How to stay sane as a newly single mom

If you are a newly single mom, I am guessing you have just been through hell. Your whole world has been shaken up, unraveling your day-to-day. Now it is time to find your new normal. 

You are probably feeling all sorts of things. You might be bitter, sad, or depressed. You might also be relieved or feel rejuvenated because you can start to make positive changes in your world. But, what about your kids? They are probably struggling emotionally and you are struggling with how to keep things as normal as possible for them. You also might be faced with doing everything on your own. Maybe your ex has completely left the picture, or only helps on weekends. So what do you do? How can you regain your sanity? Take care of your mental health? 

The best tip I can give is to focus only on the important things and let the rest slide. No one is going to die from fishing semi-dirty clothes from the laundry (be sure to wash that underwear, though). Who cares if you need to have microwave dinner for a week or two while you adjust. Let your kids help to prepare their lunches if they are old enough. If it is not a life or death safety issue, let it go. 

Now is the time to focus on your kids. Spend time together and figure out that new normal. There will be bumps and hurdles but you will get to a point of peace again. Take your kids to family therapy and talk about what that “new normal” might look like. This is not an easy time in your journey through life but you can get through it if you focus on the important things. 

It is always important to take care of your mental health, but now it is even more crucial. You need to take care of you in order to be the best mom you can be for your children. Talk to your friends, find people who are going through the same thing as you and connect. Lean on your village and take it a day at a time. 

What is something that has helped you as a single parent? 

Making the choice to be a single mom

Being a single mom is incredibly hard. It is doing it all, being everything for your children, and it is taxing on yourself. The reality is nobody actually decides “yes I want to be a single mom,” “yes, I want to do this by myself.” It is not a choice. It is something that comes as a result of another decision—whether it be getting divorced from your spouse, deciding not to marry the child’s father because of your relationship with him, or feeling like you have no other way to have children except to do it on your own. It is the absence of a partner but it is not a direct choice. 

I was raised by my single mom. She had choices to not be a single mom. She could have chosen to stay in an unhappy relationship so that she didn’t have to care for me by herself. Instead I would hear her cry in the middle of the night because this gig is hard. But it was something she needed to do for us, for herself. 

Of course she would have preferred to have someone to help split the parenting duties. Or course she wanted to give us a stable home. But she also wanted to show us that she wasn’t willing to give up on her ideals. That she was strong. That she wasn’t going to compromise her happiness to stay in an unhappy relationship. She was showing us to stand up for yourself and to follow your heart, as hard as it can be sometimes. She did make choices. Very difficult ones. But it was never about a desire to parent by herself. 

Why are we bitter during divorce?

There are many reasons for divorce to occur leading to a vast array of emotions. But why would bitter feelings occur if you and your partner agree that your marriage isn’t working? If you don’t have any hard or angry feelings toward your partner then why would you feel so upset at the situation? Why can’t you just end the marriage and move on? 

It is because when you walked down that aisle you had an expectation of what marriage would be. You thought you would spend your life with this person and be happy and in love through the process. Now that reality is setting in and this expectation has been shattered, you are grieving. You have lost your marriage and now you have to grieve that loss. 

Human Nature

It is truly human nature to feel this way, according to a Psychology Today article that looks at a study done on chimpanzees. When all of their basic needs are met— safety, love, survival, esteem, and actualization— they act much differently than if they are missing one of those five. When you go through a divorce you are bound to feel bitter, angry, scared, and just plain jerkish because you are not having all your needs met. You suddenly have to worry about all these things you didn’t have to concern yourself with before. When we feel safe, secure, and loved we are able to rationalize things better. 

In addition to having your expectations shattered, you are also in for a whole slew of changes and let’s be frank — us humans don’t like change very much. Divorce also brings up many feelings of being powerless and out-of-control, you might not know how things are going to play out, what will tomorrow be like? And, there is a need to fight for what you love and believe—a sense of entitlement. Even if you still deeply care for your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you remember how long it took to pick out that couch downstairs and you want it back. You also worked really hard to save up for that house and now you don’t want to sell it. You want to hang on to the things that are important to you. 

Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can ever endure. It is a mountain of obstacles to face and it takes time and energy to get to the other side. If you are feeling overwhelmed, bitter, stressed, angry, know this is normal. Seek help from a licensed therapist who can help you to take care of yourself. 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201207/where-are-you-the-divorce-stress-scale

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201101/why-are-divorcing-people-often-jerks

https://www.yourtango.com/experts/pegotty-and-randy-cooper/4-reasons-divorce-makes-good-people-act-like-jerks

Don’t say, ‘He/she/they didn’t mean anything.’

You have had another relationship, unbeknownst to your partner, and he/she/they just found out. You feel your heart beat quicken and that moment of panic sets in. You are in hot water. What do you say? How do you fix this? End this uncomfortable moment? Then it comes out— “that person didn’t mean anything to me!”

Adding fuel to the fire

You look at your partner and instead of those words making he/she/they feel better you quickly notice they seem more upset. I have spoken to many couples about this very sentence. It is upsetting. It is hurtful. No one has ever said, “oh since that person doesn’t mean anything to you, I am ok now.” If anything it makes the whole situation much worse. But why? Why does this single phrase anger people so much?

It is because when you say those words, what your partner is really thinking is: what does that make me? If you can cheat on your supposedly important partner with someone that is meaningless, then this meaningless person trumps your partner. This just makes your partner feel even smaller. Because you made the choice to harm your relationship with your partner by having relations with this other person, you are telling your partner that they do not mean as much as this person. Therefore, making the statement “they didn’t mean anything” is you telling your partner they are meaningless. It is just another way to add insult to injury. 

Therefore, making the statement “he/she/they didn’t mean anything” may get you deeper into hot water. Rather than digging through your brain to say something when the tension is high, own up to it instead. Saying “I am sorry” is a good start. Consider seeking the help of a licensed counselor individually, or as a couple, to help you through this.

Don’t say, ‘I didn’t mean to HURT YOU!’

It happens. Sometimes we DO say or do things that we don’t mean to. Sometimes we unintentionally hurt another in some way. Maybe we aren’t thinking clearly at the time. Maybe there is some deeper reason for our actions. It is natural to immediately want to explain to your partner that you “didn’t mean it.” I hear this phrase a lot when speaking to couples. Unfortunately the reality is, those words are not helpful. Explaining how you didn’t mean it, doesn’t cut it. 

Sometimes hearing those words just angers the other partner. But why? In your mind you are thinking you really didn’t mean it, you are sorry, and you wish you could take it back. To your partner the damage is done. You can’t change the past. It is not helpful to argue whether or not you intended to cause pain. That is not what is in question right now. 

Your partner is hurt. Whatever you did is not sitting well in their heart. They feel sad and angry at the actions you made. Own up to them. You did what you did. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean to do what you did. It matters that you did it. So going back to our earlier post, stop making excuses. Tell your partner you are truly sorry. Tell them you messed up. You made a mistake. Be honest. Show them you may not be perfect but it doesn’t mean you can’t grow and learn from your actions. 

Be genuine, be respectful of their feelings. Try to see things from their point of view. How are they feeling right now? How would you be feeling? Then tell them how you wish you could take it back, how you are sorry, how you will learn from your mistakes. 

What is the best way to apologize?

What to say when we hurt somebody

So, here you are. You have done something that has hurt another. You feel horrible. You just want to fix things. Make everything all better. What should you say? What can you say?

Take ownership

First of all, talk. Talk to the person. Communication is key. You can’t run away from your mistakes. Tell them you are sorry. Be genuine. Don’t back up your “I’m sorry” with an excuse. You hurt someone. Take ownership. Ask them how they feel? Ask them what you can say to make things better. Listen to what they have to say. Look them in the eyes. Make sure you are in a quiet, uninterrupted space.  Ask them, explain to them how you can/will, change your actions in the future. This will help to open the door to how things might be repaired, if they are able. 

So often we apologize and then immediately jump into defending ourselves. We are trying to justify our actions and make ourselves feel better, but what is that saying to the other person? By justifying our actions we are saying we had a right to hurt this person. Of course, you want to protect yourself, but you still hurt another and you should take ownership of that mistake. Acknowledge you were wrong. No one is perfect. We all do things we wish we could take back. Look at how you have wronged another and grow. Learn. Really, truly apologize. 

Depending on how you hurt this person, and who the person is, repairing this relationship might be easy or impossible. But, regardless, of the end game. The best thing you can do to show another that they are valued and didn’t deserve what you did to them is to buck up and admit you were not right. End the excuses. 

Screw the five-year plan

We get asked by our college professors, potential and current employers, our parents, our mentors—what is your five-year plan? You are encouraged to write it down. Put it on paper. Stick to it. The reality is, you need to learn to let go of that plan. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to have goals, plans, and dreams you want to accomplish. You can choose to write up an outline of sorts but don’t get too attached. 

We change. Life changes. Things happen that we don’t expect. That is the beauty in uncertainty. You never truly know where the road will take you. Events that happen to us shape us as people. Things we learn over time change our way of thinking. Our experiences create deep roots inside our souls, and the people we thought we would become no longer seems as fitting. 

We fall in love, we have children, we move for careers, maybe you end up in a place you didn’t originally plan. The course changes. There is no need to be a perfectionist about the plan. It is ok to deviate, to take another road. We can get so stressed, so exhausted trying to keep things lined up with the plan. But what is the real purpose of that plan? 

You made it to keep yourself focused. To help achieve success and happiness. If those things come a different way than expected, that is ok. I say it all the time, you have the key to happiness inside of you. By letting yourself get so attached and worked up over the plan, you are denying yourself the happiness to enjoy where you are and how far you have come and where you might go if you embrace change. 

Change is good. It is growth. It is learning. It is having an open mind. It is going with the flow. 

How has your five-year plan changed over time?

You have Imposter Syndrome? Hey me too!

It is not uncommon to feel like an imposter in your own body. It is called Imposter Syndrome, and I have it too. It is this deep-seeded fear of being found out. Like you aren’t really good at what you are doing. Like you don’t deserve the success you have. 

These feelings do not discriminate, many successful men and women feel like they are a fraud. 

Actress Kate Winslet told The Mirror, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.” Actress Emma Watson told Rookie magazine, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”

Actor Ryan Reynolds told Men’s Health that he feels like just a “freckled-face kid, faking it until I make it.” Even Tom Hanks said on the podcast Fresh Air that he worries when people are going to discover that he is “a fraud and take everything away from me?”

Why do we feel this way? Why is it so hard to believe that we are capable of such success? The reality is you have earned it but sometimes you struggle with your self-confidence. Evolutionary speaking, humans have an instinct to stay small to protect ourselves and our children. Being big can be uncomfortable, and vulnerable. If we stay small we feel like it is easier to hide. We aren’t in the spotlight, few people are watching. 

We focus on our goals, our values, but then, in the end, deny our own roles in our success. Why? Who are we comparing ourselves to? It is ok to not know how you became successful. To not know how you “pull it off.” Take a moment to really look at yourself and think about who you are stacking yourself up against and then stop. Stop denying that you are deserving of your success. 

If you really have no idea what you are doing—as many of us don’t— that is fine, keep doing it. That is where creativity comes from. 

Do you ever feel like an imposter? Why?

Source: https://www.instyle.com/celebrity/stars-imposter-syndrome#3163080

Sick of people taking advantage of you?

People know a good deal when they see one, which is great, except when that “good deal” is you. Always being the one that is called on to step in, help out, or get the job done, can leave you feeling used, resentful, and overwhelmed.

The People-Pleaser

I am talking about being that person who never says “no,” the people-pleaser. The good news is you don’t have to go on like this. You can establish boundaries and teach the people around you how you want to be treated. You can learn how to say “no,” to do the things that make you happy and turn down the things that do not. Stop enabling. 

First things first, you should ask yourself why you feel like you need to please others? What drives you to never say “no?” Does it have to do with your self-confidence, or wanting to be liked/respected, etc. Are you trying to compete with others around you or prove something to yourself or others? Whatever it is, come to terms with it. Taking on all these things and being “walked” on is not good for you. You are worthy of your time. Your time is important. 

Establish boundaries. Be firm but permeable. I am not telling you to shut out the world and turn down everything. I am encouraging you to figure out the things you would like to be doing and do those things. It will do wonder for the relationships in your life because you feel better about how you are spending your days. You won’t feel the resentment you have felt. For example, if you have a friend or family member who is always expecting you to run errands or always wants to borrow money from you, let them know that ends now. Tell them nicely yet firmly that you are not comfortable helping in this way anymore. They may get mad for a little while, but eventually, they will learn to respect your time and energy. 

You need to take care of you before you can fully take care of anyone else. You need to create your own happiness. Put your foot down where needed and get back to doing the things that leave you going to bed with a smile on your face. 

If you need help getting started seek out a licensed counseling professional, they can help you begin the conversation. 

How do you know there isn’t someone better?

Someone asked me the other day — ‘how do I know I won’t find someone better than my partner?’ The person went on to tell me how they wanted to make sure there wasn’t a better choice before becoming exclusive with the person they had been seeing. 

The truth is, there is always someone “better” if you choose to think about it that way. You will always come across people that are more fun, funnier, handsomer, smarter, or whatever qualities you are looking for. Committing to another person is a choice. It is not based on all that external stuff. When you decide to go all in with another person, you are making the conscious decision to shut down all the external noise. Stop comparing him/her to that coworker, or the guy that works in the office down the hall. Shut down the date search, and that cute guy that keeps talking about having dinner with you. 

Choosing to commit is choosing to be with that one person— who probably isn’t always going to be the best in the room. But they should be the one that feels right for you. By committing you are choosing to accept that person as they are, and to close the door to the other options. If you spend your life always searching for the ‘best’ or the ‘better’ option then you will likely always find something, but will you be happy? 

When did you choose to commit?