For Henry

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Writers need to use their full names. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Jill Lakin Schatz

"Your baby knows how to be born." These words of a friend rang in my head during the delivery of my son, Henry, which was fairly brief and characterized by relief that he came out with all ten toes (I worried too much Diet Pepsi at the end of my pregnancy would reduce the number to nine).

But did I know how to be a mother? The early months of motherhood were filled with trying to be the perfect mother; to fulfill every need of this little creature. I breastfed before he demanded it. I pounced on anyone who made a sound when he was asleep or used a curse word in front of him. I wanted every moment of every day to be perfect. I hated myself when it wasn't.

My own mother was there all the time for me. She was at the breakfast table early in the morning before the sun had even risen because no one else could cut up strawberries with enough love and attention; she drove me to the top of our street to wait for the bus just so I would not be cold waiting by myself for five minutes; she made hot cocoa from scratch with tiny marshmallows floating on top. She has a certain smell, a sweetness and a special love for me that only I know.

As a mother myself, I hated how tired I was and how short-tempered. I hated the days I was in my bathrobe at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I hated that I could not get rid of the persistent flesh that hung where my waist used to be. My ex-husband was chronically unemployed and totally uninterested in our child. He hit me once when Henry was a little less than six months old. The police came. My ex-husband called the next morning from jail. "So, are you happy now? I will see you later." The order of protection prevented him from seeing me later; three more orders of protection kept him away.

Henry and I have been on our own since then. He is four now. I wish he had two good parents. I don't know how I will ever be able to explain the absence of his father without breaking his heart.

I will never forget the day my soulful and kind father sat me down at our kitchen table with the avocado green swivel chairs and told me he was an orphan. He and his older brother, Henry, grew up during the Depression and were placed in an orphanage because their parents did not have enough money to feed and provide for them. At 2 1/2, he was picked out of a sandbox by the woman I call my grandmother because he was the cute one with red hair. His foster family was told they could take "that one" only if they also took in Henry. They did.

My family today includes two guinea pigs, a dog, and a Siamese Fighting Fish. When Henry tells people about our home he adds Chloe, Oinky, Max and Flipper to the list of Mommy and Henry. I am making up in animals what we lack in people and stability, although I know that multiple pets and lots of love cannot make up for the lack of a father.

I hate that I am not the perfect mother. I grow impatient after I have told Henry 500 times not to flood the bathroom floor and spill all the bubble bath. I hate that I yell. I do not want my son to remember me as the mother who filled his world with "No's." I want him to know that I would have slain any and all dragons to keep him safe and warm and cuddled in his bed under the quilt with the brightly colored cars and trucks on it. I am his mother. I will make mistakes, probably every day of his life, but I am doing the best I can. I am doing it alone and I will keep doing it, every day, no matter what. I am doing it all, for Henry.


Jill Lakin Schatz is a single mother who lives in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., with her son Henry and all the pets listed above. She has been a practicing attorney for more than twelve years.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 20, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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WOW!!! am I really first?

Jill, I am the only child of a single mother. Do your best, but don't forget to keep a life of your own too.

Posted by: Laughlin | November 20, 2007 7:37 AM

We wish everyone a safe and fruitful Thanksgiving this year.

We have much to be thankful for. 3 of our 4 children will be at home with us and our AF daughter remains safe, now back in the U.S. but vigilant as she will work on Thanksgiving Day.

Fred and Frieda

Posted by: Fred | November 20, 2007 7:51 AM

Jill, this was a GREAT blog. One sentence (well, two) in particular jumped out at me. The first: "I don't know how I will ever be able to explain the absence of his father without breaking his heart." There are ways a parent who is present in a child's life can break hearts, too. I have seen this with my stepdaughter as she realizes that there have been times her mother was more interested in "punishing" my husband than in looking out for her daughter's best interests. As my stepdaughter has grown into a young woman, I have seen the heartache when she realizes (unfortunately, again and again) that her mother is a liar and a rather mean and small person. Many little hurts add up to a very sore heart.

And you also wrote of your mother, "She has a certain smell, a sweetness and a special love for me that only I know." This made me smile and wish my own mom was awake right now so I could call her and tell her I love her. And it makes me hope my own children feel this about me as well.

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. I've got to get cooking.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 20, 2007 7:57 AM

Greetings from the Great White North (our Thanksgiving was last month so it's a normal work week).

Go ahead, slaughter me for this comment but I'll make it anyway:

How come the successful practicing attorney winds up with the guy who's "chronically unemployed and totally uninterested in our child?" It's very doubtful his behavior changed when the baby was born; he most likely exhibited that behavior long before.

Was he the hot stud-muffin and she was convinced that she could change him into the "soulful and kind father" with her love?

Sounds like she should have been looking for the "soulful and kind father" type in the first place.

(Count me as one who is looking forward to Leslie's upcoming book to see if there is an explanation for this phenomenon; that is, successful women attracted to abusive, controlling jerks rather than the guys who would actually make good husbands and fathers. Seriously.)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | November 20, 2007 8:02 AM

To WorkingMomX- wake your mother up and tell her you love her!!

Thank you all for your comments- I will log on later to respond.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by: henrysmom | November 20, 2007 8:08 AM

m2j5c2 - I won't slaughter you for that comment because I have often wondered the same thing. A woman I once work with, bright, funny, successful attorney. Married an alcoholic. My old college roommate - another brilliant woman. Married an ex-con.
I think it is a "I will rescue this poor soul and change him with my love" mentality.
That said, good luck with every thing, Jill and have a great Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Catwhowalked | November 20, 2007 8:17 AM

" I won't slaughter you for that comment because I have often wondered the same thing. A woman I once work with, bright, funny, successful attorney. Married an alcoholic. My old college roommate - another brilliant woman. Married an ex-con."

Men also marry obvious losers. What is going on there?

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 8:30 AM

I have to wonder: am I the only one to see some obsession here? We're only getting one side to this story, so let's not go overboard (and that applies to me too!), but a line from Star Wars runs through my head...Princess Leia: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." Or to paraphrase: the tighter you hold your kids, the more (and faster) they will slip away.

Had a great hug from 17yr old this morning...he instigated a hug! Woo hooo! That's how I know I haven't held on too tight..when they, as an almost adult, want to come and hug me.

Posted by: dotted_1 | November 20, 2007 8:35 AM

That's a very nice blog, Jill. It sounds like your child has a loving mom and a full home life.

I won't try to fault you for marrying a loser. Sh*t happens and people change.
When my parents divorced, I had to learn that my father was flawed. I also learned forgiveness (even if my mom didn't). Maybe you could find a group of single mothers so your child knows that he's not alone.

Good luck, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Meesh | November 20, 2007 8:39 AM

Jill --

Really nice blog. I hope you can go easy on yourself, and not beat yourself up for failing to live up to some image of perfection from your own mother. I don't know her, but I can guarantee that she was just as imperfect as you are -- even if the child never sees it. :-)

I am also the child of a single mother -- like you, my mom and dad divorced when I was very young. The best thing my mom did was not get caught up in the guilt. This was the 70s, so there were a LOT of people who (a) scorned her for being divorced, (b) criticized her for working, (c) looked down on us for being poor, and (d) pitied me for being from a "broken home" -- and yeah, people actually did say all those things out loud back then. But she knew she had made the best choice for both of us under the circumstances, so she refused to beat herself up over not living up to other people's ridiculous expectations. And since she never let on that she had anything to be ashamed of or feel guilty over, it never occurred to me that my life was somehow lacking -- it was just what I knew as normal.

The best thing my mom ever told me was that I was the most important thing in her life, but not the only thing in her life. I always knew she would walk straight through a brick wall if necessary to protect me -- but she also followed her own dreams, which in the end gave me room to grow and find my own independence (plus gave me a built-in role model for my own search).

Being a single mom may not allow for the Mayberry childhood that you had envisioned, and it's ok to mourn that. But different can still be pretty cool.

Posted by: laura33 | November 20, 2007 8:42 AM

Catwhowalked wrote "I will rescue this poor soul and change him with my love"

That could pretty much be the title of my book about marrying an abusive man. The backstory is more complicated -- I would need to add the subtitle "and then he will never leave me because I am really afraid of being abandoned by people I love."

The bottom line is that falling in love is complicated stuff and we don't have as much control over who we fall in love with as we would like. People make mistakes. What matters is that Jill took responsibility for hers and cleaned up the mess pretty nicely, I'd say.

My book is due in two weeks. Pretty crazy. Two of the five kittens we rescued from our alley are roaming my kitchen right now, dialing the phone on the counter. Hard to get any work done!

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 8:46 AM

Like Jill, I've filled up my house with pets.

One of the kittens is still available for adoption if anyone is interested. She is 12 weeks old and has incredibly beautiful markings -- she is gray and white, half tabby, half white, (including her face -- half white, half tabby). Ring tail. Very good with children. Her "quirk" is that she is extremely shy and needs help in the trust department. She has had shots and been checked out by our vet. No illnesses.

By the way, if anyone was wondering we did sell Perry's car to an On Balance poster. Figure placing a kitten has got to be even easier...

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 8:54 AM

You are too hard on yourself. No one can be perfect, and there is no need to be perfect. Good enough is enough.

Posted by: summit118 | November 20, 2007 8:56 AM

Leslie, are you going to post a picture? :-)

Posted by: laura33 | November 20, 2007 9:12 AM

Unless you feel yourself on the edge of abusing your child, you're doing fine. We all get impatient and lose our cool sometimes. He won't be irrepairably damaged by not knowing his father, but he would certainly benefit from having a man in his life.

I was also a little concerned about my Coke Zero addiction during pregnancy. So far, so good!

Leslie- Good luck with the kitties! There is nothing more wonderful in the world than kittens.

Posted by: atb2 | November 20, 2007 9:14 AM

atb2 |

"There is nothing more wonderful in the world than kittens. "

What she said. Meow!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 9:20 AM

Jill,

I have been trying to remember where I have seen Briarcliff Manor before. I am about 95% sure that your village gave us a patrol car after the hurricane. All of our city equipment was flooded.

Thanks!

Fred

Posted by: Fred | November 20, 2007 9:31 AM

Being a single mom must be incredibly hard and I applaud you for realizing there are deficits in your son's life that you can't fill. With that being said, I would encourage you to look around for positive male influences (pastor, friend) that can impact your son's life for the better.

As far as women/men marrying someone who is no good, that speaks to the person's mental health. They're seeking people often subconsciously that have qualities they lack (in some form & not always good) that would complement them i.e. someone they can control, someone they can fix, etc.
"She has a certain smell, a sweetness and a special love for me that only I know."

I used to always associate gardenia perfume with my mom so now I have one that my kids associate with me. But more important than the olfactory sense, is the love your child feels...even if you're fussin' at him. My boys know even after I've had to get on them for one thing or another, I adore them.

Had a great hug from 17yr old this morning...he instigated a hug!

Isn't that a wonderful thing?! My just-turned 19 y/o hugs me all the time-even in public! :)

Posted by: CheleFernandez | November 20, 2007 9:40 AM

"With that being said, I would encourage you to look around for positive male influences (pastor, friend) that can impact your son's life for the better."

Be VERY careful when doing this. Judging from the past, you not be a good judge of character.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 9:43 AM

Leslie,
I can't wait to read your book. I read an article written by you that I found on one of your websites (maybe it was the mommy wars one) which told about your first marriage, and it was a very compelling read. Good luck.

Posted by: Emily | November 20, 2007 9:43 AM

She "hates" that she is in bathrobe all day? (does she practice law in her bathrobe?) What a whiner!

Instead of hating what she doesn't like about herself, why not DO something about it? Action...get up. Take a shower. Get dressed. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Get involved in adult activities. Grow up!

Posted by: DearParent | November 20, 2007 9:47 AM

I don't really understand why anyone would assume that attorney = no big mistakes in private life. Plenty of professionals make big errors in their private lives. I applaud Jill for having the courage to leave her husband when her baby was so little. Unless he changes radically, Henry is far better off not having his father in his life. In the meantime, I also second & third the advice not to beat yourself up seeking perfection and to seek out good male role models for Henry.

Posted by: raraca1 | November 20, 2007 9:54 AM

Jill, thank you for posting the blog. I was also raised in a single parent household. And to some extent it does impact the kids. Just think though, how bad it would be for children to stay in a home that either isn't safe or constantly in conflict. Or both.

It's perfectly normal to worry about how a single parent household impacts the kids, I know my mother did. But she showed, constantly, throughout our childhood, that even if things are difficult, we still had our family. I wouldn't be the person I am today without all of the expriences I had growing up. I count myself very lucky that I have a mother like mine.

I think I'll call her now, just to tell her that. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Sitka1 | November 20, 2007 10:00 AM

Nurses make up the group of professional women who are most likely to marry a "project" husband. Trust me on this one, I'm married to a nurse. (Obviously, I married up)

The beginning of our marriage was very rocky. I had lost my job a month after the wedding, then our first child was born within a year. And I too, was a disinterested father at first. If it wasn't for the undaunted efforts of my wife to bond my daughter and me, I'm sure we would have divorced long ago.

You know, it's not as easy for fathers to bond with their babies as mothers. For 1 thing, when the baby is born, we are 9 months behind, then when you add breast feeding to the mix, us fathers can't compete with that.

But my wife was very successful in convincing me that I was loved by my daughter. She taught her how to say "Daddy" first. I still have a fond image of the time I walked around the corner and my daughter gave me the first big "DADDY", but the moment that convinced me the most that I was important in her life, was when my wife turned on the vacuum and I felt a bump on my shin. Then there was a 5 battleship windup before the ear-piercing scream. I felt her shaking with fear as I picked her up and calmed her down. Wow! my daughter had come to me to seek safety from the vacuum cleaner!

Yeah, it took me more than 6 months with my baby to realize that I was a REAL father!

Posted by: DandyLion | November 20, 2007 10:02 AM

Jill, your blog was beautiful. I'm the mom of a son (he's 2) and I think you caught quite eloquently the love that we have for our children. I love the name Henry, too.

One of the posters said the best gift their mom gave them was to say that they were the most important thing in her life but that she needed to follow her own dreams too. No child needs to be the only focus of their parents' life. We need to show them how to chase dreams too.

Posted by: goodhome631 | November 20, 2007 10:03 AM

DearParent...read the blog again. The author did not imply that she still hangs out in her robe all day. Instead, she was referring to the early days of motherhood (that most of us remember) when, despite our best efforts, we couldn't fit a shower in until sometime in the mid-afternoon. I try to look back at those days with humor and compassion, but it definitely was something that fed my guilt back when my first child was a wee infant. I wish I could have comforted myself a bit then...a little compassion, humor and understanding always helps first. It's not always necessary to get tough and launch into the 'no whining' talk.
Personally, I found this piece tender and sweet. It reminded me of one of my favorite memories of parenthood so far is when my 1st grade son had to do a booklet about the five senses...and he wrote that his favorite smell was "my mom's skin"...

Posted by: HuckleberryFriend | November 20, 2007 10:07 AM

what laura and dotted said. dotted - voluntarily given teenage boy hugs are THE best!

Jill - this was a great blog, and I commend you for taking Henry (and yourself) out of a bad situation. If you take a look around at the products of two-parent households, very, very few of us have two great parents. If we are lucky, each of us has one great parent. For Henry, you are that great parent -- whether or not you feel great on any given day -- and that's enough.

"You know, it's not as easy for fathers to bond with their babies as mothers." I suppose we'll just continue this disagreement for another day. I recognize that this was your experience, but my husband, his brothers, and his friends had no difficulty bonding with their babies. They held them and carried them with them everywhere as soon as they were born. I just think some guys are more turned on by being dads and they jump right on in there. Both of our babies went fishing, LOL, within a week of their births. They learned early on to appreciate the sound of a break in a game of billiards.

Not to be snarky, but for those jumping on the attorney bandwagon, "practicing attorney" does not mean "successful attorney". It means "employed". No more - no less. Jill has her hands full supporting herself and her child without ignorant comments about how smart girls make relationship mistakes, from time to time. I've never seen a study that purports to indicate that smart people are any better at marriage than anyone else. It seems to me that, like Leslie, Jill should be applauded for taking action to exit rather than for marrying the wrong guy.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 20, 2007 10:19 AM

Good guest blog today. I can relate to a lot as another single Mom.

For those who wonder how women get ideas about rescuing men, let me remind you of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. He's a beast; she loves him and her love turns him into a prince. There's an Celtic fairytale with a similar theme. I think it's part of our cultural heritage but I also now recognize that is a dangerous message for young girls.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 20, 2007 10:20 AM

She comes off as a self-pitying whiner to me. She should change what she "hates."

Posted by: DearParent | November 20, 2007 10:21 AM

To add to what anne said, members of both genders play the "rescue" game.

Just for balance, LOL, let me fill you in what certain men say to encourage girls to play rescuer:

"I've been waiting for a girl like you . . ."

"It would all be different if I had a girlfriend or wife like you - one who loved me and supported my dreams. I want to change my ways but I haven't had a reason to change, until now."

"My family doesn't love or care about me and the girls I was dating then were no good for me and led me to do self-destructive things. If you'd been in my life, it would all be different. You'll see. It will all be different now. I'll go back to school, stop drinking, and we'll have 1.97 kids and a white picket fence, baby."

This by way of explaining arrests, DUIs, failed jobs, dropping out of higher education programs. Should the girls say, "I need to run away from this guy as fast as I can"? Sure. But don't kid yourself that women are seeking out problem guys in an effort to take on the Herculean task of single-handedly straightening out their lives - without those guys encouraging the image of Good Girl as Rescuer every step of the effing way.

DearParent, Have another cup of coffee and pull up your pants. Your judgmental underwear is showing.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 20, 2007 10:30 AM

DearParent,
I'd respect your comment more if I knew you'd walked in the shoes of a single Mom! I recognize Jill's frustration at not being a better parent sometimes because the lack of a good partner means you don't have the kind of relief valve that allows you to get yourself centered again when the caregiving gets overwhelming. When my ex is able, he will take the kids for a day on the weekend. And it makes a huge difference. I have so much more patience when they return. I know I am short-tempered at times with my kids and I wish I wasn't because under the right circumstances, I can do better. It isn't whining to recognize this. Raising a child, or children, is the most important job any of us will ever do -- of course we care about doing it well!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 20, 2007 10:34 AM

DearParent...I'm sorry you only see whining or self pity in the blog. Can you share anything about the ups and downs of parenting that inspires you?

I'm OK with a little kvetching sometimes. I think the blogger did it with humor and perspective. She's no victim asking for anyone's pity or blaming others for her past. I see her as grateful and optimistic about her family's future, but realistic about the challenge of being a single parent.

Posted by: HuckleberryFriend | November 20, 2007 10:38 AM

Wow- I cannot believe all of you wrote in and mostly positive and supportive comments. Thank you.

This was my first publication (non-legal that is). I tried to right from my soul with some humor and heart and I hope that I have accomplished that. I look forward to reading thru all of your comments later on- my son is doing a little Thanksgiving celebration at school so I have to run now but I will write back later on.

Posted by: henrysmom | November 20, 2007 10:42 AM

Adding to what MN.188 said at 10:30 AM (with which I agree completely, BTW):

Other times, a man will be on his best behavior while courting a woman, only to adopt or revert to bad behavior not long after the marriage ceremony is over. If it's old bad behavior, friends may have tried to warn the fiancée about it while the couple was dating, but she'll only look at his current behavior and believe he's reformed himself out of true love for her -- which sometimes may be true, but in plenty of cases is not, and it can be difficult to tell the difference before marriage. Luckily I managed to dodge that bullet myself but, believe me, it's a thankless job trying to warn someone else of the potholes that may lie ahead in her married life, if she doesn't want to believe those who know the man well enough to see the signs. Sometimes the only thing we can do is be a good friend to the wife and, if necessary, help her escape an abusive situation afterwards. (For the record: the same applies equally if the genders are reversed, or it's a same-sex couple; no gender stereotyping is implied, just the notion of caring for a friend who may be embarking upon a bad marriage or committed relationship).

Posted by: mehitabel | November 20, 2007 10:56 AM

MN and others: I hear what you say about the "rescuer" mentality and both genders engaging in it, but (a) I've noticed women doing it much more than men; and (b)it's enormously frustrating to see someone you know and love (in my case, my sister) engage in it.

As for the comment from raraca1 about attorney, I think the issue is that there's an assumption that "attorney = reasonably intelligent" and also "attorney = able to see through a line of crap or else I don't want to be your client". That may not be true, but there's an assumption that it is.

The same holds for teachers. My sister's a teacher; she's smart, attractive, always worked hard, etc. Yet she's a long-time loser magnet - and that's about as nice as I can be. She's never been married and has no kids, but the guys she's been involved in relationships are chronically unemployed, alcoholics, have fathered several kids out of wedlock, etc. I'm just glad she never actually married any of them, although that was more their doing than hers. (And yes, friends and family tried to set her up with "nice guys" but she just wasn't interested - they weren't exciting enough, I guess.)

MN, with respect to the lines men feed to encourage rescuer behavior, my gender is very good at coming up with lines that seek to get what we want. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 20, 2007 10:56 AM

Off topic to ArmyBrat: I've seen an announcement recently on Jeopardy that they want to hear from former contestants, to find out what they've been up to since their appearance on the show. Are you going to contact them, or have you already? Check to see if there might be a link on the show's website.

Posted by: mehitabel | November 20, 2007 11:05 AM

"MN and others: I hear what you say about the "rescuer" mentality and both genders engaging in it, but (a) I've noticed women doing it much more than men; and (b)it's enormously frustrating to see someone you know and love (in my case, my sister) engage in it."

Army Brat - I agree that it's enormously frustrating and I am sorry you are watching this with your sister. My brother is on his third marriage to promiscuous losers, so I can relate to the hardship. To your point about the percentages, though, I have one song to recommend. Let's all sing together now, "When a Man Loves a Woman, . . ."

From what I've seen, and I appreciate that this is purely anecdotal, male rescuers are many and tend to be fundamentally nice guys who kid themselves about women who are self-centered, self-destructive and secretive, and who have sad tales of the one who done 'em wrong. The bad girls fool around on the loyal, blind, nice guy (with their friends, no less), maintain and hide drug habits, keep (significant) secrets about their past, and/or waste money in a big way, e.g., hide purchases in the trunk and sneak them in the house later, open credit card accounts and not disclose them to their spouses until they have run up huge balances and can't pay their minimums, and give large sums of money to family members without telling spouse. Nice guy doesn't typically wake up until he's financially destroyed. Then he moves on to find the next bad girl with a sad story. In my brother's case, all the bad girls are single moms, so the sad story comes along with multiple sets of beautiful brown eyes seeking some stability in life. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Rescuers tend to believe in the power of love to overcome bad behavior and are certain that the rescued one loves them back just as much - they are incorrect, but will tell you you are being negative if you share this viewpoint. Sigh.

Anyone who has ever told a friend his betrothed is fooling around on him or her, and that EVERYONE in the community knows this but your friend, you'll appreciate the true definition of a Lost Cause. Friend always proceeds to marry the faithless use and never speaks to the discloser of bad news again.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 20, 2007 11:26 AM

ArmyBrat

"My sister's a teacher; she's smart, attractive, always worked hard, etc. Yet she's a long-time loser magnet - and that's about as nice as I can be."

Your brother married a loser....interesting family trait.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 11:26 AM

mehitabel, thanks! I already did send in a story to them. Haven't gotten a response yet, but heck. It was a fun experience.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 20, 2007 11:27 AM

chitty: "Your brother married a loser....interesting family trait."

Yep, he fits parts of MN's description of the male rescuer. Fortunately I overcame that trait.

You, on the other hand...

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 20, 2007 11:30 AM

ArmyBrat

My point is that both your sister and brother have hooked up with losers. Interesting.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 11:35 AM

When you rescue someone, they owe you -- they have to love you back (and they do in all the fairytales). If you have any doubts about how lovable you are, this provides what seems like the only route to true love. Speaking as someone who's made that mistake....

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 20, 2007 11:40 AM

Wow, an awful lot of bashing and blaming Jill for being a "poor judge of character" and "choosing" a loser. Yes, we don't always choose the people fall in love with and marry. It's also true that those "losers" can be pretty darned good at presenting a false front. I consider myself pretty smart--both book smarts, with an MBA and law degree myself, as well as common sense--yet I fell in love with, married and eventually divorced a pathological liar, abuser, and deadbeat. Did he have a great job when I met him--yup, a lawyer. Did he own his own home--yup. Did he have good friends--yup.

After our daughter was born, I found out that he also had a lot of secrets--time spent in jail (heck, even the bar association didn't know about those!), an abusive nature, an unhealthy appetite for online pornography, and a predilection for committing adultery. He also has displayed a complete lack of interest in being a father, or meeting his financial obligations to help support our daughter. All characteristics that not even his best friends, colleagues, and family saw.

Does that make me a "poor judge of character"? No, it means he's not a very nice person, after all.

Hats off to you, Jill.

Posted by: bloomsday_37 | November 20, 2007 11:50 AM

Hi Laura! I can send you a poster of the kitten if you want me to. Just email me and let me know where I should send it. leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com

DandyLion -- Loved what you wrote today. It is really hard for some moms (me especially) to understand that it takes dads a while to "catch up" in terms of parenting. It made me really mad for a long time because I felt so alone as a new mom. Your views from "the other side" help a lot. Continue to think you have a great book in you. Thanks.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 11:52 AM

This is a lovely and honest guest blog. I am currently sitting in my night gown feeding the never-ending hungry baby who only sleeps during the afternoon. I think that sitting in your robe, nightgown, etc is just a fact of new motherhood. (I think he may have acid reflux, we are actually going to the doctor today)

Anyway, you sound like a great mom. The reason why I know this is that you put your baby first before yourself or your husband. It's not easy leaving someone you love no matter how badly they treat you. Now your mom sounds great too, but you can't compare yourself to other people, not even your own mother. My mom used to tirelessly decorate Christmas cookies until they looked like works of art. I just slap the frosting on them and then throw on some sprinkles. Your son will remember the special little things you do for him, even if you think that you aren't perfect, to him you will be. Well, at least until he hits his teens.

I also think that abusers are master manipulators who hide their true colors, so sometimes it's not easy to spot them even if you are a highly educated lawyer, the author of a mommy blog, or an operator working the line in a factory.

Posted by: Irishgirl | November 20, 2007 11:53 AM

Irishgirl - good luck with the baby. Both of my kids had acid reflux! Zantac and Reglan made them feel soooo much better and saved my sanity! Even with the meds they both had to stay upright 20 mins after ea. feeding (not fun at 2am - though daddy would often hold them after I nursed) and slept in a swing for several months! It can be misery, but it does get better! Anyway, good luck!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 20, 2007 12:02 PM

Irishgirl

"I also think that abusers are master manipulators who hide their true colors"

Yes, and a lot of abused people learn to become master manipulators. MM and Judy Garland are good examples.It really is a never ending cycle.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 12:06 PM

First, this was a beautiful post. Thanks, Jill, for being so honest. I've seen a lot of talk on this blog about the quest to be perfect, and this post captured a lot of that internal angst.

I'm a little disappointed about all the criticism of Jill for being married to an abusive man. This man abused his wife, and some people have chosen to blame the victim? Wow.

As far as what she "should" have known about him... This post was short and offered very little back story. It's very easy to point out mistakes in hindsight. But give the woman a break. She got out of the bad relationship. We should applaud her for that. She didn't let this abusive man abuse her child. Good for her! Some women don't have the strength to do that, and I'm proud of her for doing what needed to be done.

Why she married him in the first place is probably very complicated... Isn't it always? Good for you, Jill, for recognizing that an abusive husband isn't a good influence on your child.

Posted by: tcarpowich | November 20, 2007 12:14 PM

A nice blog - I enjoyed it. Kudos to you for not allowing yourself to be battered. If you ever doubt yourself as a mother, just remember that you stood up for yourself and your son. You protected him from an abusive father and you probably saved yourself in the bargain. Good for you! May you be a hope and inspiration to others!

Posted by: kathleen | November 20, 2007 12:29 PM

Scarry -- you put icing and sprinkles on them? LOL -- dang, you've got me beat by a mile.

Actually, that was definitely one of the backhanded benefits of having a working, single mom: I never had a paragon of domestic perfection to make me feel incompetent by comparison. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | November 20, 2007 12:35 PM

This post made me think of an essay from Mothers Who Think called One Drip at a Time by Susan Straight. It is a lovely, real piece about being a single mom, the stuggles and the sisterhood that she has found where they help support each other. Great book that I'm reading for the second time. Its a collection of stories about motherhood.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 20, 2007 12:38 PM

Smart people do choose bad partners. Our love relationships are often attempts to repair what is broken in our relationships with our parents.

If your dad was an alcoholic, perhaps you'll end up marrying one too, thinking (subconsciously) that you can "fix" this problem as perhaps you tried as a child. Plus, it may just "feel right"; this is what you are used to.

I see this with my brother, who picks women a lot like my mom -- unhappy, insecure, and who can't apologize after an argument or have any type of mature relationship with another man.

Posted by: goodhome631 | November 20, 2007 12:42 PM

Emily, thanks. Can't wait to hear what you think about it. Right now it's hard for me to say if it's any good. I'm too close. It's a challenge to be candid about one of the biggest mistakes you can make in life, but one that a lot of us do make.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 12:49 PM

It's a challenge to be candid about one of the biggest mistakes you can make in life, but one that a lot of us do make.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 12:49 PM

Yes, so thank you in advance for the book. It'll give a lot of us a chance to reflect on our own experiences and feel a little less like the only idjit in the world to make this mistake!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 20, 2007 12:54 PM

chitty - Oh, I got your point.

But you didn't get mine. Let me try to make it clearer. Here, I'll type slow because I know you can't read fast.

On Thursday, when we sit down to give thanks for all of our blessings, I'll give thanks that no matter how bad the losers were that my brother and sister hooked up with, at least they weren't you.

Got it now? :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 20, 2007 1:13 PM

ArmyBrat

"On Thursday, when we sit down to give thanks for all of our blessings, I'll give thanks that no matter how bad the losers were that my brother and sister hooked up with, at least they weren't you."

I am more than grateful that in no way in heaven or on Earth will I be associated in any meaningful way with such an arrogant, smug, self-righteous, hypocritical prig as you.....

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 1:19 PM

sticks and stones, chitty - sticks and stones

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 20, 2007 1:23 PM

I don't need to BE a single parent to know a whiner when I see one! I was the eldest CHILD of a single parent. My mother had 7 kids, ages 2-14, when our father died. She NEVER ONCE complained, never once spent the day in her bathrobe, and never spoke of hating this or that. She got on with raising her kids and did a great job. I have no compassion for whiners. She should be glad that she only has ONE child to care for!

Posted by: DearParent | November 20, 2007 1:33 PM

She was in her bathrobe with a NEWBORN. It's hardly uncommon. Get a grip. Tell us about the first 6 weeks with your kids.

Posted by: atb2 | November 20, 2007 1:38 PM

One of the drawbacks of being a member of the superior sex: There's just not enough decent husbands/fathers to go around!

Posted by: DandyLion | November 20, 2007 1:48 PM

DandyLion

"There's just not enough decent husbands/fathers to go around!"

Because women put out too much and too soon for the losers! That's today's topic!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 1:50 PM

" She NEVER ONCE complained, never once spent the day in her bathrobe, and never spoke of hating this or that. "

No offense, but how do you know? You were just her kid, not her friend. Do you really thnk she never complained to her girlfriends about anything?

Posted by: floof | November 20, 2007 1:56 PM

DearParent - Although you didn't really respond to my question directly, I'm getting that your own Mom was an ispiration to you. My heart goes out to anyone who is widowed with 7 kids - wow. I hope that you all were of support to one another. I imagine that you must have been a big help to her at age 14, and that you had little time for self-indulgence that many materialistic kids of today have in spades. But, how do you know that she never shared her hopes, fears and dreams with someone else who was a peer to her in some way, such as a sister, parent, friend. Like you said in one of your earlier posts, your Mom obviously chose to get on with her life, and hopefully spent some time with other adults every once in awhile. If I'm under stress or worried, I certainly don't try to share it with my own kids. It's hard to be "Mom" all of the time without the support and non-judgemental understanding of others.

Still, I'm wondering where your 'all or nothing' perspective comes from...again, you really take an unnecessarily harsh view of Jill. I just don't get it.

Posted by: HuckleberryFriend | November 20, 2007 2:03 PM


I say no to 6 year old DD more than I like. However, if you don't one has a spoiled child on their hands.

Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy
childhood. I said to DD this morning
"Weren't you just a baby yesterday."
Of course she said no but she laughed and
that made it easier for her to wake up.

Posted by: shdd | November 20, 2007 2:12 PM

I don't need to BE a single parent to know a whiner when I see one! I was the eldest CHILD of a single parent. My mother had 7 kids, ages 2-14, when our father died. She NEVER ONCE complained, never once spent the day in her bathrobe, and never spoke of hating this or that. She got on with raising her kids and did a great job. I have no compassion for whiners. She should be glad that she only has ONE child to care for!

Posted by: DearParent | November 20, 2007 01:33 PM

DearParent, You go right on thinking that somehow your smug willingness to read an honest self-assessment as whining shows your superior ability to distinguish between the sainted and the sinners. More than anything it reveals an ugly side of you that would shame your mother were she here to read it. Come back and comment when you have kids of your own and possess a more nuanced appreciation for the nature of the burdens from which your mom shielded you.

These comments remind me of a silly game some women play of, whose labor was harder based on whose child weighed more. "When I had Jimmy, I was in labor for 13 hours and he weighed 12 lbs. 14 ounces." "That's nothing - Genevieve Dolores weighed 14 lbs and 5 ounces and there were 3 residents in the room for the delivery because it was so difficult. I was in labor for 20 hours, 42 minutes and 16 seconds." Whether or not Jill has one child or five, her experience is her experience and she shared it for our benefit. Unlike some other guest writers on the OB blog, she's not writing for the sole purpose of flogging a book or website.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 20, 2007 2:21 PM

For me, dating, marrying, having children with and staying for any length of period with an abuser/bad guy isn't a "mistake."

Mistake just sounds too euphemistic to me and as if it wasn't in the persons full control to change.

It was a choice- in retrospect a bad and wrong choice, but I'm not sure I'd put in the pile of "mistakes" we make.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | November 20, 2007 2:41 PM

Wow, the reaction to my first post wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, I think this was a very nice blog and Jill was smart to get out while she could, but still...

"Yes, we don't always choose the people fall in love with and marry."

I'm sorry, but this is just wrong. Unless you're in an arranged marriage, you DO choose the person you marry. Yes, I understand all about affairs of the heart and "can't help falling in love" and "when a man loves a woman" and all that rubbish, but don't marry a person without fully considering what you're getting yourself into.

I'd have to go with EmeraldEAD - people do make bad choices for a variety of reasons; this is a very, very bad choice.

But still, it's a lovely guest blog.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | November 20, 2007 2:50 PM

can't believe it but i actually agree with something chitty wrote...

Posted by: leslie4 | November 20, 2007 2:51 PM

"These comments remind me of a silly game some women play of, whose labor was harder based on whose child weighed more."

MN -- mine were only 8-1 and 8-11, but my epidural failed and they had abnormally large heads -- can I win? :-)

Excellent post, btw.

Posted by: laura33 | November 20, 2007 2:51 PM

Jill,

You have me holding my breath over here. Wow, this is such a bold, honest, loving post. Thank you, thank you.

I wrote a little piece for Leslie Morgan Steiner (thanks Leslie!) over a year ago about trying to date again as a single mom, and I got so slammed by the WA Post readers. So, when I see another single mom putting herself out there, I think one word: "Brave."

RE: "I don't know how I will ever be able to explain the absence of his father without breaking his heart."

Remember that if Henry's heart is hurting (it might not hurt as much as you imagine it will), you are there to hold him. You are love. Heal your heart along the way, okay?

I'm going to link to your essay through my blog: http://singlemomseeking.wordpress.com/

Posted by: rachel | November 20, 2007 2:53 PM

A lot of women (men too) have a "bad" boyfriend at least once. Some of those women marry him. I don't think it's that mysterious. Men can be very charming when they want to be like maybe when they see a nice meal ticket in the form of successful attorney wife.

That said, Jill you don't have to be perfect! When you think about it, parents are supposed to prepare their offspring for the real world and being perfect might run counter to that.
Also, if you ask enough people or read enough you will find that every thing you do or might do is wrong. Let him believe in Santa? Wrong. Tell him? Wrong. Bathe him a couple of times a week? Wrong. Bathe him every night? Wrong. So sometimes you just go with instinct.

Posted by: aallen1 | November 20, 2007 3:14 PM

This was a lovely and moving post - thank you for offering it. I pray you and Henry have a fine Thanksgiving.

Posted by: forsythej | November 20, 2007 3:26 PM

«Abu
What do your wives wear at the school bus stop?»
«Posted by: chittybangbang | November 16, 2007 09:10 AM»

Friday, that is day off, I did not see this until today.
America, in America only one wife, but this is country that
«taught men how to practice» the idea of Freedom, thank you
President Sarkozy, so wives, they are allowed to drive, no
school bus, car pool instead, dress modestly, other people's
children in car pool, if she is not dressed modestly it is
haraam for these children to see her.

Modesty is the best policy.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | November 20, 2007 3:31 PM

Abu

"America, in America only one wife, but this is country that
«taught men how to practice» the idea of

Freedom, thank you
President Sarkozy, so wives, they are allowed to drive, no
school bus, car pool instead, dress modestly, other people's
children in car pool, if she is not dressed modestly it is
haraam for these children to see her."

And free head scarves for the ladies!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 20, 2007 3:36 PM

and sometimes, women just want to believe in the white picket fence, and the dream and just want kids d***** and don't care about anyone else.
No matter how many times their friends, relatives, people they don't really know well, or whomever they bump into tell them that something's not right. They'd rather believe in the dream than admit something is wrong.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 20, 2007 3:56 PM

"My Man"

English lyrics by Channing Pollock
Music by Maurice Yvain

It cost me a lot
But there's one thing
That I've got
It's my man
It's my man

Cold or wet
Tired you bet
All of this I'll soon forget
With my man

He's not much on looks
He's no hero out of books
But I love him
Yes, I love him

Two or three
Girls has he
That he likes as well as me
But I love him

I don't know why I should
He isn't true
He beats me too
What can I do?

Oh my man I love him so
He'll never know
All my life is just a spare
But I don't care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is bright
All right

What's the difference if I say
I'll go away
When I know I'll come back on
My knees someday

For whatever my man is
I'm his forevermore

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | November 20, 2007 4:44 PM

Matt,

What is the signification of this song? Why did you post it?

Posted by: Fred | November 20, 2007 6:25 PM

I hate to be the one to break it to Jill (because I didn't see this mentioned in any of the comments), but those genetics from her husband will find their way into her kid, who may exhibit unflattering traits.

Women really should consider going back to marrying and breeding with the good guys and having affairs with the bad boys. A world full of bad boy spawn is not a good one.

Posted by: RosiePearl | November 20, 2007 7:35 PM

Well I am not going to try to respond to each and everyone of you because that would be a daunting task.

This piece was not intended to be about abusive relationships (though Leslie's comment about the "backstory" is right on- "he will never leave me becasue I am realy afraid fo being abandoned by peoplke I love")- it was intended exactly as it is written. It was supposed to be about my son and myself and my feelings as experiences and fears as a single mother with only one voice in the household. And, of course, about my love for Henry and motherhood in general.

This is not about being a doctor or lawyer, being well educated, etc and making bad or poor choices- it is simply about the fall out of a particularly bad choice. People that are bright, well schooled, etc still have the ability to choose badly. Sometimes we see what we want to see rather than what is right in front of our noses!

HuckleberryFriend- you are right about the bathrobe- that was in the beginning phase of motherhood.

Tcarpowich- you were right on with respect to the quest to be perfect and internal angst. I am glad I captured that because that was what I experienced when my son was very little. Hindsight is 20/20 and the backstory was not for here. That is another piece I have not yet written.

to mn188- thank you!

to rachel- since i am all he has known, you are probably right- and I am and will be here to hold him in those moments he realizes something is missing. you can email me jlakinesq@yahoo.com.

if anyone wants to write, use my email address. i welcome more comments.

forsythej- Happy and healthy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Thank you all and, to Leslie, thank you for this opportunity.

Posted by: henrysmom | November 20, 2007 8:36 PM

To "mn":

I do have kids! Lol. 17, 19,24 and 26. I'm a grandma of a three month old. And I still think she's a whiner. She does have it easier than my mom who raised 7 on her own.

Posted by: DearParent | November 20, 2007 8:52 PM

DearParent,

Several times now you've told us how many children your mother raised. This makes your point about Jill's attitude in what way? By your logic, only a person who has raised more children than your sainted mam has any right to own doubts or fears. She -- and you, and all of us -- have it easier than pioneer and slave women, anyone who lived during the Black Plague, and women in concentration camps, as well. So? Saying something louder and more often doesn't make it any more persuasive.

Most of us find parenting a humbling experience, but I suppose it doesn't have that effect on all personalities.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 20, 2007 10:26 PM

"I hate to be the one to break it to Jill (because I didn't see this mentioned in any of the comments), but those genetics from her husband will find their way into her kid, who may exhibit unflattering traits."

Baby's up and I can't sleep. I wanted to respond to this though. I think most abuse is a learned trait, so if the kid isn't around the dad how will he learn to be abusive? It's a pretty mean thing to say that Henry will take after his father.

Posted by: Irishgirl | November 21, 2007 4:43 AM

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