Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Helpful hints for single moms

Single mothers live a very different "family life" than a traditional two-parent home.

I have a dear friend who recently had her husband leave for a month to train for a sport, and this was the longest time they'd ever spent apart. Because I spent up to a year apart from my husband during our marriage and survived (and that I've been doing the parenting job solo going on 5 years), she sought me out for advice and help on how to cope with caring for her two boys and effectively manage her schedule. This got me thinking that my list may be helpful to other single mothers in need of direction as well.

1. Do not expect perfection! We can only do what we can, and being frustrated or depressed that we are not able to keep everything in perfect order is only going to set us back further. Focus on the tasks at hand, and check them off one-by-one. How do you climb a mountain? ONE step at a time.

2. Form an excellent support system, most importantly by being a reliable, caring friend FIRST! Single mothers often need favors from friends, but don't become the person constantly asking and never giving. Whatever your strengths are.... doing a friend's makeup or hair for a big night out, cooking when they're sick and dropping off meals during trials, watching others' kids in exchange, helping a friend learn how to coupon or craft, hosting a girls' night at your house with movies and popcorn.... be creative in building close friendships that are more than just a Facebook "like" relationship. You know what I'm saying. :)

3. Create systems in your home to make your life easier. Lay out the kids' clothes the night before so there is no fight in the morning. Have a boot bench by the door to house shoes upon entry to your home to reduce on the need to clean your carpets every thirty seconds and to keep from playing the "let's find the shoes" game. Put together freezer meals for busy nights (@Pinterest has great ideas!).

4. When it comes to kids' clothes and supplies, re-sell them! Don't waste your hard-earned money. Give each item a good wash and spot treat, and sell at either a good consignment store or at a consignment event like Just Between Friends sales. This will enable you to get more of what your kids need in their current sizes. Time is money if you manage it wisely.

5. Encourage independence in your children. Have them take tasks into their own hands at appropriate ages. It takes a great deal of time to train them, but the time you save in the long-run will far outweigh the time to teach them!

6. Care for yourself emotionally. Watch girly movies. Engage in your passion, whether it be a craft, cooking, hiking, swimming.... anything to get you out of the routine of daily life and makes you smile. Make a list of the things you really enjoy and put it on your bedroom door or somewhere else you'll see it.

7. FIND AN EXCELLENT BABYSITTER! Babysitters mean FREEDOM! I have six on speed-dial so I always know I can find someone in a pinch. Of course, make sure they are CPR and first aid certified in case of emergencies, and always request reference letters.

8. Take a shower EVERY morning... even on your lazy days. Nothing gets your engine running faster than clean skin and bouncy hair! You may want to skip this when you're feeling tired and overwhelmed, but this will be the fastest ticket to a lack of productivity and poor self-image.

9. When you're feeling down, clean! Turn the music up and pick a small spot in your house to conquer. Before you know it, you'll start feeling better and more in control of what is going on in your life, even if the cleaning doesn't solve the problem you're facing... it'll still look pretty and make you smile!

10. When all else fails and the world is closing in around you, love on your kids. Look them right in the eye and talk to them. Tell them how much they mean to you and then if they're little enough, snuggle them until they say they want to be left alone. :) The power of touch and connecting to those precious little ones can help to re-focus you on what is important.

God knows where you are and what you are capable of. He is never surprised by your circumstances, choices or desires. Although these different ideas/actions help a little, the most powerful thing to change the way you feel and the way you live is to be in perpetual communication with the person who loves you most, through honest, open prayer.

If you've ever wondered how to pray, it is simply having a conversation with God as if he were sitting right with you. I pray while I'm driving, cleaning, even during some conversations! Just like when you read a book "to yourself", no one even has to know what you're saying or that you're praying at all. Keep those lines of communication strong and it will serve you well in all aspects of your life!

As the dust settles...

You'd NEVER believe the incredible difference in my life if you'd looked at the contents of my day a year ago. I was in a new relationship and unsure about what the year would hold. Little did I know, in just two weeks my then fiancé would propose to me at a favorite restaurant of ours on Valentine's Day. A summer full of classes and a wedding to immediately follow, then another semester of perfect grades later, I'm left in awestruck wonder of what happened in 2013.

I've grown increasingly peaceful as the transition from single motherhood to wife and mother has continued over the last six months. There have been several changes and I've had to adjust to dividing my time between my children and spouse, moved to a new city (nearby), am in my senior year of college and becoming involved in my new church.

It's been a challenging phase of life, but I feel energized and prepared for what God has next for me.

The best thing about my husband is that he loves me just as I am. I met him at a time when I had given up on ever finding love again, and had become sufficiently content in my lot in life. I felt a twinge of hopelessness whenever I saw a couple in love, but now I've been blessed to learn that it is never too late to find someone who is worth investing (emotionally) in.

The children have benefitted as well. Seeing the peace in their faces as they hug a God-given Daddy who would give his life for them makes me explode with joy. The challenges they faced when their biological father came to visit have faded with focused therapy and prayer. I hear less of their hurts and more of their successes.

God is SO, SO good.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A child's turmoil.

Watching the process of my son's pain up close and personal day after day after day at times proves more than I can bear.

When I left my home with what I could fit in my car while 8 months pregnant with twin boys and our 15 month old blonde haired, blue eyed son in tow (at my husband's request), I was devastated. I still held out hope that we would be able to work things out and be a family again. After months of struggle, we divorced and that dream was gone for good, as he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and had her living in the home I left behind. Now they spend their time raising their two sons, and after months of struggling with child support payment or nonpayment, getting rare phone calls and even rarer visitations with the boys, I have watched my boys grow up not really having a relationship with him.

Now that they are 7 and 6, they are in school and have formed their identity without their Dad's presence or influence (by his own choice). Now I am married to a wonderful man who loves the children like a son, and they chose to call him "Daddy" after knowing him for only a few months after we were engaged. We prayed about how to address this with the boys, but being that my fiancé was extremely comfortable with the title and grateful to the point of tears for their acknowledgement, we allowed it to continue and were grateful that the boys took to him so rapidly. It was everything I had hoped for them to experience; genuine love for someone who came into our lives without obligation, but full of love and commitment to the lives of my children.

Unfortunately, my ex and his family did not take this response from the boys very well, despite his five year absence from their daily lives.

In fact, when my sons started talking about their "Daddy" in front of his grandparents, they told them that they weren't allowed to call him that. We talked to a mutual friend about how to handle it, and he explained to them that this was very harmful to the children. 6 months later, during their Dad's first visit in over a year, both he and the children's grandparents again forbade them from calling their step dad "Daddy". They came home in tears, and have been upset ever since. He has been complaining of stomachaches, has been melancholy and has been crying alone on the playground.

The thing that makes me the most frustrated is that this doesn't hurt Rob, it just hurts the boys. It puts them in an awkward, painful position where they are having to change their words and behavior based on the "feelings" of adults who are supposed to love these children unconditionally. We are at a loss as to how to proceed, and are currently praying about the process to resolve this for the boys in a way that is fair to them and makes them feel comforted.

Have you run into this problem? What did you do to resolve it?