Parenting is hard. Parenting alone is impossible.
When I was faced with the reality that I would be a single mom, I knew I had to live with intentionality. I love my kids fiercely, and truthfully I hated the fact that my failed relationship(s) would negatively impact them. After a lot of trial and error, I found that there are a few simple things I have done that have made a positive impact on my parenting.
This was the first step in loving my kids more. I had so much guilt from my failed marriage and I felt like I had ruined my children’s lives. It was my fault that they weren’t going to be like their classmates. It was my fault that they would have to share their favorite toys between two homes. I blamed it all on myself. After all, I am their mother and I am supposed to protect the. Instead, I have caused them pain. Every time I started to hear the voice of blame, I would remind myself that kids are resilient. I didn’t choose divorce lightly. They might have to share their toys between two homes, but the homes are now happy ones.
Once I forgave myself, I had a lot more energy to focus on them. Once I let go of my mistakes, I had the time to think about all the things of the future and how I was going to be better. I don’t forget my past, but I’m no longer letting it drive my future.
Hang out with other married couples.
Right after my divorce, anyone holding hands was like a dagger to my heart. I cried the ugly cry during romance movies. I wanted nothing to do with love, couples or cupid. I vividly remember my mother saying, “Now that you’re divorced, you’re not going to be one of those bitter women who hate all men, are you?” Now it sounds harsh … but I took a deep breath and remembered that she loves me. I remind myself of this comment each time my heart tightens at the thought of hanging out with someone who was in love.
This is also about not isolating myself and the power of visualizing. I want to be happily married some day, so I surround myself with those who have it. I look at them as mentors and those who could encourage me. In fact, my friend’s husbands have cared for me – held a door open, pulled my chair out, offered to carry my bag. My married friends have loved me in a way that my fellow single moms have not.
Make friends with other single moms.
We all need a friend (or two) who “get it.” We need someone who understands just how hard it is to be the good cop and the bad cop all the time. My single mom friends help me problem solve and share tips that they found to work. I call them when I need a “I feel your pain” or “I can’t do this anymore” pep talk.
Just a caution … these friendships can also feed into all those hard feelings of pity or self deserving. Single parenthood is hard and at times something to complain about. However, in my experience, I have not found that throwing myself a giant pity party complete with bon bons and a few glasses of wine helpful in solving my parenting struggles. I have found it is helpful to have a sweet friend tell me that she understands my pain, it totally sucks, I’m strong enough to get through it and my kids are lucky to have me. See the difference?
Rest while they are away.
I hate, hate, hate when my kids aren’t all home. During the first year of my divorce, the silence of the house gave me panic attacks. Call me dramatic … I’m just keeping it real. Every time I start to feel the sadness and anger of my children going to their dad’s, I reminded myself that I need “me” time. I need to use the time that my kids are away to do the things I can’t do with them. I make plans to have dinner with friends. I grocery shop in peace and quiet. I stay up late watching my favorite shows, paint my nails, sip a glass of wine and sleep in. (Ok it’s only until 7 a.m., but it counts.) Money is tight, but on nights I don’t have all my kids I allow myself to self-indulge just a little bit. I feel refreshed and ready for when the boys come home on Sunday nights. I’m a better mom when they come home after a few days away.
Have those hard conversations with your kids.
As hard as this single parenting gig is on me, it’s harder on my kids. I give my children permission to have fun at their dad’s house and come home and tell me all about it. I don’t want them to think they have to choose sides. I also allow them to come home and be upset about something that happened at dad’s without throwing it in my ex-husband’s face. I am an advocate for my kids, but I also want them to know that I’m a safe place. Using their pain as ammo against their dad isn’t helpful to anyone. I encourage them to tell him how they are feeling too.
We have conversations about how they miss their dad, or how they wish they were at dad’s. It stings to hear my precious babies say that they would rather be with someone else. But I remind myself, I’m mom, of course they love me. I’ve taught myself to see these situations as their pain and not a slap in my face. It’s the transition that they hate. It’s the fact that mom and dad are never in the same room that causes them to be upset. Once I separated their love for me and the struggles of coming from a divorced family, I was able to talk with my boys in a new way.
Nothing about single parenting is easy … yet I have found that the hard work invested in these conversations have paid off big time. One of the most amazing motherhood moments I’ve had was when I was laying with my 9-year-old before bed. He rolled over and said, “Mama, thank you for always listening to me. I can tell you anything.” I think my heart literally melted in that very moment. #momwin
It takes a tribe.
This is for my married mama friends too – we need each other. From the moment I became a mom, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I wanted my boys to be surrounded with so much love. I’ve prayed for special people in their lives who would be able to love them in a way that I could not. Those prayers were answered. My family plays a large role in filling in my gaps. It takes a great deal of trust between my mom and I that I’m able to hear the truth coming from my children thru my mom. It’s easy for the truth to be muted by a critical mother’s voice. We just keep talking it out …. It’s a process and not always an easy one. Intentionally finding others who will love your kids has given my kids a sense of security.
This certainly isn’t a perfect process, nor do I suggest they will make it all “ok” again. They have made a positive impact on my mothering. Parenting is hard. Parenting alone is impossible.