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Cheryl and Zoe

Partnership or Parenthood?

i winced when I saw the June topic – “fathers.”  Not because I don’t have one or don’t love the one I have.  On the contrary, my own relationship with my father has always been complex and inspired.  Not easy, not without its struggle, but strong.  No, I winced because of the unexpected challenges I have experienced as a “single mother by choice” finding a partner for myself who is willing to take the whole package I have now become – a “woman with a small child.”

I am part of a post-feminist phenomenon, of a generation of women who skipped the requisite “marriageable” options presented in our 20s because we were out in the world having a life and simply were not ready – we wanted to spread our wings, have options, perhaps even have a real, substantial career.  We were looking to find a new breed of enlightened man, willing and able to pick up the slack of our growth opportunities.  Some were lucky and married well, some found their mates in their 30s, with enough time accrued finding themselves to really choose and to know what they were choosing, and not just take the first one who came along and was “good enough.”  But me, I wanted more.  I was growing and didn’t want to hold that back or pull someone into my life “forever” before the time was really right.  I read the feminist literature that said I could have it all, be it all, do it all.  And so I waited.  I passed on my college boyfriend who didn’t want me to have a career that would “take me out of the home.”  I passed and passed and suddenly, one day, the game changed and I found myself to be the one passed over because a woman who desperately wants a child isn’t exactly hot property in our culture.  It’s rather like running down the street with a blazing red “D” for desperate on your forehead.

To be fair, I believe the men of my generation were never adequately prepared for the shifts the feminist movement would bring to the collective unconscious of a generation of women poised and groomed, as I was, to “break the mold.”  And we ourselves seemed to fall into our own self-involvement and the one-sidedness this change brought, even as it liberated us from the past.  In other words, we didn’t quite get it that this wasn’t just about us.  So our men went from being providers and leaders to “co-facilitators” both in the workplace and in the home.  And this has been confusing and confounding.  And then there’s the issue of timing.  There are wonderful men out there – great fathers, but the thought of adding a small child to the complexities of beginning romantic life anew in mid-life proves overwhelming.  They are in their 50s and just want a little peace and quiet. 

Right before I adopted my daughter I suffered the breakup of a serious relationship because my fiancee wanted me – alone.  Sans child.  “You’ll be a wonderful grandmother to my daughter’s children,” he said.  “I’m just too tired to do this again.  I’ve done it and I can’t go backwards.”  And so, once again, I had to pass.  And I don’t regret it.  I will never, ever regret the choice I made to adopt my daughter.  But there is a sense of loss as this issue follows me through my journey to find a partner, a lover, a companion.  Because they are no longer just dating me.  They are dating “us.”  Or choosing not to.  And am I really being asked to choose:  partnership or parenthood?

I do my best to explain to Zoe that families are made up all sorts of ways and we are just fine the way we are.  And in truth, we are just fine.  And many of her friends have only one parent or two same sex parents.  We are all part of a new family model I am teaching her to respect and honor.  And so we live our lives together, Zoe and I, and we enjoy a wonderful community of good friends.  I have close girlfriends with great husbands and a few of them have been consistently hands on with my daughter.  We are lucky that Zoe still has a grandpa, and my brother, overloaded with a busy career and 2 children of his own, pitches in.

We “choice moms” are a new generation of fatherless mothers.  We are strong, independent, intelligent, and yes, even sexy.  We forged our own paths and ended up out of time.  But… out of luck?  I dearly hope hot.  Because I love men, I love fathers, I love my own father and I want to believe there is someone out there who considers the mantle of fatherhood sacred enough to jump in and not look back.  My daughter is a locomotive of energy, love and infinite possibilities for growth for anyone fortunate enough to know her.  She will move one lucky man forward, never backward.

In the meantime I am registering her for the neighborhood baseball league and soccer on Sundays at the Y.  She is very athletic and active.  We will continue to forge a path together.  Who knows, perhaps one day a very nice “coach” will appear, and we will all move forward together.  One can only hope.  And keep slugging.

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