When my sons, Jacob and Isaac, were just 3 and 1, my husband and I separated. As a child of a divorceI'd always sworn that I'd never Tips on being a single mother my kids through that -- yet as it turned out, living paycheck to paycheck and trying to do our own growing up while raising a family proved to be too great a strain on our marriage: It bent, cracked, and finally broke. I flew through the first couple of months after our separation in an adrenaline-powered blur.
But things like finding a place to live and "Tips on being a single mother" for it all by myself, taking care of almost all the Tips on being a single mother parenting of two small children, and trying to find a job when I'd been out of the workforce since college terrified me.
I felt like a flake -- not a strong, capable mother who was going teach her children to succeed despite the obstacles ahead. When I was married, we were just like all the other families: Even if my husband and I didn't get along, we were both still deeply invested in the minutiae of running our family. Then one day, my best friend and co-parent was gone from my life.
Though I had always paid lip service to the "It takes a village" idea, it turned out that, while there might have been some "village" people out there, we had been too wrapped up in our own lives to get to know them. It really hit me one Friday night. I was driving through a bad snowstorm with my little boys. What if our car skidded off the road into a ditch? Okay, that was an exaggeration -- but it's how it felt at the time, and it prompted me into action. I decided to check in every night with another single mom.
Then I made a conscious effort to invite friends over for dinner, ask a neighbor to help me move my couch, and chat with the other moms at drop-off. Slowly, my sense that I had a contagious disease lifted, and I found myself expanding my definition of what makes a family.
When my divorce was new, talking with my ex was painful. We were angry at each other, and, let's face it, looking for ways to hurt each other. But no matter how right I felt I was, deep down in my heart I knew: Being in constant fight mode was horrible for my kids, and it was making me even more miserable.
But this is easier said than done. So, I tried my hardest and used the greatest gift to divorced parents everywhere: Hashing out sensitive topics this way allowed me to cool down before responding. Try for a pleasant and courteous tone even if you don't feel that way. It's easy to fake it electronically.
Whose Side Am I On? Whatever his flaws, your kids love their dad with all their heart. But what about when your ex doesn't show up for visits or blows off child-support payments and actually makes your kids' life miserable? You can say "I know it's hard that Dad couldn't come again Tips on being a single mother Wednesday," but leave out the "That jerk has always been irresponsible!
As if this advice isn't tough enough to follow, you've also got to keep yourself from making negative comments to your friends, mother, or next-door neighbor if there's even a chance that you'll be overheard by your kid. A sleeping child has a way of appearing out of thin air -- just when you're cursing out his dad.
Remind yourself that each time you keep quiet, you're causing your child a little less pain. When my kids and I first moved into our own place, it soon started to resemble a really Tips on being a single mother frat house.
We'd stay up late watching videos and fall asleep in my bed. We'd eat microwave popcorn and cereal for dinner. Without another grown-up "Tips on being a single mother" the house, I realized that it was easier to slide down to my children's level than lift them up to mine. It wasn't long before I realized that this was no way to live -- we needed some order in the house. I saw it as a balancing act. I didn't have the time or energy to stress over some of the finer points of household management like I did when there was another Tips on being a single mother helping out -- but at the same time, my kids needed structure and the sense of security it provides, now more than ever.
So I began to really focus on figuring out what mattered and what didn't. Forget organized closets, spotless bathrooms, and ironing. Try to say yes to serving nutritious family dinners, scheduling regular bedtimes, and being prompt for pickups and drop-offs. For a while, it was overwhelming, but we eventually created chaos lite. No matter what the latest study said about the damaging effects of a broken home, I tried to remember that my boys and I were much more than a statistic -- and that our home wasn't broken.
After being a single mom for three years, I discovered things about myself I'd never had the opportunity to find out when I was married: I was independent and accomplished, and I was able to run a household, bring home a paycheck, and take excellent care of my kids.