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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Why not?

People Who Experience Abuse
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults. Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner experiencing domestic violence. Why not start seeing it?

Children and Abuse
Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates, are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic and children are more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – which can place a child at great risk for injury or even death. Why not hear about it?

How Society is Affected
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. Survivors of domestic violence face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults. Without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies. Why not talk about it?

#voiceshavepower
I think the best thing about the video that has come out involving Ray and Janay Rice and the birth of the hash tag #WhyIStayed is that we are talking about domestic violence as a society, we are hearing about it and we are seeing what domestic violence is.

What Can You Do?
Often times people seem to think if we bring something into the light like this and talk about it, because it is a negative thing, that it will bring more of it into existence. Or people are shamed into speaking because of the harsh judgement of ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ As we talk about it, we can learn about it, we can teach about it, we can heal those who have experienced it, and we can prevent it from happening. Talk to your kids about domestic violence. Be a shining example to them of what a healthy relationship is. Better yourself. Find resources, read books, take classes. Learn healthy ways to handle your emotions. Throughout the month of October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) I am posting one blog post a day, and I will post books, tools, tips and resources to help Domestic Violence become a thing of the past.

*statistics taken from
http://www.safehorizon.org/page/domestic-violence-statistics–facts-52.html

14 Tips to Becoming the Right One

Ive had my fair share of relationships and break ups. At 31 I’ve been married and divorced and dating and a single parent. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences.

We’ve all heard dating isn’t about finding the right one, it’s about becoming the right one, these tips will help you do just that.

1. Look for the Silver Linings
Every relationship you are in, you learn more about yourself, about others, about relationships. Look for the wins and the lessons rather than the losses and the failures.

2. Get off the Merry-Go-Round
When you mess up and experience something that causes a break up, a similar situation will come up in the next relationship, (or even in the same relationship over and over again) will you do the same thing again, or will you react differently?

3. Be True. Be You!
You have to learn what you don’t want in order to know what you do want. Stop going by what others tell you you should and should not want, figure it out for yourself.

4. Would you Date you?
Always always work on you whether single or in a relationship. Give yourself the gift of growth, opportunity and me time.

5. Listen Up
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. This is key and perhaps even the most important component to a happy and healthy relationship. Be vulnerable, express your feelings and thoughts, your dreams and fears, your worries and hopes.

6. Don’t Judge
Honor your partner, where they are coming from and where they are now. It’s not your job to change them, it’s your job to love them for who they are.

7. Who Are You?
Stop letting your relationship be all consuming. Have your own hobbies and interests, allow your partner to have their own hobbies and interests. Spend time apart.

8. Words Matter
Speak positively about your partner and to your partner. What you speak about, you bring about. Stop teasing with harsh words or degrading jokes. Words stick. (Be aware of your tone too! The way you say what you say makes a difference).

9. Use declarations
Wake up every morning and declare how much you love yourself, how much you love your partner, how much you love your kids, and how beautiful your life is. It’ll help you be open to seeing the good day to day.

10. Monkey See Monkey Do
Be aware of what your kids learn, hear, see and experience. What are you modeling for them?
11. Do the work
It’s worth it! Having a loving and committed relationship doesn’t just happen, you have to make sacrifices. If you want a spouse, kids and a beautiful home, you can’t also have a girlfriend/boyfriend and go out partying every night.

12. Seek out learning and help constantly.
And stop expecting your partner to do the same or do it with you. It’s okay for you to learn all you can, they will benefit from your knowledge naturally.  (I love books, podcasts, classes etc).

13. Patience
Keep repeating yourself if you have to. People are ready to hear certain things at certain times. Stop getting caught up on I already told you that once (stay away from taking it too far and being a nag either). Realize your partner sees and experiences the world differently from you and that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Think of all you can learn from and teach each other.

14. Be forgiving. Be forgiven.
We all mess up we all make mistakes, in fact, we’re supposed to. Forgive your partner, forgive yourself. Relationships are going to bring up a lot of stuff. That’s what they are designed for. If you choose to see ‘problems’ in relationships as ‘learning experiences’ instead, new doors will open for you that you never saw possible.

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.

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.