Being a widow, and a single mom, one might wonder, do I feel marginalized? The truth is, I don’t often think of myself that way. I was who I was before these titles joined my life, and I am who I am even after they arrived, but this past weekend, I will admit, when I had to fill out a child profile, it was eye-opening to be on this end of the readership, answering questions addressed to titles that no longer applied to me.
Would I have taken notice of this terminology two years ago? Likely not, but this isn’t two years ago. Two years ago my daughter had “parents.” Two years ago, I had a “spouse.” Today, I am a widow. Today, I’m not only a single mom; I’m an only-parent. I am also a young woman who might one day have another partner in her life, and this profile made me wonder, where we would we all fit in?
“Parents’ names,” read the form. I scratched out the “
s” at end of “parent s,” and proceeded.
“My spouse and I are already involved in…,” I scratched out “
spouse” altogether, and proceeded.
Cheekily, I thought, ‘Did one need two parents to parent a child? Did it take a “spouse” to make a baby?‘
As a widow, a hopeful-that-my-daughter-might-one-day-have-a-living-father-again widow, what if I were dating someone? Where did their involvement in this scenario fit in?
I know the organization that put together this questionnaire. I have no doubt in my mind that their intent was good. They would never have meant to marginalize anyone. They are the type of organization that would be open to examining the language of future surveys, and in all honesty, two years ago, I very well might have created the very same document, innocently not understanding how it would affect future me.
What surprised me in this process was not that this organization released such a survey. I get that we’re all learning together. What caught me off guard was how I reacted to reading some of those titles, no longer able to identify with them, unable to answer the questions until I had redefined the language so I fit back in.
I don’t intend on making the world politically-correct-heavy, and at the same time, to be on the margins looking in, I see the value of taking word choice to heart. This experience has challenged me to examine my own word choice, so fewer individuals feel left on the side-lines.