When I became a single parent several years ago I expected my transition to be seamless and stress free. I knew of many single parents that were well adjusted and living what seemed to be a good life. However, as time passed it seemed that I was in for a roller coaster ride. My journey was more difficult than I expected the first year. Equally important, my mother and best friend lived in another state. I was alone on what seemed like a difficulty journey and working full time. None the less, what developed over the past two years has been endless journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Not only did I survive as a single parent I am better woman because it.
Living in the Moment
One of the first lessons I have learned as single parent is the importance of living in the moment. Prior to my separation I spent a lot of time trying to save an unhealthy marriage. I remember sometimes rehearsing in my mind what I could do to fix my marriage. As a result, I missed being present for some very precious moments in my daughter’s life. Other times I focused on what I could scratch off my to do list.
I worried about trying to create a good life for my daughter instead of experiencing life through her eyes. Once, I accepted the reality that my marriage was over my life came into focus again. I began to focus less on things I couldn’t control and more on what I could control. I remember one day simply dancing with my daughter in our living room. My daughter let out a deep belly laughter. The kind of laughter you hear when a child is expressing pure joy.
Living in the moment takes a lot of work. I force myself to disengage from social media and put my cell phone on silent. Instead of trying to fill our Saturdays with activities I look for ways to connect with my daughter. About a week ago we decided to go on a walk. My 4 year old was thrilled and made up a silly song and sang the whole time as we marched through the neighborhood. We stopped and pretended to see animals and both laughed with delight.
Of course sometimes, I may get distracted by that ever growing pile of laundry. Then I hear a sweet little voice, “Mommy come here you’re missing it!” I instantly put the basket down or stop writing a grocery list because these moments will not last forever. Whether you are worried about work or household responsibilities, it is important to focus on our children when we are with them. When we are fully present with our children we showing them that they matter more than the stuff in our lives. We also open ourselves up to see life from their world which in turn builds a closer relationship between parent/child.
Creating a Support Group
The most important lesson of my journey has been the importance of creating a support group. On the days I felt exhausted from working an 8 hour day and then picking my daughter up from daycare, friends were a life line. I would call my best friend on the commute from work and talk about anything under the sun. Sometimes we talked about hair, reality television or current events. Other days we lamented over the struggles of trying to get a toddler dressed in the morning for school. Well because being a single parent is something that many people do not talk about. There is usually only a small section in child development books titled ” Single Parents”. But I learned early on that without the support of friends and family I would create unnecessary stress for myself.
While there is no book that could have prepared me for being a single parent, close friends have a wealth of information. Many of my friends were raised by single parents. More importantly, some were single parents as well.
I have also found several community support groups that were interesting within my faith based and school community. In fact, support groups in the community were the most helpful in developing a friendship. I met people from all walks of life and some with similar interests as me. There is comfort in knowing that you are not the only single parent in the room. From these groups I’ve learned strategies for stress management, self care and parenting. I heard stories of courage, resilience and commitment to overcoming the challenges in life. And in return I shared my own story of triumph. Sometimes the conversations were so rich that I did not realize the growth that was taking place. Creating “my village” has been instrumental in helping me become a better woman and parent.
I am not sure what the next few years of my life hold as move into a new chapter of parenting, career and family. But I feel a lot more confident with the knowledge and wisdom this year has given me. I will continue to live each moment to fullest and soak up every once of wisdom from ” my village” that wants the best me.