The Secret Sisterhood of Single Mothers

I remember spending moments agonizing about everything I was losing through my divorce and becoming a single mother. The simple things I felt many others took for granted. A sign hanging outside my front door displaying the family surname; HAVING to work full time as I was now my only source of income; not being able to plan a vacation a moments notice (the custody papers state my ex has to have 30 days notice when I take my son out of state). It was those little things I would now never be able to do that once plagued my mind.

I thought about the fact that I have 53 adult relatives. Out of those 53, 40 are married. Out of my 40 married relatives, three of us have ever been divorced. Three. Out of those three, I alone am the only one still single.

Growing up in a Mormon family, the concept of being divorced, let alone a single woman living a thriving successful life is such a foreign idea that I spent years trying to force dating and force finding the right man. I tried to fit in to what was expected of me, and to what, seemed so easy for the rest of my family. My blood relatives. The people who I thought, were the most like me. I used to think ‘what do they get that I don’t’.

After spending so much time agonizing about the ‘could haves’ ‘what if’s’ and ‘should be’s’ I have finally come to peace with what is.

At this moment I am sitting in my bedroom while my best friend is having brain surgery. Our two twelve year old son’s have spent all day running around, playing video games, jumping on the trampoline, and just plain old having a good time. I took them to their soccer and basketball games this morning. I’ve fed them and asked them to do chores. It is all peaceful. My friend is in the hospital with her dad, boyfriend, and older son tending to what they need to. I am here for her, as a single friend. (We have spent time being single together).

This may be a dramatic example of how single mothers help each other, but it’s the example that really opened my eyes to what is. I have single mother friends who I have vacationed with, laughed with, cried with, tended to every day chores like grocery shopping and cleaning with, helped them move, a huge variety of activities I had thought I had lost in my divorce, but now see I always had, just in a different way.

There is a secret sisterhood of single mothers that exists that we may not even be aware of ourselves. This sisterhood provides much of what is lost from having that partner. Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to admit your stresses and fears to. Someone to listen and suggest ways to budget money, parent our kids, or even date.

I feel blessed to see that sisterhood and be a part of something so beautiful.

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10 Life-Changing Books Paving Your Path to Healing From Abuse

I began writing this post months ago and stopped. Probably mostly due to life getting in the way, and other blog posts taking precedence. Last weekend I was blessed to attend a Gala for an amazing organization, WOW Utah, helping women who have overcome domestic violence, substance abuse, polygamy, debilitating illness and simply not having a voice to build a better life for themselves and their children. Besides having the opportunity to support the seven women who were being celebrated that evening, I spent the evening talking to wonderful women who all had beautiful stories to tell, and I was inspired to complete and share this post.

Why Does He Do That By Lundy Bancroft

While I was staying in the women’s shelter, this book was mentioned more than once, I have the feeling that out of all the women who would attend the Domestic Violence classes with me I was a small percentage that actually bought and read the book. I am forever grateful I did, and it is always the first book I suggest to others who are or have experienced domestic violence. I took it with me everywhere I went, I read it on my breaks and during my lunch at work, I had a pen and highlighter in hand the entire time I read it so I could take notes. I called it my bible to healing from domestic violence. There were times it was hard to read because it brought back memories of the abuse, but it also helped me to understand the thinking behind an abuser and helped me feel empowered, something I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Left To Tell By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Before I left my ex, I hated my job. I was a seasonal data transcriber and spent 8 hours a day typing at a computer, as quickly and accurately as possible. Not the kind of job for my bubbly and humming bird like personality. I liked variety and a challenge. Once I found myself a single mom, no one thing changed about my job, except my attitude. I suddenly needed a good job. I applied for and got a permanent position and began using my time to listen to books on tape. My mom was in a book club, and suggested this book to me. I remember sitting at my desk typing as I was listening to this book, and the story and words ringing so true with me that at times I could feel my body tingle from head to foot. This was the first book that introduced the concept of visualization to me. Or choosing what you want, focusing on it and believing and trusting in God, the universe, a higher power (use what rings true with you) to bring your desires into your life as you do your best to work toward it.

The Gift of Fear By Gavin de Becker

When I left my abuser for the first time, I drove a state away and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My uncle was chief of police and I felt I had to get that far to feel safe. My uncle had been in law enforcement for years and had trained with the FBI. It was him who recommended this book. This book helps you to learn and recognize the difference between fear that helps you survive vs fear that keeps you from moving forward in life.

Remembering Wholeness By Carol Tuttle

This book opened a whole new door for me. I don’t even remember how I heard about it or what prompted me to read. It pretty much just materialized into my life. I can hardly think of the words to express my feelings on this book. It’s one I still listen to on occasion and learn from. There is so much content packed in and it’s a great book to really expand your healing journey.

The Child Whisperer By Carol Tuttle

Suddenly becoming a single parent can be overwhelming. So many thoughts rushed through my head, I wanted my son to have as normal a life as possible, be a successful, contributing member of society, and I wanted to guide him to still have a good relationship with his dad, while not taking on the abusive traits that had been passed on through the generations. Not to mention I had this little person who had his own personality that I wanted to learn and understand. This book revealed so much to me about my son and helped me understand him and parent him to the best of my ability and then some. I became a child whisperer. (It was also super helpful to me with all the other kids in my life).

Loving What Is By Byron Katie

This book is an absolute delight. I bought the audio version and since much of the book comes from excerpts of Byron Katie having one on one discussions with real people, I was able to listen to the original recording and hear the emotion behind the words that were spoken. This book completely changed the way I viewed people and myself. I have used the technique she teaches to improve my relationship with my boyfriend. He and I went from frustrated and hopeless to thriving and growing as a couple.

Women Who Love Too Much By Robin Norwood

If you’re looking for something that will help you break destructive patterns and truly look at yourself and your relationship and know without a doubt if it abuse or not, this is the book for you. I love this book, the stories it tells, the insights it provides and the tools it teaches to help you to truly heal and move beyond that pattern of abuse in relationships.

Creating Affluence By Deepak Chopra

These ‘A – Z Steps to Creating a Richer Life’ are simple and full of impact. This is another book I bought the audio version, and believe it or not, it is a book I re-listen to often. It is only an hour long, and besides Deepak Chopra having a pleasing and gentle voice to listen to, there are things I either learn every time I listen to it, or things I need to be reminded of. I am still on my journey to creating more affluence in my life, and I know this book continues to have that impact and I am loving watching what unfolds in my life as I learn, understand, and apply these practices.

Feeling is the Secret By Neville Goddard

In my life, I have had the pleasure of knowing and meeting several successful and self made millionaires. These are the people who have become my mentors in my life. These are the people who I follow and learn from. When teaching at a seminar I was attending, one of them challenged us to not only read this book, but spend ten minutes transcribing it every morning. I took the challenge, and even though at times I was tired and didn’t really feel up to it, I would get up and transcribe the book for ten minutes while I listened to it. The book is only about 30 minutes to listen to, but it is so jam-packed with content, that slowing down to transcribe it really helps the principles to sink into your head. This is also a book I listen to again and again and am still learning from.

Chakra Clearing By Doreen Virtue

Whether you believe in chakra’s or not, this is another great audio book. I has a 20 minute morning and a 20 minute evening meditation. I love listening to it to either start my day or as I drift off to sleep. If you have a hard time shutting down your brain at night and drifting off to sleep, this is  a great audio to play as you drift out of consciousness. This is one I listen to nearly daily and again, whether you believe in chakra’s or not, it has great trains of thought and uplifting messages thought out.

So My Dad Helped You?

“Mom, why did you leave my dad, why!” My eight year old demanded of me yet again. It was not uncommon for him to ask me such a question, and I knew whatever I said would go back to his dad. We were driving home from the gym, it was dark and rain sprinkled the windshield as the wipers sloshed back and forth. I pursed my lips.

“Why”?!? he repeated.

My mind flashed back across the things I had told him, ‘you’re not old enough, I’ll tell you when you’re older’ resulted in him pressing me over and over until one night I was tired enough to give in and tell him the basics, that his dad did not know how to treat mommy right, that he would hold me down and not let me up and a few other things, and I prayed and prayed about it and felt that leaving was the best choice for me and for him. Ever since then, my sons inquiries changed to include ‘dad wasn’t holding you down, not all of his weight was on you, you could have gotten up.’ which was one of my ex’s favorite things to tell me, so I knew my son was telling his dad these conversations. I knew I needed to tell him what he needed to know in a kind and loving way.

When my son first began asking me he would say ‘Mom, why did you take me and run?’ My mind flashed back to the months right after I had left my ex, he had filed a protective order on behalf of our son, against me, and the order started off with his statement that I had ‘taken our son and ran.’ I knew that’s how he perceived it. That I was suffering from postpartum depression and that my actions were a result of that and my mother telling me what to do. He didn’t understand that I had told him several times he could not and should not treat me the way he was treating me, that those actions were abuse. It’s so interesting to me that people who have never experienced abuse often say ‘I would never let someone treat me like that.” Yet, when you are in that situation, when you feel your well-being, and your life is in danger, you would do just about anything to get the other person to settle down, to calm their actions. I told him, what he was doing was abuse, I told him it was not okay, I went to his parents, I prayed, I did everything I knew how to do, and none of it mattered. I still lived my life in secrets and fear.

Nearly eight years after leaving my ex though, I have a different viewpoint on what that experience was for me, my ex, and even my son. I know my ex was raised in an abusive home. I know his parents were also raised in abusive homes. I know that his parents suffered from just wanting to be loved and to do what is right, they are normal people, they want to live normal lives and have normal things. They are all kind and good-hearted people who are actively involved in their community and church, who love to help and to serve their fellow-man. They are just living out cycles they don’t know how to fix. And for me, it was a cycle I refused to have continued in my home and with my son, and that is why I left. I used to think ‘it’s okay, I can handle this, I can love him and teach him what love and a happy home is really like.’ I would put up with the days of abuse with that thought running through my head until my son was born. Until the day I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner with my infant son playing in the bouncer while my husband played video games in the front room, my son began crying as I was tending a boiling pot and my husband saying from the front room ‘I know, I know, mommy doesn’t love you…’ when my husband would smack our 5 month olds hand for taking a beanie off his head to teach him he needed to keep the beanie on his head and that ‘daddy knew what was best for him’. When those things began happening I knew I could no longer stay in that home. And how could I tell my son all that? He loved his dad very much, and his dad really did do his best to take care of our son, I didn’t want to start a war, I didn’t want our son to think badly of his father, after all, I had been told by adult friends who grew up in divorced homes, to never speak badly of the other parent, and that as children grow up, they learn the truth on their own. I believe childhood should be a world of wonderment, magic, and discovery, I did not want to ruin that for my son. I knew he wanted a good, solid answer, and that ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older’ wasn’t cutting it anymore. So I told him the truth.

I told my son that his dad was not always nice to me, and that he did not always treat me the way I deserved to be treated, so after lots of prayer and meditation, I left, and after leaving, I knew it was my calling to help others experiencing domestic violence to make it through and to heal. I knew it was my calling to help the women and the children who were affected, and there was no other way for me to know that’s what I wanted to do, or that’s what I would do had I not experienced it myself. I knew I would not be able to understand how to help these other women if I had not been through the challenge of leaving, of running, of fearing, of court and custody battles and single parenting had I not gone through it myself. I told my son, someone had to teach me what all that was like, someone had to play that role for me, and it was his dad, I told my son that I am grateful for his dad for teaching me what I learned and that I could not have done it without him. ‘So, my dad helped you?’ my son exclaimed. “Yes,” I replied. “You’re dad helped me. And I am grateful to him for it.” Which for me is true. There is always a silver lining in each and every experience we go through, finding that silver lining and living by it makes life worth living.

What now?

It’s been seven and a half years. Seven and a half years since I walked into a women’s shelter. Seven and a half years since I began the divorce process. Seven and a half years since my life changed forever and seven and a half years since I last experienced the abuse that once was so common in my life.

As I continue to share my past experiences, what my life was like, talk about the abuse that happened in my marriage and the process and legal battles of leaving my ex husband while retaining custody of our one year old son, people ask me ‘So, what’s it like now?’ ‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’ ‘Is he still abusive?’ The answers to those questions may surprise you and things may not be quite how you think.

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‘What’s it like now?’
A lot has changed mostly because I have changed. My one year old is now eight and was recently baptized in the Mormon church. (Mormons baptize the members born into the church at eight years old). It was the first event both sides of my sons family would be together since he was blessed at two months old. And while the families may not agree with each other or really want anything to do with the other, we put our differences aside for him and it was a beautiful and pleasant experience.

My ex is remarried to a woman who has been in my sons life since he was three and while I don’t agree with everything they teach my son, she is a great parent and loves my son and treats him very well. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

I am dating an amazing man who lets me be me and helps me be a better person every day and I hope to be married one day soon (maybe with another baby or two).

I’m growing my business as a mentor, trainer and energy therapist while I still work my amazing government job and my son and I rent my parents basement while we look for a house of our own.

I have learned and healed so much in my life.

‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’
In a word, no. My ex does the best job he can as a parent with what he knows. Sure he’s more strict than I like. Sure he teaches our son things that are different than what I teach him. Sure he does things that totally drive me crazy. I see those as good things. I see those as part of my sons plan here in this life.

My ex takes our son every time he’s supposed to and he always pays his child support on time. I get a chance to recharge my batteries while my son’s gone so I can be a better mom when he’s here. And my son is given the gift of seeing how different life can be and the beauty and love that still exists in that difference.

There are some negatives. There are things I don’t like about the situation. There are things my ex does that drive me crazy and that I don’t think are okay. (Teaching my son to call me by my name and his step mom as mommy for example). And I have chosen not to focus on those things (which is why I’m not naming more). I am choosing to hold a place for my ex being the amazing man I know he can be. I am choosing to believe my son is strong enough and smart enough to see the good and the bad in both his dad and myself and that he will be better for it.

‘Is he still abusive?’
Okay, I’m being honest here, you’re okay with that right? For some reason, this question is hard for me to answer.

Maybe it’s because this is a public blog and I know my ex and his entire family have found it and read it.

Maybe it’s because it’s just an emotional question for me.

Maybe it’s because it’s not a simple or cut and dry answer.

Abusive? Not so much. That’s more the wrong word. He’s still a little manipulative. He calls to talk to our son every day. (Which of course is fine). However when it’s his turn to have our son for long periods of time like summer vacation, he doesn’t always return the favor. I call to talk to our son and rarely get the opportunity. Certainly not every day.

He teaches our son to call me by my first name and his new wife ‘mommy’, my mom by her first name rather than grandma.

Which is all fine in the long run. Thankfully I’ve been able to learn my sons true nature and part of that for him, is his adaptability. When he’s with me he calls me mom, when he’s with his dad he calls me by my first name.

At one point the whole thing was a huge point of contention for me. And I let my ex know and his wife know and even our son know. I’ve learned this is a small thing and it’s better to let it go. Our son loves both his mom and dad very much and I don’t want to do anything that would make him think, hear or speak negatively about his dad.

My intention is that my son will see both the good and not so good traits of both parents, and that he will learn and decide what it is that he wants in his life. And take on the good traits we each possess and let go of the not so good. 

5 Tips to Help Grow Your Connection With Your Child

I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant. I sat on the toilet in disbelief. I was staring at the blaring positive on my at-home pregnancy test. It was a quick and swift positive, and I was unprepared to be a mom. In fact, I didn’t want to be a mom.

I had been thinking of leaving my husband for a while. Being pregnant, changed things. I remember praying to God, explaining to Him why I didn’t want to be married any more, why being pregnant would make everything so hard, begging Him for an out and since for me abortion wasn’t an option, I actually prayed for a miscarriage.

The answer I got was immediate and sure, I would not experience a miscarriage, I would carry my baby full term and all would be well. What I did not know at that time was having my son in my life, would change me for the better and was what encouraged me to finally leave my abusive marriage.

After my son was born, I didn’t feel a connection to him, I hardly felt he was mine. The baby the nurse held in front of me after I had given birth seemed alien and strange. I wondered if all mothers felt this way? Was there something wrong with me? Did it just take time to build a connection? I had always assumed it would be this immediate bond, for us, it was not.

Eight years later my connection to my son not only exists, but is stronger than ever and continues to grow. I had to learn a lot, understand a lot and accept a lot in order for that to happen. I had to do a lot of work.

Whether you instantaneously connected with your child or not, these tips will help you deepen and grow your connect (after all, if you don’t take time to water something, it will die).

1. Trust Yourself

I remember thinking I had the mom thing down, after all I was raised the oldest of four and had grown up in an in home daycare, I had a great understanding of child development and entertaining kids.

I did not realize how afraid I would be to leave the hospital with a three day old infant. Walking in my mud room with my baby in his car seat, I became keenly aware of each and every thing that I hadn’t baby proofed and the danger my once safe home seemed to be suddenly filled with.

Rather than give in to the worry and anxiety that threatened to take over, I took every event one moment at a time, from poop all over my hands due to a bowel movement mid diaper change to the Christmas falling on him while he was rocking in his swing (there was no injury and we replaced that old tree with a newer more stable one).

Trust yourself and your instincts, you were born with parental insight for your child and I think kids are built to last through most of our mistakes.

2. Clear Out Past Trauma

The emotions and energy you experience while pregnant and during the birth process actually do affect baby. When I found out I was pregnant, I was afraid and knew I wanted to leave my husband so I didn’t want the pregnancy. Is it any wonder that when the nurse showed me my son for the first time, I felt disconnected?

Letting go of any negative feelings and trauma that may have occurred during pregnancy and birth will help mom and baby connect even more.

3. Forgive and Love The Other Parent

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and in which case it bears repeating, if you haven’t heard it, read carefully: you already know your child is half you, please remember your child is also half the other parent.

If you hold anger, a grudge, or negative emotions toward the other parent, don’t be surprised if you hold those same emotions in some form toward your child. It’s much easier on you and your child if you just let go of those emotions toward the other parent, realize they are doing the absolute best they can with what they have been raised with and been given and remember how much your child loves both of you.

4. Ask For and Accept Help

I was sitting in the insta-care of my pediatrician’s office giving my twelve month old his first breathing treatment for the RSV he had just been diagnosed of, I had been in the women’s shelter for only a few days, and while i had always prided myself on being strong and capable of anything, I was so grateful to have my mom and grandma sitting in that examining room with me.

Asking for and allowing help in your life does not mean you are weak, but rather that you are strong. I remember a mentor once teaching me to practice accepting help by allowing people who offer to hold open a door or help carry an arm load or whatever it may be, to do just that, help. It takes strength and courage and a bit of humility to admit you can’t do it all, just remember the little lives that are counting on you, and be open to any help that is offered you. (If you’re like most people you already do plenty to offer your help to others, it’s okay to accept it in return).

5. Put Down The Phone

I know, we hear this a lot, and I know it should be obvious, and I’m going to say it again Put Down The Phone. My own son has even said it to me, and I sheepishly put it to the side.

Spend time with your child. Dedicate at least 30 minutes of undivided attention to your child every day. Play what they want to play, cook what they want to cook. Cook something together, Play outside, play inside, read books together, go out, stay home, do whatever to make it a special moment for your child to help them feel important to you and loved by you.

Being Single and Being a Parent

There is one simple fact making single parenting difficult. And that simple fact is, you are single, and you are a parent. Okay this may be obvious, but here’s how it goes:

being single
So I know there are those few out there who are perfectly happy living a life without a partner, but for the most part, the majority of us want to find someone to be with. A partner to have and to hold, someone who makes us laugh and brightens our day with a small token of affection, someone to share life’s joys and challenges with, someone who puts the scissors away in the wrong place, someone who pushes all our buttons and someone who we love, learn, and grow with. That does not change after a divorce or separation, we still want those things. Of course there must be time taken to heal however, after that there is this whole brand new world if singledom.

So here you find yourself after a divorce once again in the dating world, getting asked out out to dinners, movies, bowling, dessert, a plethora of dates and sometimes having to say no, or schedule something a week out, or go home after the date earlier than you normally would, because you are also something else, and you are that first, a parent.

Being a single parent is a different and interesting world. There are some parents who have their kids always, some who are custodial parent (having their kids 3/4 time) or non custodial parent (having their kids 1/4 time), and still others who split kid time 50/50, and every imaginable combination in between.

being a parent
There is so much that goes on in the single parent world. Some parents take their kids with them every where, to singles parties and functions. For the most part, it works out well, the kids have other kids to play with, the parents spend time mingling with each other forming bonds and alliances, enjoying the sisterhood of single mothers and the brotherhood of single fathers with some good flirting mixed in.

Sometimes it is to the detriment of kids, being dragged to strange places to meet strange people, not receiving the time and attention they need from their parent as that parent talks and flirts with other adults, being kept out past bedtimes or through nap times, all for the sake of the parent having some much needed down time and adult time.

Being a single parent is exhausting, whether you are co-parenting or have no interaction with the other parent, you often still don’t have the support needed to truly offer what you think is in the best interest of your children because the other parent has their own idea of what they think is in the best interest of the children, or they act on their own personal interests. Or you lack the support all together.

being a single parent
I really believe there is a reason families have been structured with two loving parents, it is so much better for the kids and the parents, to have the love, support and solidarity that comes from a complete family unit.

I was lucky enough to have a dear friend who was a single parent for much of the same time I was, and we vacationed together, went to events together, took our kids to the park together, we were able to offer that support to each other of giving our only child a playmate and each other that adult counterpart to talk to.

There is a solution for each single parent out there, a balance between the single life and the parent life. Remember to keep your kids needs and interests in mind, most especially that time with you. No matter what role you play as a parent in your own family, love yourself, be patient with yourself, know that you are doing the best you know how. Put your child first as much as possible, listen to their needs and wants, and ask for help; ask your extended family, ask your friends, ask your neighbors, ask your fellow church goers and religious leaders, ask angels, ask God or your Higher Power. The saying ‘it takes a village’ is as true today as ever.

I’m a Real Mom

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“Nope, no more media time for the day, you’ve had enough and it’s bedtime.”

“Just let me watch one show on Netflix.” My seven year old begged.

“No, school starts tomorrow and it is 8:30, it’s time for bed.”

“Just a little…”

“Nope, downstairs to your room and pick out a book.”

He swiped at me, clawing me with a soft hand across my belly.

“You do not hit mom, that is not okay. Apologize.”

He sank to the floor at the top of the steps.

“No!”

“It is not okay to treat mommy that way. Apologize.”

“No!”

At a loss of what to do, and only knowing that if I continue to let my son win these battles, it will teach him he does not have to listen to and respect authority, knowing that no matter how much I just want to send him to his room without the apology and wash my hands if this entire situation, if I do so it will do him no favors, and it was doing exactly that kind of thing that got us into the situation we are in now, I straddled him with my feet.

“Apologize.” I demanded.

“Only if you let me go.” Again, I knew that by giving into his little demands, it was teaching him he could control and manipulate others, having left his controlling and manipulative father six years ago, I remember lamenting that his mother never did anything while he was growing up to teach her son how to respect others, I was not going to make that same mistake.

“No, Apologize.”

He struggled. “No. Only if you let go first.” I sat on him, being careful not to put my full weight on him, but keeping him still. I held his hands back from hitting me.

“Apologize.”

“You’re hurting me. Let go and I’ll apologize.” I knew my hands were loose on his wrists and my full weight was not on his hips. I knew I wasn’t physically hurting him and I knew his exclamation was again a tact or ploy to get me to let go.

“Apologize and I’ll let go.”

When he realized I wasn’t letting up, he yelled out “I’m sorry!” I instantly stood up. He ran downstairs to his room and I walked somberly to the kitchen, holding back tears.

My phone rang. It was my boyfriend. I picked it up an explained what had just happened. He showed his surprise and disproval at my tactics. “I just didn’t know what to do.” I lamented. “I want him to learn who’s in charge.”

“Well, you certainly taught him who’s bigger.” That hit me like a ton of bricks, not exactly what I was going for, but true, I thought.

“I just don’t know how to do this. Sometimes I think he would be better off with his dad, his dad seems to handle his disobedience well. I want to give my son the best possible life I can and I want him to understand how to treat people.”

“You know sending him to his dad wouldn’t help. You can do all that. You need to make sure you follow through. You need a little help and some coaching.”

“I know. I have that appointment with that new counselor in a couple of weeks…”

“Baby, you’re fine. Everything with be okay. He’s a good boy and you’re a good mom.”

“Thanks.” I manage, though I don’t fully believe it, and he knows I don’t.

My son is not officially diagnosed as of now, however, I do feel he falls within the large umbrella of behavioral disorders. Perhaps a touch of ADHD and a bit more Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

For those who don’t know what ODD is, I’ve done some research and really like the information the Mayo Clinic has on their website. Here’s a brief overview:
“Even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times. But if your child or teen has a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).”

I am also concerned with his future, Mayo Clinic lists complications of ODD: “If these conditions are left untreated, managing ODD can be very difficult for the parents, and frustrating for the affected child. Children with oppositional defiant disorder may have trouble in school with teachers and other authority figures and may struggle to make and keep friends.”

What parent wants their child to struggle with those difficulties? And I can easily see how if left untreated, that’s how my sons life will turn out.

So I find myself in nearly every challenging and frustrating experience with my son with all those things running through my mind simultaneously while staying calm, using energy healing, calling on all the information and advice in every parenting book I’ve read (I’ve read several) and from the counseling appointments we’ve been to, and holding a prayer in my heart asking God and angels to help teach, be patient with, and understand my son.

I have mixed feelings about putting a label on my son. On one hand, I don’t want him to be prejudged as that ADHD/ODD kid and I don’t want him to use those labels as a reason or excuse to either do or not do things. On the other, hand, when I talk to other people about why my son acts the way he does, I can put a label to it and people instantly understand rather than me having to explain in detail which helps others treat my son with the extra patience and attention he needs as he grows from this experience.

In my dark moments i allow the thoughts: my son is struggling, daily life is a constant battle, school is a challenge, church is a challenge, home life is a challenge. I sometimes feel like I’m the worst parent on the face of this planet, and if only I had been better at being consistent when setting boundaries in his earlier years, then maybe my son would be better behaved now, maybe all of this would be easier.

When I let those thoughts take root, more follow, like ‘I don’t even have my son full time (he is with his dad Tuesdays and every other weekend), how could I handle him full time?’ Or ‘I have been raised with my mom doing in home child care, parenting should come naturally to me.’ Or ‘I should just let his dad have him full time, my son doesn’t need or want me in his life anyway.’ And it all boils down to ‘I’m not a real mom.’

And then I remind myself what I have come to see, beleive, know and understand in recent years, what we say and what we think becomes our reality, if I allow those thoughts to continue to run through my mind and come out in my words, then I am creating that life daily.

It has been six months since that day at the top of my stairs. I learned a lot from that counselor, he is amazing and exactly what I was looking for (I went through half a dozen other counselors before I found this one be patient if you too are on that path, the right counselor for you will show up) I have begun to change the way I speak to and parent my son, I have changed those thoughts of struggle to thoughts of love and peace and hope, even if current reality shows me something different, I know as I continue to speak positive words and phrases about my son, about my parenting, and about all other pieces of my life, that eventually it will reflect in my reality, after all, I have spent many years thinking and speaking in the reverse, I can’t expect instant change and I will be tried and tested to see if I really will and do hold to the opposite of pain and struggle and lack. I do so more and more each day.

I’m here today to say ‘I am a real mom.’ I love my son fiercely and want nothing but the best for him everyday. I do the best I can do with the best I know how and I continue to learn better parenting techniques though counseling, reading, and classes. So I may not get it perfect every moment of every day, but who does? No matter how it may look, no one always is a perfect parent. And I know that I am a real mom.

In all of this at one point in the middle of my work day in the middle of a prayer I was reminded of Helen Keller. I remembered as a little girl watching the movie about her life and how much her teacher and parents struggled with her and how challenging it was to teach her how to be civil and how to speak sign language and how to get along in this world with her disabilities. And then, years later, she became a strong and influential woman, an inspiration to many others. The thought that things could be similar with my son came to mind, that even though there may be struggles and times may be hard, as I do my best, and continue to rely on the help of others, as I change my words and thoughts to the positive and as I keep God at the center of it all, everything will be okay, my son has all the potential any other child has. And I am a real mom.

The Shelter

I could feel the soft pull on my nipple and let down as my twelve month old suckled in the early morning hour, the soft yellow of the rising sun. I half dozed as he nuzzled in close, and I was cherishing this sweet bond between mother and son, enjoying the sweet flow of life in this moment I so rarely experience.

A knock rattled the wooden door, I lifted my head, “Time to get up…” sang a woman’s voice. I let my head drop back down to the pillow as thoughts ran quickly through my mind. I’m nursing my son, can’t I just have a moment of peace. I’ll get up soon, I’ll be a good girl, I’ll do what I am asked, just let me have this moment. “I’m nursing my son.” I called out. “We’ll be out in a minute.” I planned on weening him at twelve months, but when our world was suddenly turned upside down, us homeless and me a single mom, living together in a shelter with strange women and unknown children, our schedule dictated to us by some random third party who did not know us, our lives, or our circumstances; battling the justice system, all while terrified of what my then husband and father-in-law might do, the words of my father-in-laws threat constantly running through my mind, influencing all the decisions I was making I have worked for the city, I have worked for the county, I know all the judges and all the judges dirty laundry, if you leave my son again, you will not get custody of yours.” With all of that, I knew we could both use the comfort and normalcy nursing provided.

The Shelter
I finished nursing, but not before another knock rattled my door, this time with the woman coming in. There was no real privacy here. After dressing myself and my son from the limited clothing options I had and changing his diaper, we were out in the common area of the shelter. Shelter life was not quite what I expected, I remember walking in with visions of something like an elementary school cafeteria with cots set up in rows and public bathrooms. I expected meals to be served from the school kitchen on plastic trays with little milk cartons, the whole scene with a faded tonal quality. Instead there was a large open area divided into two sections, a living room with three couches set up in a ‘U’ and a large flat screen TV on the open end, we even had Dish network, and a dining room with two large tables and benches, there were three or four highchairs lining the back wall, satelliting out from the main living area were offices for the counselors, a play room with donated toys and movies, a large kitchen and pantry where we prepared our own meals, and five bedrooms each with their own bathrooms and the capacity to sleep 5-6 women and children.

Shelter Rules
We had to take turns doing daily chores, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and moping, cleaning our bathrooms, and preparing the meals they told us to. They provided a washer, dryer, and laundry soap, I remember walking down the five flights of stairs into the dark unfinished basement where we did our laundry, the other women staying there told ghost stories about the creepy room, though I never saw anything. One evening the assigned meal was meat loaf, while I had seen my parents make it all growing up, I never had prepared it myself. I’m not sure why she was there, because she rarely was, but the director taught me how to make the meatloaf, it was a tender mercy to be standing there in the kitchen, cooking dinner together she felt like a mother figure to me and that brought me a small bit of peace in a then otherwise cold world.

There was a 9 o’clock curfew, if we weren’t in by 9 o’clock, with a few pre-approved exceptions we would be kicked out, period. One night, shortly after beginning my stay at the shelter, I found myself in the doctors office with my son at 8 pm I was lucky enough to have my mom and Grammy in the office with me, my son had just been diagnosed with RSV the nurses instructed me on how to give him a breathing treatment and had ordered a machine for me. It was miserable to stick the silicone mask in my one year old’s face as I held him tight and he cried and tried to get away. When I knew the appointment would get me back to the shelter past curfew, I called and told them what was going on, this was obviously and exception, and I had no problems getting back in when I showed up half an hour past curfew.

Shelter Living
We lived on the fourth floor, no one was allowed in except those of us staying there and a handful of counselors. It was that fact that brought me the most comfort, I knew my ex and his family had absolutely no access to me. There were legal advocates to help us file temporary custody papers, divorce decrees, and protective orders as needed, she was a liaison between us and the legal system, some thing I was particularly grateful for as I had absolutely no experience with the justice system. There was a daycare we were allowed to leave our children at free of charge for when we absolutely needed it. We had to take Domestic Violence, Self Esteem, and Parenting classes that would continue on after we left the shelter and optional one on one financial and sexual assault/abuse counseling available as well. We could only stay in the shelter for 30 days, then we were kicked out, we had the option of getting assisted living, and in order to be approved for that, we had to have a job and pass a drug test. That was my first and only experience being drug tested, and having a woman assigned to you to watch you pee was a little weird.

The Other Women
When I walked into the shelter, my son and I were the only ones staying there, the first woman to join us was older, in her 50’s or so, she had left her abuser several times before. I was blessed enough to have a car, and after my ex canceled my sell phone service, my Grammy gave cash to buy a new cell phone, the woman knew I was going to get a phone, and asked if she could come along and visit her bank while we were out, I drove to a mall far away from the one my ex and I had frequented, when I took her to the drive through for her bank, she found her accounts had all been frozen, she had no access to money and shortly after returned to her abuser again.

Another girl had two children, and pre-teen boy and a four year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome the mother had little time and attention for her daughter, as she was so wrapped up in everything else going on, I stepping in as I could, and I now understand her come from as my son falls somewhere in the behavioral needs spectrum.

One girl, somewhere in her 30’s I remember as being super cute and nice, I even let her borrow my shoes, then had to claim them back after she cut herself and they kicked her out for drug use.

A mother came in for one night with her five children, the children were frightened and unsure of everything going on, I remember talking to one of the daughters about anything that didn’t have to do with the shelter to help comfort her, that family was out the next day as the mother had taken legal measures to kick her abuser out of the family home.

There were many more who came and went in the 3 weeks I stayed there. I was surprised how many women had been in the shelter before, and come back several times. We would put all our children to bed and sit up on those three couches in the living room with the TV off talking about our lives, children, and abusers. There were woman who had it far worse than I had, I was the only one with a car, steady job (even though it was seasonal and I was furloughed, I knew I would begin work again soon), I had a strong support system of family, friends, and angels. Some women had no hope of living a life on their own, believing they didn’t have the skills to do so. Some women had been beaten so bad they had had hospital stays, one had been locked in her house with her children whenever her abuser left with absolutely no access to the outside world. I remember being told I was beautiful and tearing up over it, it had been so long since I had heard those words and I had forgot I was. It was humbling and frightening to hear each others stories, but we lifted each other and buoyed each other up, we were all we had.

Shelter Classes
For me, it was in the classes that I began to find hope and faith again. I didn’t think I really needed them at first, I thought I was above them, and as I continued to go, I began a journey of self improvement that has not stopped in the seven years since I left. I remember sitting in the Domestic Violence class as the teacher was speaking and letting my mind wander, I was pondering the fact I never thought I would be where I currently was, I never thought I’d be a single mother leaving an abusive marriage, I realized there was a long road a head of me, and my life had taken a complete 180 degree turn, and I didn’t know where to go from here, anything was possible, it was then I had a thought come to me, Everything will be okay, you are going to get through this, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you learned. It was four years later that I found a company that teaches how to be a trainer and a mentor, I knew this was the start to my journey as a teacher to help these women, and I have taught in several locations, including the very shelter I once stayed at.

All in all, I am truly grateful for the shelter experience, it opened my eyes to the truth of the world by taking off my rose colored glasses, it gave me a safe place for myself and my son. The shelter taught me lessons I could have learned no other way and set me on a new and invigorating life path, I won’t trade that for the world.

Twice the Work Part 2

“You do have strep throat, I can put you on an prescription or give you a shot?”

I knew an antibiotic prescription would take a while to get in my system and do it’s job”How soon does the shot start working?”

“Right away.”

I was exhausted I sat in the stale white exam room weighing my options. I had only just recovered from the stomach flu and now strep? My body was worn out and my brain was barely holding onto all the daily activities I had to do. I’d only been working two jobs for the better part of a month. I could not afford to take any time off.

“I’ll take the shot.”

The doctor looked at me, surprised. “Most people prefer the prescription.”

“I just want to get it over.” I slurred.

When the nurse came back with the needle, she asked me if I’d ever had one of these before. Something triggered in my brain. The peanut butter shot? My sister had one, and they called it the peanut butter shot because it was thick, and had to be pushed in slowly. It was supposed to hurt. Bad.

“Nope.”

“Well, it hurts a bit.”

She pulled the back of my pants down so she could get to the designated spot. I braced myself as the nurse prepped my skin and poked me. I felt the pinch and sting turn to a burning as she slowly depressed the medicine through the syringe into my blood stream.

Lesson 3 Ask for Help

For so long I thought the true mark of strength was proving I could do it all on my own. Being a single mom, I felt it was my responsibility to fill both roles of both parents at all times and in all places.

It’s a trick I got hooked into, as so many of us do, thinking we must do it all alone. As we allow others to help us, we actually get many benefits, we allow a flow to come into our life of give and receive. A flow is what we want, a flow of money, and flow of growth, a flow of love. Asking for help humbles has and prepares us for better and greater blessings to come into out lives.

Even knowing all this, and that, in reality, it takes true strength to stop and ask for help, I still have a hard time actually doing it. Letting go of that pride and control is a hard and scary thing to do, especially after having been deprived of control over my life during my abusive marriage.

I had no choice but to ask for help as I was working two jobs Help getting my son to and from school, help getting him to speech therapy, help taking care of daily tasks. I was so worried I would be taking advantage of other peoples plans and time, that they would see myself and my son as an extra burden, and. since I had to rely on them so heavily on a daily basis, that I would burn them out of ever wanting to help me again.

What I found is there are many people out there who are more than willing help, and giving others the opportunity to serve blesses their lives as well as mine. Most importantly, I learned asking for and receiving help reduced stress, worry, and concern in my hectic life and it was perfectly okay during this temporary hardship in my life. That it is a blessing for us to be given circumstances to learn humility and that we all experience this ‘humble leason’ at one time or another in this life.

Lesson 4 Find the Positive

Day after day I felt like a drone. Up and ready for job one, then to job two, do homework with my son, feed him dinner, bathe him and put him to bed, get ready for the next day, put myself to bed.

And yet, through all that, I was so greatly blessed. It seems in our darkest hour is when God hovers over us the most orchestrating our lives on a daily basis to help us learn and grow and make it.

I began working my second job end of November, as this point I had one of those guys in my life, you know, the boyfriend I had dated for six months, we broke up (which was heart breaking) and still tried to ‘be friends’ we were texting everyday, spending time together, and talking on the phone, he said he wasn’t dating any other girls at all, I told him I was gonna still date other guys, it became hard and full of negative feelings for both of us, I felt he reeled me in and out of his life at his convince and I’m sure he felt similarly. Finally we had enough. We cut things off between us completely and for good the beginning of December. I was devastated.

This is where Job 2 became a huge blessing. We had many of the same friends and while this group of friends (including the ex boyfriend) were going to holiday parties and activities, I was ‘stuck’ working two jobs. At first I thought this was unfair and I yearned to go out and be social with these people, then I learned it was really a blessing in disguise, giving me needed time to heal, spend time with my son, and ponder my life and my direction.

After the holidays I was blessed with a new man unexpectedly and blessedly walking into my life, the debts I had were being paid off, I had strengthened my relationship with my son and grown even closer to God.

It wasn’t just automatic, I remember in the beginning purposefully choosing my thoughts, I remember as thoughts of despair crept into my head, I consciously replaced those with thoughts of finding the positive, of seeing my life with a different perspective. And I was blessed for it.

I was lead by The Lord through what could have been months of pain and misery, and I chose to make them months of learning and growth. Which they were. During this time I got to do things I had always wanted to do, but never had. I got to go snowboarding, I got to sing in the church choir, I got to run my first half marathon and I began a relationship which I love, honor and cherish with a man whom I love, honor and cherish.

I know making the effort to ‘find the good’ is what created the good during this time in my life. I know I am a co-creator with God in creating the life I want for myself and my son. I know we all have the gift, blessing, and ability to each do this in our own individual lives.

I was in a hard period of my life, and despite that, I felt the peace and happiness and joy as I concentrated on what I did want and focused on finding the silver linings in my then dull and grey world, rather than dwelling on the sadness, woe is me attitude and grief.

It is a practice I do and will continue to use, I’m not perfect at it, I forget to find the good sometimes, and I continue to do it anyway, practicing until it becomes second nature in my life. It is a practice all of us can do. And I urge you to remember it and to try it. Write about it, share it with others and see what blessings ensue.

Twice the Work Part 1

Where have I been? Have I disappeared from the blog world? It feels that way to me. And for good reason. I have found myself working two jobs for the last three months. And despite leaving my house at 5:30 am and getting home between 6:30 and 7:00pm, losing time with my son, missing out on fun social activities being constantly on the move, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, I have enjoyed this experience and learned Four lessons I could not have learned otherwise.

The Jobs:

My day job is as a government worker. It’s clerical, and very cushy. I’ve worked there for the last 11 years and am so very grateful for it. The promotions I have had, the people I have met, and the experiences I’ve been a part of have all been times of great learning and blessings.

My second job I picked up out of necessity. I wasn’t brilliant in my money choices and found myself with extra debt I needed to pay off ASAP. My best friend owns a daycare center, I gave her a call, she was short staffed and could use my help, I started working there three days later.

The Lessons:

1- Play More

I remember when I had the one job, I would come home, and to be honest, (I am embarrassed to admit this) I would not always be willing or excited to play with my son. I was tired and worn out. I would sit and watch a movie with him, or sit and read to him, but to physically interact with my only child, I was not always super excited to play his juvenile games.

In my second job I suddenly found myself immersed in a room full of 2-4 year old, all demanding my attention and wanting to play. It didn’t matter that I was exhausted, I was working for my best friend, I wasn’t going to let her down.

I had to fight off feelings of guilt and disappointment in myself. Here I was playing and spending time with other people’s kids when I should be home with my own. I decided not to let the negative thinking get to me, and instead focus on when I would only be working the one job and how I would change things and spend more time playing with my son.

2- Be Grateful

I spent a lot of time being exposed to so many different families and people and got insight into how their lives are built. So many children with divorced parents, some with single and dating parents, some with step parents, some with parents in jail, some with parents who passed away, some with military parents away on assignment, some who were being raised by grandparents, aunts & uncles or adoptive parents. It has been a wide awakening to me, and I see so many kids who are struggling, and yet surviving. They don’t always understand their circumstances and rarely have control over them and I see a lot of scared kids.

I also see a lot of love. No matter what their circumstance, I see adults in these kids lives who do their best to show this kids love even though it may be imperfect circumstances, love still exists

I have spent much time feeling guilty for my sons life circumstances. I did not intend to be a single mom. I remember as I was growing up there being times I wanted my mom and times I wanted my dad, and I could go be with whichever whenever, my son doesn’t have that.

I have begun to remind myself to think of and be grateful for what he does have. In my home, he has a loving mom, grandparents and an aunt, in his dads home, he has a loving dad and step mom.

Life is never perfect. Circumstances aren’t always as we plan them. Love fills in the gaps, imperfect people carry us through and God and His angels open doors we cannot see on our own.