When my husband announced that he was leaving when our child was only 18 months old, I was shocked, sad, ashamed, and (mostly) terrified. I had not been employed for two years and was not sure if I could feed my child, much less keep my house. This shame led me to believe that not only was it my fault (which my husband and his family would mention quite often), I also felt all alone, as if I were the only person that had this happen to her.
Instead of "baby on board," I felt like the sign on my car would say "single parent on board." To me, it seemed as if I was the only mom walking a stroller around the mall without a husband. Oh, and did I mention that by this point, my husband was already remarried and soon after, had a baby on the way? On my end, I had money problems, self-esteem problems, anger problems, and the "poor mevictim mode" was in full-swing. I am not even sure if I was able to look into my child's eyes at this time because I was too busy trying to survive.
Months later, as the pity party started to lift, I found myself wondering what do I want to teach my child about her dad leaving? This was probably my first sane moment.
Most single parents do not choose to be single parents; the job is usually thrust upon us. Therefore, we must choose the "job" of single parenting or we will not be very good at it. So, the first step we have to take is to stop looking over at your ex and his life and instead focus on laying the foundation of your new family and home life. In my case, after regaining that focus, I had to find a job and childcare right away, as well as prepare my child for preschool. My experience taught me that instead of worrying, I needed to switch gears and start doing something. This helps to walk through the fear one step at a time. As one seed takes root, strength and bravery can begin to grow.
I found courage through making my child and her needs my focus. I was shocked, because I had never done anything like this before. I was amazed at how resilient I had become, especially since I was "winging it" at this point. The best decision I made was the one to stop being in "victim mode" and choosing to step up to the plate and be a role model.
I was out with some single women one night and one of them, who I barely knew, blurted out "Who is going to want you with a young child?" I turned to her, glaring, and said, "Oh no, who is going to be lucky enough to be with me and my child?"
My confidence grew stronger in all the conscious decisions I had to make for myself and my child. I started having a life of my own. I was smart enough to not over-expose my child to people I dated. I also made sure to only date when my child was at her father's house. We had a joyous and stable home environment without people coming in and out of our lives at this time. My daughter lovingly calls those years as some of our best (she is now 30).
Some higher power had to be watching over me, because I started this journey totally clueless! For instance, I desperately needed a job. Back when I was in my master's program, I was working out of a boiler room selling insurance. It was with this experience that I offered to volunteer my time to help a non-profit do some fundraising. Thankfully, I was eventually offered a paid position there, which included a good salary and childcare. It was a miracle! When I was let go a year and a half later, it led me to take another leap of faith and start up my private practice (which is still thriving after over 30 years!).
Along the way, I've learned a few things.
- Try not to feel sorry for yourself, because your child will feel that and start feel sorry for themselves as well. This might be when you and your family want to seek professional help to prevent the pity party from taking over your lives.
- You need to be an authority figure with rules and consequences that are used consistently. If at all possible, create a co-parent plan with your ex-spouse so there can be consistency in both homes.
- Remember, you are your child's stability and safety. Self-care is mandatory. My daughter approached me around age 11 and asked, "Mom do you know what the best gift was that you've ever given to me?" I thought she was going to say it was her beloved Barbie dream house. Instead, my daughter responded with, "You, Mom, loving yourself."
My daughter and I, both therapists, have combined our personal and professional know how to write our new book. My Parents Are Getting a Divorce . . . I Wonder What Will Happen to Me is an interactive discussion book to provide a bridge of understanding between parents and their children. Our book creates a safe space for children to share their innermost thoughts and feelings, while also teaching healthy coping skills for children to empower themselves during a chaotic and confusing time in their lives. The goal is to take children out of the middle and provide them with a voice as well as the tools that will allow them to grow into healthy, balanced individuals.
- Here Are Five Nannies Who Make Over $100,000 a Year - Swaay ›
- The Rollercoaster Ride of Divorce and a Parent's Tale of Hope ... ›
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the advice you need!
Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist