She said to him, “shut yo @#$ up and come the f#*k on!” This wasn’t a scene I observed between two, grown friends at a subway station. Rather, this was a young mother screaming at her son; her son who looked to be no more than four years old. It’s a scene I’ve witnessed many times over in different cities and in various contexts. The basic themes are the same, however: a young single mother is trying to raise a child with whom they are, in truth, angry with.
How can one raise and love a child with whom they are angry? I’m not sure it’s possible. Yet this is precisely what I see over and over. Most view these scenes and automatically demonize these single mothers and their disposition toward their young, innocent children. I, however, see something very different below the surface. At the very core there are broken, unfulfilled dreams. At the very heart of the issue is a life- that of the mother- which has been radically altered and the anger they carry when confronted with the reality that all the responsibility has fallen upon them while the other responsible party is out on Friday night. Further, given that the man responsible for the child’s life didn’t want to be involved daily, it’s highly unlikely that another man not responsible for it would like to be. In the end there is a child they are left to raise, goals and dreams now unreachable (or deeply complicated) and constant attempts to persuade themselves that the love they have for that child is sufficient to justify all other disappointments.
Very seldom will a single mother open up about their true feelings and disappointments with their situation. Every now and then I come across one who, just for a moment, will let down their guard and candidly speak. They will tell me about the career path they wish they could pursue but can’t. They will tell me about the trips they can’t take, the life they can’t live and the hardships they face. Without failure, when those mothers slip into such candor, they immediately catch themselves and revert to their role as a mother. After opening up about how they are not living the life they’d hoped for, they immediately respond with something along the lines of, “oh, but I love my son.” Funny thing is, no one asked. No one questioned their love for their children. So why do they throw it out? I have to believe it is born of guilt and fear. Guilty that they honestly don’t truly want the life they have and fearful that such an admission must mean that they don’t love their child. Therefore, to assuage their conscience they routinely revert to declaring their love for their child whenever confronted with their distaste for their life.
I would submit that honesty is liberating. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with admitting you aren’t living the life you originally wanted. Very few are. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you are angry that two parties were responsible for a life but only one party is bearing the responsibilities while the other party is living a life largely unchanged. In all this, we must be open to the fact that two things can be true at the same time: you can not love the life you have but still love your child.