By Elena Taylor-Bagger
I remember my mom saying, leaving will be hard and if you stay it’ll be hard, and I’m not saying you should stay. This from a woman who had 5 kids and was still as much in love with my dad until he passed away. How could I make a decision to leave? Be that as it may, I chose to leave, with 5 kids in tow (ages 7 – 17), to a different town. Best decision I’d ever made, but along with it came the challenges of being a single mom. While most moms I talked to were heart broken, I welcomed the challenges, as difficult as being a single mom could have been, it was much more of a challenge to stay. So I walked in to single motherhood with a S on my chest ready, or so I thought. The next years proved to be some of the most difficult but with a perspective of where you’re going and what you’re hoping for, it can still be a pretty cool journey.
#1 Trying to keep things the same can be more difficult than change.
My notion was to keep continuity by keeping the kids in their current school, and although I moved 20 minutes away to a different city, it was still a commute to drop 5 kids off at 3 different schools and still make it to work 45 minutes away. After doing this for a while, my kids gathered together without my knowing and agreed to change schools and catch the bus so that I wouldn’t have to continue driving so much. As I transferred each child with tears in my eyes, I realized that things were no longer the same and I had to create my own norm. Be ok with creating what now works for you. Give validation and love to your children, it’s a challenge for them as well, and make the next best decision that will benefit all.
#2 Life gets pretty lonely and at the end of the day, it’s just you and the kids.
As I threw myself in to all things providing and maintaining, it became a very lonely place to be. I was overwhelmed and extremely lonely and I just really wanted someone to just be there at the end of the day so I can breathe, get a hug , have adult conversation and share this journey. This didn’t happen, so I created a routine. At the end of the night, when all kids were in bed, I would meditate, pray and then visualize how I wanted my life to be and write letters to whomever he may be about my day and his day as well. One day I’ll turn this over to him, but until that day, I’ll keep writing.
“You are not a perfect parent no matter how hard you try to be “normal”; you can’t make up for the past, but you can forgive and move forward in the direction that you’ve been gifted to go.”
#3 It’s just as hard for the kids as it is for you and possibly worse.
While we as single moms go through our adjustments, expectations dashed, heartache felt, so do the kids. While it may not seem so, we have options as to how we deal with things. The kids, not so much. They aren’t hanging out on the playground telling their fellow classmates about how hurt, scared or abandoned they feel. So we have to pay particular attention to their emotional hearts, don’t make them choose between parents, and create a safe space for them to express themselves, and don’t get offended if it’s about you.
#4 If you aren’t taking care of yourself, then no one else will.
Self-care is extremely important when you’re a single mom. I could begin and end on just this note. I equate it to having a car, there’s no gas, everyone else is in the car and you’re outside pushing it up a hill, when you should have just stopped for gas. My favorite word is pause. Pause before you say yes or agree to anything. Get a hotel room, go to a friends house every now and then and just BE. There’s no responsibility that comes with it. Working 3 jobs left me little time to sleep, so I would get a hotel room once or twice a month so that I could sleep and make it home to be present for my kids. Create space in each day just for you. Tell yourself often I love you, show yourself the kindness and love you show for everyone else. Remember, you’re a person too.
#5 You are not a perfect parent.
You are not a perfect parent no matter how hard you try to be “normal”, you can’t make up for the past, but you can forgive and move forward in the direction that you’ve been gifted to go. Their perception is their reality and eventually you will end up in the same hemisphere. They may dislike you, they may challenge you, but don’t take it personally. Everyday is a new day to live and enjoy life, guilt has no place there. Forgive yourself often. You may reflect on the past and decisions you’ve made but truth be told, that’s life, single mom or not, shit will happen, life will keep going, and you will to, so enjoy!