Dear Chump Lady,
I have been divorced for 2 years (total 4 years with the separation) and my ex quickly moved on with another woman. Even though I know for a fact their relationship is dysfunctional I still feel he “won” and that he is viewed as a happier person because he is in a new relationship already.
Even though I know that a new relationship doesn’t make you happy or healed, I still feel that a new man is the answer. I too want to be viewed as happy and over it. Why do I care so much what people think?
You want to know the funny part? There is this part of me that actually believes I’d be happier single. (I’ve been married twice.) But I’m scared to live the happy/single life. I still want “the picture.” I still want a father for my daughter. I still want to be able to have a successful romantic relationship. I still want love and affection and partnership. Wanting to be in a healthy romantic relationship is natural, right?
On top of this I’m a black woman and I find the single black mother narrative so unattractive. I see it as a failure.
I don’t want to feel like a new man is the answer to my healing, but is he?
With great appreciation,
Let me suggest that feeling like a failure is not the way to attract good people into your life.
You know who is attracted to wobbly self-esteem? Predators. Users. Freaks who can sniff that “CHANGE MY NARRATIVE!” neediness out on you at 10 paces.
I’m not going to beat you up for wanting a healthy partnership or another invested parent for your child. I totally get wanting that. Just don’t want it so bad that you’ll put up with shit or project goodness on to someone because you need to see it, not because it exists.
I find the single black mother narrative so unattractive.
Sorry. I will not permit you to find YOUR OWN NARRATIVE “unattractive.” There are a bazillion ugly voices in the world shitting on single mothers (Every. Single. Fucking. David. Brooks. Column.) — do NOT join the hater chorus.
Changing the narrative starts with you. Reframe your story. You’re MIGHTY.
Why is single motherhood the only disadvantage that’s not seen as a portrait in courage? Man loses leg, hops the Boston marathon? Portrait in courage. Hopeful contestant loses gallbladder in tragic accident, sings talent show aria. Portrait in courage. Woman loses loser, raises children ALONE and UNSUPPORTED — portrait in pathetic? WHY?!
Single parents are SUPERHEROES. They raise presidents. They write the best-selling books of ALL TIME. They rock parent-teacher conferences SOLO.
Don’t you DARE tell yourself you’re less than when you’re doing the work of ten. Don’t you dare internalize some patriarchal nonsense that says you need a man for status. Fuck what “people think.” I’d rather ask a spit bucket to measure my self-worth.
Speaking of which — let me share a cautionary tale of what happens when you Listen To The Voices. When I first went through divorce, I was 34 and my son was 4. I didn’t know anyone who was divorcing. Everyone in those mommy groups was on their second and third child, bragging about how many organ fugues their toddler could play. I was the loser freak.
I mentioned my divorce at one of these playgroups, and a mother smirked “I guess Tracy won’t be having any more children!” (as if divorce withered your ovaries).
My son’s kindergarten teacher told me she’d never had a “divorced mother” in her class before. (I shit you not.)
His first grade teacher told me I sucked because my son “liked to play” and that I could sell his pictures because he was so beautiful — but you “can’t go through life trading on cuteness and charm.” Then she looked me square in the eye, smiled and said “your parenting skills” — and blew a raspberry at me. I’d met this woman TWICE. This was a parent teacher conference. Mrs. P. Tuckahoe Elementary School. Arlington, Va. 2002.
(Postscript — I pulled my son out that school. Today my son’s in college on academic scholarship — 4.0 this last semester, economics major. Trading on all that cuteness and charm, fuckyouverymuch. SINGLE PARENTING DID THAT.)
I’m not finished.
I had an uncle tell me I was a “loser” when I got divorced. My own grandmother said off-handedly, “Well, I guess you’ll die alone. You can’t expect another man to ever love your child.”
(Postscript, she’s dead. I’m not. My husband loves my child.)
ConfusedChump — I totally get the voices and I GET why you want the happy-ever-after narrative to prove all the haters (and your own self-loathing) wrong.
I own my chumpiness — spackle, hopium, general idiocy — that led to marriage #2 — a guy who turned out to be a sociopath. But in retrospect, part of the decision to try so hard to work with such a loathsome person was those voices. Which said divorce was a failure. That I needed marriage to be respectable and whole. That my son (who had a mentally ill, mostly absent father) needed a “male presence” in his life.
REJECTING that narrative freed me. Literally saved my life.
Divorce is a failure? No, being a serial cheater is a failure. Singleness is pathetic? No, trying to reconcile with a fuckwit who devalues me is pathetic. My son needs a role model? Yes he does — ME. Real men don’t cheat. I’ll be goddamned if I’ll stick around for this shit.
“Failing” at marriage #2 freed me from giving a flying fuck what anyone thinks. Let it free you too.The problem is NOT that you’re a black, single mother. The problem is that anyone would think less of you for being a black, single mother. When you internalize how resilient and beautiful you are, then you won’t need anyone to complete you. You’re enough.
A total portrait in courage.