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Jewish Journal

Motherhood 101: My Life as a Single Mother

by Ilana Angel

March 6, 2014 | 1:11 pm

I am a very involved mother. I never had a nanny and my son did not stay with a babysitter until he was able to talk, so he could tell me how it went. I have volunteered at all of his schools. I was a class mom, a grade mom, and a member of the PTA. I attended every single art fair, science fair, and program he has ever done. Every single one, without fail. I donate money when I can and when I can’t, I donate my time.

I have sewn costumes, baked cookies, and been a taxi service. I love this child as a mother should. I have loved him for my entire life. Long before he was born, I would dream of him and the life we would have together. I always thought I would have a lot of kids, but in the end he is my only child and it has been magic to be his mother, teacher, friend, and warden. My greatest joy is having a front row seat to his life.

I was divorced before my son turned 1. I was married for a little over 5 years and a lot of it was good. We were young and in love and we tried for a long time to have a baby, eventually having to undergo fertility treatments that took a toll on our relationship. I ended my marriage and so I could argue he is the one who never got over it and is bitter. Our marriage was a lifetime ago but our parenting is forever.

It has been my son and me for 18 years and while hard, it has been our path and we have managed.  I have been his emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial caretaker. I have supported him on my own and I sometimes marvel at how I managed to do it. I put him through 10 years of a private school education all by myself and I placed his Tallit on his shoulders when he became a Bar Mitzvah. He is my heart.

I do not have a relationship with his father. We do not speak and when we do it is difficult. I can still remember a time when I loved him and I am grateful to be able to remember that time. I see all the best parts of him in our remarkable child. I am often asked why we don’t get along and the truth is simple and sad. He has not once, in 18 years, told me I am a good mother and have done a good job.

It might seem silly to some, and something I should have gotten over already, but no. I can accept he has not been financially, spiritually, or emotionally supportive of me as I raised his child, but it makes me angry he is unable to simply say thank you. He takes pride in his son, and takes credit for his accomplishments, but he refuses to acknowledge on any level that I have had anything to do with who our son is.

My son left for New York City today. He is attending his final college interview, and for the first time I am not with him. He has gone to see his last school with his father, and it has shaken me more than I anticipated. It is the first time in his entire 18 years that they have been away together, just the two of them. That makes me happy for my son of course, but also a little uncomfortable, which is a shame.

I was scheduled to take him as I have taken him to all his interviews, but his Dad decided he wanted to do this one. I don't know what inspired him to step up now and it is none of my business. Part of me is thrilled as my son is thrilled, but a part of my heart is resentful he simply woke up one day and decided to participate in a real way. I am struggling with my feelings. I am happy for him but sad for me.

Some will say I am bitter, but they have no real understanding of what it means to truly be a single mother. I have raised this child by myself while his father has reaped the rewards of my work. He did not stay up with him when he was sick, wear no name shoes and clothes so his child could be decked out in designed duds, or stay up every time his child went out and changed from a child to man. It is a fulltime job.

I laugh when my married friends say they are single moms for the weekend while their husbands are away. I laugh when my divorced friends say they are single moms as they cash child support and alimony checks while living in the mortgage free houses their ex-husbands pay for. I laugh because it is funny. I laugh because I know the truth. I am not asking for a medal, just respect for what it means to be a single mom.

My son called from NYC and he sounds happy and excited about his interview and the weekend with his dad. He said he loves me and would be in touch often. He then thanked me, which was very special. In the end that is the only thanks I need. The only person whose opinion matters is that of my son and he thinks I have done a great job as a mother. My son loves me very much and he says thank you to me daily.

I make mistakes of course and am not a perfect parent, but at the end of the day I am proud of myself, learn from the things I do wrong, and get back up when I fall. He is the love of my life and if you ask him what kind of mother I am, he will tell you I am the best. He makes me proud of him and of myself. I am the single mother of a wonderful human being who reminds me I am blessed and to always keep the faith.

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