31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Feeling The Pressure To Remarry

Single with Children: Mom's feeling the pressure to remarry

Publication Date: 05/08/02

There's an interesting school of thought that seems to be pervading my home of late. I'm starting to feel a little like I've heard late 20-somethings feel when they have yet to get married. The question of the moment involves why I haven't gotten remarried yet. The message is mostly unspoken but I'm getting the kind of looks, particularly from my daughter and son, that seem to ask what is taking so long? I'm starting to wonder if we've seen too many Meg Ryan movies.

It sounds like a simple question, but in reality, it's not that easy. Believe me, I think about the situation quite a bit. Sometimes even I wonder why I haven't gotten on the "Just Married - Again" bandwagon. I have an arsenal of excuses ranging from "I haven't met the right one yet" to "What if I make a mistake?" Both are valid and, from my perspective, strangely intertwined.

I try to smile when I am told about other family members and friends who have been divorced and/or widowed for a much shorter period of time than I have and miraculously managed to find the path back down the aisle. I'm gently reminded that I am 42 years old and, while that's not quite an admission ticket to the rest home, it doesn't qualify me for membership in the "young adult" demographic either. Trust me. I get the point.

I'm beginning to think that my family's worst fear is that I might wind up a very eccentric, crotchety old woman who numbers about 30 cats among her best friends. "Come on guys, have a little faith in me, please," I plead only half kiddingly.

I'm not alone. There are quite a few of us out there in a "divorced and holding" pattern. I know this from talking to friends who share my present station in life and from reading about others who also have found the prospect of taking another chance at "happily ever after" a serious and daunting undertaking. No one with a shred of sanity would ever want to go through another divorce.

On the flip side, the idea of growing old alone isn't the least bit inviting. I don't worry about it too much, but I have a few friends who actually lose sleep from imagining a future spent terminally single. Worrying about growing old is a waste of time: we all know that as long as we're breathing, we're also aging. Finding ourselves alone, however, is something that we like to believe we have a modicum of control over, providing the fates and maybe some weird planetary configuration cooperate on some level at a super secret predetermined time. I have a feeling it's all very complicated.

Naturally, I understand my kids' concerns. They lived through and accepted their father's remarriage a couple of years ago. They discovered the world didn't come to an end and those dastardly tales like "Cinderella" and "Snow White" were much ado about nothing. They acquired a nice stepmother, and their father is happily resettled in the institution of marriage. I think they were greatly relieved not to have to worry about him facing a solitary existence.

Suddenly, I'm in the glaring relationship spotlight. They have managed to turn their concerns toward me, probably because our home will be one resident short as Katie begins college this fall. In a mere three years, Justin will likely follow suit, and I believe they sincerely fret about my ability to manage without kids hanging out in the driveway skateboarding or busy in the back yard attempting potentially bone crushing feats on the diving board and trampoline. What in the world will I do with all the extra time I'll suddenly acquire? They know that I already talk to our dogs and cats. Do they fear that I might start expecting these creatures to verbally respond? (Relax - I don't quite yet.)

Of course, I nurse my own creeping doubts. I mean, what do I really know about this relationship stuff? I've been out on a fair number of dates since my divorce, but there's still so much I don't know and a lot of things that I fear. Contrary to what the online dating services and advice columns would have us believe, I have this hunch that it's not necessarily always better the second time around.

I've passed the point where it could be said that I married on the rebound, given that it's been five years since I became legally single again. But I take very little comfort from that. I'm older, but am I really wiser?

I've come to the conclusion that when all the pieces fall together and the right person comes along, I will be so certain of it that I will suddenly toss most of my caution to the wind and take a leap that requires a great deal of faith and copious amounts of fear-diffusing love. Someday, I truly hope to arrive at that point, but I remind my kids, parents, friends and even my former husband, that I can't just make it happen. If they work on being patient, refrain from rushing me as much as possible and, most of all, trust my judgment, I will remain open to all of the possibilities and do my best to avoid turning into their worst nightmare: an elderly, nutty old woman known by her neighbors only as "the cat lady." Hey, what's so bad about cats anyway?

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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