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When Family Traditions Become a Burden: Single Mom Struggles

When Family Traditions Become a Burden: Single Mom Struggles

Family traditions mean different things to people. Traditions can be events, projects, crafts, stories or just a certain dish on a special holiday. Family traditions are important in building stronger relationships among family members of different generations. But, keeping family traditions when far away from family or as a single mom can become a burden.

When parents split, children are faced with two homes that often do things differently. Holidays and events are shared or alternated giving little opportunity to maintain consistent family traditions. I remember making a Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesdays in years my son was at his father’s for the holiday. It was my way to spend quality time with him and let him enjoy the recipes of my childhood.

A Different Mardi Gras Tradition

Mardi Gras isn’t celebrated the same in Hawaii as it is elsewhere. In Hawaii, Fat Tuesday is known as Malasadas Day. The malasada is a Portuguese doughnut, heavy on yeast and eggs, deep fried and coated with sugar. Modern twists to this recipe have cinnamon-sugar coatings as well as custard, chocolate and coconut fillings.

As a child, Malasadas Day was a day of excitement and pride for me. Growing up in a Portuguese family in Hawaii meant this was a day where we really got to share our culture and aloha spirit. Grandma would start the dough the night before, wake to pound it in the middle of the night and start cooking the malasadas around 5:30 am. Living just a few minutes away, my brother and I were able to get up early before school and help.

The job of the malasada sugar-coater was important. You needed to toss them in the sugar without crushing them. The reward: first taste of the delicious treat, still hot from the oil. The thought of the hot, soft dough mixed with a little crunch of the sweet sugar still makes my mouth water.

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Growing Up and Moving Away

It is more and more common for children to grow up, go off to school and move away from their hometown. This was true for me and many of my friends growing up. Hawaii is a small state with limited resources and jobs. Many of us could simply do better leaving the state. It isn’t easy to make a weekend trip back to the islands; a flight is approximately five hours and costly.

This means traditions risk dying. I was living in California with a roommate from Hawaii the first time I tried making Grandma’s malasadas recipe. It’s a chore and leaves a mess or dough and sugar in kitchen crevices you didn’t realize you got close to. Up before work to make a few dozen to share with co-workers and friends became my tradition.

As Family Traditions Slowly Fade

Family traditions such as Malasadas Day can fade away as those who are the architects stop doing them. Over time, my grandmother got older, the family and friends who would normally share the doughnuts weren’t around and she stopped making them. I was glad I had started. It’s a thread to my childhood as well as a link to our family heritage. I’m the 4th generation of my family to be born in the islands. In the world of DNA testing to determine your origins, I feel blessed to have a very clear picture of my family history dating back to the late 1400s in Portugal.

New Family Traditions

Getting married and having my son in California offered the opportunity to start many new traditions, some blended traditions between two backgrounds and some just new ways of doing things. Putting your mark on your own family traditions is important, too, especially if you are far away from the original rituals.

plantation banana tree

It was always important for me to make sure my son understood our heritage. We’ve visited the Hawaii’s Plantation Village, doing almost a Where’s Waldo trying to find the picture of my Grandfather on the walls talking about the plantation’s labor rise. We toured the homes that show how the different immigrants and plantation workers lived: the Filipino homes set differently than the Portuguese and Japanese. It shows the diverse culture that has become the cornerstone for Hawaii’s diversity.

Making Malasadas on Fat Tuesday

When he was in elementary school in California, my Malasadas Day tradition grew. They had Mardi Gras parties at school; it was a natural way for me to help him share his own history and tradition, rooted in a Portuguese plantation family in the islands. Even my own family laughs and says that I’m crazy for doing this every year. The amount of time I’ll spend in the kitchen the night before and early in the morning to make the doughnuts is akin to preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.

Then I remember, my glee as a child running into my grandparents’ home before the crack of dawn to get my place by the sugar pan. There are fewer memories that give me as much joy as Malasadas Day. In fact, mastering the many recipes of my family has been my passion for the past five or six years. Now that we are back in the islands, I get Grandma’s taste of approval to know I’ve done it right.

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Why Take On Extra Work to Keep Family Traditions

Here in Hawaii, you can buy Malasadas easily. I happen to share the name with the bakery known world-wide for it, Leonard’s Bakery (no relation). It isn’t the same as making them. I’ll likely have no help from my teenage son but he’ll enjoy the rewards. Mom and Grandma will as well. It will give everyone in the family reason to talk, reminisce and bond.

That is the true reason we take the time and do the work to keep family traditions. I don’t know where the tradition goes in the next generation. It’s not for me to force the tradition into the next chapter of our family history. But I do feel it is my role to facilitate keeping the traditions that I loved as a child and my family worked so hard to keep and share.

Finding Your Own Traditions

family traditions reading books

Malasadas Day is a big day around here. Family traditions don’t have to revolve around holidays or big events. Reading to your child at bedtime is a tradition they will remember and value. My son and I used to go from the book to an adlib story about one of his stuffed animals. It was silly and fun, sparked creativity and is remembered to this day, long after he has outgrown his “stuffy days.”

Sundays at the beach or a local park with friends are simple traditions that provide security and consistency for kids. I think they also provide some security and consistency for us parents. As a single mom, there have been a lot of different things that uprooted normal big holiday traditions. It’s hard when you alternate holidays. It’s always been the little things that help ground me as a mom, feeling like I’m providing my son the same level of lifestyle blessings I felt as a child.

That is the reason I spend the time and overcome the burden of keeping family traditions.

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Single’s Awareness Day: Are You Kidding Me?

Single’s Awareness Day: Are You Kidding Me?

There are a few days every year that really make you feel single. No doubt that the biggest culprit is Valentine’s Day. To make our single souls feel better, someone decided to dub the day of love as Single’s Awareness Day. Are you serious? If there is any day that should not be used to celebrate the strength of solo men and women everywhere, it is the day after Valentine’s Day.

Go ahead and call my Cupid’s Scrooge. It’s okay. I’ll wear that badge with pride because you can’t make a pie out of cow patties and call it old fashioned apple pie. Nope, nope and nope.

The Delusion of Singles Awareness Day

First of all, no one can decide if you celebrate this holiday on Valentine’s Day to spite all in love or party it up the next day. Seriously people. Are we that delusional that we need to pretend that Valentine’s Day is something other than the day of love?

flowers for singles awareness day

Where teenage girls get giddy because that boy kissed her.

Where newlyweds burn everything while making that dinner where the thought that counts and they weren’t really going to eat the food anyways.

Where couples who have 50 years together find that one special chocolate candy the other has always loved.

We should be celebrating love and look for all the places we have it in our lives. Don’t all those mindset coaches tell us to put out there what we want to attract? Well if we celebrate being alone, isn’t that what we will attract? Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem embracing my strength as a single mom. Been doing it for 14+ years and am in no rush.

But to fall in love…. I’ll hold on to that dream.

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Admit It: You Are Alone

You won’t find me out with all my other single girlfriends throwing some grand party celebrating our independence on Valentine’s Day. I’ll be home, having another average dinner with my son wondering if he got asked by anyone to be her Valentine. Not that he would admit it, but it’s nice to think he did.

I don’t want to dilute Valentine’s Day. If I went out, it would be one great big reminder that everyone around us was in love, pretending to be in love or hoping love would spark through this romantic evening. As the hopeless romantic that I still dream about becoming, I don’t want to be the person accidentally sending side-eyed glances in disdain to the happy couple next to me.

Yes, I Said I’m a Hopeless Romantic

Don’t let the rumors hit you in the butt on the way out. I don’t want to celebrate being single on Valentine’s Day. And I don’t want to be around everyone in love either. I want to be home, watching sappy love stories on television after dinner – yes, I’ll probably get some indulgent dessert. I want to dream that love is still possible even for a curmudgeon like me.

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There is no question that my return trip to the world of the living lovers has stalled. In fact, it could probably use a tow to the nearest single’s bar. After a divorce, single moms often make tough choices. For me, it was refraining from the dating scene until I got my own life together again and wasn’t concerned with falling into the shit-storm I had when married. For that, I have no regrets.

My Valentine’s Day Mantra

You see, many single men and women watch others in love and think about the love they lost. They sit and ask themselves, “Why me? How did all this happen?” Anyone who knows even the superficial me knows I have no room for the victim mentality in my life. Yet, Valentine’s Day has me ponder, “Why not me?” It’s a subtle difference but one of curiosity, not victimization.

I’m not exactly ugly. I’ve got a great career. I’m smart and actually can make someone snarf a drink with a well-timed joke. Meaning I’m confident enough to say, “I’m not a total loser.” Just a moderate one… at least when it comes to love.

Why Vs Why Not

You see, thinking of things in terms of the why me mode is looking backward at what happened and the negative things that led to a void in my life right now. But when I think of why not me, I find myself reminded of the choices I have made to be a mom first, build a career second and then open myself to love whenever (as you can see, it hasn’t developed a strong plan).

One day with everyone else celebrating might be hard, but it doesn’t change my choices or my perspective. In fact, it gives me hope. Because I know that if I made one choice for certain reasons and succeeded in my goals, that making another choice and putting forth the energy will also yield to results.

Because I am smart … and funny … and successful … and a good mother. And overall, I think I’m a pretty good person who strives to build other people up and help them be better versions of who they want to be. Oh, and I’m not ugly.

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Why Not Appreciate Singles’ Awareness Day?

Look, I am no one to judge anyone for finding a way to not be depressed on a day like Valentine’s Day. For those who are recently single, struggling to get over the deep emotional struggles, being around your best single pals can be empowering. I get it.

For me, I don’t want to change my hope and belief that Cupid, with those stinking flimsy little arrows of his, might do me a favor and rapid fire 50 at me to see what sticks. I don’t want to be so appreciative of being single that I forget to look for or be open to love.

Laugh, I know. For a girl who hasn’t seemed to care about dating or falling in love, just remember that I am a sappy romantic. who cries at Hallmark commercials and gets a little warm feeling when I see a 70-year-old man open the door for his wife with a little extra pep because he is happy and in love.

I’m not ashamed to say it. I’d love to be in love like that. And I don’t want to be too appreciative on Single’s Awareness Day that I don’t actively seek greater love in my life.

Happy Valentine’s Day from this curmudgeon. If anyone needs an ear, I’m here. While I won’t make it about Single’s Awareness Day, I will always be willing to support those who need just someone to listen and laugh with.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Single Mom Raising Boys: Finding Male Role Models

Single Mom Raising Boys: Finding Male Role Models

Most days, if the phrase, “moms raising boys” hits the news there either is a school shooting, reviews of gang violence or other youth violence. Troubled boys without a father-figure in their lives is often a primary topic of concern. Some call it an epidemic resulting from boys not having a dad or positive male role model in the picture. As a single mom of a son, my concerns are the same as any parent.

How do I raise a good child who becomes a healthy man capable of contributing to this world, being compassionate and at the same time strong in his own character with good manners and independence?

No matter whether you have a boy or girl and are a single mom or single dad, single-parent homes pose challenges.

The Role of Dads in Boys Upbringing

man and boy

Fathers play an important role in the development of both boys and girls. When it comes to sons, fathers don’t just teach them about using tools, shaving or asking that first girl out on a date. Fathers set the tone for how men interact with other men, how they treat women and deal with adversity. The monkey see monkey do theory applies very strongly.

Most of what a boy learns from his father is unsaid. He observes traits, actions and thought patterns that either leads him to want to be just like his dad or nothing like his father. In recent decades, parental roles have shifted. Where female roles were primarily nurturing caregivers and male duties were providers and disciplinarians, parents today often seem to blend tasks and parental duties. Yet, boys still get something from fathers that they don’t get from the women in their live.

When Dad Isn’t Around or Isn’t a Positive Role Model

Just because we are moms and dads doesn’t make us great or even good parents. Raising children is hard. Having the strength and wisdom to be better every day, spending time with our children requires constant self-reflection. As it was once expressed to me, “the fact that someone cares enough to question whether they are doing right or wrong for their child elevates them as a parent.”

This happened to resonate with me (and make me feel better for all the mistakes I feel I constantly make as a single parent and as a mom in general). There was a point after my divorce that my son refused to go to his dad’s. School and police didn’t force the issue feeling my son had a compelling enough story he could articulate that was his reason for not going. I suggested to his father to go to family therapy to fix the rift between them.

Then it all started; weekly therapy sessions with my son and my ex-husband.

I have been accused by my ex over the years of trying to poison my son’s mind about his father. My relationship with my son is strong and it is none existent with his dad. My ex’s argument is out son has a mother and a father and that’s simply the way it is. He (my ex-husband) for years was intent on defending his rights but never once stopped to reflect on his actions.

One lesson I happen to recall from physics is that for every action there is a reaction.

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Not Every Dad Should Be the Primary Male Role Model

There! I said it. Just being a dad doesn’t make you a great role model. I don’t deny biological fathers’ rights. Nor do I think this is exclusively a dad issues. There are lots of moms not well-suited to rear and raise children.

Anyone who knows me knows the value I place on family. At the same time, we need to recognize the people in our lives who might be toxic to our mental health. When it comes to my son and his father, I’ll always recognize my ex as my son’s father. At the same time, I don’t think every father (or parent) is good for their children.

Being Able to Teach Ourselves As We Go

Don’t read into that statement the bling I feel parents need to be perfect. I am far from perfect. With that said, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my actions, apologizing if I jumped the gun on something and consulting other parents and experts when I am uncertain about something. Refusing to recognize your impact to your child’s long-term mental health is a big problem.

That doesn’t mean being a single mom is the best answer but for me was a better one. The question becomes: how to give my son the male role models he craves in a healthy way?

Moms can’t be that masculine figure. Heck, I’m as tom-boy as they get but realize I cannot cultivate the masculine essence of a young man by myself. Single moms face serious challenges in this area. Male role models and mentors fill the gaps of what a home without a dad.

New Men in Mom’s Life

single mom raising boys beginning dating

When single moms start dating, the male role model isn’t an automatic given. Boys if single moms become fiercely protective of their moms. They can resent a new man even if he is a great person. While they want Mom to be happy, they seem to always proceed with caution.

When my son was in elementary school. We started spending a lot of time at the municipal airport. He loved being in the hangar with the guys and was welcomed into the club. They robbed him, taught him about rebuilding and maintaining old warbirds. He talked story with WWII vets and occasionally had the chance to take a backseat.

He loved all the guys there and I moved that he had great role models. When one of the guys asked us out for Sunday brunch, my son was pretty savvy to what was going on. Even though he knew and really liked the guy, he became a human barrier between me and the proposed suitor. Did I say he knew and liked the guy? He just didn’t want anyone putting their mitts on his mom.

The Revolving Door

The other issue that arises when mom gets a new man in her life is the potential for that to be a revolving door. Let’s face it, we don’t always make the best decisions in love – there’s a reason we aren’t with our son’s father. Constantly exposing your son to the new guy leads to a host of issues. The instability often results in behavioral issues, emotional well-being and anxiety issues, as well as negatively effects cognitive achievement and function.

It’s better for a single mom to date discreetly until she is confident she has found someone worth pursuing with a long-term relationship. This can be hard when a single mom wants to balance everything with limited time and perhaps limited resources for child care.

Finding Male Role Models for Kids of Single Moms

A big question for society becomes where do boys of single moms get the proper guidance and comradery with adult male role models? I don’t know a single mom of a boy who doesn’t actively think about and seek out ways to get positive male influencers in his life. Finding male role models for kids of single moms often starts within your own network.

Family and Friends

Many single women can find great role models for their sons close to home. If your son is able to spend time with Grandpa or an uncle or adult cousin, these are often great ways to not just have your son spend time with someone as he develops his manhood, it also keeps the concept of family unity in place.

This isn’t always possible. In my case, my closest family was 2,300 miles away across the Pacific Ocean. Moving wasn’t an option at the time. I always felt great when spending time at a friends house with the kids and her husband would take my son to show him projects in the garage or offer to help with a school project. Not only did my son get to spend time with a great man, he also got to see how great dads interact with their children that is critical.

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Church and Youth Groups

Churches and youth groups including The Big Brother programs are great ways to not just meet more people and expand your single parenting network, the help kids find mentors and positive role models. Talk to the pastor or youth coordinator about finding a program your child will enjoy and be exposed to great male leaders.

Sports and Recreation Activities

Sports and recreation activities are probably the primary way single moms help their boys find positive role models. Coaches often push kids, help them establish discipline and keep them in check with manners. Coaches positively change the lives of kids every single day and it’s a great way to get some time to get dinner ready uninterrupted.

My son wasn’t really into sports. His aviation interest was his recreation and we were lucky to find a group that adopted us as their own. I had no aviation experience. People would ask why I spent entire weekends getting greasy and doing grunt work in a small hangar. It was to help earn my keep, really my son’s place in the crowd. Sure, he did his part and that was the deal. His interest was aviation and I was going to foster it any way I could.

The Lesson I Learned Because I Didn’t Over-Mother

He was 8-years-old when he started helping around the hangar. I’d actually dismiss myself when possible to not be the “mom” hanging around. I’d stay close in case there was a problem. After about an hour, my son came in totally ecstatic, “Mom, Stu gave me a job and I did the whole thing.” The job was to use a razor blade to scrape off old labels on a parts drawer and my son’s hands had more than one oops cut, though nothing major.

With a deep breath, I smiled, checked his hands and said, “Wow, what’s the next job?” I knew I would have never let my son fiddle with a razor at age 8. But, I also knew Stu had an eye on him. My son was as proud of himself as I had ever seen. It was a gut check for me. Men challenge young men to do masculine things, to step into manhood. I would have mothered him and found a safer task.

All I can recommend to other single moms is spend time with your sons and daughters. Learn what makes them tick and be open to knowing you can’t be everything for them. Find them mentors in things they love and they will find their role models naturally.

It’s still scary. I have a teenage son and am watching him get ready to leave the nest. But no one needs to feel like they are part of the epidemic. Our boys can thrive. We will make certain of that.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Getting Out of an Unhealthy Relationship

Breaking up is hard to do under the best of circumstances. Getting out of an unhealthy relationship has internal dynamics that make is all the harder to end. Understanding what makes a relationship unhealthy helps the person leaving to identify the reasons they need to leave. Substance abuse, mental illness, emotional and physical abuse, and infidelity are signs that you are in a bad relationship and need to find a way out.

What Is an Unhealthy Relationship

There is not one thing that defines an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes personalities simply don’t mix and you aren’t happy; you feel like the relationship holds you down. More often than not, unhealthy relationships involve physical or emotional abuse, monetary control or social isolation (or all of them).

Why We Stay in Unhealthy Relationships

unhealthy relationship couple arguing

There is a myriad of reasons people stay in unhealthy relationships. Often it can be a mixture of things that lead from one bad relationship to another. Until someone understands why they get in and stay in a bad relationship, the cycle continues. As a single mom, my goal is to break the cycle of my bad choices now that I’m out of the unhealthy relationship. That being said, it isn’t easy getting out.

I knew before my son was even born that our marriage wasn’t going to last. Yet, I was desperate to find a way to make it work. I wanted my son to have a cohesive family he could rely on. And even in the face of knowing it wasn’t going to happen, my pride didn’t want to admit how bad of a decision I had made. I stayed two years longer than was emotionally healthy for myself.

Here are some reasons we stay in unhealthy relationships:

Self-Worth and Satisfaction

One of the most prevalent is your personal set of standards, meaning someone can be satisfied with an unsatisfactory relationship. This often has to do with a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. Comparing your life to others, it can be easy to say, “well I don’t deserve more than this.”

Abusive Conditioning and Fear

This feeling could also be the result of manipulation and emotional abuse. A man or woman could become convinced by an abusive partner that they aren’t deserving of someone better, that they are worthless and unlovable. Some trying to leaving an abusive relationship may fear a violent outburst from his or her partner.

Investment of Time or Money

Our personal ego can fight our own instincts to leave someone. We look at the time and money spent to build a relationship. It can be hard to determine when it is time to cut our losses and move on. This is where emotions and rational thinking don’t always mesh; our heart is telling us we aren’t happy but our mind is telling us that we should stick it out because we’ve been together for so long.

Children Are Involved

One of the hardest things to do is to leave when children are involved. There are a couple of reasons for this. The most common reason is keeping the children’s best interest at heart by not wanting them to have a split home. Other reasons are more fear-based: men may think they won’t have time with their kids while women may fear not being able to provide for the household on their own. Remember that there is an impact on kids when we stay in toxic relationships.

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The Difference Between Compromise and Sacrifice

Compromise is when two parties work together to find a middle ground; it means both are probably getting something and giving something. Sacrificing is giving up your needs and wants to give in to the other person. Continual sacrifice leads to a feeling of resentment and unfulfillment.

It’s often said that it takes two people to make a relationship work. It is also said that it takes two to make it fail. The latter statement can be a bit tricky. Two people compromising or deciding to split ways is a demonstration of two people making it work or not work. One person expecting the other to always make the sacrifice still technically involves two people but only one is really working on the relationship.

You are sacrificing if:

  • you are always giving and never getting anything in return.
  • nothing is ever enough to satisfy the other person.
  • the goal posts move every time you agree to your side of the compromise.

Sacrifice Can Be Subtle

It was apparent that no matter what I did, it would never be enough. The food I always had cooked and loved wasn’t healthy enough by his standards. When I changed the entire menu according to his wishes, he never ate it and complained that I never cooked. One of the many ways in which I thought I was making a compromise to make things work. In my mind, it was a small change to make so our family could enjoy a meal together.

Finally separated, I was able to inventory all the things I loved that I changed or got rid of. Everything from how I cooked, favorite artwork and even relocating my dog. I also lost count of the number of times he told me he “didn’t need to compromise.” There were two in the marriage with only one trying to work things out.

Knowing When It’s Time to Leave

At some point, a person needs to know when it is time to leave. It will never feel right or feel good because you do have emotional ties to the person, the relationship and the situation. You may be afraid that making the leap will lead to something worse than where you are at. Often, people know it’s time and still stay mustering the courage and developing the plan to do so.

The moment you realize it is time to leave can be the most terrifying moment you ever face. You’re in a bad relationship, maybe physically or emotionally abusive. Changing the status quo can set a chain reaction of things. But, you have to recognize that time has come.

Here are some things to consider the time to get out of a bad relationship:

  • Walking on eggshells is the new normal, even for the kids, so as to not upset your partner
  • Friends no longer want to meet at your home or have couples’ nights out
  • Sex life is unsatisfying or non-existent
  • Fear is the predominant feeling
  • Money is completely controlled by the other party
  • Memories of why you are together are hard to find
  • Sleeping, eating and exercise habits become unhealthy

Everyone’s list is unique. The patterns of an unhealthy relationship are different for everyone. It’s important to know that while you may feel stuck, you aren’t. You have the opportunity to make a change for the better.

Have a Plan to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship

Take the time to create a plan for leaving. Obviously, if you are in physical danger, time is not on your side. You need to get out and find a friend, family member or shelter that can help. In most other situations, simply getting up and walking out rarely puts you in a position of personal strength ­– personal strength is everything you need when leaving.

Start with a trusted support network. Figure out the money; save somewhere you can. Line up employment if you don’t already work. Find a place stay, whether with a friend or renting somewhere on your own. Check on how benefits work if you will need them to get you through the initial phase of break off. That’s what this is, breaking off, not breaking up. You need to cut the emotional ties and physical dependency while keeping the rest of you intact.

Go Time

go time clock

Take a deep breath and consider what you are doing. There will be so many triggers pulling you back to staying if even for the comfort of just not creating conflict. Get a friend to help you, support you through it. If you make plans you can’t change, it helps. Hire movers or sign the contract for a new lease.

When I knew it was time, I went out and looked for a place to live. I found a small house in a community I felt safe in. The lease was signed, deposit paid and movers hired. There were two locations I needed to deal with: our home and our ranch where most of my things had been put in storage because he didn’t like them. My plan was to have my son go to a playdate while I met the movers at the ranch to take care of that then swing by and get the essentials from the home. A friend met me the day before to help me gather my things at the ranch so we could be in and out as quickly as possible.

So much for trusted allies. He came home that night with a sudden urgency to go to the ranch on a weeknight when it was always a weekend home. When the movers and I arrived, he had unpacked things to go through them, taken what he felt was his and harassed the movers with a video camera in their face the entire time. Nothing about that day was easy but the moment I laid in my new home, with my son cuddled up next to me, I knew I had taken the first step to regain control of my life.

Recovering from an Unhealthy Relationship

It takes time to untangle the emotions after breaking away from an unhealthy relationship. People react differently. Some get out and enjoy freedom while others stay at home, suffering in silence. Extremes of either option aren’t good. Make time to spend with friends and family but don’t be afraid to sit down and feel. Figure out who you are again.

Kids will have their own struggles. It’s important that you don’t get so stuck in your own healing that you forget about the pain or confusion your children might be feeling. Yes, kids are resilient but they still experience stress when mommy and daddy split.

Shortly before I moved out, I had taken my son to the pediatrician. In the visit, I explained to the doctor that his father and I were separating and was there anything I should expect. His words were prophetic, “He’ll feel like things are out of control so he’ll hold on to what he can control. His bladder.” My son was a toddler and just starting pottie training that quickly stopped by toddler refusal when we moved out. When I followed up with the pediatrician, he laughed, “Don’t worry, it will work itself out. I promise he won’t be going to college in a diaper.”

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Not Making the Same Mistakes Again

It’s easy to say, “I’m never going to let that happen to me again.” You’ve left because you saw the need, felt the negativity and broke away. Clarity is a nice thing. Then come the loneliness and the stress. Being a single mom or single dad isn’t easy; it’s nice to have someone around to talk to, to help, to keep guard of the bathroom door for an indulgent bath alone. All those feelings are natural and normal.

No one can predict how long it will take to recover or how long it should take to jump back into the dating world. Some people are better about just going out and dating casually than others. I’ve never been good at casual dating so for me, it has been a very cautious road of who I let into my life and into my son’s. The work to heal takes time and requires digging into all the icky stuff that makes us feel ashamed or embarrassed for our previous decisions. You have to do that work to rebuild your self-esteem and self-worth. Otherwise, the cycle continues.

We’re here to help. Join our free secret Facebook support group, Single Mommy Tribe. We’re here to celebrate your success, listen to the venting and provide resources to help you move ahead in your life.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Cheers was the record-breaking sitcom of the 80s and early 90s because it touched on what every single person wants: a place to belong. Your tribe accepts you, all of you. The hysterical laughter, the urgent crises and the ugly cries are all greeted with hugs, wine and lasting conversation. When you find the right single mom tribe, you know you are home.

But, finding your tribe as a single mom can be difficult as old friends just don’t have the space for the single lady among their couples’ nights or may take sides in the divorce equation. Taking the time to find the right support group is a game changer for single moms trying to rebuild their lives.

Looking for your single mom tribe? Consider these tips:

Deliberately Think About Who You Want and Need in Your Life

Think about the type of people you want in your life. Obviously, previous choices didn’t work out but don’t let emotional turmoil or confidence issues dictate the new people you bring into your life. This goes well beyond new love interests. For both your sake and your children’s, you must bring in people who lift you up, enhance your life and provide emotional support.

I can’t think of any other time in my life that felt as lonely as the first few years as a single mom. What made it so difficult is I felt that I should be stronger than succumbing to the problems associated with a man and my divorce. Isolation is an easy answer, but that really didn’t solve the problem. I needed people in my life and in my son’s life.

Find Like-Minded Moms That You Connect With

finding your single mom tribe

Seek out groups and people who share your core values. That doesn’t mean they need to think exactly like you on every subject; healthy disagreements are essential for growth. Look at the forest, not the trees when finding a tribe. You’ve already got enough on your plate. You don’t need to be banging your head against the wall with every conversation trying to explain yourself.

Crunchy moms might not do so well in a tribe of silky moms. The hiking tribe might be a bit different than the tennis club tribe. That isn’t to say you can’t be part of both or fit into very diverse categories, but don’t feel like you need to make yourself fit in.

I found my tribe when I became the PTA president of my son’s elementary school. The women I met inspired me. Some were single but most were happily married. We all had one thing in common: improving the lives of our kids. We volunteered together, had playdates together, had mom’s nights together. These women saved me in every way, many of which they will never know.

Desire to Be Challenged by Your Tribe to Grow

Moving on after divorce puts many challenges in front of us. It can seem odd to seek people who challenge you. Don’t overlook the value of a tribe that makes you think, forces you to consider and reconsider your actions. A great tribe does this in a way that makes you feel secure and loved the entire time.

It’s like challenging your children to step up and be better people. It comes from a place of love and is for the best. People who just “yes” you all the time aren’t really there to help you. You want friends and a tribe that calls you out for making bad decisions and tells you when you are wrong – especially when it comes to moving on.

I was lucky to find an online tribe of people overcoming divorce. It wasn’t strictly moms and had a very diverse age group. The wisdom of that group was seeded in the fact that some people were new on the path while others were farther down the road. Having a group that would listen when I needed to vent and then lovingly give me a reality check helped me take the next steps to healing and growth in your family life.

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Meeting new people is never easy. Having to meet people while going through a very emotionally tumultuous time only makes it harder. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You need to step out of your comfort zone to avoid falling into the isolation trap. Even if you find a single mom support group that meets your needs, it can be scary to share yourself.

Lissa Rankin, MD points out that her, “ego had created this separation story that distanced [her] from the very belonging [she] craved.” We all have a preconceived picture of ourselves in our heads. Divorce can shatter or skew that extensively. Until we take out ego out of the picture, we will continue to struggle to find our tribe.

Don’t Worry About Kids’ Ages in the Tribe

Kids are funny when it comes to kids that aren’t their age. As parents and single moms, we want a group of people that mirror us. That doesn’t happen and your kids will be fine without it. Older kids often love being a big brother to smaller ones while the littles love to try to keep up. This isn’t always the case but it is good for your children to interact with other kids that can relate to their own feelings of isolation.

Through the PTA, my son met kids from all grade levels and was forced to work with them as the moms were working on volunteer tasks and activities. There were times all the kids hated being at school on non-school days, but for the most part, friendships formed. My son started thinking about activities we did and asking to invite PTA kids to do things with us.

Join Non-Mom Activities

While it is great to find a tribe that fits your everyday mom-lifestyle perfectly, this might not be what happens. In fact, you might have people who totally fit your tribe-mojo in unusual places. If there is something you always wanted to try, go for it. Even without experience, go for it. A new hobby or sports activity can yield to great connections.

single mom gardening

You might join a gardening group, a book club or take a Salsa dance class. Mixing up your activities allows you to expand your support group as well. While I had my PTA moms as a core part of my tribe, I also spent time learning beadwork and jewelry making. It was a creative outlet that had nothing to do with being a mom or a single mom that made me feel like I was just another person in a class of women.

In-Person Versus Online Tribes

Many single moms find the greatest amount of support from people they may never meet in real life. The internet has opened up the world of interaction and helps more people find the right support. With that being said, don’t rely exclusively on online support groups. They are fantastic for finding your tribe who can collectively provide support, answers and advice. At the same time, making an online tribe your only tribe will lead to more isolation.

I’m still friends with many who were part of my original online tribe. This was before Facebook Groups become a thing and there were “forums” people went to. I’ve met some of the men and women from my old forum and still consider many friends and key influencers in my inner tribe.

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It’s one of the reasons I’ve created the Single Mommy Tribe. A private support group with resources, advice and experience of others. No mom should ever feel alone because the truth is, you aren’t alone. Even those who remarry and move past being a single mom still feel a connection to those who are and are welcomed into the group to help show the rest of us that life gets better when we work on ourselves to heal.

I hope you find a tribe in your social circles and I encourage you to join the Single Mommy Tribe. You’re welcome here.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

In the divorce process through the time your kids finally leave the house, you will hear over and over again, “Get along for the kids.” The notion that you once loved this person and the fact that you aren’t inviting them over to hunt Easter Eggs as a family is a negative reflection on your ability to be a mature adult. Single parents have to find a way to raise healthy children. Co-parenting with a toxic ex can make everyone less healthy.

While effective co-parenting can make everyone’s lives easier and healthier, it isn’t always possible. As a single parent, you must determine if you are able to find middle ground as a co-parent. If you are dealing with a toxic personality, such as a narcissist, chances are co-parenting is impossible. It sucks but the reality is the attempt to engage in mutual agreements ends up becoming another series of arguments, lies and broken promises.

Who Gets Hurt in Co-Parenting Conflicts

Your child deserves to have both parents in their lives but they don’t deserve to be in the middle of high conflict scenarios all the time. That is exactly what happens when you are co-parenting with a toxic ex. Your child’s ability to make it to soccer practice is impeded because there is conflict. Sure, the stress and anxiety take a toll you as well, furthering the dysfunction your child experiences.

I had a high-conflict divorce. In fact, that is an understatement. We had a bi-furcated trial: part one over financials and part two over custody. I was married for approximately two years. My custody battle ensued for two-and-a-half. It was expensive, with my ex holding all the cards – meaning the money. To say this was a difficult divorce is an understatement. I didn’t understand nor did I have effective techniques to deal with the barrage of lies and misdirection constantly being exploited to the courts, our friends and to my son.

Custody Schedules and Parenting Plans

schedule

You already know you can’t get in the way of your kids seeing the toxic parent. The courts will be on you harder than the toxic parent. This means you need to create a parenting plan and stick to it. Requesting a switch of a weekend is an opening for your ex to manipulate you. Think about the scenarios leading to the marriage breakup: were things you asked for used to get control or build an advantage over you? This won’t change as a co-parent.

Our parenting plan required us to use email to determine schedules, send notifications and manage all co-parenting tasks. Down to the minute of when I could call my son in the evenings at his dad’s, I stuck to the schedule. My ex, from the moment he got 50% custody was constantly dropping our son off early. My life consists of all the normal single mom duties, working and an extensive custody log of what I did and when and what my ex did (or didn’t do) and when.

Documentation, I was told, was critical if I ever had a custody issue. The missed pickups, the late drop-offs and series of things my son would tell me were all documented in the log. It was consuming and exhausting. There was no pattern of change in my ex even in the times I emailed to notify him he violated the court order. Of course, I was always wrong.

Be Careful of Parental Alienation Syndrome

Be careful what you say to your kids. We all know that kids are sponges and hear everything. In divorce, kids tend to internalize everything. You know the other party is saying a million bad things about you. Don’t fall into that trap. Not only will it become a problem for you in court if you end up back there (most I know dealing with toxic situations do end up back more than once), your child absorbs it.

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What Parental Alienation Syndrome Is

Parental alienation syndrome occurs where one parent is preventing the other from seeing their kids or is manipulating them in ways to turn against the other parent. It is real and it hurts kids more than just about any other emotional abuse in my opinion.

Statements that lead to alienation syndrome include:

  • You should live here full time because Mommy can’t take care of you
  • Mommy (or Daddy) is dumb
  • I think your Mommy’s boyfriend is a criminal. Aren’t you scared?

You’ll hear people talk about “poisoning your child against the other parent.” This is the core of parental alienation syndrome. It confuses kids, but they ultimately realize the reality of the situation. If you don’t engage in the same type of behavior, know that kids are smart and see the truth. It’s hard to watch them struggle with it and even buy into if at times, but the truth is on your side. Take the high road.

There was a policy I made very clear to all family and friends: we don’t discuss my divorce where my son can hear me. I didn’t care if he was napping in the backseat, totally passed out after a day a Disneyland. Even my closest family would be taken aback as I would enforce the policy regardless of how enraged I might be about the situation.

Learning Parallel Parenting Skills

co-parenting with toxic ex

I didn’t have a partner in my marriage and it was crazy to think that I would have a partner in divorce. It had nothing to do with what was in the best interest of my son. Towards the end of the custody evaluation, having dealt with the mind-changing demands clearly caught lies in testimony and constant aggravation, my attorney advised me to the concept of “parallel parenting.”

What Parallel Parenting Is

Parallel parenting is a type of co-parenting where divorced parents disengage from each other. This doesn’t mean you don’t follow the court order. You simply have to agree that you aren’t going to have a say in what happens at the other person’s house. You can outline things in the court orders and parenting plan and go to court if you feel it is constantly being violated.

Parallel parenting plans mean you don’t agree on things like:

  • Bedtime for the kids
  • Meals and dietary restrictions
  • Television shows, movies and video game use
  • Homework habits

Don’t expect parallel parenting to be easy on you or your child. It does beat the alternative of constantly fighting and never getting a resolution. The other parent is going to do what they want anyways – accept it. Of course, if your child is in danger take action.

My son was in kindergarten and desperately wanted to join the basketball program at the YMCA. His best friend was in the program and he was excited to try a sport. I signed him up and emailed my ex about the schedule. He was upset that I was infringing on his parenting time by signing our son up and refused to take him. I didn’t try to enforce it and my son missed every practice and game when he was at his dad’s.

Of course, he didn’t improve as a player and hated the experience. My intention was good and I was within my rights to sign him up. I didn’t ask my ex to even pay for half. I’d show up at the games on my off weekends, just in case he was there so I could cheer. Mostly I sat there feeling like an idiot even though I was cheering for his team and our friends. My job was to show up even when my kid wasn’t showing up – usually through no fault of his own.

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Tips for Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex

If you are in a co-parenting scenario, you’ll need to develop coping and parenting skills to deal with the situation. Separation or divorce with kids requires you taking time to heal and process your own feeling. That’s the only way you get into a new healthy relationship later on. Engaging with a toxic ex will only delay your healing.

Here are five tips to help co-parent with a toxic ex:

  1. Mind your tongue: keep your beliefs about your ex to yourself and ask all around to do the same.
  2. Get joint Google calendar or Co-Parenting App: Apps like Our Family Wizard allow you to email, schedule and record all events for your child with the other party. It even allows accounts for the kids and stepparents. If needed, the system links as evidence to courts.
  3. Stick to the parenting plan: deviation not only confuses your child, but allows the toxic parent to start bartering, controlling and manipulating. Unless an emergency, keep your end of the parenting plan on track always.
  4. Respect your kids’ relationship with the other parent: This is hard but they have a right to know and spend time with them. Leave it up to your kids to learn the truth about why Mommy and Daddy got a divorce.

Taking Time To Heal

As a co-parent, I’m not perfect but I’ll hold my head high knowing that I did the best I could. I set rules in place to no engage in negative talk about my ex, even when my son was asking why Daddy was saying such bad things about me. A difficult divorce takes time to work through negative feelings. Honestly, there are still triggers for me.

Don’t be afraid to get seek assistance with mental health professionals. They’ll be able to help you discern what is reality and what is the “crazy talk” resulting from your situation. Know that you can still develop positive parenting skills as time goes on. While your kids feel conflict, they also feel love. Just make sure that is the most prominent thing you show them.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with the situations and emotions involved with co-parenting with your ex, join us in our private group, Single Mommy Tribe. We’re supporting, caring and, at times your reality check on moving and becoming a better single mom.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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International Women’s Day: Single Mom Style

International Women’s Day: Single Mom Style

It is that day where we celebrate how far we have come. Welcome to International Women’s Day and make it great. You’ll see it all over the internet with people saying “Happy International Women’s Day,” with cute meme and emphatic, “Yes, we can.” For me, I can’t think about how far women have come without think about my own journey and the journey of the women behind me.

While I can appreciate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world, I wonder about where we are going.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual event on March 8 going back to the first gathering of triumph in 1911. It’s a celebration of accomplishments and growth. It’s about making a positive difference for women. The annual celebration has grown into a call for action to work harder towards gender parity.

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The History of International Women’s Day

First held in Copenhagen in 1911, more than a million men and women gathered to rally for women’s right to vote, hold public office, receive training and ultimately to try to end gender discrimination. The United Nations’ General Assembly adopted a resolution calling the day a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

Over the years, IWD has evolved and grown. Today, the day earmarks what has been accomplished but serves as a reminder to the next generation that the work isn’t done.

Single Mom Stigmas and The Need for Change

I hardly consider myself an activist of any sort. At the same time, I don’t mind creating a bit of a frenzy when necessary. As a single mom raising a son, I feel the struggle every day of raising a strong young man who will be a contributor to society. There are a couple stigmas I feel we fight every single day as single moms.

I know that single moms are the first-place society looks at when there is a young male issue going on in a community. This along with the stigma that single moms are just freeloading women who keep having kids to take advantage of the welfare system.

As I have taught my son, stereotypes exist because there is some truth behind it, so I can’t ignore the facts. Boys raised without dads have a higher propensity for finding trouble and not being well-adjusted. There are women who openly take advantage of the system.

Not Every Single Mom’s Truth

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But just because there are stereotypes with stats to back them up doesn’t mean this is the truth for every single mom out there. More so, it doesn’t have to be a brand labeling every single mom, dooming them to some life of desolation.

My life as a single mom has had its ups and downs emotionally, financially, and socially. But when I look at the times that I’ve struggled, they were the result of my own personality traits and unexpected things happening.

What do I mean by that? I’m a risk taker, entrepreneur. I’m also very steadfast in how I want to parent my son. The result has been times where I chose to make less money so I could be more present with my son as he grew up.

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What’s the Reality?

I’m a firm believer that we have more control over our lives than ever before. I have it within me to make as much as any man out there, if not more. It’s our own limiting beliefs that often get in the way. Get out and just get it done has been my philosophy my entire life. It’s worked well for me.

That isn’t to say that I don’t feel there is a need for advocacy and cohesive thinking to create better solutions. At the same time, diving in and focusing on your own solutions is the best starting point to launch bigger ideas of equality and success.

It’s up to us ladies. It starts with how we build our own home, the choices we make and then making the right advocacy choices to get things done. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I happen to feel that we are closer to equality than we think.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Buying a House After Divorce

Buying a House After Divorce

Buying a house after divorce was my number one personal goal aside from caring from my son and getting back to work. I knew what it would take but it all seemed so far out of reach. For as much energy as my mind worked on this goal, it took a long time. There were many obstacles I had to overcome in the homebuying process. Here’s how you can buy a house after divorce with less headache.

Define Your Goals

Don’t just say you want to buy a house. Define why it’s important to you and understand what it will take. You may not be able to afford the same size or city that you owned a home while married. Get clear on your priorities so you can focus in on the goal.

For me, real estate was a huge trigger. Before I got married, I was already a homeowner. In fact, I was closing escrow on a second property to move into and rent my first one out when I got engaged. There was a minor problem at the end of escrow and my soon-to-be fiancé gave me his two-cents as an attorney: get out of the deal. I regretfully did.

We got engaged and married, and I rented out the first place until he decided that was too much work. I sold it – just before the real estate boom. Meanwhile, he owned the home we lived in, made sure to close escrow on the 18-acre weekend ranch before our nuptials to make sure I had no right to the property, ever.

By the time our divorce happened, I was a stay at home mom. That meant no income and when I got a divorce, prices had sky-rocketed. I could have done one of those “stated income” deals when they were still around and everyone was doing them, but I chose to be responsible. That meant the numbers weren’t in my favor.

Get Pre-Approved

When you have everything in place, get preapproved for the loan. A preapproval is different than a prequalification. Prequalified is a ballpark approval loosely based on your income and a few details you provide. Preapproval means the lender has looked at your credit, your income, your debt and all the factors to define how much he is willing to lend you. The only part left of the approval is the appraisal on the home in many cases.

As long as your situation doesn’t change, you should be good to go with the loan after a preapproval. Don’t mess it up by quitting your job or financing new furniture for the new home before the loan is closed.

This step was critical for me. I was self-employed. This is a traditionally difficult career type to get loan approval for. Working with a great lender is critical to figuring out how to meet the guidelines as a freelancer with one income.

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Know What You Can Afford

Affordability is the big reality check for homebuyers. After a divorce, you are getting used to all sorts of changes in financial status. Often what you could afford during a marriage isn’t what you can afford after a divorce. For me, it wasn’t even what I could afford before marriage. Yet, it was important to me.

My son, though a toddler, had a certain lifestyle. We had a dog. We spent a lot of time in our backyard. I didn’t want that to change. I also didn’t want my son growing up living in a tiny apartment with Mom and bouncing from Bel Air to a country ranch with Dad. I’ll admit, it was a bit personal, especially since my ex made sure I had liquidated property long before the divorce.

Finding out what I could afford was depressing at first. I couldn’t afford anything in the Southern California housing market during the boom. Not even a small place in a less-than-desirable area. Realistically, my savings was paying for my divorce and that quickly became debt as we fought a two-and-a-half-year court battle. Though the house was a priority, affordability wasn’t there. Not yet.

Determine Your Location

When you know what you can afford, you can start to narrow things down to location. Finding the right location that you feel will be a good place to raise your children and call home is important. If you can’t afford the perfect spot, you’ll need to be picky about schools and community safety. It doesn’t make sense to buy a home in a place you don’t enjoy living or people don’t want to come to visit.

My court order required me to remain close to our marital home. That was fine. It was close to my friends and my son’s playgroups. Even though I was renting at first, I lived where it would be conducive to my son’s upbringing and somewhere I hoped to buy. It wasn’t Bel Air but it was in a nearby community with great schools and close to friends. I felt safe with my son and my dog even though it wasn’t perfect.

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Think About Costs Beyond the Mortgage

Buying a home comes with costs beyond the mortgage. Keep these in mind as you shop. Sometimes a condominium isn’t a great deal if the HOA fees are several hundred dollars per month. Find out what the yard maintenance costs are as well as anything like pool maintenance or home repairs.

Remember that when you are the homeowners, you don’t call the landlord when the toilet gets clogged. Either you are the plumber or you call and pay for one. There is no other way around that. These were all thoughts centered in my mind as time went on and we still were renting. I’d go to open houses, watch DIY shows and price out projects. It seemed like a silly habit considering I wasn’t yet close to realistically buying.

Take Care of Credit

Your credit score will be the foundation for qualifying for a mortgage and getting the most favorable, thus affordable rate. Learn your credit score (as scary as it might be) and then learn to build it back up. You’ll need at least a FICO 520 to qualify for most FHA or government-backed loan programs. Work with a credit repair agency if you need to. Just start taking care of it.

Things happen that we sometimes can’t change. I had a costly divorce and continued to be taken back for various things over the years. It put me in debt. And as Murphy’s Law often points out, what can happen will happen. As I started to get a handle on debt and grow my freelance career, an unexpected spine surgery popped up. It broke me – at least financially.

Save Up Cash

cash

It is really hard to buy real estate without cash. I know there are a lot of real estate investment programs telling you that you can buy with no money down. When it comes to residential, owner-occupied home buying, you will need cash. There is a down payment that can be as little as 3.5% or as high as 20%. There are inspection fees and closing costs.

Plus, you have negotiation leverage when you make an offer with cash in hand. Sellers see you as a more serious buyer and lenders value your ability to save. How much cash is contingent on the home price and these vary not just from state to state, but from neighborhood to neighborhood.

A House Vs A Home

buying a house after divorce

Anywhere you live with love and joy as a family is a home. We had moved a lot due to landlord issues. One was an elderly woman whose home was put into conservatorship. Another was pricing us out so they could develop condos. The last evicted us because he wanted to sell the place. It was never our fault, but it’s hard to have your home at the discretion of others people’s agendas.

The final eviction was the motivating force behind jumping in. There was a lot of stress in the process because I wasn’t quite ready financially. It was simply time to figure out a way. The market was hot and I got outbid on more properties than I can count. It still seemed so far away.

There was one day where my son was in his room and I was so frustrated and scared about our next move that I just started to sob. My head against the mantle trying to stifle my sobs so he wouldn’t hear. But he did. He came in, hugged me and after hearing why I was upset simply said, “Mommy, you always said that as long as we’re together, everything is fine. You’re here. I’m here. Arky is here.” Somewhere along the way, I still managed to keep his priorities aligned properly.

The Feeling of Winning

It took a long time for me to buy my home after divorce. The buying process was chaotic and I was a nightmare emotional mess. The day came; escrow closed. I was a homeowner again nearly a decade after leaving my divorce.

My real estate agent arranged for me to pick up the keys from his office; he was already in meetings for his next deal. I cleared my morning, grabbed my new house keys with a car full of my own little “housewarming” gifts to myself: a new comforter and sheet, some kitchen items and photo frame.

Pulling up to the driveway was surreal. All the years of dreaming about this and every little thing I did to make it possible with every obstacle that came my way were over.

One imagines winning with a big gleeful smile and doing the happy dance. Maybe I would have done that if someone else were there. My son was in school. Everyone I knew was working. There was no one to snap a picture of my standing in front of the house, putting the keys in the door or walking in.

It was just me. I entered. Everything was still and quiet. I walked through the house slowly, running my hands on the granite countertop. I made my way to my new bedroom, completely empty. I sat. I cried. Tears of joy. Contently alone. My son and I had our home.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

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Self-Care for Single Moms

how to add self careEvery mom should have a plan for self-care because it simply makes us better moms. But self-care for single moms can feel more overwhelming at times than therapeutic. While that may be the case, it is important that single moms (and dads) take the time to recharge and relax. It makes us better parents and sets a good example to our children.

Trust me, I’ve read all the blogs, articles and books. I get it. We need to take care of ourselves. But even those experts who are single moms and dads can make it seem simple. The reality is that sometimes there are conflicting priorities or emotions and that makes it hard. This is a significant struggle for me and has been since I became a single mom.

Here are some ideas to think about as you are trying to find some alone time:

Understand Your Priorities as a Parent

Most parents have conflicting desires when it comes to children. They want to spend as much time as possible with their kids but also want to earn as much as possible to give them a good life. Paint as clear a picture as possible to give your children what you desire for them. Quite frankly this means different things to different people.

For some it revolves around getting back to work and making as much money to send their children to top schools and have the funds for a ton of extra-curricular activities. For others, financial sacrifices are gladly made for the sake of making it to the afternoon baseball games and dance recitals.

Some parents don’t have a choice and simply need to go to work and pick up their child when work is done from childcare, school or family help.

My choice was clear for me: I wanted to spend as much time with my son as a stay at home mom. That meant finding a way to earn enough money to provide us a good-but-not-perfect lifestyle while he grew up.

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Build Routines that Care for You

Self-care means so many different things but all boils down to doing things that help improve or maintain one’s health. Health could refer to either mental or physical health. It’s a proactive approach to knowing what you need to feel good about yourself, find joy and alleviate stress for overall longevity.

Taking care of you doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. It would be easy for people to look at me and think that I didn’t take the time to care for myself. I work from home and am happy with a good Netflix binge or spending time on a nice long walk with the dog or hike with my son. I may work long hours at times, but extended hours for me usually mean I’m creating something of my own. Expressing my creativity is as much of self-care as getting a massage for me.

When Building Self-Care Routines

Life moves at a pace we can’t keep up with. There is always something a parent needs to add to the to-do list. Starting your day with the same routine sets the tone for the day. I’ve always found that I’m more productive with my work and more grounded as a parent when I start my day early in the morning before the house stirs.

It gives me the time to find clarity in my thoughts and set the momentum of the day for success. A frantic morning routine sets a tone for stress and anxiety. The long-term effects are not worth it.

Use the Custody Schedule to Your Advantage

schedule

Co-parenting and custody schedules will always be a trigger point for many moms and dads. You want to spend time with your child. You want routine every day, not three days this week and five days next week. Custody schedules can be as hard on parents as they are on kids. Use your off-parenting days to get a little extra self-care in.

Free days offer you the time to meet friends for dinner or have that date with the cute guy you met at the coffee shop. You don’t need to worry about babysitters and you can’t change the schedule so use it. It will help you keep or rebuild the healthy part of you ready to experience the world. After all, getting lost in the single mom world can feel isolating often.

Know Your Child Understands

Single parenting is hard and can consume us. Don’t forget: our children are strong. They want to see us healthy and happy. It’s no fun for them if we are always stressed and moody. Struggling with mom guilt is real but doesn’t have to be the norm. Set your priorities and develop routines then communicate with your children the plan.

Since my divorce, I really haven’t dated. Like at all. Friends encourage me to jump back in. People tell me I just need to trust in love. It has nothing to do with that. I haven’t dated because I set my priority as my son and building a stay at home work life. Mixing dating in, at least the times I’ve tried, felt like work. It felt like something in my top priorities would break.

Then it just becomes sort of the norm. But I remember when my son asked me about what a good candidate would be for me. It was cute. He wanted to see Mommy happy. Of the description, I gave, “athletic” stood out to him. It was the next day when we were walking to a local restaurant that he pointed to a homeless man with his bicycle. “He’s athletic. How about him?” Oh, the sweet words of a seven-year-old just wanting Mommy to be happy.

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Self-Care for Single Moms is More than Balancing

If you’ve ever taken a self-help program or talked to time management and wellness experts, you’ll hear a lot about balance. They have wheels to show you where your time is being spent and how unbalanced you are. The goal is to make sure you are devoting the right mix of time and energy to things like family, financial, health, love, education and a myriad of other important things we need.

I pretty much get lost after family, financial and health. I see this lopsided wagon wheel cripple itself down a dirt road because it has no rounded edges for love, personal growth, spiritual fulfillment or career. I know they are important. But I can barely get the dishes done let alone take a class on jewelry beading. Angst sets in immediately.

What’s a Single Mom to Do About Self-Care Time?

Be patient with yourself. For some moms, it is easier to say, “I’m doing this for me and I don’t care what anyone thinks or says.” Others, like me, are more inclined to say, “I need to set certain priorities before I add a lot to my plate.” We all get to the end of the road on different paths.

For single parents, this path is a bit crazy at times. That’s okay.

I will say this, try things even in a small-scale way. You might find that taking that cooking class on the Friday when your kid is at your ex’s is the time you fulfill your creativity, build new skills and get excited to share something with your child. It gets you to meet more people and engage in the world again. It is important.

You will find that as you add new little things to your routine, you’ll start to look forward to them and your overall demeanor and mental health will improve.

Your Health as Self-Care

self care woman exercising

Make your health a priority no matter what. We don’t need to go into study after study talking about the benefits of taking care of your health. A healthy parent is present and able to provide for their children. When you are unhealthy, everyone feels the pain.

Here are a few things to consider about taking care of your health:

  • Exercise reduces anxiety: walking briskly around the block, doing yoga at home, or hitting the gym releases endorphins which make you feel good.
  • Good diets fuels life: fresh, healthy food gives you energy for long days and creates good eating habits in your children too
  • Drinking water helps body and brain: we dehydrate ourselves with coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. Your body and brain need water to function and help you feel better.

Final Thoughts on Self-Care for Single Moms

Self-care is important for every parent, every mom and dad regardless of whether they are single or not. If you feel like you can’t find the perfect balance that someone else seems to have, do a personal evaluation of what is most important to you. Focus on those things and slowly start to include other ways to improve and maintain your mental and physical health.

This is important for your long-term happiness. It is also important to show your children that you really are that strong mom who deserves to be happy. Taking care of you takes care of everyone.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.