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.

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.

Fall in Love With You

Last Friday, I got my hair done (professionally) for the first time in a year. It’s generally not something I spend my money on, but I was feeling drab and needed to do something for myself. I was feeling tired of everything, always giving to everyone else, and putting myself aside.

 When we forget to take care of ourselves, it’s really hard to continue to give ourselves completely to those we love, especially our children. My family and my friends are good at being encouraging and loving and saying kind things to me and it helps me, but sometimes the voices in my own head sound so loud and seem to be screaming at me that there’s no reason to care for myself, the kids are more important and I don’t want them to go without. I started to feel like what I was doing for my kids didn’t matter and even though I know better about expecting kids to have a complete understanding of putting others needs ahead of their own sometimes, I start to feel like they don’t care about me. It’s silly. I know they do. I don’t have a boyfriend and I don’t really go out where I need to get dressed nice and so sometimes I just figure why bother?! Pretty soon, I’m just a Pity Party of 1 and everything sucks. No one likes to be around anyone like that.

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We love natural hair!

When I had my first child, a boy, I was IN LOVE with his curls. He’s mixed (black and white) and his curls were the.cutest.thing. They’d get little blond tips in summer and although he hated having his hair combed, I discovered the best way was in the bath with lots of conditioner and a hair pick. The thing he never liked was braids, product in his hair, or to have it combed (much). He went through some phases of wanting it cut shorter, but for the most part, he loved to rock his natural hair in afros, a flat top, the old “let’s just let it grow and see what it does” look and most recently, it was faded and then twisted on top. 
I never understood the people who would comment about his hair needing to be cut down and short. He’s 16 now and he loves letting it do what it does. His hair was, and is, amazing.

So, now let me back track a bit. My daughter, Amaija, was born in 2006. Her father and I had agreed, when we knew she was a girl, that we would never chemically process her hair to take the curl out. I agreed for a few reasons: I wanted her to learn to love the hair she was given. I prefer to go the natural route with our health and wellness and so chemicals on the hair was not going to happen. I didn’t want her to spend her life fighting her hair. This may sound crazy, but I didn’t think many white girls really had curly hair. And the ones I did see with curly hair, straightened it as often as needed.

My first son was 6.5 years old when Amaija was born, and I felt like I knew how to do this hair thing. I paid attention to her curls and the texture of her hair as she grew. For the longest, I did not need to do much with her hair because it took quite a while to grow in. When the curls came, I had so much fun doing little pony tails on top and using a very light product since her hair was really fine. Her hair grew in full and beautifully curly, still keeping it’s fine texture. We tried out different products along the way and got quite the collection. The thing I always wanted was that she KNEW how to take care of her hair and love the curls and know how to work with them, instead of against them. When it started to get longer, we started washing and then combing with a heavy conditioner, rinsing and then we just let it be. We would put a little curl product in her hair and played around with various braids styles, three piece twists and finger coils, but for the most part, she wanted it to do its thing without messing with it too much.

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Embracing my own curls.

I myself had gone back to straightening my hair and so as she grew she would ask me to straighten her hair. I would agree now and then, but it was so.much.work. I knew I had to embrace my own curly hair to be a better influence on my daughters and to practice what I preach. Her hair helped me in my own journey of accepting my hair.

I decided to do a little interview with Amaija about her hair.

What is so great about your hair? Why do you like it?

Because I can do a lot of styles with it. And not many other girls my age wear their hair like me.

 

What is your hair care routine?

I wash it a few times a week and in between those washes, I co-wash. Co-washing is conditioning only and I do that so my hair doesn’t get so dry. I use a wide tooth comb in the shower with conditioner in my hair. After I rinse it, I use my fingers to separate the curls while rinsing out the conditioner. When I get out of the shower, I towel dry it and put in some kind of product. My favorite is Mixed Chicks Leave-in Conditioner because it isn’t too heavy and my mom likes it, but we haven’t bought it recently because it has parabens and dyes that my mom doesn’t like. We recently bought a new Shea Moisture and so far, we love it. And it’s $10 cheaper!

Sometimes we straighten your hair with a blow dryer, round brush and flat iron. What do you like about that style and in the end, do you prefer it straight or curly and why?

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Can we say “Shrinkage?”

Sometimes it is a little easier to do my hair once it’s been straightened. Keeping it straight is hard though because it goes back to being curly after a day or so. I always like when my mom does straighten it so I can see how long my hair really is! I prefer my hair curly because when my hair is straight, I have to brush it (which I don’t do when it’s curly) and after a little while, I get annoyed with it on my neck and down my back. Plus, I know that straightening my hair damages it.

What do people say about your curly hair?

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Today at the Mall of America

Most people love my hair. Since I was little, people want to always touch my hair and ask my mom if it’s hard to take care of. I don’t really mind if people touch my hair, but they have to ask me first.

I’ve noticed the other girls at school with curly hair always have it in braids or they’ve permed it so it’s straight. One of my friends has spent a lot of time getting Brazilian blow-outs and most recently a lye-based chemical relaxer. I like that my mom has taught me how to take care of my hair and to love it, instead of spending so much time straightening it.

My message to other girls with curly hair would be don’t damage your hair to have it straight by perming, using chemicals or heat. Learn to take care of what you have and you will get a lot of compliments! Celebrate who you are and what God gave you.

 

 

 

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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