Hand-Me-Down Liberalism Taught Me Some Expensive Lessons

When I was 24, I committed an unforgivable crime.

0barbed Wire

Yeah, I did it! And I’d do it again!

I’ve learned to live with it, but my life has never recovered. Permanently marked, I have probably missed or been denied more opportunities than I even know.

For years afterward, I was unable to work full-time. The messy aftermath of my error demanded most of my energy. Nursing the whiplash from my hard left, course correction slipped further and further down my list. It’s been more than 10 years, and the career I had been building is a distant memory. 

What choice was there but to throw myself into reality as I found it? Along the way, I had to wrestle some big personal demons.

What’s My Crime?

Have you figured it out? 

What was my crime? I developed a relationship with a boy at school. Barely two weeks after graduation, I discovered I was pregnant.

My friend wasn’t interested in being involved with that. Rather than debase myself trying to convince him, I moved back home to ponder my fate. But pondering anything is difficult when you’re in shock.

I had never bothered to form a solid opinion about abortion. Clutching the burning in my gut as I watched my partner-in-crime walk right back to his life, it was obvious this should never be forced on anyone.

But, as it turns out, I’m a softie. I pondered termination for about half a minute and tossed it aside. No woman should ever be forced to play incubator, but the bottom line was I found myself unable to accept that my first act as a mother would be to kill my child.

0mother And Child Read In Grass

Science says exposure is good for your immune system… and sitting down is good for my hangover!

Sentimental, I know.

So, I had a baby without a man. No one gives a shit if you’re married anymore, but a lone woman with a small child must be waiting for a ride. Her boyfriend must be in the bathroom.

I had a baby without a man, and tried to raise him. The horror!!!

Settling In, Learning The… Chains?

Embarrassing assumptions were made about male friends and relatives. I learned proximity is what causes family resemblance.

The absurd cost of daycare made that choice easy. But after a month with Grandma, he spent two days in the hospital on an oxygen machine. We missed Halloween that year. I learned I shouldn’t leave him alone with her very long.

I had to quit my job. It was commission anyway, and I had learned I am a lousy salesman.

Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I figured I might as well make the best of things. I took him to a park or playground almost every day for years. We followed a fairly strict daily routine, bathtime, stories, the whole bit. We counted steps and train cars. We collected rocks and went to see fireworks.

I wanted to at least be able to tell myself I really tried.

0wistful

This is nothing like the brochure!

I always wanted kids, I guess. I usually like them pretty well, they’re less pretentious than adults. My own mother provided all the warm emotional support of a pet cactus… Sure, it’s there, but you shouldn’t get too close. Already coming off a broken engagement at 20, starting a family wasn’t anywhere on my radar.

Then I moved to Florida and saw those big brown eyes. If only he had played by the script, it could have been so beautiful.

I don’t think he understood the situation I was in. I know I didn’t. My first move was to visit Planned Parenthood, who informed me they don’t help plan parenthood and referred me to a real doctor.

Real Doctor was sure to let me know he was not my real doctor. I was not to come back to see him without another referral. No problemo, Doc. 

Fast forward a thousand more dismissals, some more gentle than others. Women often looked at me with pity, men tended to roll their eyes just the tiniest bit. Neither was very helpful. I hunkered down with family, waiting for the next asteroid of chance to twirl the world.

A vague awareness was slowly dawning on me that I had been screwed in more than the obvious way. Hear tell, women in other countries got legally-mandated maternity leave.

Oh wait, that’s all other countries in the so-called developed world.

And some of them get paid leave?? Months of income supplementation, as recognition for producing the next generation from your own physical form! There is no kit to assemble, folks. Somewhere in the fog of depression and repetition it dawned on me, creating the next generation actually matters a lot.

Who Are We Living For?

In many countries – Places we would recognize and could even find a Big Mac – daycare is subsidized in the tax structure. Parents pay nothing out of their monthly budget and women are freer to pursue Non-Mom Activities.

We talk a good game in the US but, in practice, we are about as parochial as ever. Raised on hand-me-down liberalism, I was very confused for a long time.

Blustery Office

How am I supposed to work in these conditions??

It started much earlier, and even the guys at the tech school singled me out a few times. A girl in Sound? Crazy. A mom in Sound? That just doesn’t add up, man.

The Great Recession made sure I couldn’t support myself in my field, anyway. The world had crept up on all sides and I felt helpless to resist… much.

I blamed the economy and sexist bros for a while. As my head started to clear, the world outside continued to crumble.

These days, of course, it’s obvious my struggles aren’t caused just by my own stupidity. It’s only one of many interacting issues, distracting me from the paradox at the center of it all.

Choose Life! Then Get Back To Work!

Casually viewing YouTube tonight, I found myself learning about women in a Victorian workshop. Unwed mothers, abandoned by their disgraced families, their babies stolen and their lives spent bent over heavy machinery.

Needless to say, I’m not so fond of these kinds of stories. Unwed mothers, you say? There’s rapists, pedophile priests and serial killers run amok out there, but watch out! Here comes Darla and Little Jimmy, hide the silver!

What nonsense is this? Those women were pushed into slavery after being victimized by a fucked-up system. Because women have a sex drive, too. And birth control was still about 70 years away, give or take.

All my life it’s been Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life.

I chose life!!! Where are those people who scream so passionately in defense of the unborn??

0got Any More

Hey brother, you got any more of that freedom stuff??

Well, they wanted me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as the price of entry. I just couldn’t bring myself to swallow a lie that big. Stuck in the Midwest, I tried a couple times.

Come to find out, those people only really care about the ethereal concept of a person – The immortal soul. There’s a rumor Jesus said something about helping the down-trodden, but it must have gotten lost in translation.

Crimes Of Parenting

He’s taller than me now, making it easier to see the scruff under his chin. His main method of communication is rambling about his interests. Remote school is his favorite thing since model trains. He’s on the verge of finally outgrowing the asthma. I think we’re doing pretty good.

I love him to pieces, of course. Can’t imagine my life without him, and all that.

But he is my crime against society. And I find myself sentenced to at least another decade of active Mom duty – Silly person that I am, I got married and had another one. A toddler and a teenager, that’ll teach me.

This sure has been one expensive lesson plan! Why did I have to give up everything else to be a decent mom? 

And, while we’re here, why is professional society upside down for my reproductive life? If I wanted a Master’s, I wouldn’t be done with school until I was at least 24, anyway. Some women begin menopause around 30, many of us around 40.

That doesn’t leave much time for building that epic career, finding Mr. Right and settling into the perfect house. Tick-tock, tick-tock, bitches!

0well Hello There

Ok babe, we’re all unpacked… I think I’m ready!

Skipping any steps is just cheating, plain and simple. You’re pretty smart, why can’t you just do things right? Even my degree didn’t save me from lectures on preparation.

But no one ever offered to watch him for me if I got a job (Besides Ol’ Mom, and we know how that went.) It never even occurred to me to ask, whatever that says.

One bleary Sunday morning, my then-boyfriend’s mom offered to watch him Sunday mornings. So we could drink more, I guess. This is help?

Classic Features No Longer Available

This square peg has gotten pretty cozy in my round hole, even if it is smaller than I was lead to expect. More than a decade being responsible for a life but not worthy of a loan has scraped some of the softer sides off my psyche.

I had a baby without a man. Yep, I did that.

So

Fucking

What?

I kept my head down for years, barely able to register the immense shame I completely didn’t understand. I still don’t think a lot of women my age had kids when I did. Playdates are always awkward on one end or the other.

But the older generations have no room to judge! That famous 50% divorce rate didn’t make the other path look all that rosy, either. A quarter-century hearing Choose Life! only to be told I did it wrong. But at least I didn’t get sent to a sweatshop! I even got to keep my baby if I wanted.

Bare Minimum, achieved! U! S! A!

While I do sincerely appreciate the Powers-That-Be not ripping my child from my bosom, we can do better. How is it 2020 and we are barely two steps from Victorian workhouses??

0ghostly Piano

Uh, I’m sorry Miss… Can you keep it down? We’re bingeing Supernatural over here!

The liberal thought we inherited is stretched way out of shape, and full of holes. Womanhood Classic is out of production. Wages have been stagnant for so long that maintaining a family on a single income is essentially impossible.

But I have choices! I could have had an abortion, some people are quick to remind me. I have learned some people can’t stop themselves being helpful.

So I can be a single mother and leave my kids to go to work, or I can get married… and leave my kids to go to work. Progress! 

Overall, I think the extra years suit me. The smile lines and mom arms are battle scars from a war that still rages closer to home every day.

I’m starting to think I may never get a chance to figure out why I was fucked out of my 20s. Maybe it doesn’t matter. I’m just a uterus-bearer, after all.

And the deep impacts just keep coming. At this point I’m so far off the map, all I can do is grip the wheel and watch for monsters on the horizon.

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