As a member of Generation X, I am one of many who were raised by a single mother. Our mothers were the product of the 1970s feminist movement, bearing witness to the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. While this was an empowering step for American women, it happened to coincide with the rise of single parenthood in this country. Single parents have to juggle raising their kids with “bringing home the bacon”, so many of us raised by single mothers seem to have an ingrained sense of self-reliance. Growing up, I can’t count the number of times I heard phrases like “Whatever you do in life, make sure you can take care of yourself,” and “You don’t need a man to be successful.” Now I can’t thank my mother enough for drilling these ideals into my head; they have served me well over the course of my life. Even after I got married, I was hell-bent on making sure to guarantee my future security.
A couple of months before Chris and I decided to get married, I was involved with a close friend’s upcoming nuptials. While she had dreams of being a princess bride, a phenomenon I was unfamiliar with, everything that could go wrong with her wedding almost did. I won’t go into any specific details, but this was the stuff of wedding-planning comic-lore. During months following the wedding she seemed very distant and didn’t want to do anything that didn’t involve her husband. By the time this reality sunk in I was already engaged, planning my own wedding, and terrified of losing my own identity. The combination of my observations of her newlywed life and my own fears led me to confront her about my concerns. It wasn’t the smartest decision and in hindsight, I know now that I was seeing my own doomed future. I remember pleading with her about the importance of being self-sufficient in case something was to happen to her marriage or, worse yet, her husband. Little did I know at the time was that I was talking to myself.
It was that conversation that led to a severe bout of depression as I worked through my first semester as a Humanities grad student. At the end of the term, I decided to switch from Humanities to Special Education because I knew I could get a job. I was marrying my best friend, who just so happened to be a fun, laid-back nice guy with the unfortunate side-effects of irresponsibility and a lack of motivation. I knew one of us was going to need a “real job,” which led to me shifting my graduate work in a direction that was more practical, and thus began my career in teaching. It was a good move and one that would serve not only me, but us as a couple well in our then-unknown tumultuous future. Just as my mother taught me, I made sure I could take care of myself.