Being a Single Mom

I have the sense that you didn’t plan on being a single mom when you got married. I also bet you didn’t plan to raise your kids by yourself without a man until they became young adults either. I know that I didn’t. I never wanted to be a single mom never mind a divorced, single mom. But sometimes God laughs while we’re making plans and the struggles you’re facing as a single mom are real, they’re exhausting, and often you’re at your wit’s end. How you deal with some of the biggest struggles that come with being a single mom, will determine the quality of your experience and what you get to teach your kids.

It’s a wild ride! 

Buckle up… you’re going to be dealing with a lot of stuff. I don’t know of one single, divorced mom who doesn’t complain about parenting by herself. It’s difficult. There’s never any time for yourself (unless you lock the bathroom door while you sit and read your IG account) the kids are scared of all the changes and they need your attention, yet they’re pushing your buttons, they’re testing you, and the work, just to keep your home together (never mind clean or organized) never seems to end. 

Layer on top of that the stress of your separation and divorce, the need to work or to go back to work, finding affordable childcare, managing the co-parenting schedule and disciplining your kids… being both the mother and the father to keep everything together and functioning and you’ve got the perfect combination to make the struggle real. With the pressure nonstop, it’s tough for most moms in this situation, without good skills and lots of perspective, to not end up on anti-depressants just to get through their days. So what’s a single mom, never mind a divorced, single mom to do? 

Pull up your big girl pants.

Here’s what I know: That struggle is yours to tackle. No matter how many kids you have (News Flash: my mom had 6 kids when she got divorced… ) You get to figure out how to manage on your own for however many years you’ve got left. This is a big win after the fights, the arguments, and the disagreements. You’re the one who gets to recreate your family dynamics: the rules, the guidelines, the dinner menu, and the weekend plans.

So, if you complain too loudly, if you commiserate with your friends or yell at your ex or moan to teachers, the attorneys, your therapist, or your family, you may risk losing your children but more importantly, you’ll simply remain stuck in overwhelm and fear. You can’t stay in negativity and fear and parent well. The two aren’t a great combination. Instead, remember that you’ve got the natural talents, a brain that is designed to multitask, and a team at your finger tips.

You’ve got the natural talents, a brain that is designed to multitask, and a team at your finger tips.

This is when you find out just how strong you really are. You teach your children how to help you manage your home. My mom needed our help with the cleaning. We may not have been perfect… when my 3 maiden aunts would show up unannounced, one or two of us were sent to meet them in the yard then show them a garden or two while the rest of us literally (I am not making this up) swept the dust and dirt under the rugs! It was all hands on deck! And we did it. 

I believe household chores are important life lessons and if a child can carry a toy, they can carry a dust rag.

Show up!

Since no child likes cleaning their own room never mind a house with their mom instead of playing outside, you’re giving your kids a chance to dream big. You may not feel as if you can handle being a single mom but you’re showing your kids how to be responsible. Sure, I also got divorced but my kids and are our own team. We work together to care for our things. We talk about the important stuff. We make our own rules (together) and when I have to, I say “No” and they know I mean it. They get what it means to make something of themselves because together, we’ve had to make a life independent of the family we all thought we had.

When you’re a single mom who gets up and figures it out, you’re inspiring your children to go for what they want.

I’m not saying there won’t be mistakes. But the mistakes will bring you closer together. You’ll become your own team. You’ll create your own understandings. Whether you initiated the separation or not, you got out from a situation that wasn’t going to continue serving you. There’s a lot to be proud of and your children will feel that if you bring pride forward, even when they’re scared or confused. 

Will you be scared to become a single mom? 

Most definitely. Especially at first. Navigating that first year or two when you’d rather be with a man or out finding a husband, you’ll be steeped in fear and confusion. It’s not the time to share your deepest needs with your kids. It is, however, time to teach your kids how to respect and admire women. It’s the time for you to get to know who they’re becoming, instead of depending upon a guy to distract you from your anxiety. 

BTW: your children are completely aware of what’s going on. They may not be able to articulate everything they’re witnessing or be able to converse with you (and that’s not their role). But trust that they know. 

Your job is to parent them. Not lean on them for your emotional needs. Not scare them with your unbridled fears. But assure them you’ll figure it all out together.

When you get tired of being a single mom:

You take a break. You lock that bathroom door for a minute. You let them climb into bed with you when they can’t sleep. You let their father have them for the weekend (and not complain he’s messing things up… ) 

You cope with being a single mom by planning time to rest and to relax.

The hardest thing about taking time for yourself is FOMO… the fear of missing out! You think if you step away from the stressors of your life: the pace of your divorce, the latest message tirade from your ex, the school gossip or your kids’ sports program that you’ll be seen as a bad client, a horrible mother or an anti-social, uncaring woman who doesn’t want her kids to get into a good college.

Can we all just take a breath?!

The transition is going to take some time and you can go through it with Option A: some semblance of calm or Option B: constantly being riddled with cortisol and adrenaline. (News Flash: I don’t recommend option B.)

Most moms (never mind single or divorced moms) have a tough time taking care of themselves. But there’s so much at risk if you don’t! 

You need your sleep. You need to relax. You need exercise. You need a good laugh AND a good cry sometimes. You need to turn off the fighting and watch the Hallmark Channel on occasion.

You must trust that the fight will take as long as it does. Your kids want to see you smiling and the only way you’ll be able to smile is if you take a break and care for yourself. So please do so. Ask for some help super mom… enroll your kids in doing yoga or meditation with you; get on bicycles together. Visit a park and walk under the trees. Turn on the TV and watch a movie that’ll make you all laugh. (I became a big fan of animated films once I got divorced.) 

My biggest fear in your resistance to learning these skills in the midst of the stress isn’t that you can’t manage to be a single mom despite how scared or sad you are about being one, it’s the toll the stress will take on your body, mind, and spirit if you don’t give yourself attention and self-care. And the toll it will take on your relationship with your kids.

 

 

If you have a tough time accepting the changes in your family, I'm starting doingDivorce™ School in early October 2017. I hope you will join me online for this 12-week program. My aim is to give you the support, tools, and perspective so you can learn how to embrace being a single mom with confidence and grace. Class size will be limited. So reach out laura@laurabonarrigo.com