The New Unmarried Woman
A Child Of Her Own
Barbara Simons: 44, divorced
Occupation: Physician's assistant
Location: Seattle, Washington
Every morning my little girl and I stand by the window and sing our 'morning song,' " says Barbara Simons. "I'm so thankful for this time. It's the happiest of my entire life." For Simons, not being married has not meant forfeiting the experience of motherhood. She became pregnant with her child, now 4 years old, during a brief relationship she had in her early 40s and chose to raise her daughter alone. By mutual choice her daughter's father, who lives in Europe, has not been involved in her upbringing.
Her sense of financial security enabled her decision. When she decided to become a single mother, she knew that as a physician's assistant she could find a job almost anywhere in the country. "I had no doubts at all," she says. But Simons's journey to this independent stance was not an easy one.
Simons was a child of divorce: Raised by her mother, she had no relationship with her father. In her early 20s, while still in college, she fell in love with a young man about to return to his hometown, thousands of miles away. Simons wanted to go with him, but not as a girlfriend. "Getting married was important to me," she says. "I felt that when you're married, you're someone."
After the wedding, however, she discovered that living in places where she knew no one -- first Georgia, then Texas -- was harder than she'd expected, despite being married. "It was a very passionate relationship, so when things were good, they were extremely good," she remembers. "But when they were bad, they were very, very bad." She describes her ex-husband as domineering and not supportive of her professional goals. For her part, she says she was too dependent to figure out how to leave the relationship. And there was the simple fact that she believed in marriage. "I took my vows seriously," she explains.
Eventually Simons became a nurse and then a physician's assistant. A turning point in her marriage came when she was 35 and she and her husband began discussing having children. "I realized I didn't want to bring a child into this kind of home," she recalls thinking. "So why was I putting up with it?" She divorced her husband and afterward "felt nothing but relief."
She stayed in Texas but began taking intermittent several-weeklong vacations from her emergency-room job, which had great flexibility. "I traveled a lot -- to Indonesia, Africa, Europe, Central America. I went all over the world alone, sometimes with no more than a carry-on," she says. These experiences taught her how capable she was: "Traveling helped me learn to problem-solve, plan, be independent."
She had one more important lesson to learn, though. Right after her divorce, she admits, she began looking for another partner: "The perfect person, someone to fill that empty spot. It took a lot of soul-searching to realize that happiness was within myself."
When she did, says Simons, "I stopped actively looking." When she discovered she was pregnant in 2004, four years after her divorce, her relationship with the baby's father had already ended. Simons had no reservations about becoming a single mother, however. "It was meant to be," she says. "I was 40, had a good job and was comfortable with who I was." While visiting a friend in Seattle she fell in love with that city and moved there in 2006 with her daughter, Samaira, then a year old.
Simons does admit to occasional qualms. "Being on my own means I have no one to share my worries with," she says. Still, she insists, she made the right decision for her. "It's so much better to be happy alone than miserable together."
And if she finds a partner someday? "I know I will have to compromise if I ever decide to let someone into my life," she says. "It may be difficult because what I have is absolutely perfect."