In single parenting, organization is key


I have taken a hiatus from this and my other blog because, quite simply, there wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. I used to be highly organized, and in some parts of our lives, I still am; but that organization fell apart a bit last March and I’ve only just recovered.

In the last month, I renegotiated our tenancy, worked on a few translations and one narration, helped out a friend in her business (although that was unremunerated, for love of friendship), tried to give Darling Daughter a last hurrah for summer vacation (which she has patiently spent tagging along with me as I ran around, looking for support to help us pay some bills, rent, etc. – this has been one heck of a difficult year!), and planned lessons for the two community college courses I was going to be teaching (and which were to be our salvation, at least for the Fall semester) which I only days ago found out were cancelled because of low enrollment. I had been feeling completely unproductive, as though I’d been running around without truly accomplishing anything or even living, but writing down this list of recent accomplishments has helped me to see that I’ve been truly busy…no wonder I feel so tired!

It’s the single parent’s lot, to feel like we are constantly running out of gas, out of energy. However, it wasn’t always like this for me. With a bit of creative organization – and very few deviations from The Master Plan – all of us Maddies can not only feel that we accomplish what we need to do, but also have a little bit of free time, to blog, or take a nice, long bath!

Two parent families do not have it easy nowadays, but, with two adults there is a division of labor that is simply not available to single parent households. Where two parent families can schedule and do things in parallel, a single parent is almost always forced to do the same things sequentially. This implies more time spent driving to and from appointments, more time spent at appointments (even if you have the luxury of scheduling appointments for ALL of your kids on the same day, at the same place), more time spent documenting, planning and scheduling…well, if you’re a Maddie (a Mommy and Daddy in one), you know what I’m talking about; if you’re not a Maddie, well, you get the picture. Essentially, being a single parent means most things take longer than for most two parent families. This is why success in single parenting boils down to one key element: organization.

The next few posts in this blog will be about organizing your life and planning in advance for unpredictable, improbable – but not impossible – situations.

DD (Darling Daughter) Is AWEsome!


I am in complete and utter awe of DD (Darling Daughter)! Ever since she’s been around, I cannot help but be inspired by her and grateful to the gods, God, the Universe for their gift to me. She’s always been perfectly her own age yet an old soul at the same time.

I remember when she was 2.5 or so, she got into the driver’s seat of the car and wouldn’t get out. When I finally managed to move her into the car seat, her huffy words to me were, “When I’m grown, you’re sitting in the car seat!” I loved her fierce, but moderated, display of independent spirit!

And when she was 5 years old, the Electra Complex showed itself quite clearly again (remember, as a Maddie, DD did not have a father for whom to compete with me, so that it manifested vis a vis my profession is pretty telling!). I was teaching at Salem State College (now “University”) at the time and had to bring her with me to one class meeting, as I had no care. Until that time, she had come with me on occasion to the high school where I taught, and she even “co-taught” a 10 week Spanish course with me at her preschool. But, I didn’t even think about that as we drove up to the campus and I set up for class. My expectation was that she would sit at a student desk and draw, colour, or read. Her expectation proved to be quite different. She kept coming up to the front, trying to help out, and I kept sending her back to the student desk, rebuffing her gently (I thought)…after all, my college students were paying for my expertise as a professor; I couldn’t have them taught by a 5 year old! So, I didn’t understand at all why my DD was smoking mad as we wrapped up and got back into the car to drive home. Indeed, she was so angry as she climbed into her car seat that she couldn’t speak to me or even look me in the eye. Perplexed, I sat in the driver’s seat and, looking at her in the rearview mirror, asked, “What’s the matter, ciccina?” Finally, she mustered a clenched answer: “When I’m a grown up, Salem State is going to want me and not you!” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud, so serious was she. But I smiled and answered, “I’m sure that will be true very, very soon, my love!”

Truer words were never spoken, for every day I realise just how talented DD really is…and I’m constantly amazed that I made her! And so far, I haven’t wrecked her…that’s the best part, the testament to the one tenet I had established for myself as a parent in the early days of my pregnancy: as long as I can see her for who she is, and not for whom I want/wish her to be, and as long as I don’t ruin the core of her, I’ll have done a good job as a parent, and, especially, a Maddie. We’ve almost made it through ten years and I think I can breathe a sigh of relief about her on the cusp of pre-teendom; I think I can honestly say I’ve been a good (not great, for I’ve had my moments, let me tell you!) parent so far, through all the ups and downs (and I pat myself on the back – because, after all, who else is going to pat me on the back?!).

DD is talented at all things creative and athletic: swimming, viola, drawing, dancing, story telling. Her drawing in particular has always attracted attention. Indeed, at age 3, she drew a picture of herself, my mother (a huge influence in our lives) and me – shown at right – that was pdg (pretty darn good)! 

Now age 10, her drawing has matured as well as her entire Self and, as you can see from the above Salem State anecdote, I’ve learned to consistently involve her even in my professional activities. She has seen me writing posts for this Maddie endeavour; she has waited patiently for dinner as I carved out my thoughts from beginning to end, read other blogs, researched a topic, or set up the Facebook page, Twitter account and e-mail, etc. I thought, then, it would be fun to do this Maddie thing together, since, after all, we are in life together! She’s recently become interested in drawing animé, so I’ve asked her to create her animé imagining of a Maddie, a mommy and daddy in one, that fits for both single moms and single dads – an “everyMaddie,” if you will.

I was breathless when I saw her first sketch, following the instructions in her “How to Draw Animé” book but drawn freehand, nonetheless. Here it is:

DD has a light hand when sketching so this is a bit hard to see…hopefully you can all make it out!

I am so in AWE of my AWEsome DD that I just had to share…and invite YOU to share YOUR OWN experiences of jaw-dropping, I-don’t-deserve-such-a-great-kid-but-thanks-GOD/UNIVERSE, AWEfilled and AWEinspiring moments with your DKs (Darling Kids)!

Looking forward to reading your stories, until then,

I wish you all Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie 🙂

The Stigma of Homelessness


Homelessness carries with it a powerful social stigma. The myth is that life is full of choices, therefore, homeless people must have chosen to be in this condition. Homelessness, then, carries with it the sense among the general population that the adult(s) involved must be reckless and irresponsible people.

While that may be true for some people in this condition, the reality is that most people face homelessness owing to societal and economic factors beyond their control, such as job loss, wage/salary freeze or reduction, general rise in cost of living (in the US, at least, salaries have not increased apace with the cost of living over the last 30 years or so), lack of affordable housing. The reality is that any one of us could find him- or herself facing this condition, and probably sooner rather than later.

So, please, when you walk past a homeless person begging in the streets, do not judge. I’m not asking you to do what I do – share or give away your coffee, water, breakfast or lunch – but, please, have compassion, look him or her in the eye and greet him/her as you would any other human being, with a smile and a “G’day!” And, please, whatever you do, don’t tell him gruffly to “get a job!”

Sad thoughts for today, but I wish you all
Peaceful parenting
The Original Maddie

The Homeless Dilemma


Homelessness in any country is a disgrace, even in these tough economic times, but it is even more of a sin in what are termed “First World” countries, like the US. The statistics on homeless families in my state of Massachusetts alone are frightening: as of October 2008, there were 2,472 homeless families living in emergency shelters funded by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA, more commonly known simply as “welfare”); most of these families are headed by – you guessed it! – a single mother. In terms of individuals, 4,413 of the members of these homeless families are children or youths, and 2,379 of them are under six years of age.  (Horizons for Homeless Children, http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/Statistics_Massachusetts_Statistics.asp) According to a 2011 article in the Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2011/1213/Homeless-children-at-record-high-in-US.-Can-the-trend-be-reversed), approximately 1.6 million children, most of whom were under age 7,  in the US were (or still are) homeless.

So, what is being done to help? For certain, as mentioned above, my state, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has a program called HomeBase, run through the Department of Transitional Assistance. Other states and the Federal government also offer help. However, I’ve recently discovered that the eligibility criteria are scandalous. Why scandalous? Well, for example, in order to be eligible for a homelessness prevention program – that is, monies to perhaps help pay for arrears in rent (something that is occurring all too frequently with the record job losses owing to the economic downturn) – families must first prove that they are being evicted, and have gone through the entire eviction process down to the 48-hour notice to vacate premises, and landlords must agree to stay the proceedings and keep the tenants. This is scandalous because, if the landlord does not agree then the tenant has an eviction for non-payment of rent on record; what other landlord on Earth would want to rent to such a tenant? What impact does that eviction for non-payment have on an individual’s credit record – something that now many potential employers are consulting to determine whether a job  candidate is responsible enough? Where is the prevention here?! Emergency shelters have been maxed out; so where do these families go? This leads to a vicious cycle of constant loss, a downward spiral…one in which an individual head of household loses his or her job (and economic stability), loses creditworthiness, loses the family’s shelter, becomes stigmatized as “irresponsible,” and loses the opportunity to regain full employment (and, therefore, to regain self-esteem, let alone his/her family’s ability to return to their previous position of stability). And the children? They, too, lose self-esteem, many lose their health and, perhaps most important for school-aged children, their friends.

This topic has always been important to me. (Indeed, if there are enough sales of my first (and, thus far, only) e-book for children, Bedtime Myths for Children of All Ages/Solar Stories, 20% of all profits will go to a local organization that helps homeless children in Massachusetts, Horizons for Homeless Children (referenced above).) But never in a million years would I have thought my daughter and I would be in danger of becoming homeless…and that is the position I find myself in today. Someone I met recently at the DTA office said to me, “I’ve always helped everybody. When I need help, because my house burned down last night, there is no one who can help.” I truly felt for him as he was in a worse position than even I find myself in…but I could relate; I’ve always been the first to volunteer, the first to lend a helping hand even if that meant putting my own needs last, and, now, when I actually need help, the doors are closed.

Next post: The stigma attached to homelessness, especially in the US

The Maddie Files Are on Facebook!


Hello all!

I’m proud to say that The Maddie Files finally have their own Facebook page! Would you pop over to the page and give us a “Like,” please? The address is: http://www.facebook.com/themaddiefiles.

And, please, don’t hesitate to tell your “Friends” about us; we’d love their “Likes,” too…and their friends’ “likes”…and their friends’ “likes”….and so on…and so on…and so on!

Wishing you all

Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie!

PS Did I mention The Maddie Files are also on Twitter? @maddiefiles – feel free to follow! 😉

“Mummy? Can You Make Me a Little Brother?”


Hmmm. How do you explain to a three year old that in order to make a little brother you need a man around? Especially when you’re too tired from working full-time and being a full-time Maddie and trying to be a decent daughter yourself and a good friend to the few friends who are still in your hectic life to actually, I don’t know, date?

DD (Darling Daughter) sprung this question on me, as per usual, just when I thought she had finally fallen asleep and was slipping out of her bed to go wash dishes and correct homework. I went back to her in the dark, wrapped her in my arms, and very simply answered, “I’d love to ciccina, but, I can’t.” I didn’t expect it, but I should have…the inevitable “Why?”

So, I took a deep breath and tried to explain the facts of life matter-of-factly, succinctly, and sensitively. “Well, ciccina, I can’t because, as you know, my husband left before you were born. And I cannot make a baby alone. It takes two – a mommy and a daddy – to actually make a baby.  So, you see, I really can’t make you a baby brother.”

Silence for what seemed like hours, but was probably only thirty seconds. And, then, her considered response:

“O’kay, then; I’ll take a baby sister.”

Peaceful parenting,

The Original Maddie

An Open Invitation To Guest Blog


Hello to all my fellow “Maddies” (Mommy-and-Daddy-in-one)!

I would like to extend an open invitation to serve as guest blogger! If you have any thoughts, inspiration, personal philosophies, recipes, time-savers, advice, suggestions, etc. (following, of course, common rules of netiquette, “blogiquette,” common courtesy, no hating whatsoever, etc.) you would like to share with other single parents, I would love to post it – and a short bio of you and, of course, a backlink to your own blog(s) – on The Maddie Files!

If you would like to guest blog, please send an email to everymom99@gmail.com. Write “Guest Blog” in the Subject line. Please include your real first and last names and a little bit about yourself that you wouldn’t mind sharing publicly. Then, simply attach your guest post (written in MS Word only, please) to your e-mail. Feel free to include a link (or two or three!) to your own G-rated blog(s) or website in your guest post!

 Looking forward to hearing from all of you and wishing you all,

 Peaceful Parenting!

 The Original Maddie 🙂

Parenting and the Maddie


What Kind of Parent Are You?!

Compared to some parents, I am ultra-strict, ultra-conservative; a friend and colleague even called me a “Nap Nazi” when my DD (Darling Daughter) was a toddler. Compared to other parents, I am an ultra-permissive parent, allowing my DD to rule our roost. I don’t really see myself at either of these extremes, though I am the first to point out that we all parent our children along a fluctuating continuum of (parental) behaviours…I’ve even horrified myself when I heard words I had detested hearing in my childhood coming stridently – and perhaps not a little hysterically – out of my very own mouth: “Because I said so!”

But the parenting style issue is more complex for single parents, especially for those of us whose children do not know or visit their other parent. When do you discipline your child? For which behaviours? As Maddies, we have to be both the disciplinarian and the more lenient parent, the tough cop and the good cop in one; it’s a tough line to straddle but trying to fill two roles means we must.

Just for fun, here is a poll. Please vote for an answer and share, share, share! Results will be posted on July 2, along with an exploration of the three main styles of parenting: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.

Wishing you all Peaceful Parenting,

The Original Maddie 🙂

 

How to Answer Difficult Questions


“Where’s My Daddy?” (or, if you’re a single Dad, “Where’s My Mommy?”)

The Answer
My DD (Darling Daughter) was 2 and a ½ when I first got this question, which I thought was precocious. DD always asks these deeper, difficult questions at the end of the day, once we’ve relaxed thanks to the bedtime routine, so I have no “background noise” (like stress from the office or stress about getting dinner on the table sometime before 10 p.m.) and can actually think. But, I happen to be an advance planning type-A personality, so I was ready for it, with the naked truth:  “I don’t know.”

The Rationale
I had decided a long time ago that I would never, ever lie to my child, especially about the things that really mattered. Her identity, her sense of self, was what has always mattered the most. In toddlerhood, children are at a concrete stage. How could I explain my not-really-a-marriage-even-though-I-thought-it-was, when it was hard for me to understand it as a 38-year-old adult? So, I knew that the answer had to be simple and concrete. “Where’s my daddy?” I honestly don’t know. Of course, my daughter had follow up questions: “Is he living somewhere else? Does he have another family? Is he dead?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. The answer had to remain simple, concrete…and consistent. Children are concrete, they have no life experience, they are naturally trusting, but they are not stupid. Had I once answered, “Of course not” (such as to the “Is he dead” question), she would have pounced on that as a “Mommy must know something” type of answer, and her trust in me would have begun to erode.

My Advice to Fellow Maddies
So, for what it’s worth, my advice to all my fellow Maddies: try to anticipate the potentially difficult questions that your children may ask and think through your answers carefully, thinking like a child but maintaining your adult’s perspective, so that you preserve your children’s trust.

Background to My “Maddie-hood”
My elevator speech about my marriage is: “Short marriage, long story.” I was married about 5 minutes when I became pregnant. I didn’t actually know, or believe, I was pregnant until about the second month; according to my gynecologists from the time I was about 22 years old, I was unable to get pregnant, sterile (thanks to my first long-term boyfriend who, unbeknownst to 19 year old me, was stepping out with other women; I was with him for four years and two Pelvic Inflammatory Disease episodes that I only discovered once they were so raging that I couldn’t walk…but no medical person told me the reason  I had contracted either one. Obviously, though, doctors can’t predict everything, since I got my surprise bundle 13 years later, at age 35.)

My “husband” came to the first obstetrician’s visit, listened without once looking at me, and, as she asked for blood samples, spoke up, saying, “I don’t have to give blood. I just gave blood at another clinic, for another woman, six months ago, and they said everything was fine.” I just stared at him, as did the obstetrician. I was dumbfounded, speechless. My mind raced with questions, “Six months ago? When did he have time to sleep with another woman, when he was dating me?” After all, until we actually had the piece of paper saying we were married, I saw him so often that it felt as though we were living together.

Needless to say, I read him the riot act in the car, as he was driving me home (because, no, we never actually lived together; in fact, after we were married, it was hard to see him at all…so how I got pregnant is still a mystery to me – though I know it couldn’t have been an immaculate conception as I’ve never been particularly saintly…more of a naive Magdalene, really – which means I was a wild child by Catholic school girl standards but really, really tame by real world standards). He told me that after all I was merely the “factory” for his son (he never, ever entertained the thought our baby might be a girl…Spanish-speaking-male machismo personified), that all any woman really wanted was to have a baby and be a mother (he was helping me – and every other woman who would sleep with him – “fulfil my female destiny”), that he had decided to become a Mormon (obviously completely misunderstanding the entire Mormon religion and picking out the only part that he liked about it – the multiple wives part – without realizing that even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hasn’t endorsed polygamy in a very long time).

After that ride home, I didn’t see him again (though I most certainly felt his presence, through intimidating e-mails, sitting in his car right in front of my house all night long, following me, breaking or pulling out one – and only one – headlight overnight, every four nights (but a random four), for a year, just to let me know he was around and could harm me if he chose to) until a year later, when he actually appeared at the court hearing for annulment of my civil marriage (which, by the way, I won). He moved without telling me, changed his phone number, and didn’t call. We were both 35, so I was done; I knew then that he would never be part of our lives if I could help it – I refused to make my child endure the “revolving door” phenomenon, or to try to find him every time I wanted to travel, move, etc. with my kid. At best, my “husband” was a philandering narcissist; at worst, he was a psychopath…I didn’t (and still don’t) care to find out which one.

Question of the Day: Does anyone have any other advice, suggestions, recommendations, or stories to share about how to answer children’s difficult questions? Please share here!


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