November 3, 2015
I decided to have a child as a single parent — and did so over 28 years ago. I had just broken off another relationship; this time with a man who had a drinking problem. I was in my late 20s and my passion was writing. Still I soul searched and decided that I wanted to have a child that being a writer would not be enough for me. Yet I felt if I did not get pregnant soon then it might never happen for me. Waiting for a relationship that would work might come too late in life or not at all.
I gave birth to Luke Alexander Lester in late July, 1987. I already knew by then that I was doing the right thing. During my pregnancy I felt absolutely elated with child. There never was anything to be ashamed about being a single parent by choice. Maybe some people pitied me or attempting to treat me badly but I felt the same self-confidence that I usually have had throughout my adult life.
When I started to attend a community centre for parents a few blocks away from our house at 394 Simcoe in Winnipeg’s downtown neighbourhood called West Central just north of Vimy Ridge Park, I suddenly became aware that unmarried women who become pregnant ‘accidentally’ often find parenting a painful experience. This can be the same for women whose husbands separate from them when their children are small. They do not want to be single and parenting. They can suffer from low self-esteem and depression.
The following is a story told to me by a woman, who was a senior, reflecting on the experience she had as a single parent when she was younger:
July 18, 1990
Parenting without a mate
by Tanya Lester
Everyone has lived a story worth telling.
Laura Bangs’ story is punctuated with quiet strength and determination. She recently shared some of it with me at the Age & Opportunity St. Vital Centre where she does volunteer work.
Twenty-seven years ago when her son was 10-years-old, Bangs and her husband separated. “It was very scary because in 1963 nobody split up,” Bangs said. “None of our friends were separated. I felt like an oddball.”
It was the beginning of many sleepless nights for Bangs. “I worried a lot about my son because they (he and her husband) were very close,” she said. “All of his friends had their dads at home.”
Bangs internalized the reasons for the marriage break-up and felt inadequate as a woman. Her new status as a single woman threatened her former women friends.
“They were very sympathetic but they didn’t want me at any social gatherings,” she said. Going out with friends as she had when marrried became impossible. Instead, she and her son often went on picnics in the park with a friend and her children.
Bangs’s income dropped. With her ex-husband helping “when he felt like it,” she found she had to “watch” when grocery shopping and was unable to buy the number of clothes to which she had been accustomed. Nor was there a car as her husband had left with it.
With a young son to raise, Bangs was limited as to the jobs she was able to take. She kept one which paid only $200 a month (her rent was $110 a month) because it was located near her apartment. At a time before Lunch and After School Programs, Bangs was able to be home to make her boy’s noonday meal. Her employer, who was a single parent herself, was understanding if Bangs had to “go back and forth” to check on her son when he stayed home sick.
Today, Bangs still admits to loneliness although she has had a gentleman friend for over 20 years. “There is no one to share your thoughts with (at home),” she said. Having had to retire early due to health reasons, she sometimes worries about being alone if “something happened”.
But Bangs had risen to the position of office manager in a federal government department by the time of her retirement. She had completed three years university job-related courses which was “bloody hard” work in conjunction with full-time employment.
Although Bangs was always one to put herself “out a 110 per cent, she thinks she might not have achieved what she did in her career if she had been married. “No, I wouldn’t have had to puch,” she said. “I needed the money.”
Having lived through the experience of a marriage break-up, Bangs feels she is a stronger, more thoughtful and considerate person. “You’re fighting for your life,” she said.
Bangs has no desire to have “someone around 24 hours a day” again. “You’re not accountable to anyone but yourself, to a point (when single),” Bangs said. “You don’t have to say, ‘Honey, can I do this?’ ”
Bangs used to ask herself, “What am I going to do in my old age?” The question is irrelevant to her now. “I’m doing it,” she said in her matter-of-fact way.
Yes, everyone has lived a story worth telling.
Tanya Lester is the author of four books: Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (can be purchased from the author or from amazon.com), Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters and Women Rights/Wrights. These books are available in some libraries including the Provincial Library of Manitoba.
Tanya is also a tea leaf and tarot reader whose readings include psychic channelling and intuitive counselling. She is also a reiki master and a housesitter. Her extensive website is at teareadings.wordpress.com For more information, including how to book a reading with her or to obtain her to do a housesit, go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google.