Real Life Self Care for the Single Mom

It is not a ground breaking discovery that self care is good for one and all. It helps you feel whole and recharges you to be a more effective version of yourself. This is especially true for single parents who are shouldering so much on their own. Now, here’s where I have to laugh. If you are anything like me, you are a single mom with 100% of the day in and day out responsibility of raising children. I’m in charge of feeding and caring for the kids, helping with homework, maintaining the house and anything that goes wrong with it, maintaining the car in the same way, making and taking to all appointments, and being nurse to the sick. I also have to work and chauffeur to all practices and activities, as well as handle all errands. I’m not saying all of this to get any kind of praise. I’m laying the groundwork for understanding why I want to laugh uncontrollably when others say that I really need to take time for myself.

When exactly am I supposed to do self care? With the age of my children, I am with at least one of them from 6:30am to 9:30pm. By that time, I’m lucky if I get a few dishes done before I shower and go to bed. There just doesn’t seem to be time for this illusive self care others speak of. This is when I said to myself, I’ve got to find a way to blend the proven benefits of self care with the chaotic life of a single parent.

I realized that I cannot schedule and pay for a babysitter every time I want to go for a walk or even go to the grocery store alone. I needed to be more creative that that. I’ve come up with some real life self care items that can be easily added right into your daily schedule, kids and all. These may not strike you as the “day at the spa” or “girls weekend” types of self care, but they are better than nothing!! While they also might not give you total relaxation and time away, you are acknowledging yourself as a person and the need to pay attention to your needs in any way possible.

Find Something that Makes you Feel Put Together

This is something that will keep giving back to you for only a limited amount of time commitment. For me, this is painting my fingernails. Yes, something as simple as that. I don’t have the time or resources to schedule a weekly manicure, but I do enjoy a pretty set of nails. I make sure to carve out a bit of time to file and paint my own nails to achieve this goal. It’s something I see everyday and gives me a little boost of feeling more put together. Find your little thing that can be a daily boost to help you feel put together and more than just a single parent scrambling to get it all done.

Make Your Favorite Dinner

If you are like me, dinner plans usually consist of trying to make something that all three kids will eat. This will make things easy and ensure everyone eats something. This also often puts my likes last or not even on the menu. My kids like plain food and I like a little more seasoning. Typically, I forego this to make dinner time less stressful. I have found that one way to add a little self care into my day is to make MY favorite meal every once in awhile. Even if the kids eat chicken nuggets or PB&J for dinner, I am acknowledging my likes and treating myself to that meal. I also have come to realize that it’s ok if they don’t eat it because then I have delicious left overs!! Win!!

Listen to Music You Like

My kids role their eyes any time they hear “music from the 1900’s”- meaning 80’s and 90’s music. This is my music and nothing puts me in a good mood faster than hearing a great throw back tune. For a bit of self care, I will tell the boys this is mom music time and they can find another room to go to if they don’t want to hear it! So, go ahead, put on your favorite tunes and just let yourself go. If spontaneous dancing begins, just go with it. You are basically leading your own private Zumba class!

Connect With a Friend

Single parenting can be very isolating. You have to make a conscious effort to look outside of the home for adult conversation. You are making all of the parenting decision by yourself and have no one to develop a parenting game plan with when dealing with a difficult situation. Adult conversation can be so helpful and can add a level of solidarity to your life. It is so restorative to carve out time to connect with friends. This can fit right into your schedule with some creativity. We all know that as soon as we get on the phone, everyone needs you and starts to whine to get your attention. Therefore, get the kids interested in doing something, even if it is some electronic time, so that you have a block of time free to reach out to someone. I use the bargaining chip of screen time to ensure everyone is guaranteed to not bother me unless it is a crisis. Trust me- they will be just fine with a little extra screen time and you will get some needed “alone time”.

Simplify Your Life

This one is a little different than the other action items. This is not one specific thing that you will need to carve time for. This is something you will have to practice regularly to feel the self care effects. The need for self care comes from feeling stressed and overwhelmed. One way to decrease those feelings is to simplify your day. This may mean meal prepping or planning for the week, keeping a to do list to avoid trying to remember everything you need to do, or prepping lunches for the morning. Also, find ways to take things off your plate. I’ve found grocery delivery to be a game changer. This creates time to do other things and removes the weekly struggle of grocery shopping with children. I even found that with the fee and tip included, I even save money doing this because I’m not impulse buying! This also forces you to do some meal planning, which we already discussed as being helpful. These individual items don’t necessarily fall into the self care category, but collectively they will help reduce your overall stress.

Ask for Help

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Listen to your body and recognize when you’ve hit your limit. We all need a break from time to time and that’s ok. Nobody is made to do this all alone! Lean into your tribe of support and ask for help with a difficult task or help watching the kids while to take some time to just breath. You will be surprised how many people want to help you, they just don’t know when you need it if you don’t ask!

So, the next time someone flippantly tells you that you really need to add more self care into your chaotic life, you are armed with realistic things that you can do to meet you needs and not make self care another added stress!

When Holidays are Hard After Divorce

During the holidays, we are bombarded with reminders of traditions, family gatherings, and togetherness. These things all look a little different after a divorce. They may even be painful reminders that your family is no longer what it once was or what you thought it would be.

I will never forget the first time I had to drop off my kids to my ex in a parking lot on Thanksgiving morning. I fought back tears as I hugged them goodbye and told them to have fun. Once they were settled into the car, I let the tears flow. I scowled at him and choked out “I never wanted to be without my kids on holidays”.

I got in my car and watched them drive away to spend Thanksgiving with his sister’s family and his parents. Thanksgiving day was always with his side of the family. That was our tradition. A tradition I was no longer a part of. Things were different now and the reality was that there were certain holidays that I was not going to be with my children, my family. In my mind, this wasn’t fair. He had the affair, not me. He chose this, not me. I also knew that my kids needed to be a part of both families. So, like it or not, this was the new normal for holidays.

I would like to say that this process gets easier, but it doesn’t. It may be less raw as time goes on. You may be able to exchange the kids without tears at some point. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to be the one who feels on the outside looking in at these time. There are a few things you can do to make holidays not as hard during and after a divorce.

  1. Make a Plan– Ready or not, here the holidays come! It’s inevitable, so don’t let it sneak up on you. Plan your time with your family and friends, as well as your kids. This will give you something to look forward to!
  2. Don’t do it Alone– You may feel like the odd person out, but your friends and family want to help support you. Say yes to holiday invites. Surround yourself with those who support you.
  3. Start New Traditions– We often hear the word tradition and think of “what is always done”, but things are different now. It’s time to start new ones and you can be as creative as you want. Maybe you pick a different day to celebrate “Mom’s Christmas” or have “Thanksgiving Do Over Day”. Maybe you leave town and head to a new scenery altogether. These things can become the new traditions to look forward to each year. Also add in fun traditions leading up to the event that can be continued each year, no matter who’s year it is to have the actual holiday.
  4. Take Time for Yourself– With the rollercoaster of emotions that you are likely experiencing, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to process your feelings. Do not push them away. Change is hard, so take it easy on yourself.
  5. Look Ahead– If the holidays are just down right overwhelming, keep your focus on what’s ahead for the new year. This is a great time to set new goals for yourself and plan ahead. Ring in the new year with thoughts of hope and positive change!

For those who are struggling with finding the new holiday normal after divorce, I see you. You are not alone. Reach out to your support system and allow them to help you though this time. You can still have holiday traditions, family gatherings, and togetherness after divorce, it may just look a little different!

What to do with Reminders of the Marriage After the Divorce.

The agreements have been made and the ink is now dry. You are officially divorced. This can leave you with questions as to what to do with all of the “marriage stuff” you have collected over the years. First, this answer can and will be different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, but I do have a few suggestions if you are stuck!

The most important thing to remember is that you need to give yourself closure. You are the only one who knows what that looks like for you and how to go about doing it. This will also depend on your feelings toward your ex and the divorce itself. If the divorce was mutually wanted and very amicable, you may have a very different closure process than someone who is angry and scorned by the divorce. Give yourself the freedom and grace to do what is needed to help you move forward, not what other’s think is best.

I came into the divorce process very hurt and betrayed by an unfaithful ex. While I had visions of taking everything I had that reminded me of him and setting it on fire on the front lawn, I knew that felt like a rash decision to me. I tend to be a thinker and like to process my thoughts and feelings at great length. I decided not to make any decisions on what to do with all of the things, big ticket item or not, until I could fully process how I felt. I then looked at each situation and decided what would be best for me and me alone. I’m sure others might not agree with all of my choices, but my point here is that you have to live with those choices and gain happiness. Do what feels right for YOU!

I started with a big one…the wedding dress.

This was actually the easiest one for me. It symbolized everything that became a lie. It represented broken vows, broken dreams, and a broken heart. I knew without a doubt that I didn’t want to even look at it again, let alone ever put it on. It was a clear decision. I wanted it gone. Luckily, there are several ways to repurpose a wedding dress. I didn’t even want to be bothered trying to haggle with someone to sell it, but that option is there. I wanted to see some good come out of it, so I explored the donation route. While there are places that take wedding dress donations, I had a bad feeling of passing on a “failed” wedding dress to a doe-eyed bride. I chose to donate my dress to my community’s high school graduation dress trade program. Our local high school has a tradition where the girls wear white dresses to graduation instead of the traditional cap and gown. My dress was pretty simple and I love the thought of someone getting to feel special on their graduation day in a dress that I once loved.

Next came the ring. I must say that I sat on this decision for a long time. I loved my ring, but I think I loved what it was supposed to mean even more. So much so that I wore it for several months after I found out about the affair. It felt as if taking it off made it real. The marriage was over, but it was hard to take the final step to remove the symbol. A ring is small and was easily tucked away in my jewelry box. There it sat- for a long time. I took it out from time to time and put it on. It made me sad to do so and I would quickly tuck it back into the box. As time went on, I thought of it less and less. I felt less when I saw it. I no longer had a need to put it back on. My life had changed and my views about the ring changed. It was during that time when I was working hard as a single mom to renovate a neglected house that I realized that my ring could become a symbol of strength. That day, I went granite shopping for kitchen counter tops. I picked the most perfect piece of granite in my eyes. It was strong, beautiful, and also imperfect. It has graining and color variations, while showing uniqueness and interest. I decided then and there to part with my sad stone and replace it with my stone of strength and stability in my new home. As I walked out of the jewelry store after selling my ring, I felt as if weight had been lifted and I was one step closer to gaining closure to the divorce.

Photos tend to be a weak spot for me. I always loved looking through photo albums of our family as a kid and love how photos capture life moments for all time. Maybe this is why my approach to the wedding and family photos was a little different. As I packed up our house to move shortly after being faced with the divorce, I remember stacking all of the wedding and family photos on the dining room table and thinking, “now what?”.

It hurt to look at them, yet they were the timeline of my life and the life of my children. Good or bad, those moments made me who I am today. I also knew that this was bigger than just my feelings. These were the photos and memories of my children. I did not want to discard them out of anger and betrayal. They were so young at the time. I knew that someday they would have questions and want to see these pictures. I found the right size box to pack them all in with nothing else that I would have to unearth. I clearly marked the box and then used a lot of duck tape to close that box. The memories are there if needed. They are secure in the box and can’t get to me. I know where they are, but I never think of them. If needed, I can dust off that box that sits in the furthest and darkest corner of the basement closet. Until then, it’s as if they are gone.

Up until now, I have described a very methodical and often long process of deciding what to do with the memories of my marriage. This method made me feel confident in my choices and left no regrets. That being said, I did allow myself a few cathartic outlets that I found to be very liberating! As I said, I took my time with the big items. I waited until I was ready and felt the time was right. Some other things were much easier to part with in a therapeutic way! I took all of the cards he gave me that I had been saving for years and put each one through a shredder! It was like watching all the lies literately get ripped to shreds. Next, I took all the Christmas bulbs that said “Our 1st Christmas Together” or the one we bought in Hawaii on our honeymoon and put them in a garbage bag. I knew I would NEVER be putting them on my tree and defiantly didn’t want that reminder as I was decorating for my favorite time of year. I took that garbage bag out to the driveway and stomped all over it. It was beyond satisfying to feel each bulb smashing beneath me. These things are very simple, even comical looking back, but if you are harboring anger, resentment, or bitterness, give yourself the grace to have a cathartic release. It will feel SO much better then gently placing the bag in the trash!!

I’m not saying I did it the best way, but I did everything in a way that worked for me. I suggest you go with your gut and realize that you know what will give you closure and what will keep you stuck. Allow yourself to feel the feelings before making decisions and you will know what is right. If you are wavering, put it aside and come back to it with a clear mind another time. There is no rush. When the time is right, you will allow yourself to be free.

5 Ways to Help with Co-parenting for the New School Year

Those long summer days are quickly coming to an end. Thoughts of resuming bedtime routines, homework, and extra curricular schedules start coming into the front of your mind again. The school emails begin to trickle in, as well as the list of everything needed to get this school year started off on the right foot. This time of year can bring up an unexpected stress for parents who are navigating the world of co-parenting, especially if you are new to the game. Here are a few tips to cut down on the stress for all involved and have a great start to the new school year!

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!!!

OK….So this might not be your favorite thing to do when it comes to your ex. It might also feel nearly impossible at times. So, just hear me out. Good communication on the front end of the school year will set both parents up on an equal playing field. It is then up to each parent to navigate the communication on their end with the school. If you are the primary residential parent getting the communication from the school, this may be as simple as an email with the new teacher contact information and links to school sites or blogs. I’m not advocating hand holding or doing the work for your ex, but this simple information exchange can help reduce stress later in the year. Giving them the opportunity to have the same communication as you are getting will avoid possibly getting accused of withholding information regarding school and/or events. Our district mails out yearly calendars. While I admit that I often begrudgingly got a copy for my ex, it worked to my advantage many times when he said he didn’t know what was going on. All I had to say is “I get my information from the same calendar I gave you”. The confrontation ended there.

This, of course, only applies for what is legally allowed in the shared parenting agreement. If for whatever reason one parent is not to have this information, then the agreement should be followed as stated and the school informed of this legal mandate.

2. Enter Back to School Shopping With a Realistic Budget Plan

In a perfect divorce, agreements are made regarding split expenses, child support, and how to pay for the extras needed, such as back to school needs. Ideally, both parents would uphold their end of the agreement and the expenses would be split as stated. Unfortunately, many of us know all too well that is far from reality. Many primary parents struggle to get child support, let alone anything for costs that accrue above and beyond. Your ex might even agree to split the costs with you and then refuse to give you the money after the purchases have been made.

At this point in time, you probably know what group you fall into regarding finances with your ex. If you know going into back to school shopping that your ex will not contribute or will not follow through with getting their share, my advice to you is to set your budget with what you can afford by yourself. Even if you took your ex to court, the financial issue would not resolve itself before the backpacks need filled with notebooks and pens. Going into the process knowing that you are prepared to foot the bill (fair or not) will be less stressful for you and your kids. There’s nothing worse than walking around the store looking at every lunch box while you are riddled with anger that you have to pay for it. You need to put yourself in the positive mindset and do what needs done for the kids.

Financials are a hard thing to let slide, believe me- I know. My ex did not pay child support for over seven months and refused to give any money toward their extra expenses. There were many times I wanted to let my kids know that we couldn’t do something or get something because “Daddy won’t pay what he is supposed to”! I encourage you to find a dear friend or a therapist to vent those feelings to, not your kids. It will not help your children transition back to school if they continuously hear that the other parent is refusing to support them in this way!

3. Shared Family Email Provides Info Without Interaction

If you are functioning under a pretty standard shared parenting agreement in which both parents have access to any information regarding school and extra curricular activities, a shared family email might be the way to go. This would be a neutral email address that could be used when a contact email is needed for the children. This would include teachers, coaches, and any scheduling that would have to be relayed to both parents. The idea is that this is not meant to be a personal email for either party and both would have access to the username and password. This email would be for relaying information regarding the kids. While having a joint account of any kind with your ex may make you cringe, this eliminates the need for frequent texts or last minute conversations regarding a school program or schedule change.

4. Try to Develop a Similar After School Schedule for Both Houses

Shared parenting time often happens mid week, resulting in school days and evenings being split between two households. This is often a huge stressor for children to just remember to bring everything they need to each house, let alone the double set of rules and routines. Entering a new school year is a perfect time to refresh or try new co-parenting strategies which will hopefully eliminate some chaos and confusion for the kids. This might include discussing a general after school routine (ex. snack, homework, then play). This allows the children to know that the expectations match up and both parents are aligned in helping them succeed. Having a visible calendar at both houses can also help kids feel less anxious about not knowing what is next. They can see what will be coming the next day and have a visual reminder of what needs to be taken to the other parent’s house.

This task will be effective and help ease anxiety for all involved if it is actually executed by both parents. Remember, you can only control your end of the bargain. You can not force your ex to adhere or follow through with these strategies. This is frustrating, but all you can do is model and uphold structure in your own house. The kids will benefit from this as well.

5. Keep Your Focus on the Kids

After discussing all the tips and tricks that might make co-parenting go smoothly this school year, it really all boils down to keeping the focus on the kids. This is all about them and helping their school year be successful. It is often a hard pill to swallow, but we have to put aside our hurt feelings towards our ex and do what is necessary for the kids. You may be the first to admit that you would rather not see your ex at the school play, but your child may be hoping so badly that the other parent shows up. Keeping open communication allows each parent to make their own choices. It is hard to watch our children be disappointed when the other parent may choose to not be involved, but I never wanted my children to have any reason to think that I was preventing him from being in their lives. The added attempt to keep open communication actually provided me with more peace in the long run as well. I did not have to justify relaying information to him and could more effectively redirect the confrontation when he tried to accuse me of not giving him the information. It was easier to present to him that he had all of the resources and needed to put in the effort himself to maintain his end of open communication with the school and their activities. A little extra communication can be the difference in effective co-parenting and a total breakdown.

The Fatherless Father’s Day

***Disclaimer*** I’m writing this from a specific perspective- my own. I fully realize that not all divorces end in father abandonment. Many fathers continue to stay involved and have a healthy relationship with their children post divorce. I simply hope to connect with others that are in a similar situation.

Father’s Day is supposed to be a family day to celebrate the dads in our lives. What happens when that day takes on a new and not so happy meaning for our families? Father’s Day now has a dark cloud hanging over it for me and my children. It’s the anniversary of the day I found out my ex was having an affair. Those memories replay in my mind each year, which dredge up feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal. I can remember waking up with the kids while he slept in and feeling the nagging feeling to check his messages. While he slept, I uncovered text after text that undeniably showed that he was cheating. I remember his cold words and his unapologetic tone. I knew things were never going to be the same from this day (Father’s Day) forward.

That was the first Father’s Day my boys spent without their dad. It was also not the last. He has made the choice to not come to visit the boys on Father’s Day, which visibly deflated them. I have had to watch them digest phone calls where he’s told them he was too busy to see them on Father’s Day or did not attempt to make plans at all. The boys processed this in a very personal way- dad doesn’t want to be with us.

After the hurtful “I’m too busy” call last year, I jumped into “fixer mode”. I was determined to distract and occupy them the entire day to make up for the loss they felt from being fatherless on Father’s Day. It was hot, so we opened and closed the community pool. We packed snacks and ate dinner at the snack bar, which is a coveted event for my boys. They were smiling and having fun, but we all knew what was really going on. Everyone else was there with their dads. I saw it. They saw it. It hurt. With every pool announcement that offered free ice cream floats to honor the dads at the pool, my heart sank. Eventually, my middle son asked me if I thought they would give me a free float because I brought them here instead of their dad. It was clear to me that I didn’t have the power to shield them from the obvious.

Things are even more difficult this year. He has made a choice that will permanently keep him from ever celebrating Father’s Day with his children. The boys are painfully and unavoidably aware of this. With the day approaching, I have taken a different approach to Father’s Day this year. I realized that as much as I want to shelter them from this pain, they will realize their father isn’t here and they will feel raw emotions because of it. No amount of pool time or ice cream can mask this. Therefore, I opened up the conversation to them and asked them for their input. How did they want to handle their Fatherless Father’s Day? I made sure to tell them that I would help them with anything they wanted to do and there wasn’t a right or wrong answer as to how to handle this. I wanted to give them the power in a powerless situation to have some say in how the day goes.

I have one child that wants to continue with our tradition of doing something as the family that we are now. Basically, turning Father’s Day into Family Day. I have one child that wants to make a card with a message of what he would have said to his father on Father’s Day. My youngest is still too young to fully understand, but has voted for a fun day pool side as well. Instead of trying to act like the day isn’t happening, I will do my best to help them (and myself) process the emotions in the best way for all of us.

Some days are harder than others, but I’m finding that if we are open and honest with each other, we can help each other through the difficult times. Isn’t that was family is all about anyway? It doesn’t matter what your family looks like or what a-typical traditions might help you along the way. The most important thing is for you and your children to know that you have each other to lean on and that is enough, even on a Fatherless Father’s Day.

Find Your Zen While Getting Divorced

Life itself is stressful and often leaves us unbalanced. Add getting divorced into the mix and you may find yourself completely out of sync. Long to-do lists and figuring out how to manage the changes that come with this new chapter in your life often leaves little time to do the things to keep yourself centered throughout the divorce process.

Staying in a grounded frame of mind will help ease anxiety and allow you to think with a clear mind. It is easy to push these quick tasks aside as you try to knock out a few more things during the day. In reality, these should be your first priority. Focusing on the time to bring yourself to a centered state can increase your ability to make confident decision, reduce anger and anxiety, and allow you to acknowledge and process all of your emotions. These strategies do not have to take a great deal of time or resources. Here are a few quick ways to find and keep you zen while getting divorced.

POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS AND MANTRAS

The mind is a powerful tool and we have the power to control it. If you find yourself focusing on negativity, as common in the divorce process, we slowly train our brain to stay on the negative hamster wheel. We have to actually stop those thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations or mantras. This simple step with help block the floodgates to seeing everything from a negative point of view. I suggest starting each day with a positive thought that you repeat to yourself. Give yourself a set amount of time to do this. If negative or anxiety provoking thoughts enter your mind, simply put those aside and return to your positive mantra. Nothing like starting the day on a positive note.

IMAGERY

Like the affirmations, imagery is a way we can have power over our minds, especially when feeling anxious. Imagery allows you to use positive images to manipulate your body into a calming state even when stressors are on going. To do this, pick a a calm image and use all of your senses to transplant yourself there. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and how things feel. Combined with deep breathing, this technique will help you slow your heart rate and lower anxious feelings. This does not remove the stress, but it does prepare the body to handle it in a more effective way. There are many resource and apps that can walk you through the guided imagery process if you feel stuck with this one.

ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils have powerful healing and calming properties. They help promote feelings of mindfulness, peace, and tranquility. Others provide a source of strength and healing. Whether you diffuse them, use them topically, or ingest them, they have amazing benefits that promote holistic wellness. This only scratches the surface on oils and there are entire blogs and books related to the use of oils, so I won’t pretend to sum it all up in one paragraph. Essential oils are definitely worth exploring as a tool to help you keep your personal peace through the divorce process.

YOGA

I cannot leave yoga off the list of ways to find your zen! It’s the image we all conger up when we hear the word “zen” and there is a reason for that. IT WORKS! What a better way to center your mind and body than yoga. When you engage in the meditative and grounding aspects of yoga, you are once again priming your body and mind to fight the battles of the day, including your divorce.

These techniques will not take away the stressors in your divorce or give the magic answer to your difficult decisions. They are here to provide a mindful and deliberate break from reality to reset your body and mind. This allows you to make clearer choices, address issues effectively, and feel strength in your own abilities. Our bodies and emotions can quickly escalate during the divorcing process. We often live in fight or flight mode and move from one difficult decision to another. We owe it to ourselves to get out of that anxious state for a little while to heal and regenerate. Namaste.

Single Mom or Super Mom

It’s that time of year again! The end of the school year has arrived, along with the one million events that go along with it. Music concerts, dance recitals, soccer practice, baseball games, and the beloved field day are all marked on the calendar. There are teacher gifts to buy, field trips to chaperone, and end of the year parties and banquets to plan. It’s a lot and we are all in this final dash toward summer together. 

These stresses are there no matter what type of family you have, yet single moms often feel the push to go from single mom to Super Mom. Maybe it’s the attempt show that we don’t need help and we can do it on our own. Maybe it’s “divorce guilt” kicking in and we want to show our kids that won’t miss a thing. It may even be that we are trying to prove to our exes that we can do it all without them. I found myself thinking about this for myself the other day. How can I possibly do it all? The answer I came up with is simple. I can’t and that’s ok. 

If you are struggling with being enough as one parent running the show, give yourself the same grace that you would give anyone else- including dual parent families. It’s ok to NOT volunteer for the class party. Not every parent can and it doesn’t mean you are letting down your child. It’s ok to have to prioritize events, therefore missing something on the schedule. The world will continue to turn if one child has to miss a practice to attend another child’s band show. Trust me, I thrive on making it all happen for everyone and this is something I continue to struggle with all year long.

I have definitely noticed my drive to do it all increased post divorce. I felt guilty that my children only had one active parent participating in their day to day lives and I made it my mission to not let them down. I finally realized that nobody, married or single, can being in all the places doing all of the things. It takes a village to raise children and everyone can lean on their tribe when they need help. 

If you are feeling the pressure to prove yourself, especially to your ex, I suggest you sit down and examine your motives. Who is benefitting from you putting this added pressure on yourself. If they answer is not yourself and not your children, then JUST SAY NO to something. My guess is that you are working yourself to the bone to prove something to someone who may not even be watching. There is also the unfortunate possibility that no matter what you do or how many activities you volunteer for, it will never be enough for your ex. If this sounds like you, it is very likely that they will always find a way to point out what they feel you could have done better. This puts you in a no-win situation that will eventually burn you out as a parent. That is not beneficial for you or your children. 

At this moment, I’m going to give you a goal and I promise to do it along side of you. Take a look at your overbooked calendar and find something to let go. Maybe you find someone to take your child to practice to free up your evening. Maybe you decide to ignore the class sign up that asks you to make two dozen homemade cupcakes. Maybe you forgive yourself for not being able to be in two places at one time. Whatever it is, give yourself the grace of being just one person. Do not set yourself up with the unrealistic expectation that you have to do more to make up for the missing parent. That is an impossible task that will only lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. You are a fantastic mom without needing to be Super Mom!

5 Ways to Have a Happy Mother’s Day as a Single Mom

Divorce has a way of changing aspects in your life that you never expected. It changes feelings about traditions and often stops traditions all together, especially regarding holidays. I have found that Mother’s Day, like any other holiday, takes on a new look post divorce. For you, this may mean an absence of someone pampering you and making the day extra special. It may mean a day that trips the reality switch that things are different than before and that may not be what you wanted. This may cause feelings of sadness and loneliness to creep into a day that is supposed to be special.

Mother’s Day slowly became a day I would dread. For many reasons that I can only guess, my ex seemed to do everything in his power to make me feel awful on Mother’s Day. From not acknowledging my first Mother’s Day after having our son only a month and a half before to deliberate attempts at making the day not only mundane, but actually more difficult than usual. One specific Mother’s Day stands out in my mind. My boys were three year old and a six month old at the time. He slept on and off all day and when he was awake, he walked around with earbuds in refusing to help or interact with us at all. I felt like I was being punished for something, but had no idea what I had done. Later that evening, my three year old asked me what Mother’s Day meant. I told him “It’s a day when other people do nice things for moms and give them the day off”. My ex looked right at me and replied “Well, I think you are a mother everyday and today is no different”. My heart sank and that sums up Mother’s Day for me in my marriage.

Since my divorce, I am learning to take back Mother’s Day. It is empowering to know that you can choose how the day goes and you are ultimately in charge about how you feel when the day is done. Here are 5 things you can do to have a Happy Single Mother’s Day!

Start New Traditions

As stated before, holidays are an easy time to get wrapped up in how things used to be or even how you wished they could have been. These markers often serve as a painful reminder that things didn’t go the way you had planned. So, what better time to change things up? Start new traditions with your kids! From doing an outing that becomes your new yearly event to working as team to tackle yard work, anything goes! Just make it different from what was done in the past. This gives both you and the kids a break from the glaring reminder that things are no longer the same.

Give Yourself a Break

This too may look different from the spa day or marathon afternoon nap that we hear others being treated to, but you can be creative! Get your kids busy playing outside or watching a movie (their brains won’t rot and you deserve it) and pick something something you typically put off because other things need done first. Read a book, paint your nails, listen to your choice of music, binge watch Netflix, or sit and do absolutely nothing. Whatever you choose, just know the laundry and dishes can wait.

Take the Day Off as House Chef

This does not have to be an elaborate dinner out. I know that is not always feasible or enjoyable when toting kids along. This can be anything that allows you to not cook a meal or have to clean up! Bonus point if everyone likes where you are going so there is no fussing at dinner!

Do Something Fun with your Kids

Pick something that everyone likes to do and have some fun! Get out the board games, play catch in the yard, read to each other, or do an art craft. Whatever makes you all smile will work just fine. This shows you kids that you love being their mom and love the quality time you have with them.

Find the Joy

I saved the best for last! This has become my go to on Mother’s Day. You can choose to find happiness in the day and ultimately have control over your emotional outcome. It is all too easy to slide into the sad feelings over missing what you don’t have. By doing so, you often miss all of the great things you have right in front of you.

Nobody ever said days as a single mom are easy, and that includes Mother’s Day. You deserve to be happy and make this best day possible for yourself. Have a Happy Single Mother’s Day!!!!

Why Staying Together for the Kids Can Backfire

We’ve all heard it, and possibly even thought it. “I’ll stay for the kids’ sake”. I will confess that this is the very reason I stayed in my marriage as long as I did. I was determined to not let my children experience the pain of separation and divorce. I did not want to have them live a “split life” with time at mom’s house and time at dad’s. I wanted them to have a duel parent household. The research showed this was best and I wanted to give my children the best.

Well, I will also be the first to admit that I probably stayed too long. It did not help my boys to see an unhealthy marriage and hear the way their father spoke to me. I began to see that my sons were starting to imitate his language and behaviors, often showing me disrespect. Having many narcissistic traits, my ex often showed unstable and unloving behaviors towards the kids as well. He was not acting as an equal member of the family, rather the sole person everyone had to tip toe around. This stress and instability on a daily basis was far worse for the kids than the stress of having divorced parents.

As I write to you, I’m also aware this this is my experience and each divorce story is different. That’s why I want to take a look at both sides of the coin here. I want to go on record and say that I’m not a proponent of divorce. I do believe in marriage and do not take those vows lightly. I also don’t believe that the decision to get divorced is for everyone. I believe that children DO in fact benefit from seeing a loving marriage that demonstrates healthy communication, boundaries, and healthy conflict resolution. If you and your partner are both secure enough to admit faults of your own, identify things you BOTH need to work on, and can agree to work together to make the marriage work, then by all means- run to your nearest couples counselor and get to work on that marriage!

Now, on to when staying in the marriage might be an unhealthy option for both you and your children. Stable marriages require both partners to be mentally healthy. If you are struggling in a marriage with a partner that has unaddressed mental health concerns, you may find yourself in a losing battle. If mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD are left untreated, it can create an unstable environment for the entire family. Other disorders that can wreak havoc on a marriage are in the Personality Disorder family. Disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are both common and very difficult to manage. As with all personality disorders, the person does not see their behavior as a problem and feels that everyone else is to blame or in need of change. They don’t see their actions as part of the problem at all and often can’t see the need for treatment. This is the opposite of someone experiencing depression or anxiety. Those symptoms cause discomfort to the person and often lead them to seek treatment. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to help someone who does not want to be helped. If your partner is refusing treatment, they are also refusing to be fully present in the marriage and family life.

The same can be said for addiction as well. If you are in a marriage with an alcoholic or addict that does not want to stop using, you are a living example of the saying “being stuck between a rock and a hard place”. This may not be the person you fell in love with. You may remember them before the addiction and want to hold out until that person returns. Just know, you cannot make that happen for them. It is impossible to derail the train that they refuse to get off. An addict is not able to be the parent they need to be while using. The kids are not getting a stable and healthy environment that you are wanting to provide by “staying for the kids’ sake”.

The problem may also be something that doesn’t require a diagnosis. Infidelity, physical abuse, emotional/verbal abuse, and rage can cause a breech in trust and safety that is not repairable. The hurt and pain that are caused by such a betrayal are often more than a person can forgive. While these seem like clear deal breakers, the offender often tries to guilt the other person into staying by bringing the kids into it. “Are you really going to leave and do this to the kids”. I can say that quote with conviction because those exact words were said to me. As a mother, that statement messed with my head. It had me feeling like I was to blame because I was not willing to accept the affair and the emotional abuse. I started to think, “Maybe I should just stay for the kids”. Then I realized what that would end up doing to them. They would see a broken marriage full of hurt and resentment. They would eventually figure out what was going on and get a completely warped sense of what marriage means and how to treat their future spouses. That’s the moment I realized I was not to blame and I would do what needed to be done for myself and my boys.

All of these seem so cut and dry from an outsider’s perspective, but when it’s your marriage and your children, everything gets muddled. Your brain is foggy and it’s so very hard to make such a decision that will not only impact your future, but the future of your children. I know it’s one I wrestled endlessly with in my mind. My ultimate solace was realizing what I could and could not change. I could NOT change him no matter how much I wanted to. I COULD change my situation and what my children would learn from my example. You cannot force someone to change who does not want to do so. With that said, it is also ok for the rest of those involved, including the children, to not become collateral damage to their self destruction.

And So It Begins

Hello! Thank you for joining me at Thriving Ahead. By simply exploring the avenue of divorce coaching, you have already taken the first step in investing into a better future for yourself. This future is full of possibilities and I cannot wait to help you get there!

Not long ago, I had one of those “ah-ha” moments that don’t happen everyday. I was sitting with my son listening in sheer awe to a Holocaust survivor describe her journey before, during, and after the war. You could hear a pin drop as she recounted her story of both tragedy and triumph. She ended her talk by saying she is often asked why she continues to speak about the Holocaust so many years later. She said that she does this to give her journey purpose. Meaning, she could have chosen to live her life as a victim of her situation. She could have allowed herself to be swallowed by grief and sadness for all that she endured. Instead, she chose to put herself in control. She gave a voice to her tragedy, which gave hope and changed perspective to so many others.

I left that speaking engagement filled with hope and encouragement. I realized that we all have our battles, some bigger than others. We all also have a choice in how we move forward. I decided then and there that I would no longer be a victim of my circumstances. Sure, life has put several roadblocks in my path which often left me questioning “why is this happening”? It became very clear that the only way to remove these roadblocks was to put myself back in charge of my path.

I knew I wanted to also take back my purpose. I felt driven to find a way to take my vault of experiences and help others who are just starting their divorce journey. My experiences, which many are painful, will provide me the foundation to help others move forward to a more peaceful future. I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you in this platform and hope that we can join together to take back our future!