It's time to re-brand the single mom

Feb 17, 2015 at 7:19 a.m. ET

Have you ever had one of those life events that shake you to your core? You know, the kind that makes you doubt pretty much everything you thought you knew about yourself. Ever been there?

Well, mine came in the form of an unplanned pregnancy.

At the time I found out I was pregnant, I was working in network news, which is what I had wanted to do since anyone started asking me, "What do you want to do?"
I had accomplished most of my professional goals before the age of 30, which were all centered around becoming a network news producer. By most standards, I was doing OK.

And then I found out I was pregnant.

In my mind, that life development erased everything I had done up to that point. In the months after my daughter was born, I struggled to resolve what I've referred to as a branding conflict, in my heart and in my head. The internal (and often external) voices asked, "How can I be smart and successful if I am a single mom living a life I had never imagined?" over and over in my head.

That is, until my best friend asked me, "When are you going to stop punishing yourself?"

In the days and weeks that followed that conversation I realized that the "single mom" image I saw in the media was not at all a representation of myself and the other single moms I knew. And after mulling all of this over, and doing a lifetime's worth of soul searching, I realized the single mom needs re-branding. Now.

Single moms are no more the picture that is painted of them in the media, than today's wives are a reflection of what was depicted of them in the 1950s.

But changing that external image, in my opinion, starts by changing the internal dialogue.

Since giving my TedX talk titled "Rebranding the Single Mom" I've been asked, "OK, so how do you re-brand the single mom?" The short answer is, with one tiny internal dialogue at a time, but if I had to give advice to someone else starting out the journey of falling in love with a life they never imagined, here are my top five tips.

    1. Focus on what is going right

    When my daughter was first born, the house was always a mess, I couldn't remember if I paid my rent, I always seemed to be running out of toilet paper and I just felt like an utter failure. What I was failing to recognize was everything I was actually doing right. My daughter was thriving and I was going to work every day. I had to shift my mindset and change my focus.

    2. Give yourself credit

    When you are a single parent, there isn't usually another adult around to comment on the great job you are doing, so you have to condition yourself to recognize it. You're awesome! It's OK, go ahead and admit it.

    3. Shake off the shame

    Man oh man, that shame is a tough one. The relationship didn't work out, life didn't go as planned and you feel responsible. And maybe you even are. But that shame is not going to get you where you need to go. My own antidote to the shame is knowing that I am doing the best I can with what I have.

    4. Let it go or be dragged

    Whenever I speak to a new single mom and she asks me for advice I tell her she needs to let go of the life she imagined for herself in order to be able to fall in love with the life she has.

    5. Build your village

    Everyone needs emotional and logistical support: married parent, single parent and non-parent. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. So build your village and tell them how much you love them.

    And that is how we start #RebrandingTheSingleMom


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