There are many great articles on what to do when you are suddenly faced with a divorce. But there are not a lot about what to know at the other end of your journey. In July 1999 I suddenly found myself a single mother 4 weeks after my second child was born. Seems my husband had other plans with his girlfriend which did not include me, my 4-week-old daughter or my 4-year-old son.
Let’s see…we were in the middle of remodeling our home and I just had a baby. All the above were left for me to complete. So many friends asked if I wanted to go out and get a glass of wine. You know… to unwind and relax.
My response? I can’t afford to start drinking now; I will never stop.
Then I went to a counselor who told me I wasn’t sleeping enough and that I should take sleeping pills to help me. Ummm… did she miss the 4-week-old baby part? I guess I could set her bottle in the bassinette and hope she takes a swig when she’s hungry. Good grief!
Fast forward 20 years later. I am here to tell you that you can survive despite the well-wishers who are …let’s face it…clueless to your new world. You learn to accept the cards you got dealt with.
You kinda have no choice. You learn to make the best “Gosh Darn” Lemonade you can with the week-old lemons that have fallen from the tree that was hit by lightning.
You sacrifice; you persevere, and best of all YOU WIN! Here are some ways I found to take those steps forward.
Insights From a Veteran Single Mom
1. Find Your Purpose
“As long as you have breath, someone needs what you have.”
I have found this to be a strange comfort to me. I guess I have found this to be a reason to keep on keeping on. I do have people who need what I have. But it seems that they need the very energy I need to be able to deliver what they think I have. Hmmm that’s a lot to unpack. Let’s try that again. It seems that “they” need the very energy that “I” need to be able to deliver to “them” what “they” think that “I” have. Well, that is still a mouthful. Work that one out if you can.
My purpose has morphed into many phases that I would never have known of myself before. When I found myself suddenly alone and facing the daunting task of raising a family by myself, building a house that was abandoned by my husband and left to do it all by myself, and all the while working a full-time job and going through a divorce…I had no idea what my purpose was. It changed by the hour. By the day. By the month. Heck, by the minute.
I had an infant so that was the measure of how much growth occurred each month. Literally a transforming child and a transforming mother right before my eyes. But I had a purpose. That purpose, though changing all the time was my navigation to keep moving forward. Step by step. Breath by breath. And at the end of each day, I would literally look at my babies asleep in the room they shared, and say, “Well Karen…you were a good mom today.”
2. Reaching Out for Help
“Most Holy Apostle St. Jude Thaddeus, friend of Jesus, I place myself in your care at this difficult time. Help me know that I need not face my troubles alone. Please join me in my need.”
Prayer to St. Jude
Oh, how hard it is for me to ask for help. It is probably my earliest memory as a child. Needing help. I had a twin sister who was wicked smart. She had no trouble with any subject. I failed math miserably. But for some reason, I guess in the 70’s they just didn’t think to offer a kid struggling any help, by that I mean teachers. Schools.
My mom had gone back to school herself and she had no time for this. So, I suffered. Sadly, I learned how to function well in suffering. I learned how to make it all look easy and not be phased by any of it. I normalized what felt like abnormal. I could not have known what purpose that would serve me later in my life.
But now I have come to see that it was a prophecy of some kind. It was a divinely engineered skill that was necessary when I needed it most. How to function as normal and light to the outside world; to the children you are raising alone; to the friends and family who look at you like you are Rock Star simply because you still smile and laugh while dealing with circumstances, they could never imagine for themselves.
So, in order to avoid bursting their bubbles and shaking the images I have created, I seek help in a Spiritual way. To the beings that know me best and who I feel have stood by me all these years. I seek help from those that I know will not judge me and who I know have felt every ounce of my nerves through these years. They have never let me down, but I do need to always remember to show my gratitude. Oh, things are tough no doubt as you raise a family alone. But they could have been so much worse. I believe in Angels.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Be Still
“I give myself permission to be still. To not worry about anything at all. Happy Birthday, Karen.”
There is only one day that I allow myself to be still. No worries. To not engage my fears. To just be still. That day is my birthday. Oh, I still do everything I need to care for everyone else. But in my soul; I allow it to be still.
4. Remember Your Legacy
“No One With Character Leaves Behind A Wasted Life”
I do try to believe this every day that I am on this earth. I feel that because I have character, I was able to raise a family alone and let their father run away due to his “lack” of character. I hate anyone who is derelict in character. I know it’s because of him too. Before, I could have cared less who had character or who didn’t. I just didn’t think much about it.
But now I see lack of character in anyone as a significant sign of weakness; which I, of course, have no patience for. My father was a “Man” of deep convictions. He was a simple man at the same time. He just lived his life with a compass that was extraordinary. He believed he was no better or worse than anyone. He was a man who gave all that he had in order to end anyone’s suffering. He showed me this trait every day of my life.
It showed in epic proportions when I found myself to suddenly be a single mom weeks after my second child was born. He never shirked what he perceived to be his duty. He loved me unconditionally and adored with the greatest depth of love for my children. He stepped up. He stepped in. He was the Father figure he insisted they get. And he was. No one could leave this earth with a better legacy than John Arthur Czuleger.
5. Raise Your Bar
“My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied with the very best.”
I love the best. I love to feel that I have the best of everything. And even if my car is not a Mercedes, my car …to me is the best. But what has motivated me in the past in seeking the best has changed dramatically. I no longer live in a state of want for “things”. I do live in a state of want for love; for protection; for support; for peace.
I watch TV shows and movies that I have seen 100 times. But now that I am older, I see them differently. I feel pangs of jealousy. I know how stupid is that? I watch my old fave, Keeping Up Appearances on the BBC and what I used to laugh at and felt that they were a world away, I now see that they are two older people who are quirky, but who are financially stable. He gets to retire. She never had to work. Oh, what bliss that looks like to me now. Some days I am even jealous of Wilma Flintstone and Jane Jetson. Good grief.
6. Don’t Give Away Your Worth
“Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me.”
This was something I had to really work on. I may only have 2 nickels to rub together, but I have my self-worth. I gave it to every guy since my husband and including him. I gave it to the woman he left us for. I still have nightmares about them, but for some reason I am no longer a victim in those horrid dreams. I am stronger. Oh, they used to be awful. I was humiliated over and over, repeatedly by them in my dreams.
Then I met Mark. He had to make me smaller so he could feel bigger. Then I met Jeffrey. He had to dump all his problems on me and expect me to understand when he sought out others to have fun with. Then I met the Russian. With this wonderful man, I found my strength. Why with him? Because he had enough class and integrity that he didn’t need to steal mine to find his. In order to find your self-worth, you sometimes must get so darn tired of feeling worthless that you need to start looking at the common denominators to these people.
What you find is that they seek your security to bolster their insecurities.
7. Be Confident
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
Single mom or not…remember that you are the best and you are doing your best. Just because you do not have a man in your life doesn’t mean that you are alone. Share in your life’s joys and happiness with your children and never feel lonely. Never feel that you are not good enough for a man just because you have kids and you have made them your priority in some cases for a very long time. My mother used to always say that her children were her wealth! Thanks Mom! Mine are too!
8. Change Your Movie
“Can it be done, Father? Can a man change the stars?” His father calmly replies, “Yes William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything.”
A Knights Tale
Sometimes I wish the end of a movie was at the beginning. Especially scary movies. And there are many days spent as a single parent more frightening then Dracula or Frankenstein! I want to know that everything will be alright. So, change your life movie. Change your power. Think from the end.
Think of the happy ending at the end of the pain.
Think about how you want to feel and feel it. What would security feel like? You knew it before. Feel it again. Imagine it. Feel it. Let the experience wash all over you and seep into you.
Feel your heart rate lower.
Feel your breathing slow down. Check yourself. Continue.
What does support feel like?
Does it feel like a warm blanket on a cold day?
Does it make you take a deep cleansing breath in and allow you to exhale all the way out?
Are you safe?
What does safety feel like? Are you calm?
How do you feel?
Imagine the sweet calm and secure feeling of knowing you are safe. It may feel like a game you are playing with yourself. But what you feel, your body responds to. In the same way when you feel fear or are anxious. Your body responds.
So why not try the opposite feelings? If your organs were your children that you want to protect from harm, wouldn’t you just instinctively protect them? Wouldn’t your Mama Bear just kick into overdrive? It would! You would! Your organs need you to take care of them. They need you as much as you need them! Care for them. Love them.
And the result will surprise you when you realize that even though your reality may still be there to deal with, the feelings and reactions to it have shifted to a better place. Breath. Breath.
9. Love Sees Everything
True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love.
By Love Sees Everything, I mean with love there is nothing too harsh to see that can change how one feels. Of course, you can get annoyed by things someone does. But real loves see’s it all in its technicolor glory. You don’t have to mask anything to someone who truly loves you. You have no fear of judgement from them. The harshest judgment usually comes from oneself. Afterall we are our worst critics.
Which brings me to the real issue at hand. Love ourselves in all our own technicolor glory as well. That is, through aging, weight gain, exhaustion, crankiness…everything! We must approve of and love ourselves and not be afraid of what we see in the mirror. If only when we look at our faces in the mirror we saw the sum of all that is beautiful in us, we would never feel fat, old and worthless. We would glory in all of our imperfections. I do!
10. Right Your Story or Write Your Story
“There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why…I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
Robert F. Kennedy
I love this phrase because it makes me feel lighter. It makes me feel empowered. It makes me feel less afraid; less daunted; less alone. By writing your story you “right” your story. I am a big believer in visioning. I have had the ability to envision things I wanted ever since I was a little kid. My mom would take us to the fabric store, and we would go to the pattern books and find a dress or outfit we liked and then find our size in the pattern file boxes.
Then we would peruse the store for the best fabrics. I learned to envision things for myself in that fabric store. I could see what the finished dress would look like every time I looked at the fabric. I loved going to the fabric store! It was such a happy place where I felt that my mom gave my ideas and creativity validation.
When one is under siege from stress, especially if you have been a single parent for as long as I have, you one day realize that your visions have lost some intensity. At least I did. I spent so much of my life reacting to everything under the sun. Reacting to crisis after crisis.
These were found in all shapes and sizes from financial stress and the ever-present mortgage to plumbing issues and roof issues. And even the smallest things were a crisis like birthday presents for kid’s parties, McDonald’s trips for the latest toys, school books, school uniforms, grocery trips… everything was a reactive crisis of some kind.
And through those rough seas, I found that I no longer envisioned wonderful things for myself. I stopped myself from envisioning at all because my thoughts defaulted to a fear-based thing and I was too afraid that I would manifest a negative occurrence.
After all, if I had the ability to envision something wonderful and see it manifest, I must have the equal ability to envision something terrible and fear that it would also manifest. So, the answer was…stop envisioning. But here is the funny thing; if I could push through the fear and leap across my mind to the thoughts of seeing myself in a different scene or different job or with lots of money…I have to say that I was able to manifest more good things than I thought were possible.
In fact, I envisioned and would say to myself via an intention, “I am successful beyond my wildest dreams”! Works every time.
Seeing something wonderful through your mind’s eye and saying an intention with conviction can be a very empowering thing to do, not to mention loving.
11. Find Something Greater Than Yourself and Survive.
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short. Shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong.”
Queen Elizabeth II
This one can actually be easier said than done. If you are a good person by nature you are one who naturally wants to please. And sometimes this can be at your peril. But if you take a position to find something that is greater than yourself, greater than the circumstances you find yourself in, it can change the whole dynamic and change your feelings of being lost.
This doesn’t have to be a campaign like Save the Whales or something (or it can be if you want).
It can be a day by day campaign. Maybe you wake up and see that the greater need that day is to go through your closets and finally start purging things that you don’t need and then donate them to a shelter for women and children.
Or maybe it’s helping someone, anyone who is in need that day, for whatever the reason. It all sounds contrite I know. But it adds up. It gets you out of your head and helps you see the world through a new lens. Being of service to someone other than yourself just feels good.
12. Experience the Pain…and Let It Go.
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”
This is such a hard one for me and one in which I am constantly trying to navigate. Some days I feel strong and other days I feel the whole thing all over again. What I find is that when I am with my family (my siblings and their families) I feel the most alone. I know that must sound so strange. I mean, my family loves me, right? They do. I know it.
But they are a constant reminder that I am alone. They complain about their respective spouses yet go home every night with them next to them. Knowing that they have each other’s backs and no burden is carried alone. I haven’t felt that kind of security in 2 decades.
I know I have adjusted to the whole fly solo thing now, but that is what makes me sad in the first place. I am now used to it. I now have no expectation of ever being a duo with anyone. And what’s stopping me? The recurring pain.
The movie reel of that old flick running in my head all the time. But it is exacerbated by the picture of seeing my siblings financially secure and well… just secure on all fronts. I miss that feeling. I am not sure I would recognize it if I ever had the chance to feel it again.
But I sure want to try it back on for size one day. But here is what I know for certain, my pain cannot stop me from dreaming of a great future. I am my great future. So, I will put on some lipstick and pull myself together and keep on moving! NO FEAR!
13. Give Yourself Permission to Live
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
I really haven’t felt like I have really been “living life” for many years now. I know I have had some wonderful moments that’s for sure. But its been like eating a cream puff that at one time felt so decadent and scrumptious and which now just tastes like something sweet.
The whole emotional experience is no longer there. That may sound like an overly simplistic analogy but it’s the only way I can describe it.
I have become so accustomed to living and existing and operating under stress that I no longer feel the joy of a scrumptious cream puff. I feel the guilt of eating a cream puff. I feel the calories that are seeping into my body. The arteries that are possibly clogging.
The sugar surge on my heart. And why? Because my stakes are so high, and I worry 24/7 and twice on Sunday because so many people rely on me for their very existence.
So why would I enjoy anything when I have so many other things that require my worry energies. Umm “Hey Ding Dong?” Because you are allowed to Live that’s why!! It is your Right to Live!! How silly would we feel if at the end of the day, or end of our lives perhaps…we spent all our healthy days subliminally telling everyone to load it all on us and we will carry it all up the canyon of life like a donkey with a butt load of crap on our backs. No Bueno!
The people who constantly load us up will be the ones who live a happy and light life. There is something just not right with that picture, so take the power back by Living Man!! Throw the pack off the cliff and let someone else carry it now! PEACE OUT!
14. Prepare yourself for a Fabulous Life!
Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.
Dr. Wayne Dyer
This mantra has been drilled into my household walls for over 10 years. Much to the annoyance of my children who are now in their 20’s. But I happen to believe that in order for us to exercise all the steps we need to take to go forward, we need to change our thinking. That usually means, change my thinking from fear and move to thinking from courage.
You may have days that you just can’t muster up the energy to even try to shift. I know I do. But as a practice, try to take a step back from a situation that is daunting you and shift your defaulted worried thoughts to a place of possibility. It should always start with the words, “I can” or “I will”. Starting anything with “I can’t” and “I won’t” is never headed for a good outcome. “I can pay all of my bills”, and “I will pay all of my bills”, sounds so much stronger than the reverse.
Even if you feel you are lying to yourself. By saying it you will find the strength to get creative and allow yourself an opportunity to breathe through it. I find that when I do this, I remember the dozens of other times during this single parent journey that I felt desperate.
But I willed myself through it by saying my positive affirmations. I don’t care how Airy Fairy its sounded, I always seemed to get to the other side.
15. Time to go home.
“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”
Glinda the Good Witch
This means its time to go home to yourself. You have done the job. You have raised the kids. You have worked the career. You have paid for the house, the tuition, the clothes, the cars etc. You have given every sodden thing in your being to provide a home and security in the best possible way you could.
Now go home. Go home to your reading. Go home to your walking the beach. Go home to your crafts. Go home to your yoga. Go home to wherever you find your soul is nourished and rested. It’s time for you now. And walk courageously to that home with no guilt. Its time to go home. GO HOME OR GO BIG!