Maybe you've heard of me.
I am the never married, inner city single parent. The image that is painted of me by the world at large is one of wanton sexual promiscuity, complete irresponsibility and damaged children. Statistically speaking, we live in an impoverished area, we live at or near the poverty level because I don't have enough of an education to have a job making much more than minimum wage, and since mine is the only income, it is woefully inadequate. My children will suffer from not having both parents in the home, all the studies say, and I am to blame for it all.
That's what conservative media sells their constituency, anyway. For some people that's very true. For SOME people. For most of the rest of us, the truth is far more complicated and nuanced. If you are willing to listen, there is a story there, just not the one you think it is.
Mine is a story of an insecure girl who sought to soothe her insecurity in the worst possible way, relationships with men thought to be the objects of other women's attentions. If you were to ask me what I was thinking, I would probably tell you that I thought that I could be the one to make the relationships "work" where other women had failed previously. The fact that I believed this not once, but twice, tells you that I was either a hopeless romantic, an incurable optimist, incredibly foolish or a rotating combination of all three. All I can say is that between romance novels and romantic comedies, there was a long stretch in my life where I had particularly unrealistic notions about relationships, and people's willingness and ability to "change" given the right circumstances. Mercifully, I figured it out at the two child mark, but some women take far longer, and unfortunately, are the ones who turn bitter after the reality that you can't change people sets in.
But as much as I admit to making two extremely poor choices (based on looks alone) in relationships, eleven years apart, I do not regret having my children. That's not to say that this has been an easy road. I realized on the day of my son's birth that the majority of the responsibility for child raising was going to be on me, and I made a promise to God and myself that I was going to step up to the best of my ability. I was one month shy of my 21st birthday with only a high school education, but I had a pleasant enough personality, a good professional demeanor, gave great "phone", and had a history of front of house type jobs (Which I didn't realize at the time meant I had kind of a pretty face. I've always thought I was funny looking. Live and learn.), which I was able to translate into a series of receptionist jobs. I say series because initially the only work I could get was through temp agencies, which was far from steady work (I can't begin to tell you the number of times we were evicted because I was out of work just long enough to get behind in the rent.), but it kept us afloat for 10 years. During that time I worked my way up from Receptionist to Executive Secretary by learning on the job any skill I didn't already have. The upshot to that, however, was that my son had a lot of issues both at school, and with his daycare, and when you are a contract employee, if you don't go to work, you don't get paid. Which is why I missed my son's learning disabilities by so far a margin that by the time anyone was halfway willing to do anything about it, he had already given up on school.
Our little family fits the description while blowing it out of the water. Yes, we live paycheck to paycheck. I wanted to live in a safe-ish neighborhood, especially because of my son, and I wanted to be somewhere I could let my daughter play outside, without fear or worry. Mercifully, where I live is about average for the region, price-wise. I drive an eight year old used car, but there is still a car note, and insurance. I tried mightily to live without a car on several occasions, and so long as I had no life outside work or church, living without a car was doable. The minute I wanted to do anything at night, or in any of the outlying suburbs at odd hours, there was an issue. My son did drop out of high school, and is struggling because of it, but so are many other young men and women with untreated ADHD and other learning disabilities. The ADHD, by the way, is hereditary. I have it, as does my daughter. If you can tell from the title of this blog, there are three people in this house that have fairly serious social, emotional, concentration and organization issues.
Nobody knows how or why, but somehow, we make it work. Despite what you may have heard about young Black males without a high school education, my son has not only NOT become a criminal, he has never been in any major trouble. My daughter is an academic superstar, with the social behaviors exhibited by natural introverts, preferring to be alone with electronics or with a good book as often as with other people. Whatever they end up believing later on in life, I gave them a Christian foundation so that they would both have some spiritual grounding, as well as an extended church family. I have always encouraged communication between the fathers and the children. Note: I said between the FATHERS and the CHILDREN. I have also made it very clear that the state of these relationships are the responsibility of the father, as I would neither force these relationships, nor discourage them. I would only intervene if there were absolutely no other way to resolve an issue. My son has chosen to have limited contact with his father; my daughter's relationship with her father is, much like the Facebook status, "complicated" (see earlier statement about only intervening if I had to).
You won't hear about my little family on the news of course. We are the OK square pegs that simply do not fit in the dysfunctional round holes that society would have you believe we should be in. We are far from perfect, obviously. I get frustrated with all the new parenting methods and I yell. My restless, impatient son is drifting between goals, and trying to figure out what to do with himself. My daughter is in the throws of an ADHD enhanced pre-teen life, and it's attached emotionalism. Quite normal, actually.
No one is suffering from a lack of anything. Sometimes we run out of things, or have to wait until payday. We are three people getting through life, day by day. Nothing remarkable or extraordinary. Which doesn't sell newspapers or political agendas.
Which is why you've never heard of me. Or any of the rest of us. And you never will.