OK, so that may be a small exaggeration; there was definitely an adjustment period that tested my every cell. But three years into this single mom adventure, I feel great about my ability to handle it all. Even if I don't handle it all perfectly. Here are some unorthodox tips that have gotten me through.
Those crazy nights when one wants to read, one wants to play princess and one wants to re-enact a super-complicated gymnastics routine that I stupidly played for her on Facebook, it gets a little crazy around here. Especially when I mutter the dreaded word "bedtime"! While learning this single-mother thing, I pulled out all the stops to get them to do what needed to be done. Like go to bed. Now. I would beg, plead, scream, yell, cry, ignore and more. But in the end, the best way I found to refocus my kids' attention was to make them laugh. The minute I start talking in a funny voice or walking like a goofy seal, all eyes are on me. The book is dropped, the wand is forgotten and the cartwheel pauses. Once I get them distracted, it is much simpler to get them to do what I need. Which is to sleep. So I can have quiet.
Raising kids on your own, whether it be with or without child support, can be a serious challenge. It took me over two years to purge my budget, adjust my wants and needs and to rebound from the divorce. In all of that time the kids needed clothes, a home to live in and food on the table. I found myself getting really down on myself sometimes about being in financial straits. But then I decided there had to be some good in rationing those precious dollars. I came up with things like, "At least my waiter won't mess up my meal," and "I won't get cut off by the jerk in the jacked-up truck on my way to the movies." After a while, I actually thought it was a good thing to be bootstrapped. Even though it is not. But I felt a lot better!
I think that in this technology age of tablets, phones and 24-hour Dora, we have forgotten that these kids of ours can be pretty entertaining. When I get down because I am on the fifth dry cycle on the same load of clothes because I cannot afford to upgrade my dryer, or my head hurts from trying to stretch that $100 into $300, I call on my kids for a good ol' play or musical, starring them! I tell them to prepare a show and put it on for me. I pop popcorn, get some tea and sit on my couch while the most beautiful actresses, singers and creative minds I know ham it up for my undivided attention. Somehow all the issues I am having melt away while these little ones remind me what is important!
In the beginning of the "oh my gosh, I am all alone with three little human beings" days, I turned to everyone for help. The panic of thinking I could not do it alone led to asking for help when I really, truly, did not need it. It actually stressed me out and caused my adjustment period to a single mom lifestyle to take longer. Now I only ask for it when I really need it. Which is rarely. It seems strange, but it makes a difference!
Relaxing and single motherhood do not necessarily go hand in hand. You can get the dishes done but the laundry is piling up. You can help one child with math while the other needs your help on English. At any given time, we are teetering on the brink of disaster. But if we remember to breathe in and breathe out, sometimes with "O" fingers and a really long "ommmmmmm," we can manage that tightrope a little better.
I would say that the number one mistake I made while transitioning was thinking I always had to be available to my kids. This led to three little girls piled into my bed, next to me on the couch or in my face at all times. While their angelic souls are my reason for life, sometimes I need them to just leave me the heck alone! Like... seriously... go away! It took about a year for me to understand that taking a time out in my room, door locked, for a few minutes was not going to cause a detrimental impact on my kids. In fact, it might even save them from a stressed-out mom that cannot function properly. So lock the door and escape. Come back refreshed!
People mean well. They really do. All kinds of great advice came my way when I separated from my husband. The thing is, though, if they have never lived this type of lifestyle, it is hard to really use the advice. So when someone, with kindness, tells you that you should drink a glass of wine every night to relax, they mean well, and should buy you said wine. But they may not understand that if you consume that wine and then one of your kids needs help, you might be unable to help them. As the only adult in the house, that may be bad. So the advice from others who have never been a single parent may not be the advice you need. If they have been a single parent, however, drink it up! Single parents who have been there, done that are the single best resource for advice I find.
Single moms and dads no longer have to hide their status. We stand proud and we do what needs to be done. With a little laughter, some deep breaths and a few minutes in our own time out, we can be the best parent on the block!
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