Amidst the exhaustion and the frustration of single motherhood, are the priceless gifts we receive.
With Mother’s Day fast approaching I wanted to give a special mention to divorced moms and share some of the (hard) learned lessons and tips I discovered along the way. Parenting under the best of circumstances is challenging; single parenting adds an entirely new set of difficulties. These additional challenges are becoming more typical for single mothers, with over 80% of American single-parent households being headed by moms*. As a single mom, post-divorce, parenting your children while managing your career, household and other responsibilities are exhausting and require grace and forgiveness, for ourselves and our children.
My kids were seven and nine when we moved out of the marital residence. During the early years, it felt easier to parent alone than with my ex. I wasn’t wasting energy being angry with him and resentful of his lack of participation with our children. I was still juggling my job, homework, and taxiing my kids to their myriad of activities (either athletic or social) every evening and weekend. It left me depleted and feeling like a failure, as I always seemed to forget to sign that form, send them in with that special outfit for the day or be the PTA or team mom that I thought they wished for.
My kids are now 19 and 21. The problems of their youth helped prepare me for the more substantial issues they face as emerging adults, and I face as their mother. While I no longer have to mediate TV time or address why my ex-husband didn’t ensure the kids did their homework, I am presented with new challenges from both my children and my ex.
Below are a few lessons I have learned from my twelve-year adventure as a divorced parent and certified divorce coach.
How important is it? How important will that thing that is upsetting you be tomorrow, next week or next month? If you can’t let go, take a look at your need to control.
Don’t take it personally. Either your children or your ex. Being a child of divorce while more prevalent, still has a sting. Kids will act out with the parent they feel the most comfortable with. See it as the compliment it is and don’t make it about you. Stay solution oriented, focus on what they need and how you can facilitate it.
Don’t assume your ‘good kid’ is fine. One child may be excelling post-divorce while another is a walking raw nerve. Our tendency is to focus on the child with problems. Balance supporting the struggling child with encouraging your ‘good kid’ to talk about their feelings about the divorce.
Take care of yourself. We “cannot pour from an empty vessel”; make sure you are getting the rest, nutrition and support (and fun) you need so you can be your best self.
Create memories. Make time for fun with your kids. No matter how tight money or time is, kids don’t need much other than our love and attention and all the money in the world cannot provide that.
Question yourself. Always ask yourself, “is my approach going to enhance or endanger my relationship with my kids?” Let the answer guide your actions.
Turn lemons into lemonade. If the kids have difficulties with dad, focus on the difficulty and not on dad’s shortcomings. Use every upset as an opportunity to help your children problem solve, find their voice, set boundaries, and express their feelings in a constructive way.
Lead by example. Being raised by “do as I say, not as I do” is confusing and hypocritical. If you are yelling and screaming at your kids to behave, look in the mirror and ask yourself what message are you giving them?
Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, either from a divorce support group or understanding friends and family. You are doing a disservice to yourself and your children by not seeking help when you need it. It does take a village and it is your responsibility to create the best village for your family.
Amidst the exhaustion and the frustration of single motherhood, are the priceless gifts we receive. From the handmade cards and pipe cleaner creatures that could be featured in a Stephen King movie to the ‘just because’ hugs and special occasion dinners.
My relationship with my children, my ‘emerging adults’ as I like to call them, is so rich today because of the foundation I built with them as adolescents. Learn how to build a strong foundation with your children at Journey Beyond Divorce.