Feel Good About Living a Full Life

The other day a new friend texted me to invite me to a backyard picnic and sauna get together. I wanted to go instantly, but it was going to be on Saturday, during my weekend with my kids. Just as quickly as my excitement came, that little glimmer of doing something different and new started to go away. When you have 65% of the parenting time, that’s a lot of days you are with the kids. It’s not possible to have the same free weekends as your single-parent friends and it’s really impossible to always have plans align to happen when you don’t need a sitter.

I always struggle with this, whether I should just say no right away because it’s my time with them or try to make it work. I decided to see if my oldest was working (he wasn’t scheduled) and asked him to spend a couple hours with his siblings. Maybe they could go see the new Guardians of the Galaxy. I happily replied to my friend I could go with her to the sauna party.

Knowing I had this planned gave me something to look forward to this weeempty-cupk. The kids and I had a great Friday night and all of Saturday together. We hung out at home in our pjs (like much of Minnesota, probably, after a week of rain). We played basketball at the gym before I had to head out. Up until it was time for me to go, I was determined to not let my mom-guilt creep in and steel my joy. By the way, I don’t recommend Googling “mom guilt” because you will get everything- pros and cons, giving in to the mom guilt, how to cure mom guilt, don’t have mom guilt…it’s all there.

I’m a single mom and I’ve decided I get to enjoy life and what comes my way, if I can make it work out with everyone taken care of, because to be honest, fun stuff doesn’t happen very often. And, let’s be real. If I was still married, we’d most likely get a sitter to have a date night. Same-same, right?

Going to the sauna party was as much for me as it was for them. They ate pizza with their big brother and his girlfriend, they went and saw the movie. They adore him, and as he will be graduating next year and going off to college, I know they think getting to do this with teenagers was the coolest thing. Having new experiences is on my constant bucket list because really, going to sauna was the thing I didn’t even know I missed and needed. I want to keep my bucket list open to what may happen.

Relaxing in that heat with good company, smelling smells that bring me back to mimg_1567y childhood, jumping into that freezing cold, refreshing creek, meeting interesting new people in community, laughing in the crowded sauna with sweat dripping everywhere…I haven’t felt so refreshed and cleansed in…I don’t even know how long. Those few hours on a Saturday evening was everything. Mom guilt gone.
As moms, we carry so much responsibility and worry that we are doing things right. Although I’m a single mom who has them the majority of the time, I rarely do things when they are home. It’s all them, all the time. I often miss out on doing things I’d love because they are home and I feel bad about going. Then my weekends without them are empty and well, we can’t wait for the perfect time all the time.

The thing I worry most is that they will think a woman should become martyrs to their children once they become a mom. Taking care of ourselves is not only healthy for them to see and for us to do, but for us to maintain a sense of who we were before we became moms. The woman we were still exists and we can’t forget her. I’m not saying go out partying all the time or to abandon your children, obviously. I’m just saying, whether it’s two hours at the gym every day or a few hours on a Saturday to go shopping without kids, dinner with friends or a few hours to do some other thing, it’s important.

It’s that woman before kids that we know we are that makes us the mom we are today. So do those things, have experiences to talk about. My kids LOVED hearing about my afternoon and I’m pretty sure they want to sauna and jump into a freezing cold creek now, too. I’m not a perfect mom, but I’m perfect for my kids, and that makes me a good mom.

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In Response to “13 Reasons Why”

I absolutely am having new, difficult conversations because of this show. With my 10 year old. Not because she watched it, but because she discovered a friend has a 13 Reasons Why book she is currently writing/filling in (journal style). She discovered a couple of the same friends (who have the books) have started cutting themselves.

Let me tell you something. This is ALL new. Until this show, her classmates weren’t doing this.

Maybe I’m just a mom, with no real psychology background, but I can with almost 100% certainty that 10, almost 11 year olds aren’t ready for this. They are not prepared for what they will see. And, they’re not developmentally ready to DEAL with or process the trauma of watching this show that is full of mature content: rape, self-harm/cutting, bullying, drug and alcohol use by underage students. 

I have strict settings on our Netflix account and I know she could still access it if she really wanted. She reported the cutting and is now being hated on by kids because she reported it. Daily, I have to reassure her she did the right thing because maybe these kids don’t realize if they cut too deep, they could die. Even though other kids reported it, it’s not enough. The ones who report are being bullied for reporting because they were scared and worried for their friend and what the cutting could mean, because they don’t really know.

We got an email today from the principal about knowing what our kids are watching, that this content is too mature for elementary age kids, so be ready and protect your kids from Netflix and social media. Selena Gomez can go wherever she can go…I’d say hell but that might imply death and that defeats the purpose of what I’m saying. She produced this. She has to know about bullying and what all this means. But she’s also an adult now and however we intend for material to be seen, we have to believe our younger kids will see it because they hear about it. Does she know what it feels like to see a 10 year olds face while explaining suicide or cutting? That this is a show that can be relevant to why people may commit suicide?!

If it wasn’t about her suicide, would people be saying, well this happens and needs to be talked about, viewed in such a way?? I would never say that if it was about rape or sexual abuse, especially if it was depicted in such a raw way. Just because it happens, doesn’t mean we need to make such mature content available to all kids. Yes, those things happen too, and I sure as hell would be equally as protective, and still know we have to have the conversations in an age appropriate and developmentally appropriate way.

My daughter is aware. She hates war and genocide and that women experience wage inequality. She knows about the atrocities of war, of what’s happening politically, socially, and what has happened historically. She knows she is raised by a single mom. She knows her Mom has ptsd and anxiety. She is a wise 10 year old. She knows about depression, how exercise helps us feel better and self care. I’m not sheltering her. But this… no. There are other ways.

JUST STOP NOW.

when the kids aren’t so little anymore

Everywhere I look online, I see moms with young kids…blogging about it. It seems like there are pictures of happy families– a husband, a wife, a couple young kids. I often reminisce about those days, wondering where the time went. I see photos I took during those days and wonder why I can’t remember those moments.
I remember those days when the kids were young and my days were made up of trips to the YMCA to work out and have some coffee and chat with my friends, errands, housework, naps…you know how it goes. The days were grueling with three kids home under the age of 4.

Being in the trenches of motherhood are NO.JOKE. Although I love looking back at pictures and I absolutely adore my kids, I’m not entirely sure I’d go back to that time in my life. I filled myself with them completely, to try and avoid the pain of my marriage. Something big that was missing for me was time for myself, to have friends outside of my kid-filled world, to do the things I loved, for me. My now ex-husband offered little support, which made it even more stressful. I felt like a single mom even though I was married. I would have had PLENTY to mom-blog about when they were young.

So much great material. 

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my days were filled nursing babies,

 

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stopping accidents from happening,

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Reflections on divorce

It’s coming up two years since the divorce was finalized. I used to call it “my divorce,” but I’ve stopped saying that and am now calling it “the divorce” because it’s not mine and it doesn’t define me. For a while, it was the thing that consumed me almost as much as being a mom did. Divorce sucks and with all of the draining legalities, comes a whole different set of things you go through.

While I was going through the process of the divorce, I googled often. I looked for blogs, real people who were willing to talk about divorce and how, yes, this is quite possibly the worst thing in the world, but here are some tips to get through this alive, well and MAYBE, happy. Divorce is like an earthquake. It shakes every part of your life up, some things shatter, some are slightly damaged and some things seem to be just fine. Some things even come out stronger as you rebuild and you realize there might be a better way to do something as you re-build.

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Stop asking why I’m single

Ever since I became single (or rather, each time I become single), people have wanted to know if I’m dating. And when I say no, they seem to have some well-thought out thing to say, like, “Oh, it’ll happen at the right time.” Or if I’m out, people want to know why I’m single. Well, I want to set something straight. We don’t all want to be in a relationship. I, personally, love being single. I was dating someone for about nine months and realized that dating someone was simply not what I wanted to be doing. It didn’t make my life feel any better, except that I could say I was dating someone and the best thing that came out of it was the reaction I got from others that seemed like relief, at best. I desperately wanted balance in my life and being in that relationship brought a complete unbalance. It wasn’t just his doing, but mine, as well, for allowing my time to be given to him for the most part. When you’re a single mom, the free time you have is limited, the time you have free doesn’t always align with your friends’ free time, so it became easy, and seemed natural, to spend increasing amounts of time together.

Does being single carry some sort of outcast sentiment? Does being single make people think there is something wrong with you (or them, maybe)? I can’t help but feel sometimes that society expects that women will always want or need to be in a relationship. If I say I have plans some night, and the first question is usually if I have a date. It’s gotten to a point that I don’t know what to say. So I resort to saying, “Um, no. I have plans with friends. GIRL friends. Maybe my sister. Maybe I am going to a movie alone.” (I did this once and it brought me a lot of anxiety and nervousness, but in the end, was pretty much fine). But why is a date (or some kind of nighttime thing) the first thing that comes to mind?

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11 ways I stay sane as a single mom

Almost daily, I have at least one person stop what they are saying mid-sentence, stare at me with wide eyes and ask me, “how do you DO it?” I know i make this single parenting biz look seamless (yes, that’s sarcasm), but really, i have no idea how I do it. I’ve been thinking about this, however, because so many people ask me with such disbelief. Parents with one child. Adults with cats (and no kids). Married people with one child or maybe two. One of my favorite parenting mottos is to have only a few rules, but I make sure the rules are clear so there is little room for misinterpretation and negotiation, like “food stays in the kitchen;” instead of any other combination of “don’t eat the food in the ____ room.” Clear and concise. Beyond that, this is how I do it… (cue Montell Jordan). I was going to do 10, but felt compelled to add one.

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the problem with our society is not single mothers

The other day I came across this article,”The problem with single mothers,” via the HuffPost Divorce page. Naturally, I wanted to find out for myself what this author’s purpose was with writing this article because the title itself pretty much disgusted me.

My initial response to this article’s title alone was exactly my reason for starting this blog of mine. Is there a problem with single mothers or is the problem actually society’s response TO single mothers? There are so many stereotypes and negative responses to us when we say we are single moms. I say we because most single moms I know personally have similar experiences as I do. After further reading, the author does explore the current trend in our society in terms of the numbers and research polls. The overwhelming result is that society has a problem with single moms who do not actively choose to single parent by themselves, however, single parents by choice receive a different response. First of all, I believe this article is wrongly titled. There is no support that there is something wrong with single mothers. The problem is bigger than that.

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the question of my life

the question of my life lately is “well, what do you WANT to do?” (insert eye roll because by 35, don’t most people have this figured out?!)

such a funny question. i have two answers. one is the one i tell people. the other is a secret that isn’t going to be a secret for much longer, once i write it out on this post. both are true, just one is more desirable to me.

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co-parenting fail

So much of being a single mom is about having control, planning, knowing what is for dinner days in advance, having the white board calendar filled out perfectly so i can at least pretend the kids will use it to know what’s going on.

When we got divorced, we decided we would share joint physical and legal custody. My ex traveled A LOT for work and truly was not in a position to share more of the physical time. It’s now been a year since he was traveling and also a year since he has really paid any child support (i think with the exception of one month). Trying to take care of my kids, my house, maintain a job, make it to appointments, shit, even SHOWER strategically, has gotten pretty stressful! Today…a car maintenance appointment at 7 am, otherwise, it wouldnt’ have gotten done. So i showered at 5:50 am, dressed, snuck out of the house to get the car in. I got back and everyone was in their pj’s and acting like there was no school today. What is that, anyway?! It’s as if they have never gone to school and as if we didn’t talk about it last night when we laid clothes out.

Anyway, the ex is over $10,000 behind in child support and well,  nothing is happening. The enforcement is a joke. Now, after months of struggling, I emailed him. I always include my mom and his mom as well because I want the message to come through as it is, not as it is interpreted. I offered 50/50 physical custody, Friday to Friday. We currently share joint legal and physical custody and since he traveled before and it was not possible, I didn’t go for that before. Now though, it’s been months of no support and I simply cannot maintain like this. I sent it with complete hesitation and then waited.

I didn’t get the best feedback from some people. They thought I was bailing him out. They thought he should deal with the consequences of not paying. What they don’t know is that the consequences are still something he will have to deal with. He could still face certain consequences, however, it just won’t continue to add up beyond the current $10,000. To me, bailing him out is not holding him accountable. I want them to see him, to have a relationship with him. He wasn’t good for me, but I do not want to be, and I cannot be, the one who will keep them from him. He doesn’t do things the way I would, but isn’t parenting one of those things that most couples struggle to agree on how to do some things anyway? How is this any different? I WANT my kids to know their dad. I want them to know they can love me, him, both our families, their siblings and whoever else they feel love for. I will never interfere with that.

 So how do we get through the ugliness of separation, divorce or just not being together, yet still be their parents with the best interests of the kids in mind? My point of view is we don’t get to do things as if we weren’t together (for the most part). Would you trust your ex partner to take care of the kids if something happened and you had to go away? Probably, right? Would it be perfect? No. Would they be okay? Most likely, yes. I know there are exceptions, but I strongly believe USUALLY the other parent should have fair access to the kids. That being said, when we got divorced, their dad traveled A LOT for work. For that reason we set parenting time based on that, as he simply could not be in town more. That made sense at the time. Things have not always been how I would like, but they have gotten better. He is more consistent, quite reliable and still probably a great dad for the kids. I have never doubted he loved them. I do believe lawyers put a lot of things into play that create dissonance and discord. We don’t have to fall to that though. At the time, it made sense to do an every other Friday- Monday, plus one extra night type of schedule. Unfortunately, child support has not been paid and I am struggling, like for real.

To try to fix this problem, i wrote an email. I don’t want my kids’ dad to be in jail or to lose his license because that would take him from them as well as his chance to earn money. what good is he then? For that reason, I proposed a 50/50 time arrangement, instead of every other weekend and an additional night. I sent it thinking he would not even agree. The next morning, i got an email from his mother, saying he was considering it and it seemed fair.

Here’s the deal. I’m not perfect. He’s not perfect. We are FAR from good together, but none of that takes from them loving him and him loving them, or me loving them and them loving me. We are different and both capable of providing for them. It makes me sad to think I would not see them for a week, but I feel good knowing they love him and he loves them. I feel good that they will have time with both of us as parents and i know they will adjust. Hopefully he will agree to this. My goal is to really be decent co-parents for them. I know this may take some time, but in the end, that is what I hope for. I hope we can feel happiness for each other’s successes, support each other (from afar) through tough times and schedule changes, and most importantly, be there for our children.

Co-parenting is not easy and may be one of the more difficult things parents are asked to do. Even while married or in a relationship, co-parenting is necessary. You have to learn to compromise, decide what is worth fighting over, determine how you will support one another and how you will work as a team. Transitioning to co-parenting while apart is challenging, but in the end, I hope that we can put ourselves aside and really figure this out for the benefit of the kids. to do this, we have to let go of the control we may feel we want/need and just TRUST. LET GO. My hope is that we can choose to figure out how to best co-parent the children we were given to raise and care for.

**Update: The ex wanted to do 50/50 but only if we switched weekends. What that meant for me was that me and all of the kids would have never been together, because my daughter currently goes with her dad the same weekend as the other kids go. That means planning for events for my kids and extended family would have been impossible. It meant I couldn’t have worked extra to earn more money. So I said no, take the offer as it was or leave it as is. He never responded, so I’m still the primary caregiver.