- An Accidental Mother by Katherine Anne Kindred
- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Unbridled Books (September 27, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-1609530587
Back-of-the-book blurb: After her divorce, Kate Kindred decided that she would live her life without children. But then she fell in love with Jim, a handsome, caring man who had custody of his young son, Michael. And she fell in love with the boy, too. During the six years they all lived together, Kate learned the deep joys of motherhood that was the gift that Michael gave her. But when her relationship with Jim ended, he denied her any contact with Michael.
And her heart was broken.
An Accidental Mother beautifully describes the joys of mothering a young boy through complicated times. With sweet simple anecdotes and complex emotions, Kate Kindred marks every page with tears, including those that the most loving laughter can bring to any parent.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: This slim, powerful book packs quite a punch. It’s a love story – the slow build-up to an undeniable connection a woman and her lover’s son. Kate loves Michael as if he is her own; with Jim’s work schedule, she becomes primary caregiver – the one who gets up with him when he has a nightmare, and stays home from work to care for him when he has a winter cold.
The caregiving history is tangled and messy from the outset, but that doesn’t diminish Kate’s role in Michael’s life; rather, it underscores the structure and order she brought to the boy’s life. Jim didn’t even know Michael existed until he came to live with him at age two, after Michael’s mother (Jim’s former girlfriend) was declared unfit to care for him. Jim also had partial custody of an infant daughter from a marriage that ended shortly after the girl was born.
Michael is almost four when Kate and Jim begin dating; he takes to her immediately, and she finds herself filling a role that she had given up hope of holding – from friend, to caregiver, to mother in spirit (if not formalized).
Knowing that the relationships end – and that Kate is left truly broken-hearted, made it even more emotional to watch those bonds develop. Kindred writes(p. 9):
… it became a toehold in a secret world, an exclusive club called “parenting,” a world into which I had thought I would never be granted a pass. At the same time, I didn’t realize that it is also something like a cult – easier to get into than out of.
Michael called her “mom” and gifted her with Mother’s Day cards and bouquets. Kindred shares some of his drawings in the memoir, including a fill-in-the-blank exercise from Kindergarten or First Grade: “My mom is special because she taks car of me wan I am sake” accompanied by a drawing of Kate (with apparent angel wings) bringing soup to Michael in bed. What mother doesn’t receive notes like this, vowing to keep them forever?!
For six years Kate mothered Michael as her relationship with Jim grew (to the point where he was talking about her adopting Michael, but, somehow never got around to filing the paperwork). The breakup is painful, not because the relationship between the two adults is ending, but because of the confusion it causes Michael and the heartache it leaves for Kate.
This is a love story that had me crying tears of sadness and of anger. Anger at Jim for hurting his son (and Kate) by closing her out of his life, anger at Kate for not pushing the adoption issue (because she has no legal right to see Michael), angry at a legal system that requires so much formality in order to prove a relationship.
An Accidental Mother should be required reading for every parent (to appreciate what you have, even on days the kids are driving you crazy), and anyone who is in a serious (non-married) relationship in which kids are involved. I’d love to discuss this with our book group, to see where most of the emotion is directed.