This June will mark the 4 year anniversary that my now ex-husband and I separated and I became a “Single Mom”. Since then, I unfortunately have not been the only one of my friends to get separated or divorced. This is not that surprising, given the statistics and ways of the world these days, but it is still nonetheless, equally sad and heartbreaking for those going through it.
For some odd reason, through these years I have become a person that many, many people have come to for advice. The advice requests range from how to be a single mom, how to co-parent, and just looking for comfort while going through a divorce. It never stops surprising me. Shocking me.
Like, do these people know that I burn Mac n Cheese, say F*ck a lot, and take my kid to school in my pajamas more times than I’d like to admit? What do I know??
Nothing really, I promise. But for those that are curious… I thought I’d type up all my “advice” and hand it out. Brace yourselves people, you’re about to find out how little I actually know.
I believe there are all different types of single parent’s out there. No two situations are the same. My struggles may not be the same as yours. You might think you have it “worse” than someone else but I guarantee that you don’t. The grass is always greener, the tables always turn, and the world spins on. Every parent in the world–single or not- has a struggle that is unique to their situation. I feel that I have been extremely lucky to have gotten stuck sharing kids with a man who loves his kids and is an active father. And through the years, we have achieved a good balance on our parenting (which we’ll get to later). This does not mean, in any way, that we do not have our own struggles or that my life is any greater or any worse than yours. [However, give me a year, and I might have some insight on how to do the whole thing completely alone (cue 3rd baby)]. But with or without support, I still have my fair share of struggles. I mean, have you met my kids?
To me, life is all about perspective. If you think your situation sucks, then of course it does. For a long time after my divorce, I put this label on myself: SINGLE MOM. It was a target I put on myself. I didn’t mean to do it, but I did. I made myself a victim, despite the fact that I chose this path. I chose to leave, I chose to pursue a different avenue of life. Somewhere in the past four years, I realized that this label put a wall up between me and… well, everyone. It not only scared off perspective men from dating me, it scared off friendships. I wasn’t as needy or damaged as this label was portraying me to be. In fact, I was actually thriving. But because I walked around with a giant sign on my chest labeled SINGLE MOM, I had somehow made my life seem like that was all it was about–about being a “Single Mom”, and eventually it did became about that. I fell into the stereotype of this label. Once I realized this I stopped labeling myself like that.
I am so much more than a Single Mom.
I’m a mother. Who cares if I’m single?
So for now, my only advice on “Single Motherhood” is this:
- You are not as alone as you think you are. When you think about the people that love you, it’s easy to say “but those people don’t count” when thinking of your parents, or long time friends….but they do. They do count. However, they are not mind readers, and they are also human. Don’t take them for granted. Ask for what you need. Give back in return.
- Don’t cry over spilled milk. Seriously. It’s just milk. The way you react to little things is bigger than the spilled milk. Your kids learn from this, and reflect it.
- The kids will be alright. One night, I was feeling overly stressed from work and my personal life. I had about an hour to feed the kids, bathe them, and get them to bed and I had already hit my wall. I burnt the f*ck out of the Mac N Cheese, and the smoke alarm was going off. I climbed onto the bookshelf to swat the alarm with a hand towel and was overly enthusiastic. The alarm went flying off the wall, and I ended up standing there on top of the bookshelf screaming “F*CK!” and my kids staring at me like the mad woman that I was. Until Ryan broke the silence, “Someone needs to count to 10, and take a deep breath.” (which is what I tell them all the time) I couldn’t help but laugh. I said f*ck it, ordered a pizza, got the kids in the bath while we waited, and left the kitchen a mess for the night. The kids didn’t go to bed till well after 10 o clock and they still lived.
- Stop comparing your life to those on the internet. We’re all just faking it. Filters, and edits, and witty captions cover over a multitude of imperfections and messes. And seriously, you have no idea how many times it took to get that “picture perfect” photo.
- Ask strangers to take the picture. Get in the picture. Get new family photos done. From the years 2009-2012… I dont exist. At least in photo form. I was the photographer. I have endless photos of my children and my ex-husband with the kids, but I’m nowhere to be found. Dont worry, I’ve more than made up for this since, but when I was looking back to find photos of my early motherhood stages, I was damn near devastated to not be able to find any proof that I was actually the one doing most of the work. Of course, I didn’t want photo’s of my ex-husband all over the walls of my brand new “Single Lady Apartment”… but he was everywhere. So I took new ones. Now I make sure I get some with me in it. And I had new family photos done, and it made a world of difference in how I felt about going it alone.
- Dating is fun. Like really fun. I’m still a 16 year old boy crazy little girl. But friends are important, and so is family. Don’t make your life all about chasing tail, and finding your next replacement. Cultivate friendships and spend time with those that actually care about you. It’s okay to get a babysitter to go on a date, but my rule of thumb is that I never choose a date over time spent with my kids. ie. I date while my kids are at their Dad’s, and on rare occasions, (with a babysitter of course), after I put them to bed.
- Don’t make yourself a martyr. Don’t run yourself into the ground because you’re too proud to take a break. You are NOT supermom. Nobody is. Despite how cool that label can make you feel. You will burn out eventually. If you need help, ask for it. I’m just going to be honest and say that 95% of the time when you’re whining about something, nobody is going to offer to help because they don’t want to, and whining is annoying. Think about what you need, and who can help you with that and ask for it. Like I said earlier, give back in return.
- Keep your mental health in check. You are not above spiraling out. You are human.
- Happy parents are the best parents– take time for yourself, make yourself a priority, buy yourself something nice, stop making excuses to skip the gym.
- With that being said- life is all about balance. Write down your priorities, and keep them in check, often. Hint: your kids should be at the top of that list.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. Life is not that serious. Kids are assholes, that’s universal. Learn to appreciate where you’re at right now. You only get this day once. You’re not getting out of this alive anyway. (this won’t mean anything to you until the moment has passed, so try to appreciate the generalization of this sentiment…it’s real)
Dealing with your divorce:
When people come to me for comfort I get really UN-comfortable. Like what do I do with my hands? Do they want a hug? Should I just sit here and watch them cry? There there, he’s a douchebag. I’m really bad at dealing with heartbreak. So I’m not your go-to girl for this. I will likely hand you a bottle of wine and make inappropriate jokes until you’re drunk enough to pass out.
I will tell you this though- everyone grieves differently. There’s nothing wrong with you if you want to listen to sad music and post sad poems, cry for days on end and not get out of bed. And there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re the one that goes out and takes on the world, reconnecting with the life you forgot was out there, and never cries at all. I was the latter, which often looks a lot like not caring. But trust me, I cared. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Divorce is painful, and sometimes that pain gets acted out differently. Do your own thing when it comes to your heart. There’s no right or wrong way to have your heart break, and there’s no set time limit on when you have to “get over it”. I’m four years deep, and I still get sad about it, a lot.
Find joy in the little things.
For me, it’s having off white sheets, getting the whole bed to myself, picking the music in the car, and not having to listen to football talk.
Remind yourself of these joys frequently.