I’m standing in my small but modest kitchen rocking my four-year-old son in my arms. For two hours and counting, Evan’s cried non-stop. In between sobs and globs of snot, he’s refused to eat a bite of garlic bread, his favorite dish. He doesn’t even want to eat a piece of chocolate.
“He must be sick,” I whisper to myself, showering the top of his head with kisses. Hmmm. No fever.
“Does your head hurt?” I ask gently.
“No!” he howls.
“Does your tummy or bum bum hurt?” He farted and it smells terrible. Perhaps a stomach ache is the culprit.
“Nooooooo!” he screams, so loud I fear my landlord will think I’m spanking him with a switch. For the record, I would never.
I rock harder, still standing, hoping to soothe whatever ails him. My back breaks from the weight of a 35 pound, 5 foot 3 toddler.
“So what’s wrong?” I attempt again.
And there Evan blows. In the middle of my small but modest kitchen, my son says the thing no single mom wants to hear, especially when you work so hard to give your child(ren) everything.
“I want to be with daddy!”
Gut punch. Not because his father is undeserving of his love and adoration; Evan’s dad dotes on him and is a constant in his life as we have 50/50 custody. But because I am a single mom that does not currently have the financial means to provide him with the same things his father has: a house with a huge backyard for Evan to run wild, a two-seater bicycle that they ride in his neighborhood, Evan happily greeting his neighbors “good morning”, a pool that he dips in to cool off during New York summer months.
I am aware that these are all material things. Superficial even compared to a mother’s love. And I know that Evan loves me. I also know that the bells and whistles, including new “surprises” every week (Sesame Street books and toys) that he receives from his father and his father’s girlfriend, matter to Evan. He is 4 years old, all he does is want things. Evan wants and wants and wants. And his father can give and give and give much more than I can.
This is when I feel like a selfish failure for pursuing a career as a Writer and Performer. Although it fulfills me, it is not always financially stable and viable. Throughout our entire relationship, D and I were not on an even playing field financially because I refused to play the capitalist game and settle for a career that I did not love. As a Creative Entrepreneur, I made enough to fend for myself, but it wasn’t enough to save to buy a home. Contrary to what fuels my career choices, D only believes in financial success and stability, passion be damned. His motto: if it makes you money, suck it up.
I cannot suck it up, it’s just not how I’m built. That was at the crux of our relationship issues, although he met me as a Writer and I never hid my ideals. When we were together, I continued to build my writing career and even dabbled in national radio as a host on SiriusXM. It still hasn’t been enough to keep up with the material items he gives to Evan.
And as I soothe Evan in our small but modest kitchen, I wonder, am I failing him by pursuing my dreams?
I am 43 and it still hasn’t happened. That 6-figure book deal. That TV talk show. That return to radio. That lucrative publishing and media company. I’m still waiting for my Big Break. I’m working just as hard if not harder to share my stories, my voice, and be seen and heard creatively as a Latinx. But I still feel invisible.
The practical questions rush in: will I have the means to purchase and maintain a home? Should I give it all up and just ‘suck it up’? And if I don’t, does it just make me selfish?
I am now crying right along with Evan. Because I find myself at a crossroads: giving up my God-given talent and, ultimately, what makes me me to provide my son with all the things that money can buy.
We sob together now. Evan loudly while I stifle a yelp. Tears fall down my cheeks and, in that moment, Evan looks up at me and says, “Mami, don’t cry. Be happy!”
“I know, baby. I’m trying.”