What distinguishes Bev’s parenting is her selfishness—which, given that she’s a kid herself when she gets pregnant, should surprise no one. She also confesses to her best friend Fay (Brittany Murphy) that she doesn’t particularly enjoy motherhood. Bev refuses to be locked into public housing, full-time parenthood, and financial dependence on her deadbeat husband. So she tenaciously pursues her GED while Jason is still in diapers.
She becomes a candidate for a scholarship, but when Ray can’t be found, she’s forced to bring Jason to the interview. Here, a university representative probably thinks he’s being kind when he rejects the candidacy of a mother who’s already struggling with balancing school and childcare. Perhaps the biggest mistake Bev makes after this—and at other times—is to explicitly vent her frustrations within earshot of her son, who takes it to mean she blames him.
The movie also suggests that Bev might have had a fighting chance if the men in her life hadn’t consistently failed her. The first man to do that is her father, who doesn’t just disregard her plan but takes things further by publicly flaunting how ashamed he is of his knocked-up daughter at her own wedding.
Then there’s Ray, who’s incredibly kind to Bev and Jason, but so harsh to himself. His addictions make him unreliable, which means that for the few short years they’re married, Bev is functionally going it alone. Though it’s at a great cost to herself and her son, Bev makes the best mom decision when she convinces Ray to leave the family because he can’t kick his heroin habit.
At first glance, geeky former classmate Tom (Peter Facinelli) might seem like the one that got away, but he crushes on Bev without ever recognizing that she doesn’t feel the same way. When he offers to take her away from her situation, he does it on a whim, without discussing it with Bev or considering what might be at stake for her. For all she knows, she might be trading one captor for another.
None of the men really listen to what Bev keeps telling them she wants. Maybe that explains the “riding in cars” metaphor since Bev is often a passenger in cars driven by her father, her husband, and eventually her son. Leonard thinks he knows better, Ray is a bad partner, and Jason doesn’t appreciate the pressures and limited options of single motherhood.