Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Thoughts: Staying Sane As A Single Mom

I talk a lot about my life, and I often have people stop and marvel at how totally personal I am here. Some might call it "oversharing" but I just like that this place is the one place in my whole life where it's okay to be almost totally honest - what's sad is that with the way my life is set up ... even here on this site, I'm honest under the full and complete knowledge that this place is not totally safe either. I do it knowing that I'm watched by people who are waiting for me to fail, by people who are looking for what's wrong about me, by people who are truly happiest when they can find something to be unhappy about.

Even still, on the internet I'm a self-loving, female-empowering, people-encouraging single mother of two great kids. I'm honest enough as a person and confident enough as a woman to be open about my experiences with domestic abuse, divorce, parenting, mental illness, and even body issues. I have challenges, but I'm vivacious and intriguing despite my challenges, and even when I'm depressed as hell, I'm looking for a positive spin or something I can use to laugh away my troubles.

I'm a realist with a touch of cynicism - but I'm still a romantic. I'm a warrior with a fighting spirit and a resilience even I can't comprehend - but I'm still a human.

And yet, outside of the internet ... outside of this place where I'm trying to make peace out of chaos and healing out of trauma ... there's another side to my life. There's self-doubt and self-pity. There's guilt and shame and sorrow. There's abuse that still lingers, abusers still present, challenges yet to overcome. There's stuff you'd call insanity if you were being rude - stuff you'd call eccentricity if you were being polite. There's putting off much-needed therapy over past issues in favor of the therapy I need in order to survive present issues. Because of it all, I'm quirky and irritable and anxious and yes, sometimes I lean a little too far toward the negative. I lose track of the "bright side." I'm emotionally sensitive, and I tend to take things personally.

Sadly, these things are all exacerbated by a lack of time to myself, as evidenced by the fact that I have to set goals (and actual alarms) in order to make sure I take medications that make or break my quality of life. I'm not always the best at putting myself first and I never have been; the problem with this is that you can't pour out of an empty bucket. You can't. I've tried. It doesn't work.

It makes for a lousy spouse, a lousy parent, a lousy friend. There's no getting around it. It just does.

But if that's true, and it's also true that I'm a single mom raising two kids without any real participation or help from their dad, and it's also true that we're on day 14 of my kids's winter break from school, and it's also true that we still have like five days left before they go back, AND it's also true that I've missed therapy for the last two Mondays because they were both holidays ... then it must also be true that I'm teetering on the verge of losing my mind entirely.

Right? Right??? Wrong. 

"Wrong? What? But why? If everything you say is true, then HOW are you managing???"

Like this:


For me, 2018 is all about momentum. It's about taking what I spent 2017 building and nurturing it into something amazing. It's about hoping to finish 2018 with pride and wanting to enter 2019 with more choice than I ever imagined. It's about inspiring my readers, encouraging my loved ones, and raising my children to believe in their awesomeness more firmly than I was ever taught to believe in mine.

2018 is about making a difference in my present that'll give my kids a future they otherwise might not have - and while I plan to make that difference with determination, I also plan to give myself grace and patience.

Because here's the thing - you can't grow anything at all if you're just sitting in the corner of the closet with your head in your hands, mumbling insensibly because you've lost your marbles.

I don't have an every-day partner who can manage things while I go soak in a long luxurious bath. I don't have someone to take over the laundry when I'm overwhelmed by it, or to cry on when I get told again that my daughter still needs another surgery, or to hold my hand and tell me it's all going to be fine when my own ambition for the year washes over me and sends me into a panic over anticipated failure. I don't even have a shared-custody agreement that would let me at least sit back and say to myself, "It's alright, I just have to make it to the weekend."

To tell you the truth, I don't even have a wish for shared custody - because the truth is, as much as it hurts me to know my kids are suffering over the way their dad has abandoned them, I'm actually happy to know that I no longer have to worry about the ways he didn't take care of them before. I know they aren't spending weekends with someone who would forget to feed and water them. I know they aren't left to fend for themselves while he naps endlessly. I know they're okay - because they're with me.

It comes at the cost of my me time though, and means I have to get a little more creative with finding and appreciating moments of my own. So I have to rely on the truth behind the old saying, "It's the little things" - and here are some of the "little things" that keep me sane as a single mom:


The forty-two seconds of alone time I get ...
... every time I go into the bathroom. Sometimes I go in there and shut the door even if I don't have to go ... because in the bathroom, I'm alone. And it's quiet. For forty-two seconds.


The smell of fresh-washed laundry.
Raising two kids means washing a lot of laundry, and raising them alone means washing it all myself. And while I'll admit to skipping laundry day as long as possible because I despise sorting and folding (especially socks), I do actually really love bending down and reaching into the dryer to pull out a fresh load of delightfully clean-scented laundry. (And if you were curious, this Tide with Downy liquid laundry soap in April Freshis what I like my laundry to smell like these days. And since I'm weird and I like things matchy, I always pair it with these Downy fabric softener sheets,also in April Fresh scent.)


The way my dog looks at me ...
... when I'm blogging in the dining room. He sits on the couch in the living room and looks longingly over the back at me, watching me bleed words into the keyboard. Often, he'll watch me until he gets sleepy, and his eyes get just a little narrower. Then he'll lay down and rest, but only then. No one has ever loved me quite the way that dog does - and if I get spiritual enough to think that if that's how a dog loves, imagine how GOD loves, then it breaks my heart just a little with happiness.


The indulgence of a fresh new cup of coffee.
I've been relearning how to appreciate plain black coffee in the last few months, and even though the last half of every cup is cold by the time I get to it, there's really something remarkably luxurious about the way a hot sip of smooth, fresh coffee warms me all the way to the stomach.


Laying down at the end of the day.
Mom life is a blessing, but single mom life definitely has its challenges. Some days I feel like I'm barely making it through, but there's something about laying down at the end of a long day that just makes everything seem a little better.


Good conversation with a friend.
Sometimes you just need to be heard, and kids are notoriously awful at being good listeners. To their credit, mine do usually try - but they're 8 and 13 right now and listening just isn't high on their list of talents at the moment. Which is handy anyway, because even though my kids and I are usually pretty close to besties, a little girl's ear is no place to put a grown woman's sorrows. On the days when I need more out of life than I'm getting, I love that I can always count on the response I'll get when I phone a friend. Or text them, since that's usually all I have enough time alone to accomplish. Lucky for me, most of my friends are parents of some variety, so they tend to understand.


The magic of a good hair day.
My life is stressful, so I'm really glad my hair usually isn't. The last few years have been tough on my hair because I've stayed stressed, I've had hormonal and health changes, and ... well, frankly, I haven't taken good care of it. I couldn't afford cuts and trims as often as I would have wanted to, and when I could afford them I took my daughters instead of myself. But now I'm super thrilled with the way I've tweaked my favorite DIY hair-cutting technique, and I'm completely in love with the way Pantene"s new Micellar shampoo cleanses and volumizes my hair without stripping it down and frizzing it out. I haven't tried the conditioner yet because I'm trying to use up what I have, but you guys this shampoo is amazing. (But don't get it from Amazon because for some reason one set of shampoo/conditioner is currently listed there for an obnoxious $45. Get it at Target instead - that's what I did.)


Taking off my bra. Or shoes. Or pants.
You get the drift. I don't like being contained. Actually now that I think about it, perhaps it's the pantslessness that makes laying down at the end of the day so perfect in the first place.


Listening to my favorite song - usually on repeat.
Music is serious business, you guys. I use it to change and control my moods, to express frustration and anger, to pick myself up when I'm down, or to get myself moving when I'm feeling lazy. I literally never go anywhere without my Bluetooth headphones, and my addiction to them is absolutely 100% due to my need to have accessible music at all times. (Want a pair of your own? I couldn't find my specific ones because mine are several years old, but these Mpow Jaws headphonesare pretty similar - and totally affordable at just $19.99, too!)


Counting my blessings.
My life is, like most people's lives, pretty full of responsibility. Sometimes what I most need is just to shift my perspective - to sit down and allow myself to go ahead and look through the burden of all my responsibilities, give myself permission to worry a little, and then remind myself of why even though my life is hard sometimes, I really wouldn't have it any other way. Because responsibility may be heavy, but at least I have the good kind. Sometimes I just need to remind myself:

  • Yes, my kids are hyperactive, bossy, arguing little busybodies. But it's because they're headstrong, independent, and healthy enough to be energetic.
  • Yes, my mom is a kook - and as her mind is impacted more and more by her health problems and the medications that keep her alive, sometimes she's a downright pain in my ass. But it's because she's still the same stubborn-ass, mouth-running, still-kicking, no-limits woman with an unstoppable survival instinct that she's always been.
  • Yes, I have car trouble that keeps me up at night worrying. But it's because after ten years of not being allowed to have a car of my own, I have one again. And used cars come with troubles.
  • Yes, I am in crisis. It seems like I am always in crisis - like all I do is go from one crisis to another. And while they aren't usually of my making, I am learning to be better about not attracting toxicity. In the meantime ... I have survived crisis before, many times. And I have always come out fighting (although sometimes weakly) and (mostly) ready to face the next battle as it comes. This is what warriors do - and I didn't come this far to only come this far.
Speaking of counting my blessings, I wanted to remind you guys that this year I'm not doing BLOGuary by myself. David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide To Life has been joining me along the way, posting his single-dad perspective in counter to my single-mom side of things. Throughout the month we'll be posting daily (except for Sundays), and while we might not always post the same things and our content won't always be parenting-oriented, his blog is hilarious, his perspective is unique, and ... well, he's just an all-around cool guy, so go check him out!

He made some amazing points in his post on staying sane as a single dad, and I loved that he had the courage to be vulnerable and open about what it's like for the non-custodial parents who still care and want to be active in their children's lives. His point of view really enriches the conversation about single parenting and the challenges faced on both ends, and I'm so thankful he was willing to partner with me this BLOGuary.

I hope you found this list helpful and inspiring - stress is part of life for all of us, and while it often looks different or influences us in different ways, the coping mechanisms that work are often somewhat the same, simply because the biological mechanisms behind stress are the same for most humans in general. For more information about stress and how to deal with it in your own life, click here to check out BetterHelp's collection of articles on this topic.


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