With so many different types of parents, single, co, step, are we really defined by a title? Not all parents are the same, nor should they be! That is what makes our children the amazing, independent, and inspiring people they will become. What does matter is how we come out of the struggles that potentially shape us. How we learn to communicate, grow, and support our little loves in processing all this mess.
Most refer to me as a single parent. Now, single parents have a whole different world of challenges all their own. Struggles I could not begin to imagine. I get the snide remarks of, “How could you be away from your children?” Or, the comments, “It must be so hard.” It is difficult to balance a full-time career, college, and still manage to have quality time with my twins, all while trying to keep peace with their father. See, I’m a co-parent and will not identify any differently. I have come to respect their father and accept where I am in life. By no means was this realization easy. Yes, my relationship with my children’s father failed miserably and in less than ideal circumstances. It was in this failure that I began to rebuild my foundation, discovered my greatest strengths and growth as a woman, a mother, and ultimately, took back my life.
Here are three thoughts to help you get through whatever parenting struggle you are facing:
Acceptance. You will doubt your decisions. You will question yourself. You will wonder “what if?” Whatever your reason for being in this situation, finding acceptance is by far, the greatest challenge. There will come moments of peace, in time. There is a reason you are here, right now, amidst your brokenness. Cry, breathe, and cry again if you need. Let the waves of emotions take you after you put the kids to bed. Then, find acceptance in this moment that you are here right now. You will get through this and the children will be okay. No more are the days of the quintessential family. Nor should we expect ourselves to stay in a situation that we put relentless effort into, or force to work, or even one that harm us.
Expect Conflict. Do you often find yourself falling into the trap of anger and resentment? Remember, each of you probably knows exactly how to push the others buttons just so. Conflict is inevitable. Realize that the focus must always be on the children’s well being. We can only control what we can control. It is challenging to maintain focus on the matter at hand and to set the emotions aside. If there is no resolution and the conversation is running circles, simply and politely end it. Wait 24 hours and take time to think, to process, and to see other options to reach a solution. By engaging professionally, (yes, you read that right, professionally!) and with respect, you will eventually be able to communicate with each other and reach a reasonable, agreeable arrangement that benefits both the children and you.
Moments of Insecurity. When constantly facing chaotic life demands, the inevitable fear of if you are even doing this right; insecurity is going to happen. Add in the emotional strain of separation, feeling stereotyped, belittled, accused, lonely, and have simply just had enough! You know what, though? You are not alone. Do one thing for you in these moments. Even if it is just calling a friend. If you feel you have exhausted them, know that a true friend will be patient with you and will continue to listen, so long as you are working towards progress. Write your thoughts in a journal. Put your problems on paper. Then, do one thing, just one thing to change where you are, right here right now. Acceptance comes one day, one moment at a time.
There will be moments when the kids ask the hard questions, about why things are what they are. We will cry, we will laugh, and we will feel the full gamut of this emotional roller coaster. It is far too easy to get in the comparison trap. By owning our lives, our losses, our accomplishments, and our struggles, we gain strength and resilience to be there for our children. We continually have to fight falling into the depths of insecurity and the endless, futile battle of what other people may think of our situation. We can only be our best version of ourselves to ensure we are actually present with our children to become the best ______ parent we can be. To enhance the quality time with the greatest creations we will ever make.