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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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sonja August 5, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Who really even plans to be a single mom. Things happen for a reason like in the book and many I’ve read happen with a few drinks and a condom pulling a disappearing act even though pulled out. I dated a guy a couple of times went to a party with him and a month later surprise. Me and the guy never worked out to many differences. He says he wants to be a part of my babies life but I’m a little skeptical cause I haven’t heard from him in over a month. But only time will tell. My baby is due on Christmas and I think thats the best Christmas gift I could ever recieve. It was nice to read a book and know I wasn’t the only one this could happen too.So thank you.


VJ June 4, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Folks, I finally read all the comments and I’m close to speechless. First off I totally agree with Kim that with love, kids are a gift from g_d that keeps on giving. They’re always teaching you more about life than you can return to them.

Still, all the ‘accidentally on purpose’ baby stories here by all these smart, ‘classy, educated and ambitious women’ as Kim put it, well, it’s always an amazing discovery all over again. Some where Dr. Jim Trussell is hanging his head and cueing up another ANOVA table and muttering under his breath, ‘Somethings never change!’Really. Cheers & Good Luck! ‘VJ’ []


Morgan June 3, 2008 at 10:50 pm

I call my “mistake” the un-immaculate conception. It was christmas eve, an accidental run-in with the ex, lots of champagne and holiday warmth, a drunken belief that the best in this man was finally actualized, no condom.

I found out I was pregnant on Valentine’s day and when I called to tell the father, he informed me that I was severely inconveniencing him, since he had a girl-friend (whom he had been dating for more than two months).

It was just going to be me and my baby from the get-go. Somehow I became wonderfully okay with that. Nine months gave me a chance to really come to terms with who I was and what I could give to this new life…Plus, nothing is a character builder like going to a child-birth class solo in the basement of a catholic church. =)

So excited Mary Pols is coming to Portland! Can’t wait to read her book and meet her!


Ms. Single Mama June 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Yep…very happy accidents! Thank god for condoms being left on the coffee table. : ) In my case anyway.

Rachel, this book looks fantastic – thanks for sharing.


singlemomseeking June 3, 2008 at 2:08 pm

BlueBella: I wrote a piece for Pregnancy magazine, May ’07, about dating while you’re pregnant and single. I’ll email it to you!

Kim, thanks for reminding everyone to put judgment aside… and focus on our children.


Kim June 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

People make mistakes and it doesn’t matter how you got pregnant.. the result is the same… you emnd up with a child to love and have full responsibility for.If the father turns out to be irresponsible, it is unfortunate but you must deal with that and also come to terms with the error that you made such as a one night stand, or ignoring the red flags etc. As a young mother who became pregnant due to my poor judgment… I have learnt a lot both about myslef and also about the responsibility of my actions even if they are only for five minutes. It is very disgusting and upsetting to have people make judgmental comments when you are doing your hardest to provide and do the BEST for your child. That is something that some children in a two parent family never get. The point is, all children are a gift from God and we all have the responsibility to uplift and help each other because none of us are without sin, or for the non religious among us.. all of us have done things that at some point we know would be considered stupid/unscrupulous/careless/fill in the blank.


Betsy June 3, 2008 at 10:18 am

I had been dating Sperm Donor (SP) for 5 years and was engaged at one point. There were problems with his ex-wife that I could no longer handle, so he moved out and engagement broke. We continued to try to work on the relationship (marriage counseling). In a sense we became friends-with-benefits. 2 months after learning of the pregnancy, he stopped contact. We live in a small town (population 5000, county pop 18,000).

My daughter is is now 2 and has never seen SD. When she was 1 I started getting child support. When she was 1.5, SD filed for joint custody, name change (she has my last name), and visitation. That was almost a year ago. Joint custody was tossed and so was name change. He is still wanting visitation.

He hasn’t talked to me. During the court dates for child support, he never said a word to me. When he filed, he hasn’t said anything to me. The only he has spoken to me was when the judge ordered us to go to mediation 7 months ago. At no point have I been contacted by anyone in his family and they all knew about the pregnancy.

Sometimes life is better/easier w/o the SD around!! If only all SD’s could grow up, take responsibility and become a dad instead of staying a SD!


BlueBella June 3, 2008 at 9:58 am

BTW – Any thoughts on dating while pregnant? It’s been a topic very much on my mind lately and curious about other people’s thoughts as well. It’s a slippery slope to say the least and I’m weighing the pro’s and con’s from the date offers I’ve received lately (I haven’t really dating anyone yet, nor do I know I will . . .) and could use some advice.


BlueBella June 3, 2008 at 9:53 am

Great post! And I say that as an already single Mom on week 18 of baking my Accidentally On Purpose.

I have known the baby’s father for years but we never dated until all of a sudden he pursued dating me this spring @ 100 mph, got me into bed and the rest is history. For the first time in my life I experienced a condom actually, ahem, falling off. I didn’t know it at the time, but he told me afterwards. Nice, huh?

He’s now out of the picture, but this just leads me to further believe everything happens for a reason. This baby was meant to come to me and I’m looking forward to welcoming him/her into life with the twins. Sure, life will be even more crazy and expensive, but the amount of love a child brings into the world far outweighs any cost or effort.

Would I be scared out of my mind had I not already had the twins? Probably. Or should I be more scared, having what will be 20 month olds when the baby is born? Definitely.
I’m choosing to take it as just another not so gentle nudge from God in the direction of me as a parent being my priority.


littlemansmom June 3, 2008 at 7:37 am

Nope, not my littleman… His father on the other hand…hahahaha…. but seriously, I decided I was ready, no longer selfish with my time, ready to put someone before me, I wanted a baby.

Even though my relationship was not a healthy one, not sure what my future was going to be like, I decided *I* was ready whether I was going to have help or not. So I told X that I wanted a baby and his response was..’ok’…that’s it….just ‘ok’

15 months after littleman was born, we left and then we were both re-born…and THAT was also…no accident, but definately ON PURPOSE!


singlemomseeking June 3, 2008 at 7:01 am

Rickie’s Mom: I have heard of countless condom-breaking stories from single moms. Here’s to eight-year-olds!

The Exception: Thanks for the reminder that the Pill is not 100 percent effective.

Both of you remind me how often society judges single moms, assuming that we’ve had unprotected sex carelessly, etc… Not always true!

Judy: I should interview you.


Dan June 2, 2008 at 10:08 pm

condom to use, and thought he had…

I just saw Knocked Up again- kinda messed up movie, but very funny


judy June 2, 2008 at 6:53 pm

hmmmm…how about the continual pursing of someone who had all the red flags flying high but I turned a blind eye for six months until I ended up pregnant…accidentally on purpose

And for the condoms, I am 49 and think I have maybe used 5 in my life. I don’t like them and will not initiate the use of them. If he wants to supply them, initiate the conversation and the act of putting them on then fine.

I had an RN friend who taught AIDS awareness to hookers in the streets. She taught them (and at one point me) how to put on a condom with your mouth and hands behind your back. The theory was no man would refuse that!!!!


Rickiesmom June 2, 2008 at 5:48 pm

For my daughter’s father and I, we used a condom and it broke. I had been dating him for a month and it was our first time together. We didn’t work out and he chose not to be a part of her life. It is tough, even after almost 8 years. Condom or no condom, accidents happen and some of those accidents are the best things that could ever happen to you.


singlemomseeking June 2, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Dad’s House: This is a blog idea I’ve had in mind… how many men and women REALLY use condoms all the time. What’s the truth? Maybe you and I should do a dual-post? We’ll chat.

If you read the book, you’ll see that Mary and Matt were tipsy, and she indeed gave him the condom to use, and well, … read the book!

If any of you haven’t checked out Lauren’s blog, you should.

Let me know how you all like the book!


Angela June 2, 2008 at 4:02 pm

People make mistakes all the time, and having a one night stand without using a condom is definitely a big one.

Anyway, thanks for this post because I love to read and I’m always looking for new good books. I’m definitely going to check it out. 🙂


Lauren June 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Well, in my case: no condom with a guy I hardly knew. Not a one-night stand, but I definitely didn’t know him very well at that point.

I’m not quite sure how responsible he’s going to be as a dad. We’re in this limbo where he seems like he wants to be involved but he hasn’t shown this through his actions yet. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop with time.


The Exception June 2, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Her story sounds similar to my own outside my not having had the one night stand. I was in a relationship – in a sense – with my daughter’s father and was religious about taking my pill. But things happen and the pill doesn’t always work.

Result – an amazing child and a wonderful surprise.

But the first years were tough, tough as a single parent but emotionally rough on both her father and myself as he had to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Today we are great friends, but embracing his role as “dad” is not something he has fully accomplished. With time, my daughter and her father are finding their own relationship and learning to be friends. Given the situation and all that has come to pass, perhaps a friendship is the best for both. There will, I expect, be difficult times ahead as she has to learn to accept him for who he is and herself for who she is in relation to him. They will go through similar struggles, just at different times.


dadshouse June 2, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I don’t mean this in a judging way, but I’m actually shocked someone wouldn’t use a condom for a one night stand. Chances are both partners had previous one-nighters. Forget pregnancy – wasn’t she worried about STDs? Seems more than an oops to me. As someone out there dating and relating I hope to heck the women I sleep with have taken precautions with former partners.


GLSD June 2, 2008 at 11:21 am

Sounds like a great read! I’ll have to pick up a copy!


Kim June 2, 2008 at 10:42 am

Hi Rachel,

Well I had a one night stand with a man I knew(in hindsight) would would not have made a good dad, but I wasn’t thinking at the time. As soon as we were finished having sex I knew that the chances of me being pregnant were high and instead of taking the ‘morning after pill’ I had daydreams of a baby and of him becoming a responsible father. The reality… I have a WONDERFUL DAUGHTER who has helped to mature me and make me into a better person. Her father remains irresponsible in MIA. My focus is simply to be the best mom I can be and provide a good life for her.


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