As a single woman and mom in my late 30s, I often find myself at social events, talking about my life.
It’s not surprising that the conversations become personal at some point; talking and sharing with others who are in their 30s and 40s, who want to find their partners and have kids. They look at me, with my 15-year-old son, and they say, “you did it right!”
You already have your son so the pressure is off!
You can focus on your career!
You’re still young so if you want more kids you can do that too!
The reaction to my story, or the manufactured version that they hear, is positive, encouraging, celebrated. But then I explain more. That I’m working really hard on my career, trying to make up for the lost time. That I love my son but getting pregnant at 22 wasn’t my plan and it wasn’t exciting. I was terrified.
I have to admit, the positive responses are much better than the alternative but, boy, I certainly didn’t plan it that way. Now that I’m on the other side, it doesn’t seem so bad but it didn’t feel that way when I was starting this journey.
I was 21 when I met my ex-husband. By 22, I was married and pregnant. When I turned 23, I had a baby boy and a husband who was almost twice my age and not a great partner. This all happened so fast. I wasn’t from the States, and my parents were still halfway around the world.
I’d soon wake up to days that blurred, all alone. My husband was constantly traveling for work. We had little to no money, and I was dealing with postpartum depression. Let’s just say, life was incredibly overwhelming.
My husband never understood how deep and dark my sadness was; “snap out of it,” he would say, annoyed by my crying. I was silent during my son’s first year. I would look at him, mostly just holding him tight. Trying to relate to a baby.
As time went on, I tried not to share my thoughts or express concerns to my husband because he said I came off as “disrespectful and demanding.” I stopped asking him to hold the baby or to help out with him because as he’d remind me, that’s a woman’s job. I had to raise my son mostly in isolation.
I knew a few women with children, some of them were as young as I was but they seemed to love being mothers. I envied them. I loved my son but this hadn’t been in my plan. I didn’t want to be a mother who felt all by herself.
At night, right before I’d fall asleep, I’d wonder if maybe everything would be easier if I just didn’t wake up in the morning. But then I would think about my son. I didn’t trust that anyone but me was going to take care of him as well as I could, as I would. I realized the magnitude of motherhood and tried to focus on ways to succeed. I concentrated on my goal to give my son a better life. The best life I could.
I didn’t come from much, growing up life was difficult. I wasn’t sure what a good relationship looked like because my parents’ seemed so dysfunctional. However, I was determined to do it for my son and what I came to realize, for myself. First things first, I started on a plan for a way out of my marriage.
Education was my ticket. I was a really good student and everyone had high hopes for me. I felt like a failure at 23 and I was embarrassed.
I spent the next 12 years of my life thinking about this while raising my son, working towards my plan to leave. As life would prove, it might take a while to get where you’re going, but you’ve got to stay the course. I eventually moved to Brooklyn from the Midwest. I managed to complete my immigration process and graduate from an Ivy League school. When my mother agreed to come live with me and help me raise my son, I finally filed for divorce.
It’s been 3 years of freedom, that’s how I would describe it.
My ex-husband is not part of our lives at all, his choice not mine. It’s not ideal because my son is growing up without a father, but it’s better for him. My ex is not the example I would like for my son.
So, 16 years later— do I think I did it right? No. I missed out on a lot of parts of life and at times failed to be a good mother, person, and friend. I had to spend most of my energy outside of parenting on finishing my education. It’s easier to look at the end result and judge it differently, especially without all of the details. And while I didn’t do it all the right way, I did the best I could.
It’s turned out all right but it was with a lot of struggle and pain.
No journey is linear, and it’s often never how we plan it, but if this story can give something to another mother, to say – hey, just keep going. Don’t give up on yourself. Ever.