Today is Mother's Day as we all know. For some reason, this year I'm feeling particularly emotional about it. As you all know I'm a single mom. As in, a single mom by true definition. (Someone who raises her child entirely on her own, dad is non-existent: aka, single parenthood.) It certainly hasn't been easy but it definitely has been rewarding.
I've had to fight for everything over the years. Society is not kind to women in general and it is even more unkind to single mothers. Single mothers with special needs children? Forget it!! We are invisible to the world. My son is only seen because I scream. A. Lot. If I didn't, he'd be lost in the shuffle: no insurance, no services, and no where near where he is today. He would still be a non-verbal, increasingly aggressive child.
I had to fight my way through college for my BA in Arts, then more recently for my MEd in Special Education. I had to fight for every job I had and then fight to keep it. As a single mom I can't just call dad in to help. I am my own reinforcements. I have to do it all on my own. The kiddo gets sick at school? It's me leaving work to pick him up. As a woman I get paid less. Imagine trying to pay your bills on a single, small income. Getting a second job was a thought but never a reality. Why? Because when you have a special needs child, you just can't do it. Someone has to fight for services. Someone has to do the leg work. Someone has to be home to care for him. There is no tag team to happen here. Once again, I'm left on my own.
I would think that dating when you have typical children is hard enough. But dating when you have a child with the complex needs that our kiddos have? It's laughable. With how special needs families split at such a high rate, how can our dating lives be successful? The more care your child requires, the less time you have to focus on anything else. Hell, you don't even have time to spend on yourself... The balance is a hard one to find and keep. Someone to watch the kiddo? Can you hear me laughing yet? On the upside, less than quality guys get weeded out reeeeeeallly quick. ;)
I make just over the limit for welfare. Due to a loophole, a freaking LOOPHOLE, my son kept health insurance. I often go without, making any doctor's appointments out of pocket expenses for me. I didn't even qualify for the recent Obamacare stuff. I made too little for it but too much for Medicaid. I was even fined for it on my taxes this year. Money I could have used to pay for my medical costs or care of my son, the IRS took as a fine... Once again, we fell in the cracks.
There's a huge societal stigma on single motherhood still. If my son does something unexpected or "wrong" then I'm to blame. Society blames it on the fact that he's being raised by a single mom. Surely I can't raise him properly. (/snark) They even blame me for his list of diagnosis. (Yes, this crap seriously exists.) The attitudes I get from people are mind-boggling.
Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. That's all I do. I fight for his rights. I fight for my rights. I fight against the stigma of being a single mom. I fight for our ability to just live.
But you know what?
I wouldn't change a damn thing about it. Nothing.
I love being a single mom. It has taught us the real value of things in life. We appreciate what little we have. We appreciate our time together. We actually SPEND time together. We don't care about money or trinkets or the latest and greatest vacation. We appreciate the beach just a mile from our house. We appreciate the parks we can visit. We appreciate visiting family and friends and just hanging out. We have a love for life and the ability to actually enjoy it. For us, the little things do matter. (And hell, I don't even have to argue with anyone else about what I do with him or where I take him! BONUS! ;) Haha!)
For me, everything is two-fold. Yes, the bad is as well but really I focus on the good. Every achievement feels twice as good. Every battle won is cause for celebration. Every goal we surpass is defining.
My son understands the value of love. What it means to love someone. Truly love. And he is joyous, caring, nurturing, and frankly one of the best souls out there. You won't see this child talk back to me. You won't see him order me around. You won't see him disrespect me or anyone else. Something I see and am the recipient of on a daily basis as a teacher... This is one of the best reflections you can have on you as a parent: a respectful, caring child.
Despite all of society's ignorance, this single mom (and many like me) are doing one hell of a bang up job raising beautiful children who will become amazing adults. We defy the odds. We are strong women who will never give up on making our children's dreams come true. Society gives us barriers with a broken system stacked against us. We don't take "no" for an answer.
We push through. Here's to all the single moms (and dads!!) out there keeping up the good fight!