Kristen Curette

I'm Afraid Being Raised By A Single Mom Has Made Me Anti-Relationship

I grew up with a single mom. Unlike many other single-parent homes, mine was more than comfortable, and for that, I'm blessed. For the most part, I've lived a good life.

My mother sacrificed so much for my sister and me. Every day, she'd go to work to provide for us, and I'd come home to a loving, live-in nanny who bathed me, helped me with my school projects and tucked me in just in time for mom to come home.

It was my mom, my sister, my nanny and me, and between the four of us, there was nothing my sister and I couldn't do. We cooked. We cleaned. We scored straight As and made great friends. We did everything a healthy human being is supposed to do and more.

In a household of only women, we were unstoppable. We were superheroes. And none of us ever even realized it was No Man's Land because, well, it never really felt like a man was missing. (Then again, I wouldn't know what that feels like. What does a man contribute when he's present?)

My mom found love once or twice, but never the oh-so-rare everlasting love. And so, she spent the rest of her life fighting battles on her own, in a fashion that was brave, selfless and extraordinary. That's my mama.

I've spent my entire life looking up to her. In my mind, my mom can do no wrong. I've seen how she's experienced the ugliest parts of the world and come out the other side even more beautiful. And I've thought, "She could go through life without a man and do just fine." And she did. In fact, she did better than fine.

She became a doctor and financially supported my sister and me on her own all the way through college. Not only did she do all of that, but she also did it with grace. She was never bitter. The whole way through our childhood, she had a smile on her face because that's just who she is. And if she wasn't smiling, we never bore witness to it.

Despite my loving childhood and my loving mother, I can't seem to understand why I would need a man. I want one — so much, I do — but I don't feel the need to truly end up with one. And I think that's why I keep ending up in casual flings. I crave real love, but I can't open up to it.

I often wonder if other women who have been brought up by single moms have as much trouble opening themselves up to being loved as I do. And if they don't have trouble, how do they reconcile finding love with not offending their single parent?

Because it's almost like I feel like if I end up with a man, I'm betraying my mom, which is messed up because all she's ever done is encourage me to go out there and find a man. But, I love my mother too much to do anything but imitate her example of what it means to be a woman.

Regardless of whether you're a child of divorce or not, I'm certain you must know what it feels like to love someone so much you adopt their pain. When it comes to love, that's my personal plague.

If my mom hurts, I hurt. If my mom doesn't fall in love, I don't fall in love.

As a daughter of a single mom, you're raised to fend for yourself. No, you're not discouraged from trusting men — only a selfish mom would impose that kind of life lesson — but you're certainly keen to protect yourself from them, even if they're no threat to you.

I think I mistake being alone for being independent, as if you can't be both at the same time. The two are not always one and the same. By that, I mean you can be in love and be independent at the same time.

But, I've never seen the two co-exist with one another, so I've never done it myself. And now, I almost fear it's too late to change my ways. I fear I've become so used to being on my own that I'll never not want to be on my own.

There have been so many men who were good for me. So many men I wanted to end up with, but didn't because I push everyone who's good for me away.

Having someone, I've figured, means relinquishing my own ability to make myself happy. And having someone means not being as strong, brave and extraordinary as my mother was. I don't want to be anti-relationship, but here I am, shutting out good love and bringing in toxic love.

Now, I spend my days writing about finding love. I guess writing about it and looking for it is easier than what I imagine having it would feel like. And to be really real with you, love has been in my life all along. Much of the time, despite our incessant complaining, it's right under our noses.

But love won't happen until I open myself up to it, and at this moment in time, I am closed off. I also hate myself for essentially pinning my own shortcomings on my upbringing. It's naive and nearly cruel, and we are all products of both nature and nurture.

In the end, though, I guess it doesn't really matter why I think about men or act the way I do with them. Because every night, when my head hits the pillow, I think, "My mom could live a brilliant life without a man, so why shouldn't I be able to?"

But I suppose just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should.