First, I’m not trying to compare my situation to anyone else or to say it is easier, harder or anything like that. Just wanting to share what is in my heart about this whole matter. In our world today single parenting is becoming more and more common. I would love for us to build each other up and share what we have learned and the struggles along the way. I get a lot of emails from newly single moms and so I thought I would share my opinions, what works for me and EVERY situation on the planet is different from one another so yeah… take my thoughts with a grain of salt.
I like talking in bullet point format because it helps me to get out all of my random thoughts so here goes.
*The amount of guilt that I feel as a single mom takes over my head and heart some days. I am most definitely not able to give Brooke the life that I had as a kid with siblings all around to play with, a mom that was beyond amazing and a dad that drove me to school/took me on daddy-daughter dates and ate dinner every single night with us at the dinner table. There are afternoons that Brooke has to do quiet time followed by tv time for a few hours because I have a deadline which means I am behind the computer screen when she wants to play with me. She sees me cry more than I care to admit. We live in an apartment when I wish I could give her a home with a yard. We eat out a lot. I feel guilt every.single.time I leave and go on a date because my brain tells me that I should just still be married and be at home doing family things rather than dating. I struggle with loneliness a lot and yep, cry again. Feeling like I am doing it all wrong hits me hard at times and wishing I had someone to work with to raise Brooke is constant. Guilt/unworthiness feelings are a part of life (especially for women I think) and sometimes they just pop in our heads without warning BUT the key is… what do we do with these thoughts once they enter our brains? Do we dwell on them and entertain the thoughts that we are not enough OR do we focus on the things that we ARE doing. The older I get the better I am with this but it is a conscious decision for me to stop thinking about what I am not doing right as a mom. I try to replace the unworthiness feelings with ideas of changes I can make that are IN MY CONTROL and to remind myself that I am trying my best to give Brooke the best life that I can.
When the guilt feelings come I think—> She is loved. So ridiculously loved. And she feels that she is loved. That is what matters the most. And on those days that I feel the guilt take over I remind myself that it is okay that our ‘normal’ is a lot different than the normal I grew up with or what I thought our life would be. I love our normal. And this quote always helps me:
*Both my ex and I work extremely hard to treat each other with complete respect. Like any divorce, there are a LOT of hurt feelings in the beginning but we both made it a point to avoid any sort of situation that would hurt Brooke in the long run. We are actually on great terms now… he even helps me with blog problems and we are able to easily discuss parenting over the phone etc. We are both very accommodating with schedules/visits/phone calls. It took more self-restrain (for both parties!) than I could ever imagine but I made the decision in the very beginning to think how my reactions/relationships/words would affect Brooke. During the year that it took for the divorce I had code names for when I needed to talk about him with my family if we ever needed to discuss anything legal etc in front of Brooke because she will always only hear me talk positively about him. Starting from the very start of the divorce to be kind to each other has made our lives a heck of a lot easier/less dramatic too (although, I went the avoidance route for awhile and had everything go through attorneys… until I was able to be nice I just didn’t say anything at all). The marriage was done. There was no point in trying to hurt one another. We will always be Brooke’s parents and to move forward in the best way possible is going to make everyone’s life involved easier. Both he and I try very hard to encourage Brooke’s relationship with the other person because that is the absolute best thing for Brooke.
*As far as other people involved now in Brooke’s life and in the future I just repeat to myself 4,000 times in a row when it gets hard (which to be honest, is a lot), “the more people that love her, the better.” The more people that are excited to see her, hug her, comfort her, play with her… the better. I will be her mom and have a special place in her heart no matter who else is in her life so the more the merrier.
*Let go. As a single parent you just have to learn to let go. Whether it be legal matters, parenting time, money etc. Staying up all night worrying (easier said than done for me;) will not solve anything. Control what you can but there will be A LOT that is probably out of your control.
*The treadmill will be your best friend.
*If social media drives you crazy as a single parent, say goodbye to it. When I was going to therapy after my divorce my therapist told me that I wasn’t allowed to get on social media after 7 pm. I was always the most sad at night and getting on social media in the evening when I was alone was killing me inside. Scrolling through and seeing ‘perfect families (even though there is no such thing as perfect)’ hurt because it was what I wanted so badly and couldn’t have. I’m at a place now that it doesn’t affect me but believe me, getting off of social media (and giving it to God and going to bed at night) helped me a lot. I really hope that I don’t come off like life is perfect on my social media channels because it is far from it. I try to show you the highlights each day but know that there is hard stuff in between just like it is for everyone else out there. Parenting is hard work (no matter what your situation is) but I do love sharing the brightness/joy she brings me each and every day.
*Not really about single parenting but just my feelings on my being a mom—> Motherhood is my world. There is no bigger blessing in my life. I feel strongly that it is the most important thing I will ever do and I hold my ‘position’ as Brooke’s mom as my most sacred calling. Whether I am single, married, struggling, strong, tired, weak, happy or sad…. I will do whatever it takes to be there for Brooke, to teach her, to help her and most importantly to love her.
*I am very lucky in the sense that this is the only life Brooke knows. She was so young when I left that she sees it as normal for her to be living with mom and then have her dad come here to visit or we fly to California to visit him. If you have tips for helping the adjustment after divorce for older kids please share them in the comments for other readers needing guidance with that situation.
*Identity. Identity. Identity. I think this was by far one of the hardest things for me during this transition from married with a child to single with a child that was now gone for some weekends/holidays/birthdays. Those first weekends away from Brooke absolutely devastated me. There were a few weekends when she was gone that the only thing I got out of bed to do was to run, get the remote and to the Kneaders drive-thru. I felt completely lost when I was not only no longer a wife but I also didn’t have my little mini to take care of. I really didn’t know who I was during those times alone. It has taken YEARS to get to the place where I miss her like crazy while she is away but I am happy on my own too. I take the time to do selfish things, to sleep, to get more work in, to read, to figure out who I am and what my personal goals are. The time away helps me to be a better mom too because it allows me to rejuvenate. Take the time to figure yourself out. Enjoy the process. Find yourself again.
*Parenting (whether single or not) is an interesting thing. There will always be judging/shaming/people telling you that you are doing it wrong etc. For me, I have learned that all that matters is what God thinks of me and that I know in my heart that I am trying my hardest. No one else’s opinions matter besides God and my personal relationship with Brooke and that I am doing everything I can to be the best mom for her.
*Celebrate. Pinterest parenting personally stresses me out because my idea of a craft is gluing some marshmallows together and calling it a snow man but I DO try my hardest to celebrate with Brooke. Traditions, special occasions, dance parties in the car, little accomplishments, picnics on the living room floor, a new skill learned, a sunny day… anything at all. There is a lot to be happy about and to focus on. Being a single parent can be hard at times but there is so much good to focus on that it makes those hard times so ridiculously worth it. Plus, the hardest things in life bring the biggest amount of joy.
Would love to hear your thoughts on parenting/life/single parenting/divorce/life/things that you’ve been thinking about a lot lately/reasons to celebrate/the good in your day today/a quote that has been helping you out lately… anything at all. Fire away!