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(Ceilidh McLeod for The Globe and Mail)
(Ceilidh McLeod for The Globe and Mail)

I'm a single mom and proud Add to ...

It's not all glitz and glamour, even though Hollywood makes it seem like it is. I'm talking about the new black: the unwed mother.

The list in Hollywood is long. In my own experience there are more unmarried moms than married ones. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially since I fit perfectly plum square into the middle of the unmarried mom category.

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To say my daughter is my life would be an understatement, especially to those who know me well. Ava is the best and most amazing person in the world to me. She has brought more joy into my life than I ever thought possible (giving credence to her middle name, Joy).

 

It's hardly taboo any more either. To be an unmarried mother these days is almost conventional. Almost. There's still that sometimes pitiful look I get from the happily married, stay-at-home-mom type who says with a frown, "Oh, that's too bad," when I say, "I have no husband." Or that grandmotherly acquaintance of the family who tsk-tsks at the notion of having and raising a baby on your own.

I wear it as a badge of honour and often feel like shouting from the mall's second level, "Look at me! I work, I parent and I do it all by myself!" But sometimes I can't help feeling that people look down on me, that they assume I somehow intentionally put the future success of my daughter in jeopardy by "choosing" to be a single mom.

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I didn't do it all alone. She wasn't immaculately conceived. She has a father. We were together when I got pregnant and tried, as best we could, to make it work and become that family picture of perfection. But it didn't happen. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it happen.

I asked myself, would I rather live in misery with a partner or try to find some kind of happiness for myself and chance it on my own? It was not an easy decision. The living in misery with a partner scenario almost won out. At least I wouldn't have to do everything alone.

But in the end, my daughter's future successes, goals and self-esteem ruled. I couldn't stand the idea of her growing up in a household where her parents hated each other. Where yelling and arguing were the main forms of communication. I wouldn't, couldn't, risk her future just so I didn't have to parent alone.

So here I am. Now free from a tumultuous relationship, alone with my daughter, trying to raise her with the morals and values I believe in. Trying to balance a job and home life while attempting, albeit unsuccessfully, to find love once more.

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It's not an easy task. Honestly, how many men out there would be willing to take on an instant family? It's hardly an ideal situation for anyone to want to become a part of, no matter how understanding he might be.

Then there's the time factor. When is there time to mingle and date and be the witty, charming me when all I can think about is how much laundry I have to fold, how the dirty dishes are piling up and how I just ran out of milk?

Sure, I can carry on a conversation. Today's topic: the difficulty of getting my two-year-old to sit still long enough for me to trim her toenails. Exciting stuff. And even if I did get to go out and happen across a man of good repute, I wouldn't have the time to wax philosophical about the global economic crisis or chit-chat about my next shopping tour across Europe, since my babysitter would be charging me at least $10 an hour.

Unlike the Hollywood single mom, I do not have unlimited funds, personal trainers and a full-time nanny (or two). I look like and act like, well, a mom. I don't have a flat belly and long, trim legs. I can't afford to go to the salon to get my chipped and thin nails manicured or have my ragged, frizzy mop-head transformed into sleek, shiny hair.

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Yet, the trickiest aspect of navigating this single-mom life is the pressure to be everything and everyone to the biggest love of my life. I get help from my wonderful family and friends, but the awesome responsibility of caring and providing for another life on your own can sometimes be a tad scary. Let's be honest, it can be downright terrifying.

I tell myself constantly that I'm doing the best I can, although there's still that underlying fear that I will fail miserably. That the stigma of single parenthood holds some truth and my extraordinary daughter will somehow end up a misguided statistic.

Then I remember that I turned out okay, maybe even better than okay, being raised by a single mother. And even though we always want more for our kids than we had for ourselves, that thought comforts me. So what if we aren't living in La La Land? There's no reason why we also can't live happily ever after.

Karen J. Kotzen lives in Thornhill, Ont.

 

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