Parenting

A Love Note to Single Moms

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I never intended to be a single mom, but then I guess not many of us in this tribe aimed for this title. I’m rounding out four and a half years of flying solo, and I feel like I’m finally finding my groove. Or maybe it’s just a good week, or I’m basking in the record-breaking personal victory of getting them to school on time twelve days in a row (!!), or I’m still just buzzing on the high of them going back to school at all after The Summer That Wouldn’t End. Hang your hat on any attribution you choose, but the fact is this: right now, we’ve got this thing. For today, we’re okay.

This exhilaration of catching my stride has me thinking about you, single moms, the graceful swans who have your balance in this moment, and the mighty warriors who are hanging on for dear life. You who are divorced or widowed, and even you who are married but abandoned, either physically or emotionally. You brave girls who are doing it alone, you’re on my mind.

I thought I’d write you a little love note today, since I have the margin and mental fortitude to do it. On another day, I’ll be the one asking to read it.

I’ve been thinking about the top five things people have said to me along the way, the sunflowers of truth I’ve been putting into a bouquet to hold with both hands. Here they are:

1. You have choices.

You may think you have no choice but to be present and to be their mom, but I am learning that power comes in having a voice, in knowing your options. My friends, for better or worse, there is always a choice. You could have chosen to give up, throw in the towel, and abandon it all… them all. But you didn’t. You’re in the game, and that was a choice. It was a good one, the right one. You have choices, and you can make wise decisions. Good job engaging in this day.

2. Boundaries are a girl’s best friend.

Just yesterday, a mentor said to me, “Tricia, I don’t know very many people who know their own boundaries and bandwidth better than you do. You know how much heat you can handle, and if it gets too hot, you’re not afraid to step away from the pressure. Not everybody is good at setting boundaries, but you are.” I assure you, this skill has been a long time coming and it’s one I learn by doing. “No” is a complete sentence, and the single mom has to get fluent in that one-word-language.

3. Keep your lifeboat steady.

Here’s the truth: my boys and I are in a lifeboat that’s big enough for three people: my tall boy, the smaller one, and me. Right now, we’re floating along pretty steadily, but if anyone comes along and puts too much weight on one side of the boat, we’ll spill right over. If you’re going to rock the boat, I’ll have to push you out before you bring us under. That’s just how it is. Know how big your boat is, who’s allowed in, and who has to get out now.

4. Not all advice is good advice.

People mean well. They do. But they don’t necessarily know you, they don’t know your balancing act, and they don’t know what you need. They know what they need, and they tend to think it’ll work for you. Not always so, my friends. Not always so. Filter the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff, and trust your instincts. You do you. Do your thing and do it well. And if you can swing it, don’t apologize.

5. It won’t always be this way.

For better or for worse, today is fleeting. You might be counting the seconds until bedtime — ready for a new day, a new start and the next thing; or you might be in a good season right now and you’d just like to pause time, fearful for the other shoe to fall. The truth is, the best and worst days are only 24 hours long, and this one won’t last any longer than all the others. Some days are better than others. If this is one of those other days, just get through it, girlfriend. There’s always a new one around the corner.

I know I said Five Things, but I have just one more. I read this quote recently: “Anyone can be a mom, but it takes a bad-ass girl to be a dad too.” I get it, and I value the sentiment as well as the well-placed expletive. But the truth is, you don’t have to be their dad. You just have to be their mom. And that’s the most important thing you can give them: a very healthy, stable you.

Jen Hatmaker said, “If you worry about being a good parent, then you probably already are one.” So put on a helmet and a cute pair of shoes, and get through today.

And know that somebody thinks you’re awesome. I do.

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