Dear Single Mom,
It’s been a while since we’ve last chatted, hasn’t it? We’ve both been pretty busy these days; still, I think about you a lot. I think about you when I see your cries as I’m scrolling through Facebook and when I see you with your kids at the grocery store. I was a single mom once, too. I struggled my way through nine years of loneliness, heartache, depression, and anxiety, and I want to take a moment to tell you it will all be OK. Here’s what I mean by that.
When you allow your emotions to dictate how you respond to situations, it drains you. It takes away a part of you that is very difficult to repair or replace.
You may not have the support you feel you should have had from your kids’ dad. He may pay child support, but he’s tapped out emotionally and he believes you’re “out to get him.” There are probably nights you can’t fall asleep because you’re stressed about your bills getting paid or the possibility of losing your job because you had to take more days off from work than you were allowed, thanks to a bout of sickness (your kids or you!) that wouldn’t go away. And, inevitably, there have been days you couldn’t get out of bed because of the nights you spent worrying about everything.
You’re yelling at your kids constantly, even for things that aren’t worth yelling about. You spank them, sometimes with things other than your hand. [My mom recalls a time that I turned my son’s bedroom doorknob inside out so, when he was behaving very, very badly and I was very, very worked up, I could lock him in his room and he would not come out until I had calmed down. He was probably 4 at the time. Our life was so messed up. We were all hurting.]
You don’t know what to do, so you just try to make it through each day.
Alongside the worry, I’m guessing you spend a lot of time torturing yourself, emotionally. I know I did. I didn’t think about dating anyone because I didn’t love myself enough to recognize there could be someone out there who would love me and my kids enough to “take us on.” When I did decide to date, it was a much older man — whom I thought would be a great father-figure for my kids and someone who I believed loved me. I was wrong.
There was a lot of distrust and anger and, after about 18 months of “trying” to work through things, he told me he wasn’t willing to “raise someone else’s kids.” Subsequently, my kids and I moved to NJ to live with my parents…mostly so I could get my life together. Hey, if you haven’t entertained the idea of moving in with your parents or a friend, even if it’s just to make ends meet, it could be a good opportunity to really propel yourself forward. Think about it.
I know what you’re thinking, now: when is she going to get to the “it gets better” part?? It’s on its way, I promise.
I spent about four years in New Jersey, making life-long friends and living life. In the first six months, my kids and I took the train to NYC frequently, and we saw sights we would never have seen without being there. Despite the overwhelming support I had from my parents, and the new scenery, my depression followed me when I moved across the country. After a short time, I had a heart-to-heart with my doctor and started taking meds that helped to balance out my emotions. [Pill therapy is not for everyone. For me, though, this is what I needed and I have no shame about it.]
Eventually, I moved back to Colorado, so my kids could spend more time with their dad. Moving “home” was not as easy as I had thought it would be. I was lucky enough to secure a job before I relocated, but the pressure to do everything on my own after being with my parents for a number of years was too much. I figured it was time for my kids’ dad to take on some responsibility, so I asked him to take our kids full-time during the week and I would take them on the weekends. He was willing to change it up, and it seemed to be a good plan.
But, it wasn’t a good plan. The kids did poorly in school and they fought constantly with other kids who were living at their dad’s apartment. I saw the dark clouds form over their heads and tried to help them as best as I could on the weekends, but I was losing them – emotionally. It was devastating to me. I felt as if I had failed them – that I was a terrible mom.
My rollercoaster of emotions snatched me from life again, and I fell into a deeper spiral than I ever had before. I remember calling my mom on the phone when I was totally overwhelmed by a situation and saying, “I don’t need money, I just need someone to listen.”
When I was growing up, my dad had a saying when we would complain about our life (which, inevitably, was about the responsibilities of minding my manners, doing chores and getting good grades in school — oh, the humanity!). He would say: “Life sucks and then you die.” His sarcasm was strong but I can see, now, how I might have construed it to be gospel truth. After all, my life pretty much sucked as an adult until that point.
His words in those moments don’t have the same effect on me now.
My life is pretty grand, even on what seems to be the worst days.
It sounds so super cheesy, but…when I finally started loving myself and focused on being me and doing my best, the best came to me by way of my heart, my love. It was not easy getting to this point, and I still struggle with my emotions at times, but it’s totally worth it to keep your eyes wide open and aimed at the horizon.
Friend, put your head into the wind and PUUUUUUSSSSSSSHHHHHH through situations or people that want you to fail. GET UP EVERY SINGLE DAY AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND HAIR. If you find you can’t even do that, remember, there is strength in accepting help. You and your kids will thrive if you surround yourself with people who truly love you and want the best for you.
When you are ready to kick butt and take names, you can read more of my messages on Her View From Home and on my personal blog that will help you keep your head up:
I love you, I want the best for you. Now hug yourself since I can’t be there with you, and let’s get to work, friend.