1. How does your relationship with your boys' other parent positively/negatively affect your relationship with your boys, if at all?
Oh, it definitely affects my boys - both for the negative and the positive. I'm one of those odd ones who has an excellent relationship with my ex, and not because he deserves it, or because he was particularly wonderful to me during or after our divorce process. It was a conscious effort on my part to maintain a working relationship regardless of his choices or behavior. I sought out a Christian counselor and friend of the family to help me see the bigger picture during my emotionally charged decision-making process, and I'm thankful to this day for that decision.
As a result of this foresight, and the grace of God, we talk with respectful and productive language and with quiet hearts. The boys notice this, well... at least my 4 year old does, and he doesn't feel the tension (except on visitations, which are still difficult for me and I cry a lot). Though, he feels like we should get back together, and it is very confusing for him... it's still better than bitter fighting. I honestly feel that no matter what, this dynamic is difficult for children to understand.
2. Do you feel that single parents are treated differently in the workplace? If so, how?
I think single parents are treated differently EVERYWHERE. As far as the workplace, specifically, I would say that often times single parents are not treated fairly, and that it is something we have to continually battle. Hearts and minds do not change easily from old stereotypes... but there ARE many single mothers and fathers out there "making it" for the sake of their children, without taking excessive days off or productivity concerns. Sometimes they're given more slack, but most of the time they are judged by others who don't allow room for people in the world with a less than perfect "resume".
I was just talking about this with someone the other day, who I feel at times treats me like I'm "less than" instead of "equal to". She does it almost subconsciously, because of pre-conceived notions and attitudes she grew up with, like me. I make people uncomfortable for discussing these topics head on, but after that initial discussion, their view becomes much more accurate, as does the way I feel about their reactions. It's always good to open an honest dialogue with the people in your life who matter.
I also feel that churches often times overlook the needs of single parents, especially single mothers, and they fall from grace more readily without the social support they most definitely need. That is something I am hoping to change, at least in my area.
3. How would you say your married family/friends view your life as a single parent?
It's mixed. It really depends on the person. I was pretty much raised to think that being a single parent was the worst thing in the world, so I had to adjust my own view of myself first and foremost. Once I saw myself for what I REALLY was, and not what society or family trained me to believe a single parent was, the views of others began to change. My own view of myself was like a mirror... when it was poor, I was treated poorly. When I shone, I was treated with respect. That daily commitment to remembering the truth of who I am,(and it is daily) aside from labels, is one of the largest determinants of what my day becomes.
4. What is one thing that you've learned about yourself as a result of becoming a single parent?
That I am resilient and adaptable, and that my love for my children will enable me to endure any obstacles we will face. It doesn't get too much worse than being cast out 8 months pregnant with twins and a toddler, and having to beg and borrow to make it for a year without child support, and live with your former sister-in-law's parents basement, and then learning of your ex's wedding to the prego woman just as the ink dries on the divorce decree... yeah. If I can survive that, I can survive anything.
I've also learned WHO I am, and the trial I endured didn't break me, it refined me. I'm more sure of my worth and potential now more than EVER!
5. What advice/encouragement could you give to a newly single parent?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. That's the biggest one - you need to know this. Sadly, but accurately, you are one of millions of women and men enduring the same circumstances. It's more common now than ever, and you needn't feel like a loser or failure. In fact, you're a survivor. Taking care of your child by yourself is no small feat! Be proud of the responsibility you're able to juggle. You rock.
Seek out friends and peers who understand what you are going through, at least to the degree that they will not judge you for your house being a mess on the days you "feel" your situation, will keep you company regardless of the time of day and make you laugh, and who will STAND UP FOR YOU in the presence of others. I am blessed to have found friends like that, even though the early days of single-parenthood didn't allow the same camaraderie.
Also - take TIME for yourself. If you're feeling overwhelmed, and the house is a mess, and you look like you've endured Hurricane Katrina, either cry it out, watch movies and eat ice cream for the evening, or spit-shine yourself to look and feel *hot* and go out to a movie with a friend. Get a babysitter you can rely on, whether it be family or teenager down the street, and LEAVE your house without a diaper bag. Wake up the next morning, and look at that day as just what it is.... brand new. Let yourself fall apart, and start fresh. It works far better than bottling it up all the time and having a truly catastrophic meltdown!