I have been a single mother for nearly all of my son’s life. We spend all of our time together. He’s my little hangout buddy. It isn’t uncommon for people to stop us and ask questions, and many of those questions do not bother me at all. By all means, ask me how old he is or if he likes Thomas the Train. But please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t ask me about his father.
Wait, I need to amend that.
Dear random man on the street, do not ask me about my son’s father. Why? It’s none of your business.
Seriously. Just don’t.
At first, I would answer with something that would suggest his father and I were together because I knew that would end the conversation before it began. It also wasn’t a lie. We were in a long-distance relationship, but strangers didn’t deserve the full details.
Most of the time, these nosy-ass questions are from men who are trying to figure out if I’m single, so they can hit on me.
Here’s why that’s problematic: If the only reason you won’t try to ask me — a complete stranger rushing to her destination with a toddler in tow — out is because I have a man in my life already, then you need to re-examine your priorities, bro. How about you don’t do it because I’m simply walking down the street pushing my kid in a stroller? How about you don’t do it because I don’t know you at all, and that’s a personal question? How about you don’t do it because it is a Tuesday, and we have places to be, and you just made things awkward?
His father is a part of his life, and therefore mine, just not romantically. And even if he wasn’t, I surely wouldn’t like some rando walking down the street to fill the void in our lives. How can men even justify this line of thinking? It all feels very predatory and generally icky. There are definitely better ways to go about this, guys.
I will never forget one night in particular. I used to work as a babysitter and brought my son with me to jobs, so when I had a late-night gig, we would often take an Uber home. This night we ended up in the car of an older gentleman. While my son happily munched on his fruit snacks, I decided to engage in polite conversation with our driver. He asked me where we were coming from so late, and I explained that I had been working.
“Well, where’s his daddy?”
My jaw went slack. “It’s just me and him,” I replied
“So who takes care of you?” (Yes, he really said this.)
“I take care of me. But we live with my parents.” Not that it was any of his business.
“Oh, that’s good. Is the daddy in the picture?”
“Yes, he is.”
I ended the conversation right there. WTF?! I am always too nice — because what I really wanted to say was “Excuse me, sir, but how the fuck is it any of your business who is in my son’s life?” What if I had procreated with some sort of abusive sadist and didn’t want him around? What would he have said then? What if I didn’t have any family to help me out? And really, what difference does it make?
I wish I could say that this was the first and last time I had that conversation in that setting. But it is not the case. I can think of at least two other drivers who asked me about my son’s father. After that first time, I got smart and simply said, “He’s in California.” Which is true. I refuse to answer any questions beyond that, but they almost always have more questions.
Just because my son’s father isn’t physically in his life every day doesn’t mean that they don’t have a relationship. It also doesn’t give you the right to ask me about it.
As a single mother, I feel like I have to lie about my relationship status even more than I did when I was simply a single woman. Whenever it happens, I have to wonder if they would ask me the same questions if there were a ring on my finger. Most of the time, I’m sure they wouldn’t because they don’t really care if my kid has an active, engaged father. They simply want to know if I’m on the market. It feels dehumanizing.
I am no less of a person because I had a child with a man and the relationship didn’t work out. That’s life. I am a mom who has a child to take care of without the help of a partner. Single moms have so much to worry about without having to feel preyed on by random men. So, men, if you feel yourself about to ask a mom where her son’s father is, or prod for more details about her personal situation, don’t. If she feels comfortable enough to tell you about it, it will be because you are not a total stranger on the street who is invading her space. She will open up in her own time. Until then, take a step back, please.