Radical communities and the single mother. | November 23, 2011

This week marks the 1 year anniversary of me speaking up about being raped by a patient of mine when I was a counselor in the service.

It also marks 4 years since the assault happened.

Time is not tangible. It speeds up and slows down whenever it likes.

To me, it feels as though the assault happened just last year and that I confessed it 4 years ago. It feels like my 7 year service in the military happened overnight, to include marriage, having a child and college, and my resistance has been happening my whole life.

The past month feels like a blink.

I have a safe place to be. Well, at least, relative to my life, the world I am in right now feels safe. I walk through my house and eat with the people I live with and I see Jordan fitting into everything being nurtured and growing.

My baby left in July and will be a whopping 6 years old when I get to hug him again. It is hard for a mother to actively love a child so far away. He tells me about his sleep overs and school, but I am mostly a boring voice on the other side of the line, no matter how cool my bug facts are. Jeff has said he has been drawing pictures of the 3 of us. Jeff, Jordan and I. At 5 Jordan is traversing social norms, some of his first to hurdle.

“How come everyone else gets to have their mommy around and I don’t?”

As his mother, I yearn to answer him.

There are lots of reasons right?

First, many would spring or at least reflex to respond, “Because your mother is crazy.” That’s the easy one. Who isn’t  compelled to say, “My mom is crazy.”  It is nearly a universal sentiment. There are the token stellar mothers, of coarse, but on any given day you can catch even me, the person now at the whims of this stereotype, impersonating my bonkers mom. Plus, with how transparently I expose my personal process, it would be easy to piece together any conclusion you would like about my mental stability.

Second, we could point out the diplomacy piece, the generic answer I use whenever my son comes up with people who don’t know  me. “Jeff is in Japan for 3 years and is an amazing father and Jordan is in a cultural program, learning Japanese just like he did Spanish because we are perfectly well adjusted separated parents and our child is amazing and oh opportunities and such…”

Third, this is a year where I can cope in order to become an even better mother. I can learn new ways of processing anxiety and combating depression. I can process my rape without it negatively affecting my son. This is the more understanding and graceful version of “because your mom is crazy”.

Fourth, as a cis gendered female mother I have battled patriarchy my whole life, which has simultaneously forfeited much of my privilege of conforming to social norms. So reason four that I am not able to be with my son at this time is that I actively choose to battle patriarchy. I have challenged several structures that have been placed on me in every venue I have frequented. This has opened me up to or at least been accompanied by me enduring sexual harassment and assault as well as subjugation and marginalization.  This is not an isolated phenomena, nearly every out spoken female presenting person I know traverses this daily.

This fourth reason is why I write tonight. The fourth reason is why I am spending this day reviewing the last year. I have written here about my experience over the last year participating in what can sometimes be considered a radical community, about breakdown and parenting and lovers. The other night I tossed and turned trying to sleep for hours. I cried, unsure of the trigger. My chest became tight and it was hard to breathe. I know this routine. Luckily, I am braced for this this year. I anticipated this period in some sense and I am thankful for my years of treating others emotional traumas that have enabled me to be aware of these symptoms.  I am thankful that I took the hard messy step of confessing my trauma last year. It has been a very tumultuous year because of it, but I am thankful to be to the next step.

“(It) sits in a house of cards. Reaches out. It is not hard. Only takes the will to do it. Only takes a small push, to watch the house they have built for you collapse. To peel back the mask of the identity they gave you. And when the house falls, as it must, it is the first garden we find ourselves in. Unnamed.” -The temple of psychic youth.

I have been researching the topic of women without custody. Since Jordan has been with his father, I have branched out more aggressively into this battle with the state, society and this special kind of American oppression most of us are familiar with. I feel it is the best thing I can do with this time away from him, fight for his future or to provide another opportunity of a future for him to choose from. But I have faced the stigma of being a mother without a child. Being a radical the stigma is even more stark and perceived to be fortified. I find myself being compelled to explain my position, to almost be apologetic about this time away from my son. Even here I must lay out my position and review it, possibly even just for myself.

I hear people say, “She just doesn’t want to be a parent.”

I am not sure how anyone could say this or hear this and not shutter at the gross over simplification, but it is still said and believed. It is manifested from the mouths of my peers, fellow radical mothers.. and fathers, and it is perpetuated in the ways I am chosen to be supported. One would assume that the biggest hurdle a single radical mother would have to combat would be the everyday population.  Those who decide that they are able to juggle the house of cards and keep it up. That these people would be frustrated that I do not join them in this battle and that perhaps the way I choose to live my life is detrimental to their life goal.  This year I have found that this demographic is not a threat to me. This over generalized sect of citizens I am referring to doesn’t care that much… in general. The apathy of the general populace isn’t much of a threat to anyone or anything. But fellow parents, peers of mine, reinforce realities. We can not measure how one parents with the same social structures we resist.  To do so is to throw an already compromised demographic of our community under the bus.

What does supporting a single mom in radical communities look like?

1.(and possibly the only necessary rule enabling all other situation based support) Assume good intentions and reinforce good intentions. There is no darker magic than reinforcing fears. A person stepping out to parent contrary to traditional roles is continuously subjected to trite gossip by people of more privilege. This is something we(however you would like to describe we) need to regulate and dismantle in order to support and include single mothers.

When my son is gone my womb feels hollow and my heart heavy. I think of him constantly and walk through everyday dragging my feet a bit, but I am ecstatic for the world I am working towards. The world I see coming to fruition more everyday. I can not wait to see him grow with me. I am proud of Jeff and I for offering such polarized worlds for him to learn from.

This world, the Denver community, needs to be speaking up against the patriarchy embedded in our behaviors. We need to challenge the nuclear family together and acknowledge that it is detrimental to our children and our communities. The nuclear family is the embedding soap box for patriarchy. Much like the structure of monogamous relationships, the nuclear family is coercive and divisive inherently.  It functions on the platform of scarcity and selfishness. It is based on a competitive assumption that one nucleus of people is more deserving than another of sustenance, time and  safety. We could all be parenting each others children, caring for and shaping them. I have seen it and know it is possible. Something we must do to make room for this growth, however, is challenging our own internal assumptions.

Women, especially mothers, appear insane in inverse relation to the strength of their community of support.



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1 Comment »

  1. jordan is so lucky to have you as a mother. when i imagine the shit you’re taking for being a bold and uncompromising mother, for being true and honest and challenging, i am enraged. just today i was thinking about how i want to be tearing this shit down, with a baby slung over my body, building new ways to live together while raising a child. and i thought of you, and how i want to be a mother like you. i hope you are finding more support out in denver these days. i shiver to think of a community that was actually supporting you and validating your beautiful intentions. i love you!

    Comment by Sara Tansey — December 20, 2011 @ 5:34 am

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