Welcome to the first post of my new blog!
My name is Shelby Siems, and I am a single mother by choice. "By choice" is how we have come to be described, originating in Jane Mattes's groundbreaking how-to guide Single Mothers by Choice, first published in 1994. However, in many cases including my own, "by default" is a more accurate way of characterizing our choice -- and, yes, it was a choice -- to raise a child without the assistance of a partner, whether a spouse or otherwise.
I have two young sons. Christopher is eight years old, and Charlie is five and three quarters. They are my biological children and the offspring of an anonymous-sperm donor from California Cryobank.
Like most women, I wanted and expected to give birth to children within the structure of a happy heterosexual marriage. But life doesn't always turn out as planned. On my forty-first birthday, on the verge of another breakup, I realized it was time to grieve my lost dream of finding my husband, the father of my children. As time was of the essence due to my ticking biological clock, I needed to hasten the process of investigating single motherhood because I was not willing to also lose out on the chance to become a mother.
I was told, and I have read, that you can't be a single mother without a support network. This was the message delivered to me at my first single-mother support group meeting. And truly I, more than anyone else I knew or had ever heard of, was that person with no support network. My parents had long since died, and I am an only child. Translation: no immediate family help. Extended family? Double no. They nearly all lived too far away, were too busy with their own lives, or weren't interested in assisting me. Friends? Having recently relocated back to the East Coast from Seattle, I was starting all over again once more.
Since becoming an adult, I have seldom been one to take no as an easy answer or an answer at all. So rather than deter me from choosing single motherhood, the message inspired me to show those naysayers they were wrong. Eight years in, I am proud to say that I am still standing. And while I continue to disagree with the naysayers about needing a support network before choosing single motherhood, I readily declare that once the decision to move forward has been made, the woman ought to start building her support network right then and there. She will need people in her corner to rely on from time to time and in emergencies from the moment the baby is born, if not earlier, during her pregnancy.
As mommy blogs are now a dime a dozen, I feel the need to differentiate myself from other mothers, other single mothers, and other single mothers by choice. I am the one with no support network. That's who I am.
My blog will address single motherhood, motherhood in general, parenting issues, children (particularly boys), school, extracurricular activities, scheduling, the household, the community, finances, holidays, seasons, dating, and more. I reserve the right to post on unrelated topics from time to time, such as pop culture, politics, current events, etc. They may seem to be way out in left field from my core topic of single motherhood, but if I post about them it will be because they are on my radar screen. I am thinking about them, or perhaps they are a source of mindless escapism from my often quite challenging daily life. I expect to post at a rate of every five days.
A word about my blog name, Mad Mom. I have completed a 344-page nonfiction memoir about my journey to single motherhood and the first two years of it. It is titled Mad Mom: A Cautionary Tale of Choosing Single Motherhood Without a Support Network. I am currently looking for an agent to represent me.
I chose the moniker Mad Mom because I felt it accurately conveyed the living-on-the-edge, madcap existence of a full-time single mother with no built-in support network. It does not refer to mental illness. However, there are times (okay, MANY times) when it feels like my struggles have propelled me into mental illness. So the hint of that in the title works for me. Mad also suggests angry. There are times in my book when I am angry for justifiable reasons, and there will be times when I will get angry in my blog. But I hope on balance my posts will be engaging, thought-provoking, and humorous (at least sometimes).
Finally, Mad Mom harks back to Nepal 1988 when I met an adventurous and reckless young American man on the trekking trail who called himself Mad Dog. He was thoroughly filthy, not having bathed in three weeks and damn proud of it. As I think about his combination of extremes -- an over-the-top trekking pace and a refusal to abide by societal expectations in the cleanliness department -- I am reminded of my own life: the extreme parenting and my inability (especially in the early years of single motherhood) to find the time or strength to keep myself properly groomed. I did (and still do, in many respects) lead a domestic Mad Dog existence. And I, too, am damn proud of it.
Besides, Mad Mom has a nice, catchy ring to it like Mad Men. Short and sweet alliteration is always fun, and it is also easy to remember.
I am Mad Mom. I hope you will join me on my latest journey.
Happy New Year to you all!