Single Working Mom with Baby

At 26, I signed a lease for my new apartment, where my little daughter and I  would live for the next year (of five). In September, just as I returned to teaching after my one-year maternity leave, we moved in.

For her first birthday, in July, I had gotten her the yellow child’s rocking chair I found at Macy’s, borrowing the $30.00 to pay for it from my Mom. It joined the scant furniture we had in our apartment: the new box spring mattress on the floor (no frame) I slept on, my baby’s crib, a beat-up kitchen table and two chairs a neighbor left out for city pick-up, an assortment of spare cutlery two aunts gave me. The only “non-essentials” were a fish tank I’d picked up at a second-hand shop for my daughter and a pair of ceramic elephants I bought, new, at Pier 1. (I still have them.) The apartment lacked a couch and chair for the living room, and two chests of drawers, until I could afford them, months later. My husband would give me none of the furniture I owned before I married him.

My car was a 1967 Chevy Malibu with 190,000 miles on the odometer and by 1972, it had too much mileage in an era when cars weren’t designed to go that distance. It had also a pesky pre-ignition problem, meaning when I turned the key off in the ignition, the engine would start up again, on its own. This happened again and again.

If it rained the night before, I’d find water seeped in along the gasket rimming the front window and pooled up on the floorboard. And if the weather dipped below freezing, that water formed an ice rink from which I had to disengage the brake and accelerator pedals encrusted in ice.

I’d do all this, after putting my snowsuit-bundled child into a cold baby car seat, at 6:00 AM, to get her to the sitter’s, before I went on to my own day, teaching.

That car broke down so often that for my birthday that year (November), my parents gave me membership in AAA: Now I could call that company’s road service the many times my car broke down, when my baby and I were stranded along some highway. I wouldn’t have enough money to buy a new (even the cheapest) car for the next two years.

In terms of household budget, I made $9,700 a year as a full time public teacher (or $230 a week for 42 weeks–no pay in summer) and paid a woman $30.00 a week to babysit. The rest of my money went for rent, car payment, insurance, utilities, clothing, baby supplies, food. I also needed to pay for continuing courses for certification.

In court, my ex-husband had claimed inability to work due to distress at my leaving him and the judge ordered he pay $20.00 a month in child support, while I suspected my former father-in-law who owned a turf company paid his son (my ex) under the table. Whether he got paid or not was a moot point; he never provided support payments, anyway.

The years ticked on.

Every year, on my daughter’s birthday in July, my ex would stop by my parents’ house, uninvited, knowing we’d be having a small birthday party for her in the back yard. My father would stand there with my ex, chatting with him, as my ex enjoyed the beer my father offered him. I’d watch, disbelieving my father would afford him such courtesy.

My life was lonely. I socialized very little. Of my teaching friends, I was the only one with a child and if I did go out on the rare occasion for dinner, with friends, I brought Kerry with me, for I couldn’t afford a babysitter after paying for one during my work hours. My friends never minded. They regarded her, with her little blonde topknot, resembling “Little Miss Sunbeam” as an almost-mascot.

From the book “In the Shadow of Princes,” a story of a West Warwick girl who grew up in a very accomplished family in the 50’s. She persevered despite her many personal crises.

 #GoThroughDoors #inspiration


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