Single Mom Out Loud

The joys (and desperation) of raising a boy without a man

The Tragedy of Every Life

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“It’s a tale…Told by an idiot…Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”- Shakespeare

The quote above is from The Tragedy of Macbeth, one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. This week it just popped into my mind over and over again.

Life is a trip. It really is. Most of the time our lives are narrated and judged by imbeciles who have no idea what they are talking about. Their judgement is full of loud words and anger and in the end it really means nothing. And it doesn’t seize to amaze me how quickly things can change. Marriages dissolve, family members die, and friendships end. We lose people and things every day and some losses are just harder to accept than others. Struggles are real. Each one of us with our own.

I for once never thought I would be raising a boy on my own. I dont believe any woman ever dreams of being a single mother.
But life happens.

And each person deals with the cards given by life differently.

Some drink. Others overeat, others lie, others are lazy, others trust too much. Others are depressive. We all kill ourselves a little bit differently, but somehow we all also manage to judge each other’s euthanasia choice of getting there.

Yesterday  I won sole custody of my son after 4 and half years of raising him alone and after a year of a nasty court battle with a man who hasn’t seen his biological child in 4 years and never even bothered to call on any of his birthdays.

Yesterday after that weight came off  my shoulders, I took my son on a date and then I sat and thought about the court hearing, the last few weeks, and years, of my life.

At 31 I have had enough time to come to terms with who I am, my flaws, my qualities,  my horrible shameful mistakes, my shortcomings and my achievements. At 31 I’ve learned what my strengths are as well as my weaknesses and as much as I try to change who I am, I always find myself right back where I started… struggling to change everything about me.
No one said change was easy right?

I have always had a hard time listing my qualities. Maybe because my entire life I was told they weren’t good enough. My A’s in school weren’t A+. Getting 95% on a test wasn’t as good as getting 100%. And that 3.9 GPA was just so close to a 4.0, obviously I slacked off at some point to not make it happen. I grew up always thinking that no matter what I did, it was never good enough. Recently a good friend told me she coudnt watch a speech I gave in front of 400 people because I paused too much with words such as “hmmmm” and it gave HER second hand embarrassment. Since then I had to lead a meeting at work and couldn’t. That insecurity from my teen years crippled me. And I still feel embarrassed when I think about the speech I gave.

The sad part is that I was extremely proud of myself for getting up there and doing something I am so terrified of doing. I felt good. It gave me a boost of confidence that I haven’t had in a while. Until that one comment, from one single person, changed my entire opinion of my accomplishment.

And even worse… the custody case I won was done so with no legal representation. I did it all by myself. I had to stand there and talk in a courtroom in front of an ex who obsessively hates me, strangers and lawyers and a judge and everything was so intimidating and I gasped and chocked because my mind kept taking me back to what that friend said about my speech.

But I pulled it through. Like I always do for my son. I pulled it through in front of a man who all he did was bash me as a person and point out my past, instead of highlighting HIS accomplishments and HIS qualities. Because that’s what people who have nothing to show for them do.

And winning that hearing, on my own, felt like a huge accomplishment. But somehow it still made me self conscious of everything I said. This is how I have always been. Always too worried about being perfect, being liked by everyone, and always afraid of what others think of me.

I graduated high school at 16 when both of my best friends at the time were dropping out. I moved out of the house at 17 and haven’t moved back in since. Today at 31 while I work 50 hour weeks supporting my child alone, some of my ex friends are still living at home, sleeping until noon and not working at all. One in specific dropped out of high school at her sophomore year, falsified a high school from another country (a felony) to start taking some community college classes. The person who bashed my past yesterday has lived his entire life hiding behind his childhood traumas and blaming everyone else for his failures and defeats (including the one yesterday).

Ironically these people are the ones who have the most to say about my shortcomings and how it’s MY life that needs fixing. Isn’t that something?

I can confidently say that at 31 I have lived a life of a 50 year old. I’ve traveled. I’ve been engaged. I had a baby with the man I thought was the love of my life (don’t we all think that at some point?). That baby and I were abandoned to support ourselves without a single dime or note left behind on the fridge door. I’ve been arrested. I’ve fought the system. I lost everything it took me years to build only to rebuild it again years later.

Unlike my qualities, My shortcomings are easy to list.

I’ve had a hell of a stumbling life.

It has been fun and exciting but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t play victim, but sometimes I find myself in that position. Because unlike many lucky people I know, this is just the way my life was from the beginning. And as much as I have improved this life, with both merit and help from others, my life is still far from perfect.
And it scares me. It weights on me. It sends me in a spiral of panic.

To those who have it easy it’s hard to understand these feelings of impotency.

Lucky them.

I sometimes wish I could walk around the sidewalks of my neighborhood and look at the homeless people and see nothing but lazy moochers. But I see victims. Victims everywhere. Victims of parental abuse. Victims of substance abuse. Victims of mental incapacitation. Victims of a variety of circumstances that I am fortunately enough not to have ever experienced it.

People suffer differently. People solve their problems differently and no one has the right to judge the human next to them.

My flaws are clear to anyone paying attention. I have personally suffered from depression and anxiety. I have so since I was a kid. The expectation of being perfect has put tremendous amount of pressure on my shoulders. After I had my son, that pressure quadrupled.

You don’t know anxiety until you experience a newborn in your arms and no job to support him/her. You don’t know depression until you lose a family member or you look at your child’s eyes and wonder why the fuck you couldnt have picked a better father for him/her so your child would never feel rejection. You don’t know fear until you wake up with a fever and worry that it could be something worse than a flu because you can’t miss work since you already used all your sick days caring for your sick child.

As much as my life is hard at times, I am not jealous  those people with great families with whom they can live until they die. “Oh you are 30 honey? Don’t worry mommy and daddy would love to have you here. Just pay us the bare minimum so you feel better about not being on your feet”.

I am not jealous of  those women whose exes pay child support so they never have to worry if they will have money for groceries In The end of the month.

I am not jealous of  those women who can sleep in until noon, go to yoga and daily brunch at the beach because their husbands or boyfriends are the ones making sure they have a roof over their head.

And I am not jealous of men who can just father children and leave them. I am not jealous of men who can live their lives as they see fit, with all the freedom in the world, because someone else is raising their children for them.

I am not jealous. I am not bitter. I am not envious. I actually pity them. I pity them because they don’t know the value of hard work. I pity them because they don’t know what it feels like to accomplish something on their own, without their parents or a boyfriend(girlfriend) helping them. I pity them because they dont know what its like to be a good parent to their children. What a horrible feeling that must be…. to go to bed every day knowing you have failed your child(en).

And I pity them because I know their judgment comes from a place of jealousy. Because they can’t accomplish what you have, they feel the need to belittle your accomplishments and point out any little mistake they can find in your life so they can feel better about their failures.

But while I Pity them I am also impressed by them. Those people, with such easy lives, find ways to judge those who weren’t as fortunate. It would be like me judging someone for being depressed because they dont have two legs like I do, or someone who is suicidal because they lost their children when mine is still safely asleep in bed.

I’ve learned that everything we judge in others are things within ourselves we are not willing to face. And these judgemental people are just not willing to face they are losers in life. In every definition of the word.

They have failed in school. They have failed at their careers (lack thereof I mean), they have failed at supporting themselves, they failed their family and they have failed at being decent human beings.

So I try to let it go. After all, what Susie says of sally, says more about Susie than it does about sally. I’ve always thought Susie didn’t own a mirror. Now I am convinced.

I am not Susie. I am not those privileged people with time in their hands to judge their neighbors. And here is where my overseen qualities come in.

I support my son alone. And when I say alone I literally mean alone. No help from the biological father. No check from mom or dad to help out with my car payment or my son’s pre school. If my car breaks, I will take the bus with my kid until I have money to fix it. If I fail at work, I lose my job. If I lose my job i will lose my apartment and I will be homeless with my son. Because guess what? I don’t have a boyfriend or family with an extra room to take us in.

I wake up every day at 5:30am to go to work. I take a shower. Wake up my toddler who is crying because he wants to sleep more (not his fault mom is broke and has to work). I Feed him. Change him. Drive an hour and drop him off. Go to work. Be there for 9 hours. Get yelled yet if I drop the ball on an account. Miss a bonus (or get a bonus). Pick up my kid. Drive another hour home. Make dinner with my work clothes still on. Feed my toddler. Bathe my toddler. Read my toddler something. Play with him for an hour or so (although my feet is swollen and i am exhausted) because that’s the only time i have during the week to. I Put him to bed. THEN, ONLY THEN I can take a shower, eat my dinner and get my self to bed by 11pm so I can get 6 hours of sleep and start over.

The bills are paid. The house is clean. The food is fresh. The child is bathed.

THIS IS MY PATTERN. And I am holding it together as best as I can.

And let me make it very clear: I won custody of my child not because the system is rigged against fathers or because some men are “victimized” by the system or by “crazy women” like I had to hear yesterday. I won custody of my child simply because I am a better adult AND a better parent. I will not let ANYONE tell me otherwise.

Being a good mother while your heart is breaking, your life is struggling and your mind spinning, is the hardest role I have ever had to play. But I do it daily because I am an ADULT who knows her responsibilities.

And above all…. I do it daily because my only goal is to raise a child who doesn’t have to recover from his childhood.

And the cost of putting his needs before my own is high. I have serious panic attacks which wakes me up in the middle of the night suffocating me as if there is not enough air in the world. I have anxiety attacks where my whole body shakes non stop and my vision goes blurry. I catch myself crying in the bathroom so my child doesn’t see that mom is worried about the bills this month.

And that doesn’t make me crazy. It doesnt make anyone crazy. I don’t need pills or a straight jacket. I need a better job, more money, more support and a better way to provide for my child. I need a society that understands the pressure single parents are in. Those are the ONLY things that will make my anxiety and panic attacks go away. Not some goddamn Prozac or benzo. Americans are overly medicated anyway. We are taking adderall to wake us up, Xanax to calm us down and Ritalin to concentrate. We are a pill popping nation who believes everything and everyone’s problems can be solved with medication.

There is no lack of Prozac supply in the world. There is a lack of understanding and a clearance on the judgement isle.

This is life. It’s messy. It’s ugly. It’s tough. It’s a constant struggle. And my heart goes out to those who understand struggle but wake up every single day and pull it through.

Keep going. Keep trying. Because NO ONE knows your struggles more than you. And you should NEVER waste your time explaining to people things that they are committed to misunderstanding. Because this is natural human behavior: we are great lawyers when it comes to our mistakes and flaws but great judges when it comes to everyone else’s.

So let them judge. Let them be cruel. Let them sit in court and try to paint an ugly picture of you because they cant paint a pretty picture of themselves. Let them think whatever it is they want to think. Focus on you. Focus on improving yourself and waking up every day at 5:30am to feed the one depends on you. His approval is the only one that matters.

Live your life and be always try to be better. Those who spend their time judging and bashing you are ALWAYS the ones who can’t to do half of what you do.

Ps: special shout out to all single moms out there pulling double duty every day. I see you. I recognize you. Cry if you need to. Lose it if you have to. It’s your life. Your struggle. If you are pulling it through alone, You’ve earned it to be left alone.

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Author: Brisa Pinho

Brazilian. Piscean. Project manager. Raising a boy in a man's world... without a man.

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