I will preface this blog by stating – I am a single mother. I have raised two children to the best of my ability with no real assistance from any ‘father’ (other than my own). In the face of that, both are now young adults who are attending college. In my opinion, my children are well rounded in that they have an awareness of who they are and how their actions can affect others. They both have a love of family and friends and are very aware of the communities around them. The “Michelle” in me will add, don’t get me wrong, they can be shits at times (like all kids), but they are the best kids I could ever imagine being blessed with.
Now on to the blog….
This blog is in response to a commentary on cnn.com titled “Let’s End Disposable Marriage” in which Leah Ward Sears writes about how upon the death of her brother they found papers in which he writes about, “Re-establishment of equity and balance and sanity within the American family.” His words have apparently moved Leah Ward Sears to relinquish her seat as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. She is now an educator and is working to build up families in America.
The commentary that angered me is as follows, “He railed against intentional unwed childbearing and the ease with which divorce was possible. He didn’t like that we have become a society that values the rights of adults to do their own thing over our responsibility to protect our children.”
Ms. Sears goes on to give her view that no-fault divorces undermine the foundation of the American families. This is due to their “easy” accessibility. She feels that people are allowed to leave a marriage “without a real regard for the gravity of their decision and the consequences for other people, particularly children“.
Close to the closing of this article she states, “The one-parent norm, which is necessary and successful in many cases, nevertheless often creates a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.”
So now for my thoughts.
I have been divorced three times. I always get the “Three? Really? Wow.” I smile, I nod and I go about whatever story is being told and accept that people can not understand how that can be the case. In truth, there are times that I, myself, cannot understand how that can be the case. But it is.
I grew up in a small town in West Virginia. Everyone knew everyone and most kids chomped at the bit to leave for college and start their lives elsewhere. I was no different. I went off to college in Cincinnati which was far enough away from my parents that they could not surprise visit me every weekend yet close enough that I could drive home once a month and do my laundry as well as stock up on supplies. While in college I became pregnant. (I love how that sounds when people say it. As if, POOF you’re pregnant! But you know what I mean.) We were young and our relationship was never going to make it. We made a valiant effort at trying to make it. Separated, tried from a distance and then gave up. He gave up a little more than me because in effect that is where his parenting of my son ended. But that is not what my blog is about…
When I returned home I stayed with my parents for a while, took a job as an optician and even enrolled in a couple of college classes. My Mom made a couple of comments that would change the course of my life. In so many words, she said that I needed to find someone to settle down with. That my son would need a father. That a kid should have both parents. I was also made to feel that a boy of my age would probably never want me because I came as a package deal… I was filled with a sense of urgency that my being a single mother was a detriment to my son. That I was failing him as a parent for not being one half of two wholes. And so the search was on.
***A note in retrospect… I know that my Mom was doing her best to make sure that I was secure in life. She was trying to guide me in the best way she possibly could. She did not realize that her path for me and my path for me would never fully converge.***
I found a man who in appearance was a great candidate. He was the manager of a store, he wore a suit to work every day, he was charming and I found him attractive. He decided to move back to his hometown. I visited, he asked me to marry him, the rest was history. Within our four years of marriage, he isolated me from my family, wore down my ability to believe that I was worth more than the abuse that was offered and on a few occasions almost killed me. But, I was stubborn and felt that this was the man I married and that I should do all in my power to make sure this worked. In the middle of it all I was blessed with the birth of my daughter. It was for the love of my children that I realized the urgent need to end the marriage before it ended me.
I was married twice more after that. Each time thinking I had chose the man who best suited me. Each time thinking that this was “the one”. Each time thinking that finally I would be able to offer my children the “family” that they deserved. And, sadly, each time realizing that my choices were poor and that yet another marriage was coming to a close.
I have been divorce (and marriage) free for about six years (and am only 40). In those six years I have established myself more as an individual. I have allowed my kids to see how it is to forge a family with only one parent. And, despite what a number of people out there might think, I believe my children are more prepared for a realistic world than the fantasy one we feed them through media and unrealistic “family” goals.
Am I anti-marriage? No, not at all. I believe two people who love each other and who value each other on a variety of levels should give marriage a go after a certain period of preparation. I also think that love at first sight and running away to elope after knowing each other for a short period has worked well for a number of people too. I also know that no government, no judge, no caseworker has the right to force you to stay in a relationship against your will. Who are they to put forth emotional and unjust burdens that deprive you of the basic right to pursue happiness?
I think it is very careless to write an article that would even remotely suggest the forcing of couples to stay together. I think the thing that would be most beneficial would be the education of our CHILDREN in a number of areas:
* Teach them self respect. Build up their confidence. Allow them to realize that they can be complete all on their own and that they do not need a mate to be complete in life. Sears is right about one thing, some people should not marry.
* Teach our children about personal finance. We should have mandatory classes in high school that educate our children on how to balance a check book, the importance of not running up their personal debt, explain banking terminology and the ramifications of poor credit. If they are financially dependent they will break the cycle of believing in marriage as a way for someone to provide for you.
* How about we make it harder to GET married in the first place to ensure that our young people are not rushing into marriage as an alternative to secondary education or as a way out of their parents’ house?
I think that we, as a society, raise our children to expect no better than the belief that relationships do not last and now are we going to also condemn them to remain in the very failed relationships we forced them to expect.
Also, I think that there is a large number of people who believe that their views are correct and that they have the perfect roadmap to life and that the rest of the world should follow suit. It just is not as simple as that. We (as humans) have been blessed with free will, with creative uniqueness and an uncanny sense of being able to survive failure. Because of these wonderful things, there is no way a relationship molded to certain specifics for one set of people will always work for another set of people. I believe it is irresponsible to think that forcing people to remain married is an acceptable answer to rebuilding the foundation of the American family.
I would like to also point out that although Ms. Sears feels that single parenting can oftentimes lead to ‘a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy to drug absue’ – those are things which are also found in two parent households.
If a financially secure woman of 40, who has established herself in the community and who can provide for herself and a child wishes to be artificially inseminated in an attempt to start a family of her own definition, then who are we to say that is wrong? I have known some single parents (both Moms AND Dads) who are far more successful at child rearing than some of our more prominent married couples. My two closest friends, one is a single mother, the other is the byproduct of a single father… They are good people and I would like to offer them as counter evidence to Ms. Sears’ commentary.
But, that is just my opinion. ((Michelle has now stepped off the soap box and has returned to the rest of her day.))