Childrearing

Why The ‘Single Mom Statistics’ Suck: According To The Numbers, I Should Be A Failure

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I was 21-years-old when I got pregnant. My boyfriend and I had not been dating very long. I was a week late in getting my next Depo shot, my birth control method at the time. I assumed everything would be fine, because people normally couldn’t get pregnant in the first couple months off the shot anyways. And then, suddenly, there I was. Pregnant.

My whole word changed in that moment, definitely for the better. But that doesn’t mean that things were easy. I barely had any savings at the time. The gym that I helped manage was starting to bounce my pay checks. I didn’t have any health insurance. The only thing I had going for me was the complete and total support of my amazing family.

In those days, I seemed to fit the “single mother” stereotype perfectly. All of those statistics that people like to throw around to prove that birth before marriage is a death sentence, they would’ve used me as an example.

My daughter’s father and I did not work out. Shocking no one, a relationship without time to develop didn’t get better with the pressures of having a baby. I did manage to get a better job managing a salon, then an even better one managing a business office. My company even paid to send me back to school. My daughter was born and my family helped me pay for the expenses I couldn’t cover. It would take me years to pay my parents back.

In those first few years, I could’ve been the story in the New York Times. When they compared two women who worked together, one a boss and married mother, one an employee and a single mother, they could’ve been talking about my boss and I. She owned her home, I rented. She had a dual-income family, I had one. Her daughter had a dad at home, mine saw her father every couple of weeks for a few hours at a time.

In that story, I was the failure. I was the woman who had her baby out of wedlock, whose life would be sad and miserable. My daughter wouldn’t have been able to afford a good college. She would’ve repeated my sad pattern.

Then, I met my husband. We got married, moved in to our own home, and are living happily ever after or some such fun. I am no longer considered a single mother. My daughter has a man who she calls “Daddy” home every night, helping me read bedtime stories and clean up the kitchen after family dinner. My career has grown past office management and office work all together. We have two incomes, which is obviously helpful.

But are my daughter and I really different people? With one admittedly-magnificent “I Do” in a mountain cabin did I really change the entire trajectory of our lives? And what happens if, God forbid, tragedy strikes and I become a single mother all over again? Where do I fit in there? According to all those reports, the only thing that saved my daughter and I from a very dim existence was the lucky chance that I found a man to marry me, but I refuse to believe that we couldn’t have done it on our own.

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