Too Much Stuffing

Too Much Stuffing

Thanksgiving+2009+559By Rachel Sarah

Ten years ago, on our daughter’s first Thanksgiving, my ex walked out the door on us. It had taken me a long time to move past this day, but I’d finally done it. I’d remarried and my daughter was thriving. I was pregnant with a little girl due on her 12th birthday, and my new husband, Chris, couldn’t wait to be a dad.

This year, as the holiday approached, I’d made myself a promise. I wouldn’t let the holiday snatch my heart and jerk it around again. I was, I decided, Officially Over It. As the sun flickered through our window, Chris and I snaked together under the blankets like the electrical cords tangled next to our queen-sized mattress on the living room floor. But that old angst twisted inside me where his fingers trailed.

We were remodeling what used to be Chris’ bachelor pad to turn it into our home. The place was covered in a thin layer of dust. I pushed down the lump in my throat and angrily told myself to keep it together. Don’t let your past ruin your life. Chris was 10 years older than me and had just turned 49. He’d been married once before, briefly, and thought he’d missed his chance at fatherhood, just like I thought I’d missed my chance at love again.

I twisted my wedding ring as Chris kissed me on the lips, got up, and went into the kitchen. I could hear him sharpening a knife, the blade grinding against the stone. He was in charge of the turkey today and I’d volunteered to make the stuffing, a family recipe with fresh chestnuts, leeks, chicken broth, and lots of butter.

I padded into the kitchen as the milk steamer shrieked. Chris smiled at me, and I forced myself to smile back. I didn’t want him to know how wound up I was. We’d been married for a year at this point, but had only been living together for six months. I opened the fridge, pulled out the butter, and shut the door hard. It was like I was ready to fight.

I should have seen the signs eleven years ago, when I’d met my daughter’s father on an airplane and he’d ordered his third beer before noon. Our relationship was passionate and impulsive. When our daughter was seven months old, he’d changed his mind about coming with me to celebrate Thanksgiving, telling me he was going to join his family instead. He’d escorted us to the train, given us each a quick peck on the cheek, and stepped away as the doors closed. Then he’d emptied my bank account and caught a flight to Europe, where, as far as I knew, he still was, living under the radar.

This morning, my daughter tramped into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around me. “You okay, Mommy?”

“Uh huh.” Her ability to read my emotions astounded me. After so many years together, just the two of us, she was incredibly perceptive of my moods. I hated to pretend, even though I knew she’d probably try to cover up her feelings in a few years, as all teens did.

I waited for my daughter and Chris to leave before pulling down the loaves of bread, which I’d stashed on top of the fridge the day before to get them out of the way. The truth was, some part of me didn’t want him to see that I’d come home yesterday with not one, not two, not three… but six loaves of bread. I knew he’d tell me I was overdoing it. A little part of me worried he was right.

I put a pot of chicken broth on the stove to simmer. The kitchen filled with the scent of sage. I liked the crunching sound the knife made as I drove it through the crust of olive bread.

Ten minutes later, Chris leaned in the small doorway of the kitchen and pointed to the chunks of bread scattered on every pan in the kitchen. “You’re not making all that.”. He rubbed the spot between his eyes, like the sight of the mess exhausted him. The kitchen, the only space untouched by the remodel, was his sanctuary. He was always asking me to keep it organized and clean.

“I just want to make sure we have enough.” I couldn’t look at him. I knew six loaves had been too much. Still, my fingers gripped the handle of the knife.

“Enough? We’re only six people. You’re making enough for 20.”

“You don’t have to be such a control freak.” I mumbled this, even though I was the one who wanted so badly to control everything.

“I’m going to find the cooler in the garage.” He stomped away.

“Yeah, hopefully, it’ll cool you off.” I was desperate to get a handle on this awful feeling, to stuff it down. I considered slipping out of the kitchen and walking up the hill to clear my head. Still, I’d have to come home at some point.

Someone had to eat all this stuffing.

A few minutes later, Chris was back. He glared at the four enormous metal trays of cut-up bread, now toasted. The sight of the filthy kitchen annoyed him the way some men get riled up at the sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic. “Who’s going to clean up all this mess?”

“I am.” Little did Chris know that the real mess was inside me. “You always say you feel like you’re all alone, getting everything ready. Well, I’m helping.” The hot water scalded my knuckles.

“This. Is. Not. Helping.”

I pressed my elbows into my sides, trying to make myself as small as possible. Because maybe I was going overboard. I bent over the huge metal pot, my little baby bump rubbing against the edge of the counter. I wouldn’t blame him splitting up with me. I can’t stand being with me. My pain clouded every thought.

I shoved the bread into the broth, pushing it below the surface of the boiling liquid. The chicken broth boiled angrily. I wanted to submerse myself in it and drown. Anything to stop my thoughts. He’s going to leave me. I’m going to be a single mom again. It was a spinning wheel inside my head.

Chris took a step forward. “You have to listen.”

“No, you have to–“

“Stop fighting you two.” My daughter stood in the doorway, barefoot. Her nightgown fell loosely around her knees. She swept a curl from her forehead, waiting for me to say something.

I was afraid that if I told her what was really going on, how this pain surged back every year at this time, I’d fall apart. If she thought it had anything to do with her, she’d blame herself. No matter how much it hurt, I had to hold it together for her.

“Mommy?” She didn’t blink.

I wrung my hands together and hoped she and Chris would walk away. Neither of them budged. The hot trays of stuffing steamed up the windows It was humiliating, standing there as they stared at me. Chris took two steps towards me and rested his hand on my shoulder. “I’m here, if you want to talk about it.”

I held my breath. I’m here. No man had ever said these words to me before. He was here.

“It’s just that–” I sucked in a breath. “Never mind. I can’t really talk about it.”

If I did, my shame would speak and blame me for my ex leaving ten years ago. I had to keep quiet. But this feeling hung onto me, persistent.

“Mommy?” My daughter’s eyes caught mine. She walked up and put her arms around me.

Our silence filled the kitchen, mixing with the vapor rising from the pot. For so long, I was sure something was wrong with me. It had to be my fault.

I am here. Chris pulled me into his chest. I could feel his breath on the top of my head. Maybe, I thought as I leaned into him, it was time to let this shame go. A tear slid down my cheek, and as my daughter pressed against my back, I surrendered to all of it.

Rachel Sarah is the author of Single Mom Seeking (Seal Press). She’s the proud mother of two daughters who are 12 years apart.




The Rise and Fall of the Single Moms Club

The Rise and Fall of the Single Moms Club

By Stephanie Sprenger


I struggle to shake off the unrealistic notion that all friendships I form during adulthood should be “forever friendships.” 


“I wish we could see our friends again sometime,” my seven-year-old daughter casually commented as we drove toward the foothills on our way to dance class. “Which friends?” I asked, wracking my brain wondering who she was referring to. “Um, I think they were friends of yours? Two kids, I think—they were older than me. We used to play and eat dinner together.” “How old were you?” “I’m not sure. Maybe three?” “Was Daddy there, or was it just you and me?” I pressed, trying to get a feel for during which stage of life this friendship had occurred. “Just the two of us.” Izzy confirmed. We rode silently for a while as I processed this. “Hmmm.” I said lamely. And then, “Was it two girls?” I asked carefully. “Yes!” she exclaimed! “That’s right!” “Was it Ellie and Hannah?” “Yes!” my daughter was jubilant, delighted in our triumph at piecing together her memory. And sure enough, their home was visible from our vantage point on the mountain highway. “That’s some memory you’ve got, buddy,” I replied grimly, pressing my lips together.

It had been five years since my daughter had played on the balcony with Ellie and Hannah while their mother and I talked in the kitchen. Caroline prepared curry from scratch while I awkwardly attempted to peel an apple by hand with a knife, a task I had never before attempted. She laughed at my botched efforts, and I bristled—surely this was why peelers were invented! But she was European, and had a different way of doing things—both in the kitchen and generally speaking.

We had fallen into a nice routine with our dinners together—just the girls. I was intimidated when it was my turn to cook for them, wanting to appear as sophisticated and capable as Caroline was. Prior to becoming close, we had been friendly acquaintances for several years. I spent time with Caroline and her husband Rob during weekly baby music classes, looking up to them in the way that one looks up to people who are barely older, but have crossed some invisible threshold that is just out of reach. They seemed like the perfect couple to me, and I simultaneously envied and adored them. I had no idea that their marriage struggles mirrored my own; the reality of their impending separation didn’t seem to fit with the idealized image I had created of them.

The accelerant to my deepening friendship with Caroline was our mutual divorce and single parenthood the following year. Suddenly, the playing field had been leveled, and we needed each other in a hungry, almost desperate way. We’d make plans to go out to lunch, and between bites, frantically share details of our dating lives, bond over the thrill of having undertaken this turbulent transition at the same time. Caroline had plunged into her life as a single person with both feet, with an enthusiasm and irreverence for convention that I was too inhibited to embrace. Although I was aglow from my own fledgling relationship, I had no interest in casually dating more than one person like Caroline was doing.

We spent many afternoons together, watching our girls playing in the summer sun in Caroline’s spacious backyard. We spent holidays together, posing our adorably clad offspring and snapping photos of them. We were young, fun-loving, non-traditional mothers. When we were both involved in monogamous relationships with new boyfriends, we enjoyed the harmony of attempting to build pseudo-family units with them. If we were both single, we embraced our independence together. But any breakup or reconciliation that was not balanced by the other disrupted the delicate equilibrium of our friendship. Perhaps adulthood, motherhood even, was no different than adolescence in that way. My old tendency to create friendships to mirror my own life circumstances and needs and then discard them after the next metamorphosis still prevailed.

When I reunited with the man I would later marry, after a brief relationship hiatus, I was deliberately vague with Caroline, knowing she would disapprove. As we sat at the playground one day, eating lunch with our girls, she said, “I just don’t think he’s right for you. You’re so much more fun and outgoing.” I was miffed, certain that she didn’t have my best interests at heart, but rather wanted to make me her single partner in crime. While she was always eager to have a night on the town with girlfriends or a date, I generally preferred to spend the evening on the couch with a good book or TV show. Maybe it was actually me who wasn’t fun or outgoing enough for Caroline. As the months dragged on, we continued to have our community dinners together with just “the girls,” never including my partner, and I continued to be brief when sharing details of our relationship. Caroline whispered tales of her latest escapades when our girls were out of earshot. Some of her stories made me blush, and brought out the inner Puritan I thought I’d clubbed to death in college. The disparity in our choices and values was undeniable. Our daughters’ age difference had become more apparent and problematic—my toddler’s lack of social skills and impulse control began to frustrate Hannah and Ellie. “I-zzy!” They would shout with exasperation, as my hapless child once again ruined a game or activity. Defensiveness boiled up inside me as I sprang to her rescue.

“Girls, remember, she’s only two. She doesn’t understand the rules; she’s not trying to wreck things.” Soon I grew tired of their accusations and my resulting attempts to defend her. One evening, I’d had enough, and after a series of complaints, I abruptly grabbed our coats. “I can see that Izzy is bothering your girls, and I’m tired of listening to them tattle on her. We’re going home.” I felt like a petulant child myself, but the dynamic had lost its fun. It seemed I had morphed into the irritable chaperone, thanks to my lack of patience with Caroline’s children and my out-of-character judgment about her life choices. I didn’t like who I was with her anymore. I began to make excuses when she called. We were busy. We had the flu. I was going out of town. She began to reach out more rarely; it seemed maybe she was taking the hint. I felt relieved, and yet still guilty. And then one day she sent an email: “It seems like you’ve been avoiding me. Did I do something to upset you?” I quickly replied, babbling about focusing my energy on my relationship with my partner, and how maybe I didn’t feel that she supported my choice, and the girls’ relationship had become sort of frustrating . . . and of course I’d just been so busy!

After several days, I heard back. When I saw Caroline’s name in my inbox, my heart started pounding. I felt my cheeks flush as I read, “You could’ve just told me so I didn’t feel like an idiot.” It was a slap in the face, and one I deserved. I had been a coward. Six years later, I still feel guilty for throwing away the friendship. I struggle to shake off the unrealistic notion that all friendships I form during adulthood should be “forever friendships.” Despite knowing that some relationships are more circumstantial, I am plagued by a sense of failure when a friendship ends—even if it has run its course and served its purpose. Sometime after I remarried and had my second child, my girls and I bumped into Caroline; we were genuinely excited to see one another, and she expressed her happiness that I’d had another daughter. We greeted each other warmly, without any lingering animosity or awkwardness. Perhaps the wisdom that comes with life experience enabled us to realize that the time for our friendship—the closeness, the trust, and that comforting sense of sameness—had simply passed.

Stephanie Sprenger is a writer, music therapist, and mother of two girls. She is co-editor at The HerStories Project and blogs at


Plan C

Plan C

By Nicole Montague

IMG_6404-1I stare up at the ceiling of my ObGyn’s office and wonder if a man or a woman came up with the idea of the “soothing nature picture” inset into the panel of the stark white ceiling. This new clinic has one in every examination room-a photograph of some idyllic setting that’s meant to take your mind far away from the harsh realities of what inevitably takes place inside these rooms. Today I lie beneath what should be called the Aspen Refuge photo. It’s actually quite clever and artistic, shot up from the base of the trees to give the impression that you are lying down on the floor of a peaceful aspen-filled forest looking up towards a blue sky. In theory, it’s a nice addition. Right now, however, I feel so resentfully female that I know without a doubt a man must have come up with this well intentioned, but misguided design touch.  No woman who’s ever laid down, prone and naked, on an obstetrics examination table would ever believe that would work. No photo of aspen trees could possibly distract me from the ominous specter of that cold speculum sitting right over there on the table waiting to invade me.  My nerves give way to offense. Aspen Refuge is just downright insulting. Condescending, even.

I breathe deeply, waiting for my doctor’s busy schedule to afford her enough time to give me her attention. I shift uncomfortably on the table, doing my best to keep the white paper blanket that the nurse gave me wrapped tightly around my pelvis and legs. Pathetic armor indeed. I don’t want to look around too much at the implements that surround me, knowing full well that is the surest way to provoke the tears that threaten to break loose. But I can’t help but stare at the long, beige phallic-shaped electronic instrument that sits next to me that will, in the next half hour or so, be unceremoniously inserted inside me and tell me lots of information that I don’t want to know. I am smart enough to recall this instrument’s name: a transducer. Its function: to perform internal pelvic ultrasounds. But apparently I was not smart enough to do whatever it was I was supposed to do to avoid this intimate meeting altogether. Mr. Transducer is covered by a spanking brand new condom. The irony of this fact does not escape my attention. I hate Mr. Transducer for reminding me of the last time I saw a condom.

As my mind rolls back six weeks in time, I am surprised to discover the memory is still freshly pressed into my body and I can almost feel myself reclined back in that urban, chicly decorated bedroom. Bizarrely, I was in a position that mirrors the one I am in now-leaning back, exposed, legs wide open and surrendered.  The universe certainly has a twisted sense of humor. But otherwise the moment could not have been more different. I was deliriously happy, arched back in ecstasy, engulfed in high-thread-count sheets and dimly lit passionate kisses. At that moment I was sure it was a night to remember—filled with true romance and even blossoming love. I shiver, embarrassed to have been so foolish, such a sucker, causing the memory to dissipate like vapor. I pull the scratchy blanket up higher over my swollen achy breasts. They have changed so much in such a short amount of time. I wiggle from side to side to try to find some relief for my butt, which has gone numb from pressure and lack of warmth. The mean fluorescent lights that buzz above me have somehow colluded with the unforgiving table beneath me, adding a little extra humiliation to my position.

I am then confronted with the mental image of the lover who spent so much time pushing in from above me that night, and of how he devoured my body without an ounce of hesitation. How, when I told him what had regretfully happened, it turned out that he was no different than this table. Cold, hard, and indifferent. Yes, I was as special to him as I am to this table-just one more optimistic, vulnerable patient to be examined and released with hopefully no infection or follow-up appointment. A painful lump in my throat has formed, perhaps because the truth is so difficult to swallow. I turn away from Mr. Transducer. I look back to Aspen Refuge. This time it’s even worse. The trees mock me with their perfect, unmarred life of simplicity and beauty in contrast to my own messy portrait of disappointment and mistakes that have landed me here.

Plan A was love and happily ever after. Plan B was contraception with a perhaps just a side of love. I cup my hands over my small but growing belly bump.  The maternal instincts rooted in my abdomen flare up against my rational mind, forcing me to wonder whether I have been granted an unexpected gift.  Despite the circumstances, I cannot help but feel in awe of what is happening inside my body.  My rational mind protests again, and points out for the hundredth time that I am completely unprepared for this.  So what comes now? Plan C? Funny, no one ever talks about Plan C. I wish they would, because it seems that life is filled with many more detours with long, often painful layovers than direct flights to the desired destination.

I am nowhere near my Plan A. I am divorced. A single mother of a ten-year-old son with an unconventional, hodge-podge of a career path that’s been a disaster by Silicon Valley standards. In this la-la-land of sexy start-ups and social media powerhouses, being adrift without your own “big thing” is tantamount to living in professional Siberia. Here, women like me are supposed to be able to achieve anything. Coming from an upbringing of hard-working, middle-class parents filled with big dreams and high expectations, even Plan B felt like a failure when I was growing up. Which would make Plan C something even worse than failure. I have no idea what that might be.

I look around the well-funded high-tech room that surrounds me with flat screens and new computers and feel pangs of guilt. I should feel fortunate. I am educated. I live in an upper-middle class town. I am nowhere near destitute. I think about the fact that my standard of living is probably higher than ninety per cent of the world. Women around the globe give birth to and raise kids on far less every day.  I am not bound by any religion to do anything I don’t want to do. I think about how the lives of American women were before Roe v. Wade. I chastise myself. I have choices and I should be falling down on my knees grateful. Grateful to have the impossible task of figuring out the best thing do, the right thing to do for me.

I flash back to five days ago to the icy, cutting words of this baby’s father, “I will never, ever recognize this baby as my child. I will NOT be the father in any way shape or form. Am I clear? Do you understand that?”  Oh, I understand all right. I understand that I am so alone on this sterile table that I might as well be on the dark side of the moon. I understand that I am facing raising a baby by myself who will never be acknowledged by his or her father. I am terrified by how far I’ve traveled away from dear, naive Plan A. I ask myself how I would ever explain this to my impressionable ten-year-old son. How can I teach him to be responsible and make good choices when I can barely find that path for myself? I feel the crack that penetrates deep into my heart widen and the tears finally swell to the point that they come rolling down my cheeks.  I wipe my face with the paper blanket. It’s shockingly rough. Just as so many things have turned out to be.

I look at the aspen trees again through my waterlogged eyes and this time they are blurry, giving the photo the look of an impressionist painting. How am I smart enough to appreciate that it looks like a cross between a Manet and an Ansel Adams, but not smart enough to have avoided being here?  I ask the smug aspen trees, aloud, “If you’re so smart, please tell me, wise perfect trees, do you know what my Plan C is supposed to be?”

I hear a quick, purposeful rap at the door.  My doctor’s kind voice asks if I am ready to for her to enter. I desperately want to hear some kind of answer before she walks through that door. To have some clue as to what to do at this fork in the road before she introduces me to Mr. Transducer and checks for the tell-tale heartbeat that might break what little resolve I have to pieces. My doctor knocks again and inquires if I am ready. My eyes still fixed on the ceiling, I decide, for the moment, that the promise of Aspen Refuge will have to do. I make a vow to myself that I will somehow make it through this detour and will someday travel to a place where I can lie down and look up from the floor of an aspen forest like that in real life. The aspen trees continue to look down silently, but I think I feel their approval. “Yes, Dr. Rothstein, come in. I’m ready.”

Nicole Montague is a fantasy writer and non-fiction essayist.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology from Harvard University and a law degree from Harvard Law School.  Her first fantasy novel, Eye of Fire, is due to be released in 2014.  Nicole lives in the heart of Silicon Valley, California with her twelve year old son.

Photo by Scott Boruchov

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Single Mom Stigma, Alive and Kicking


summer2011_mayorhpThey’re easy. They’re slutty. They got pregnant with some random guy. Or, selfishly, they ran out to the sperm bank when they turned forty. It’s their fault.

They’re always broke. They’re on welfare. They’re sponging off the taxpayers. They should work for a living, and, simultaneously, they should stay home with their kids. Whatever they do, it’s never as good as what a married mom does. Ever. It’s their fault.

They should have worked harder to keep their marriages together. They go out partying anytime the ex has the children. They’re man-haters. Or manhunters, who shouldn’t be left alone with other people’s husbands. Their kids are troubled, or troublemakers, bound for the penitentiary, suffering without a male in the house, un-cared for, un-read to, a bad influence on other children.

They’re brave but pitiable. Their families, and their lives, aren’t complete because they don’t have a mommy and a daddy living under the same roof. And that’s their fault.

Thank God it’s 2011, not the 1950s, and people no longer subscribe to those heinously out-of-date stereotypes about single mothers. Right? Right?

Maybe not. This past February, the Pew Research Center issued findings from its survey on changes in family structure, in which respondents were asked to rank a list of seven trends, such as interracial marriage and gay couples raising kids, as being good, bad, or of no consequence to society. More respondents—nearly seven out of ten—ranked “single mothers” as being bad for society—more than any of the other choices.

The mainstream media, hot to get out in front of the next toxic mothering meme (think “Helicopter Mom,” “Tiger Mom,” and “Botox Mom”), had a field day, summarizing the finding with headlines like “Single Mothers ‘Bad For Society’, Pew Research Center’s Latest Poll Finds” (Huffington Post) and “Single motherhood still rejected by most Americans, poll finds” (Washington Post). Page views soared, blog posts proliferated, and comment boxes filled with opinions both judgmental and defensive.

Completely lost in the media coverage was the fact that the Pew Research study wasn’t asking about “single mothers” in general—meaning any woman currently parenting without a partner. The survey asked—quite ambiguously—what respondents thought about “more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them.”

Did the Pew Research Center intend the word “having” to mean “I have children and am currently their sole caretaker, regardless of whether I was partnered in the past”? Or did the center mean “having” in the sense of birthing—meaning women who, through intent or accident, were solo parents from the outset? ?It takes some digging around to discern the surveyors’ true intent—an earlier iteration of the same survey was more explicit, asking how respondents felt about “more single women deciding to have children without a male partner to help raise them.” Aha—”deciding” is decidedly more specific than “having.”

It’s safe to say this distinction was likely lost on survey-takers and absolutely lost in the media coverage. Either way, the results of the survey and the way it was picked up and conflated in the press indicate that, more than a decade into a new millennium, single motherhood is still a tender topic.

That got us to wondering: How is it that, as a society, we apparently haven’t moved the needle much on perceptions of single mothers, even as survey respondents were more accepting of arguably more radical changes to the family like gay parenting? Single mothers are everywhere, and their numbers have been steadily rising for thirty years. In 1980, 19.5 percent of United States households with children were headed by single parents; in 2008, the number was up to 29.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and eighty-four percent of those households are headed up by women.

Do seven out of ten of us disapprove of our own sisters, friends, and neighbors, our own selves? Or is there something more subtle going on? There is an almost infinite variety in the ways that women become and conduct themselves as single mothers, but when people are filling out surveys, do they revert to some kind of worst-case view of single moms?

Consider the notorious “welfare queen” of the Reagan era—most famously put into words by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “She gets mad when the mailman is late with her welfare check. That’s how dependent she is,” he said of his sister Emma Mae Martin in 1983. “What’s worse is that now her kids feel entitled to the check, too. They have no motivation for doing better or getting out of that situation.”

As the eighties rolled on, the welfare queen trope picked up other elements, like crack abuse. There’s a lot of baggage built into that caricature: racist, sexist, religious, moral, and economic. (And, for the record, the caricature proved to be largely just that—Thomas’s sister, for example, was on welfare for fewer than five years to nurse the elderly aunt who’d cared for her children while she worked.).

It’s likely you need only to hit one or two of those hot buttons to trigger a negative reaction in people who might be perfectly accepting of the single mothers they know personally while disapproving of “other mothers” that fit their preconceived stereotypes.

Of course, it’s also possible that women who actually are single mothers could agree that single motherhood is bad for society as a whole. Most didn’t choose it for themselves. They didn’t want their husbands or partners to leave, or die, or threaten them or their children. There are real hardships, economic and emotional, associated with single motherhood, especially if you didn’t plan for it from the start.

To unpack some of that baggage, we talked to single mothers in their various incarnations—women who are divorced or widowed, mothers who were abandoned by their children’s fathers, and those who are single mothers by choice. Each woman traveled a different path to single momhood—and some are single no more—yet they agreed almost universally on one point: No matter how their legion grows, people still think of single mothers as disruptive and outside the norm.

“Single mothers are still a problem to be fixed,” says Robin LeBlanc, who both studies public discourse about single moms in her role as a professor of politics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and is one herself. “On the left, they’re seen as victims of failed social policy. On the right, a symptom of moral failure. It’s interesting that most of us no longer thing of gayness as a problem that needs to be fixed, but single mothers are still viewed that way.”

What rankles single mothers like Donna Raskin perhaps the most is a pervasive insistence that no mother, no matter how dedicated, stable, and accomplished, can raise a child as competently as a man and woman together, no matter what the state of their union.

“Many people assume two parents are better than one, but that isn’t true at all,” says Raskin, whose son’s father left when the boy was nine months old. “I have had people tell me that they are staying in miserable marriages with spouses who cheat, drink, or do drugs just so their children aren’t growing up in a ‘single parent home.’ As if having a single parent, even a wonderful single parent, is worse than living in a home with parents who hate each other or where one parent is a true problem.”

“To me this is lazy thinking,” says Raskin, a teacher and writer in Pennington, New Jersey. “They’re insulting me to my face, and they’re not even acknowledging how loved and happy and successful my child is.”

LeBlanc seconds that thought. “If there is a poor family struggling and the parents are married, we talk about them as a ‘working family’ and they get a mention in the State of the Union,” she says. “You don’t hear that same tone about working single mothers. There’s a presumption that there’s something wrong with that woman.”

“It’s a special kind of sexism,” LeBlanc contends. “I don’t know how many times we’ve had to hear people praise Barack Obama and [Supreme Court Justice] Sonia Sotomayor because they became who they are ‘even though’ they were raised by a single mother.”

Jamie Wallace says there’s a specific kind of opprobrium directed toward a woman who actively chooses to leave her child’s father, rather than being cast as a victim who’s been abandoned, cheated on, or otherwise had the union fall apart against her will.

Wallace initiated a separation from her husband after fourteen years of marriage, when their daughter was three, with the support of two different marriage therapists. “I finally said to myself, if two professionals and my gut are telling me this is not coming to a good conclusion, I have to accept that and get out,” she says.

Not everyone else was as accepting. “There was a feeling of, ‘what’s the matter with you that you couldn’t hold your marriage together?'” Wallace recalls. “I did have some people say, ‘Who are you to make this decision?’ or call me selfish because I initiated the separation. I was told I should have stuck it out, and put my needs last until my daughter was older.”

Suzy Vitello knows the story from the other side of the coin. Vitello, now a marketer and writer of young adult fiction in Oregon, became a single mom at twenty-six not by any action of her own but by the car accident that killed her husband four days before their second child was born, when their first was just eighteen months old. ?People didn’t judge a young widow—thankfully—but still, the reception was troubling.

“People wanted to take care of me. I was put in the category of vulnerable, somebody who might make bad decisions,” Vitello recalls. “I felt most on guard with people who were trying to swoop me up, make me live with them, tell me what I needed to do next. I felt like I didn’t need that. I had been raised very independently, and had had a traditional family orientation only for the very brief time period of my marriage.” Vitello eventually moved across country to get clear from the smothering blanket of concern.

Years later, when divorcing a second husband with whom she’d had another child, she caught the same blast of blame that Wallace had experienced. “I think that people are saddened by failure,” Vitello muses. “Because the man-woman-children relationship is culturally the architecture for stability, people project their own fears about failure onto that, depending on where they’re coming from culturally or religiously. They need to know who was the cheater, who was the drug abuser. If there was none of that, they want to know why you didn’t try hard enough. They want to know what’s wrong with you.”

Single mothers are “single” not just in the sense that they’re parenting solo, but that they’re viewed as socially and sexually unattached. And that, says Martha Albertson Fineman, can mess with society’s head, because once women in our culture become mothers, they’re not supposed to be available sexually.

Fineman, author of The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies, says that the belief underlying many divorce cases and custody battles is that a woman without a steady sexual partner is likely to sacrifice the needs of her children. “A mother’s sexuality is expected to be subsumed and stable. There is a fear that a single mother’s sexuality will jeopardize her child,” says Fineman, director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project at the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.

“We have changed our attitudes about sex outside of marriage, but expectations for mothers have remained unchanged. You are expected to put your children’s issues above your own, including your career and your sexual appetites.”

Because she has a steady man in her life, Wallace hasn’t had the experience of some other single mothers, who say they have been perceived as a threat by their married or partnered friends. But Wallace does clearly see the destabilizing influence her single-mother lifestyle can have on her friends’ relationships.

“There was a lot of curiosity among my friends when I was going through my split, a lot of self-questioning. It gets people thinking about their own situation, about how stable their marriage really is,” she says. “And at times I do sense a little bit of jealousy. I get to go out every other weekend or have time to myself, knowing my daughter is safe with her father. People can make time like that within their marriages, but it takes work.”

Just as single mothers can cause other women to question the state of their unions, they can cause men to wonder, at least subconsciously, if they’re still needed in the family equation.

Surprisingly, early American thinkers actually viewed single men as a threat to a stable society. Marriage and fatherhood were viewed as a way to bring out men’s more noble selves—once men started caring for wives and children, the idea went, they’d extend that largesse to society as a whole, explains Washington and Lee’s LeBlanc. In that context, women were needed to play the role of submissive wife and bearer of babies to lure men into a domestic, responsible state of existence.

That, of course, has all changed. Thanks to the career independence that came out of the feminist movement, women—specifically, women educated for a career—don’t need marriage economically in the way that they once did. “I don’t have to be married if I’m not happy being married,” says LeBlanc.

That simple change has had a profound impact on men’s roles as husbands and fathers. “If a woman can take her kid and go off on her own, men think, where does that leave me?” LeBlanc asks. “More generally, people may look at a single mother and say, ‘If she doesn’t have to play by these rules, then what are the rules? Why is she allowed to make up her own life?'”

Jane Mattes knows a thing or two about breaking the rules and leaving men out of the equation—and getting grief for it. Mattes, a psychotherapist in New York?City, founded the advocacy organization Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) in 1981 after intentionally getting pregnant without a partner and realizing that women choosing that route needed lots of support to counter societal disapproval.

Mattes says women can still be judged for stepping outside the prescribed mommy-daddy role, but nothing like they used to be. “Believe me, it was much, much, much worse thirty years ago,” Mattes says.

Especially then, but still even now, some men are insulted by the very premise of her organization. “Men feel that we’re saying they’re not important or that they’re a dispensable option, which is not the case. Our position is simply that you have a lifetime to find the right man but only a limited number of years to bear or adopt children.”

In fact, some ninety-eight percent of SMC members polled say they would have preferred to have a child in a loving relationship, Mattes says. “Very few felt this was their first choice, but a least it is a viable choice.”

Cara DeAngelis wasn’t thinking much about men when she joined SMC in 1994, a little more than a year after the untimely death of a longtime love. Nor did she encounter any blowback when she became pregnant on her own. “The day I told my mom I was first pregnant she said, ‘Oh thank God, thank God,'” DeAngelis recalls. “Nobody was going to criticize me after what I’d gone through—people just wanted me to live, no matter what it took.”

Now mother to two teenaged boys, DeAngelis says she has been able to sidestep much of the criticism and burden of being a single mother, partly because of continued support from a large family and wide circle of friends, but also, she concedes, because she is a prominent professional with a steady income. “I think people don’t criticize me because I’m a doctor. I float above the fray.”

As with almost every other aspect of American life, economics plays a big role in shaping perceptions about single mothers. Women like DeAngelis who set out to have children by themselves are overwhelmingly middle-class or above, sometimes far above, with good careers and a solid support network.

That’s not always the case for single mothers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29.9 percent of households headed by females with no husband present were at or below the poverty level in 2009, compared with 5.8 percent for married-couple households. In turn, children raised in poverty are more likely to lack access to healthcare, suffer from poor nutrition and obesity, experience violence and unintentional injury, and experiment with drugs and alcohol in adolescence, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Those kinds of statistics, though they don’t apply to the majority of single-mom households, could well be the reason so many Pew Research survey respondents said single mothers were bad for society, says Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

“Something that works for someone on an individual level can be disturbing on a societal level,” says Coontz, author of several books on marriage and family, most recently A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. “The vast majority of women who end up as single moms have not had a chance to assess their situation or prepare for the challenge. They don’t have the support systems that they need.”

A lack of access to decent education for her and her children, to living-wage employment, to engaged mentors and role models, to reliable and affordable birth control, to employed and employable partners, and to safe neighborhoods … the list of ways in which a single mother in poverty is challenged is long and complicated, says Coontz.

“With the growing gap between the haves and have nots, you have whole communities of women raising kids on their own.” It’s not their singleness, but their chronic impoverishment and dearth of suitable, stable life partners that’s the problem, Coontz says. But when it comes time to check the box on the survey, “single mother” is the label that sticks.

Seen in that light, the Pew Research survey’s unfavorable view of single mothers may not be a condemnation as much as an acknowledgement that any single parent can have a tougher time, emotionally and economically, than a pair of parents.

The Pew Research survey did not ask respondents their opinions about single fathers raising children alone (and they make up just sixteen percent of the custodial-parent population)—so it’s impossible to know if respondents would have felt more strongly biased against one sex or the other as a single parent.

But the survey did find that people were less negative about unmarried couples and gay couples raising kids together than they were about single mothers—a possible indication that people believe simply that two—any two—is better than one when it comes to raising children.

With households headed by single women making up twenty-five percent of all households with children in America, what most frustrates many single moms is that they and their families are still considered to be so far outside the ideal “norm” even though that norm dominates less and less every year.

“There is a feeling of supremacy or superiority of two parent families that is pervasive in this society, regardless the numbers that clearly illustrate single-parent households are plentiful,” says Kelli Kirk, a Seattle writer and mother of two who recently remarried after four years of solo parenting.

It drives her crazy that people will think nothing of leaving a single mother out of social events or outings, assuming she may not be able to afford it or she’ll feel awkward around only couples. “Don’t make the decision for us, please and thanks,” says Kirk. “We are not ‘half’ a family—we are our own family. A mom and a kid, or two kids, or three. It’s nice to be treated as if we are the absolute equal of a family of four with two parents, because we are.”

For her part, Donna Raskin wishes simply that people would untether the words “single” and “mother.”

“The best times for me are when people take my marital status out of the equation in our relationships. When they don’t judge me or make assumptions about me or my child, when they find out who we are as people. That makes me and my son feel safe and happy.”

“What is true about being a single mother is that the ‘single’ has almost nothing to do with the ‘mother,'” she says. “I’m a good mom, and I would be a good mom whether or not I am or am not married.”

Author’s Note: As always, I am humbled and grateful when people are willing to spill their guts for a story I’m writing. A big thank you to the women quoted in this piece and also to the many mothers who shared their single-mom stereotypes on Brain, Child’s Facebook page. I really do believe that telling stories is the best way to change minds. Thanks for being part of the process.

Brain, Child (Summer 2011)

About the Author: Long-time contributor Tracy Mayor has written for Brain, Child about armageddon parenting, birth control for mamas, soccer mom stereotypes and — for the very first issue — swearing in front of the kids. Her essays and journalism have appeared on the New York Times Motherlode blog, The Rumpus, and in Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, Child and Wondertime. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and crazy beagle.


By Robin Schoenthaler

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.24.21 AMI have many strong suits; dancing is not one of them. So the day I nail a complicated backstep on my very first try it’s hard to tell who is more shocked, my dance instructor or me.

My dance teacher, graceful on the floor and off, asks me if I’ve been, um, practicing at home.

Now of course I haven’t been practicing. I’m a single mom with two kids and a job, and it’s everything I can do to get to this one-hour dance class each week. But I blurt out, “Yes, I do a lot of backsteps at home, with my teenager,” and then feel embarrassed when she looks impressed.

Because in point of fact, my fourteen-year-old son and I haven’t danced together in ten years; the very thought of it makes Kenzie break out in hives. Still, everything I know about backing up and backing away and apparently backing around a dance floor I’ve learned while parenting a teen.

When my kids were babies, being a mother felt fully frontal—all that feeding and rocking and cooing. Then, gradually, my parenting became more and more about the side-by-side—walking alongside the kids holding hands, crouching beside them at playdates, scrunching up next to them in teeny tiny chairs at pre-K, sitting beside them at movie theaters and soccer games.

Then along came adolescence, and my side-by-side parenting began to wane. I noticed it first at the mall, trailing behind the kids like a geisha. And every day it happens more: I find myself hanging back or stepping backwards, turning to move behind them, letting them go forward, out in front. I’m becoming a parent who pivots, scrambling to get out of the way.

I’ve watched these kinds of parent/teen backsteps during the confirmations and bar and bat mitzvahs we’ve attended over the last few years, too. They all seem to include a moment when the child moves front and center and the parents pivot and do a backstep. Our neighborhood church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation outside of Boston, holds its own coming of age service every June for kids finishing middle school. As Kenzie wound down eighth grade and began to prepare for his ceremony, I wondered how the church would present this new phase of his life.

I also wondered how I would make it through the day. I’m not very good at these kinds of ceremonies. I’m a world-class weeper, which mortifies my eleven-year-old son, Cooper, halfway to a coronary (the more-experienced Kenzie has come to some sort of grudging Zen state of surrender about mom’s waterworks). Plus I tend to approach these kinds of ceremonies in one of two ways: either endlessly obsess about every aspect of the day to the point of madness, or go on auto-ignore until standing at the local convenience store asking about clip-on ties half an hour before the kid is due to line up.

A couple of months before the ceremony we schedule a family vacation. Just before we leave, all our preparations blow up—quite literally—in our faces. Volcanic ash disrupts travel all over the Eastern seaboard, not to mention a little conclave called The Whole of Western Europe, and my attempts to reschedule flights are flummoxed in the ensuing chaos.

Right as I’m ready to give up entirely and do a staycation week (which will no doubt consist of six days of yelling at the boys to quit playing video games and one day of cyber-surrender), Kenzie takes over. During the course of a single afternoon I watch as he gradually crafts a smart set of Amtrak timetables, sorted by direction, departure time, and price. We pack and depart on a sleeper car for Chicago, leaving old airline tickets in their envelopes on the floor.

When we walk into the train station, Kenz strides ahead, managing the luggage while Cooper and I bring up the rear. It sets the tone for much of the trip.

On the train, Kenzie takes a kitty-corner seat in front of Coop and me; he always does this these days. Does he want me watching his back, or does he want me out of sight? Did this happen with our German ancestors on their Kansas-bound immigrant trains—did they sit kitty-corner or on benches side by side? And did my siblings and I do the same with our own beleaguered mom: Did we cling to her skirts, or did we pretend she wasn’t there?

Kenzie takes to the streets of Chicago like a native, sidling right in with his newfound loping gait. A few months earlier, I’d started to notice a change in his stride, but when I teased him about it (“Quite the swagger, big guy”), he would smooth his strutting out. Not anymore: Wherever we go, his hips go first, rocking and rambling down the street.

In a clothing store on the Magnificent Mile, Kenz homes in on a black rocker shirt. Once he was a boy who wore all sweats all the time, but sometime during the last year he’s become a serious shopper, a clothes hound. At stores I sit outside dressing rooms while he works his way through armloads of shirts. Out of nowhere he has developed his own specific style, and he often knows it when he sees it. There in Chicago, he sees it.

Outrageously priced and über-trendy, the shirt stands in the window and calls his name. Kenz tries it on in the middle of the store and stands with one hip jutted. He meets my eyes in the mirror and after a moment’s pause launches into a soliloquy on all the reasons he has to have it, rattling on about the singularity of this shirt, the way it fits his hips and lifestyle, and how it really is a perfect example of his carpe diem way of life.

His passion (for a shirt!) is irresistible. I end up fronting him the money. I am not a money-fronter (a family motto admonishes that “this is a home, not a credit union”), but I front him the money.

At the cashier’s desk he slides in front of me to chat with the salesclerk about some heavy metal lyrics. Standing behind him I see, as if for the first time, how the soft baby circles of his boy body are evolving into teenage triangles—the base of his neck, the muscles in his calves, the torso tapering more every week.

He wears the shirt out of the store. He doesn’t take it off for three straight days. His arms disappear in the sleeves, the shirt tail bounces with his strut. Every time I see this skinny guy swimming in a big black shirt it takes me a long minute to realize who he is.

He’s still wearing the shirt when we land at the trendy Graham Elliot restaurant our last night in Chicago. It’s got a “bistronomic” menu—haute-cuisine casual bistro food, Kenz informs me breezily, having heard all about it on Top Chef. He orders a never-heard-of-it-before dish. Even before he starts to chew I see his eyes turn inward. He begins to groan with pleasure, and I think for a minute that he is going to swoon right under the table.

The waiter lights up when he sees Kenzie’s response. They chat back and forth about ingredients, spices, cooking techniques. When he realizes that Kenz is both a budding cook and a Top Chef fan, he escorts us into the kitchen (the kitchen!). The chefs gather round to chat with my son; they encircle him. I start to talk a bit about the meal, but then I realize this is all about Kenz and these young chefs; they are there to talk to him.

The head chef—who is wearing a beret in the middle of this high-intensity, high-end restaurant kitchen and is therefore dazzling to us all—appears out of nowhere and steps into the circle to talk to my son.

The light in the kitchen streams down on the tableau—the thirty-something, bereted head chef, the rocker-shirted, hundred-pound teen, the circled tribe of sous chefs. For maybe the first time ever, I consciously step backwards; I want to be in no one’s sightlines. The chef, astonishingly generous, invites Kenzie back for a day of cooking the next time we’re in town. “Help you learn what it’s like,” he offers. “Come on back, work alongside us,” he treats him like a man. He looks him straight in the eye and talks about the unwritten script that is his future.

Kenz floats out of the kitchen. By the time he hits the sidewalk he looks about three inches taller: shoulder blades nearly touching, hips trim and rocking, eyes clear and gazing far ahead. After a pause my boy murmurs, “I can’t believe how long he talked to me,” and the rest of the walk he is silent.

The next afternoon we take the sleeper car back to Boston. Kenz and Coop sleep curled up in the bunks above me; I listen to their steady dreamy breathing from below. Within an hour of our arrival home Kenzie signs up for cooking classes.

Throughout the spring, out of nowhere, he takes over the kitchen. I sit and watch him cook, flinging energy and salt. While he reads his recipes he tosses utensils in the air, flipping the serving forks over and over, then the spoons, sometimes his pie pans. He learns to whisk, and I watch his forearm muscles, every day more defined. He takes to striding outside to yank long stalks of herbs straight from the garden. He tosses half the plant, unwashed and uncut, into his dishes. We find twigs in everything we eat. At least once a week he says to me, “See how my thyme flies,” and I obligingly groan, and then smile and turn away.

Meanwhile, the upcoming coming of age ceremony looms. Our assignments for the ceremony are deceptively simple. Each teen is to write a five-minute speech, and each parent is to present a symbolic object that conveys their hopes and dreams for that child. I begin to speculate about what gift I will offer to Kenzie and what hopes and dreams I want to define.

In May our church holds a special service honoring high school seniors. In prior years I had watched “Senior Ceremonies” with scant attention, soothed by the usual magical thinking that my own kids would “never be that old.”

Now, only two weeks away from Kenzie’s eighth-grade ceremony, I walk right into an emotional pluckfest. The most enervating, chest-clutching, and groping-blindly-for-the-Kleenex moment takes place when the minister cups her hands around the cheeks of each high school senior and says to them: “Aren’t you just something? So now off you go, dear one. Off you go.”

I honestly don’t recall ever seeing anyone outside of a French film touch an eighteen-year-old’s cheek with that kind of tenderness. I begin sobbing, an EmoMom mess, impervious to Cooper’s hissing, “Please don’t sniff so loud!”

Watching those catch-your-breath-gorgeous seniors bask in the heat and light of their transitions, it dawns on me what I want to talk about at Kenzie’s coming of age ceremony: his moment in the heat and light of the restaurant kitchen in Chicago—the first time I watched him carry on a man-to-man conversation outside of our own family circle, the first time I saw him radiant with the potential of his wide-open future, the first time I consciously made myself step back out of his way.

I decide my “gift” should be the restaurant’s eponymous shirt. I can’t buy it online, but in searching for it I locate the head chef’s e-mail address, and I instantly write him a gushing e-mail fan letter. I tell this near-total stranger everything about my son, the restaurant, their food, our church, the ceremony, the kitchen, the light; I believe I also mention his beret, perhaps more than once.

Throughout the e-mail I try to tell him about what it means to see a young son grow taller in a high-end, crowded commercial kitchen, and what it feels like to deliberately move backwards and witness it all.

The moment I press “send,” I am embarrassed. This poor young chef, working night and day, trying to do some nice kitchen tour PR, and what is his reward? A middle-aged mom gushing about some kid he can barely remember. I figure e-mail silence will reign, not so much a guarded silence as a sniffing “weirdo e-mail” non-reply.

But his response pops up in my inbox almost immediately, sweet and touched and self-reflective. He promises to send the T-shirt posthaste. I write back and thank him (for stepping up, for writing back, for not putting my e-mail into the folder marked “fan letter, subtype: geezer”) and settle back to wait. Of course, geezer that I am, I don’t remember to give him our home address until forty-eight hours before the ceremony at which point it becomes a nail-biting FedEx race to the finish.

In the end, the T-shirt arrives safely, as does the appointed day. The kids line up outside the church, skinny, eye-rolling, all dressed up. My boy wears his rocker shirt and truly looks divine. Each boy-child and girl-woman walks up to the lectern and speaks with a clear voice while the congregation listens with sweetness and intent. After they finish, we parents walk behind them, newly stationed in the back.

Each parent steps forward to present his or her gift. One set of parents gives a toolbox, another a Dr. Who action figure. Two different sets of parents choose fedoras for their boys, both exactly the same type, both for different reasons. One mom gives her daughter a prism, a single dad shares a chin-up bar, a couple gives their rangy boy a pie labeled pi.

When my turn comes, I step up beside my Kenzie, in front of hundreds of people, in front of him. I look into the eyes of my rocker-shirted, soft-eyed, skinny-guy son and am rendered essentially mute. Finally my words spill out, contorted, jumbled, the story twists around. I have less than a minute to speak, but I want to tell it all, the train tracks, the dance steps, the rocker shirt, the restaurant, the kitchen, the head chef, the fork flipping, the twigs in our food. I keep repeating the word beret.

I look into my son’s eyes, his gorgeous eyes, glowing part tolerance, part embarrassment, part bone marrow intuition that this is all worth it, part smart-guy grinning at predictable mom (“of course she’s crying, DUH”). I start to sense our new order together. I feel the alignment begin to rotate, and I feel him shifting, too.

From here on out, it’s going to be mostly about that backstep. If he gets a fever, yes, I will step forward. In the car alone we will sit abreast, and with his brother we’ll sit in a circle.

But when he talks to friends I will stand back; and on school trips he will sit behind me, melding into kin group. And when there is a woman—like the girl who pressed her thigh into his during the ceremony’s line-up, don’t think I didn’t see that, you little trollop—when there is a woman, there will be no backness back enough. I will not even be a shadow in the room.

We look out on it together, and then I give him the restaurant’s T-shirt, nervous for a moment that he outgrew it just last week. But it’s fine, and he loves it. We have a quick air hug, and then my mama-babble is over and so is my mama-lead. It’s done.

All I have to do now is what I have to do for the rest of my life: back up and back away. So, I do, I do it, I turn and I pivot. I walk away from him and his rocker shirt, from him and his friends clutching their new gifts, from him and his gorgeous eyes and his smart-guy grin. I go stand in my new place just behind him, while he moves forward, carrying the T-shirt, becoming a silhouette in the light.

Author’s Note: Kenzie still fits in the Graham Elliot T-shirt, just barely, and it’s now got a lot of cooking stains on the front. The rocker shirt from Chicago looks like it will fit for at least another year or so. Cooper’s coming of age ceremony take place in less than two years. I’ve already bought some Kleenex.

This piece is dedicated to Kim Foglia, a fantastic teacher, parent, mentor and friend. Her tragically short life, as well as her premature death from pancreatic cancer, was full of lessons and gifts. On the same day that this essay was officially accepted for publication, I also received word that Kim had, just prior to her death, transferred her “lifetime subscription” to Brain, Child to me. She died two weeks later. She is deeply missed.

Robin Schoenthaler is a mom/physician/writer in the Boston area. She now has two boys in their teens so she is backstepping as fast as she can. Her website is at

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Brain, Child (Spring 2011)