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By Laura Miolla
A neighbor of mine happened to say in conversation “Well, now that you’re a single mom…” and it took me completely by surprise. I hadn’t realized that I was going to be put in the “single mom” category once I was divorced. Me? A single mom? The thought had never occurred to me. I had grown up with a vague idea of a single mom as some street-tough woman with three latch-key kids juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet. (I blame television for that stereotype, by the way). I guess I assumed that since I co-parent with my ex, I would be excluded from single mom status. Apparently not.
So, I gave it some thought. What does it mean to be a single mom these days? I’m a mom. And I am definitely single again. I do have more than one job. I don’t have anyone to help me fix a leaky faucet or mow the lawn anymore, and I no longer have an emotional or financial safety net. I am completely on my own. So, yes, I guess that qualifies me as a single mom. I’m happy that no one mentioned this before I got divorced. The sheer weight of all this responsibility, of being alone, is terrifying… or liberating, depending upon my perspective. I don’t have to answer to anyone else. I don’t have to ask for anyone’s opinion when making decisions. I can make my own way, however I want to. It’s challenging, but ultimately, it’s a kind of freedom. The label of “single mom” was one I would have run away from, but now, I think it’s a badge of honor. It’s about doing something that most people are afraid of. It’s about sheer courage in the face of challenge. It’s about running the gauntlet and making it to the other side.
And it does feel like running, always trying to keep up with one thing or another. There’s never enough time in the day. After a divorce, you are suddenly off-kilter and out of balance. You need to find your way again now that you’re on your own. It’s a difficult transition, but you run for a reason now. One of the biggest gifts that being a single mom gives you is a crystal clear focus on what is most important — your kids. Being a single mom forces you to prioritize, and to do it quick. Why not make being a single mom less challenging and far more fulfilling? Here are 3 tips from my own life lessons:
1. Trust Yourself
This is the time to throw fear and self-doubt out the window. It won’t serve you. Listen to your inner you — your intuition — and do what you think is best. You had a life before you were married, and you are certainly capable of building a new one now. Know what’s most important to you. Honor your values. Trust your gut. Be present. Don’t obsess about the past or worry about the future. As some wise, anonymous person once said, “Worry is praying for what you don’t want.”
And if you’re thinking about the past or fretting about the future, you aren’t here right now. You’re missing out on your life. You’re missing out on your kid’s lives. And you are missing out on an opportunity to truly be with yourself and understand what you really want. Your intuition is trying to help you; you just have to listen. You can find balance in your life again. You can be a great role model for your kids. The only person that can stop you is you.
2. Get Help
You need lots of resources now — friends, family, handymen, to name a few. So, identify what you need and find a resource to help you. Make a list of all your resources, so you know who to call at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, most people I know cringe at the idea of asking for help. That’s too bad, because your network actually does want to help. It feels good to contribute. People want to feel valued and needed. Don’t you? So, why would you deprive your friends and family of that opportunity? Everyone needs help at one time or another. You’ve likely helped many people in your past. It’s your turn to accept help. This is your time. You might feel alone right now, but you don’t have to be. It’s your choice.
3. Have Fun
All work and no play makes for a very grumpy mom. Regardless of all your responsibilities, you still need to live your life! You’re working really hard to create the best life you can for yourself and your kids. The “best” life, though, has fun and silliness in it too. And your relationship with your kids has changed. A divorce makes you very conscious of your time with your children. There is less of it in a co-parenting plan, so every minute counts. Use that time to be the mom you want to be. Remember: you are their role model. They need you to have fun. Slow down. Take a breath. Don’t let all these responsibilities distract you from what is most important: your kids. They need this time with you, and they need to play with you. And you know what? You need it too! Remember that thought every time you hear them laughing, and don’t let it be too long before they hear you laughing.
I’m proud to be a single mom. I hope you are too. It means we’ve both made difficult decisions, and lived through tough times to actively create a new life for ourselves and our kids. Remember, you deserve that badge of honor, and no one can take it away from you.
Laura Miolla is a YourTango Expert and divorce coach.
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