Accidentally on Purpose

by singlemomseeking on June 2, 2008

Today, one of the most open, candid, painful memoirs comes out: Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made.

I stayed up way past my bedtime to read this book, about 39-year-old movie critic Mary Pols, who knew she wanted to have a baby. But never—not in a million years—on her own.

Then, there’s this one-night stand with an adorable but jobless guy ten years her junior — and, oops, they didn’t use a condom.

Mary Pols conveniently lives down the road from me, so I got the chance to meet her in person at my favorite sandwich joint, Bakesale Betty’s.

After taking a home pregnancy test, Mary worries everything (sound familiar?): how she’ll break the news to her friends and family (five siblings and an 84-year-old Catholic father), how she’ll afford single motherhood, how she’ll do everything on her own, and how she might co-parent with a man (Matt) whom she barely knows.

You wrote about Matt so honestly and openly: the frustrations, the hurt, the caring. Has he read the book? His response?

Mary: “Matt read the almost-final manuscript for the first time last August… And then he reread the slightly revised galleys. Both times were quite painful for both of us. It’s hard to remember how things were, and reading the book really took him back to that place, when I was on his case all the time and filled with disapproval. It’s painful for me to go back, too. And I hate to cause him pain; he is such a gentle, kind and good person.”

Now that Dolan is four years old, how do you and Matt define your relationship today?

Mary: “We’re definitely a family. But, are we at the brother-sister point? Not quite. He’s the father of my child. Even though we’ve ruled out romance between us, I think watching each other go off in different directions is going to be hard. Not only do we both value what we’ve built, but we’re hugely fond of each other. Other than Dolan, Matt is the person with whom I spend the most time.”


How do you and Matt work out the logistics? It’s an unusual set-up—

Mary: “Matt lives about 15 minutes away from us, which is great. He’s in a shared living situation, so Dolan has only been there for a sleepover once. But Matt can and does pop over at a moment’s notice. I’m so lucky, as single mothers go.”

“He has said “No” exactly once to me when I’ve asked him to take care of Dolan while I go do something. And that was a night when we both had parties we wanted to go to. As a father, he’s just so willing and able and pleased to be with his son; Dolan is truly his first priority.”

So, how do you do it all? I laughed the other morning, when you emailed me back to me, “Dolan needs a pre-breakfast reading of Curious George, gotta go.”

Mary: “Two words: late nights. Right? You too, I assume.”

“Lately I’ve started getting up before him, to get a jump start on the day. It’s such a challenge to feel distracted on both ends from doing either a good job with your kid or a good job with your job…”

And how about dating?

Mary: “During Dolan’s first couple of years, I did some fix-ups, sort of dutifully, but I guess the bottom line is, for a long time, I wasn’t seeking, because I had found. These days I’m seeking a little more, but only a low-key level.”

“While it’s great to feel like a woman again, and be appreciated as something other than purely a mother, I find myself going out into the world with rules I should have had for myself all along.”

“Such as: Is he really worth upsetting my equilibrium over? Is he ambivalent? Is he still pulling the kind of crap guys do at 30? Because if so – no hard feelings, but forget about it. I don’t need the hassle. Or the drama. And I’ve already got a boy in my life who I have to teach to be well-behaved. I don’t need another one…”

Your turn, single parents: How many of you might describe your life as “accidentally on purpose”? Tell the truth.

If you’re in the S.F. Bay Area, catch Mary Pols at the official book launch party on Tuesday, June 3, 7 p.m. in Alameda, CA at Books Inc., 1344 Park Street. Wine and cheese reception followed by reading.

Mary is on a rockin’ book tour in the Northwest, for more events go here.

Photo of Mary Pols and little Dolan

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