an unwed mother is her own worst enemy. Yes, it’s most definitely true that when you unexpectedly get pregnant, everyone in your life will watch you with hawk-eyes to see how you fair in a maternal role. But nobody will judge or criticize the unwed mother more than the mother herself. The self-doubt is in everything you do. Whether it’s changing a dirty diaper, trying to breastfeed, figuring out a nap schedule, cooking dinner or trying to finish the thirty million piles of laundry that arise every day, you wonder if things would've been different if only you’d have been more prepared. Maybe if you were somehow smarter or wiser or more maternal, then everything would be easier. Maybe if you had waited to get pregnant, then you would've had a career and a paycheque to go back to and you wouldn’t have to worry about what will happen when your savings run out. Maybe if you were more like Gwyneth Paltrow, your family could enjoy a meal that doesn't come out of a box or a can and your child would even eat a vegetable now and then. And even if the faux engagement ring on your finger is replaced with a real one, it won’t erase your mediocre home-making skills or the extreme case of the Guilties that comes with them.

The trick is to remind yourself that the kind of mother you are is not determined by the status of your ring finger or the way in which you entered Mommyland. It’s about the unconditional way you love your child and how you continually strive to create edible and maybe-sorta-kinda nutritious meals for her even when you know she won’t eat them, and even when you’d rather be working on a best-selling book telling Gwyneth all the way she can suck it***.

***I don’t really have anything against Gwyneth. I really liked her in Glee, actually. However, I reserve the right to tell anyone who makes motherhood look that easy to suck it.


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