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Monthly Archives: March 2012
Yes, you read that title correctly! There are reasons to LOVE being a single mom. The consensus is in. Single mothers across the country have been polled about what they like about parenting solo. Sure, we all know that it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. But, lets focus on the positive, shall we? And, while we’re at it, lets have a laugh. Life’s too short and getting too serious these days. Sure, most of us didn’t choose this path, but while we’re on it, let’s acknowledge the perks. (And did I say have a laugh too??) Enjoy ladies (and brave men) and just note these thoughts represent the contributions of MANY women out there, but I’d love to hear from you, too! … Especially if you can make me chuckle.
- It’s now My house, my rules. Rough day? Waffles for dinner is just fine. Exhausted? The dishes, laundry and toys can pile up for one night.
- No more scary stubble in the sink.
- No more sticky, smelly, sweaty gym clothes to be picked up off the bathroom floor. (Unless, of course, they’re yours!)
- No more manic 5 p.m. de-motherfying. Don’t know what that is? A rush to shower, shave, change out of sweats and “de-motherfy” yourself every evening before a discerning man comes home—who ironically only notices when you don’t do all of the said above.
- No need to hold in that belly 24/7!
- There is no one in the house to make you feel like an incompetent person.
(It’s funny how many women commented that their husbands criticized them for not being capable or put them down for being a SAHM—yet parenting alone, they have never felt more accomplished.)
- It sinks in you ARE a super woman. After a year or so parenting solo, it sinks in that we are capable. We take out the trash, fix heaters and toilets, paint, move furniture, weld power tools, get the car washed: ALL ON OUR OWN. We manage budgets (even small ones), kids’ schedules, education and our own career and health needs. Phew!)
- You get to watch what you want on TV. No more wrestling or mafia movies! (Well, unless you turn on that mafia movie starring your favorite sexy Italian actor.)
- There’s no one to scold you for letting the kids come into the family bed. (And it’s oh, so yummy when you all fall asleep together after watching a silly movie!)
- You can sing and dance and be goofy with an audience that joins in!
- You are more present with your kids and more focussed on their needs without the stress of constant criticism and arguments. (For some, this happened after the divorce became final and the fighting finally ceased.)
- You can get a cat, fish, a parakeet, a chinchilla—or any other creature you can manage to take care of, as your kids need more unconditional love in the house. (And who is going to stop you?)
- You can take a bubble bath, wear a mask and do your nails at 8:30 p.m. on a weekday after the kids are in bed. Why? Because you are no longer a short-order cook for the late arrival, or a career coach and therapist, or evening maid required to do laundry and clean the kitchen while said late arrival watches sports or a crime drama on TV.
- You no longer have to pretend to be asleep when you hear the door open at midnight. (This is usually from hubby coming home after an unscheduled, but “critical” business drinks meet-up. Of course, you learned about this event at 6 p.m. with spit-up on your shoulder, an older child screaming in the corner and dinner on the stove.)
- No more ‘couples with kids’ dinners to endure.
(Come on, you know exactly what this is. Some friends with kids your age invite you to a family-friendly restaurant for Saturday early dinner or Sunday brunch. You dress up and go through the effort to get the kids looking marvelous—only to find yourself, yet again, having a frustrating, work-filled evening. You and the other mom try to catch up, but keep getting interrupted since you two are managing all the kids’ tantrums and antics and diaper changes during dinner. Where are the fathers? The two hubbies are at the other end of the table drinking brews and having a civilized adult conversation with no interruptions. Your late husband had NO idea why you weren’t interested in sex AT ALL later in the evening.)
- No more waiting for a blue moon to go out on a date.
- You no longer live with the fear of being cheated on.
- You no longer live with someone who churns an internal daily struggle for you to preserve your identity. (The constant pressure to change or view the world differently has lifted.)
- You no longer live with a man who treats his mother (who never liked you) and his buddies better than he treats you.
- You are allowed to buy chocolate at will.
- Alcohol is no longer an every day facet of your family life. (In fact, some moms reported throwing out the liquor cabinets and beer coolers after their exes left.)
- There is no one home to poke fun at you when you want to meditate, do a yoga dvd, write in a journal or read self-help or philosophy books.
- No more staying awake listening to snoring.
- No more smelling alcohol on the breath of the person sleeping next to you.
- You no longer have to justify what you buy. If you can afford to splurge on a toy for the kids, or a new pair of shoes for yourself: you can do so without having to render a tail-between-the-legs explanation later.
- $#!T you should never say to a single mom (wealthysinglemommy.com)
Experts say most couples—across all socio-economic, educational and racial backgrounds—tend to make the same mistakes when going through a divorce. These blunders wreak emotional havoc on your children, leaving psychological scars that can take years to heal. This week I interviewed Rebecca E. Eberlin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, family coach and staff member at the UCLA Family Commons in Los Angeles. Eberlin, who also runs “Navigating Divorce For Children” and other parenting workshops, has identified the top mistakes divorcing parents make and ways to avoid them:
1. Reacting emotionally—instead of rationally—in front of the kids.
“Parents often react emotionally because they are in so much pain or when they are in situations that are highly charged,” says Eberlin. (Examples include: slamming doors, yelling, throwing things, slamming down phones, etc.)
What to do?: Take 10 seconds to think before you speak or react—especially when you are responding to a spouse’s verbal attack or offending comment.
2. Holding serious discussions in front of the children. This can even be calm conversations about moving, finances, schooling, dating, etc. Think about the impact of insecurity and fear these conversations may have on your child listening to this.
What to do?: Stop the conversation. Figure out a way to discuss these issues away from the kids. If this means you and your Ex meet at a coffee shop, with a mediator or therapist, or on the phone after the kids are sleep: make a plan to talk away from little ears. (And if one parent refuses to play by the rules and consistently brings up upsetting topics in front of the children, Eberlin says walk away calmly or hang up the phone or skype and send a note later explaining that you need to find a better time to talk.)
3. Focusing 100% of your energy on yourself.
What to do?: Simply shift the focus on the children. Even if only one parent does this, it will help the kids tremendously, says Eberlin. “People become consumed by themselves during a divorce. They lose sight of the fact that children need to be the focus at all times. Kids need to be considered in all decisions such as where they move, how they move, when to bring in another partner, serial dating, even marrying another partner.”
4. Forgetting to help your kids better transition back and forth between homes.
What to do?: Prep your children ahead of time. Every time your child has to transition to or from dad’s or mom’s house, the parent with the child needs to prep him ahead of time. For example, if the child is going to daddy’s house after school on Friday, (after a week or two with mommy) mom needs to remind the child, at the very latest, on Thursday afternoon that daddy is picking her up at school. She should also ask what she would like to pack or bring? “The more dialogue you have about the transition, the more secure the child will be,” advises Eberlin.
5. Bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the children.
What to do?: Hold your tongue. Even if one parent refuses to behave, you can be the example by not engaging in the negativity. “I remind them (divorcing parents) your child is 50% that other person,” Eberlin says. Remember: even young children start internalizing and begin to think they will be just like the father or mother you are saying nasty things about.
Books to Read With your Children:
- Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown
- The Emotes Big Book of Feelings
- It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce by: Vicki Lansky
- American Girls: Smart Girls Guide to her Parents Divorce by Nancy Holyoke
Books for Parents:
- Mom’s House, Dad’s House by: Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.
- Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce by: JoAnne Pedro-Carroll
- Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way by M. Gary Neuman (http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Your-Kids-Divorce-Sandcastles/dp/0679778012)
It’s a delicate balancing act, especially as a single mom, to simultaneously take care of yourself and also be present and focused on your children. The two goals constantly come in conflict with one another—and yet experts often advise us to do one, or the other, or both, with little instructions on how to do so. For instance, earlier in the week, when working on a Lifechangers article for Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers show, I interviewed Rebecca E. Eberlin, Ph.D., a family psychologist who runs “Navigating Divorce For Your Children” workshops at the UCLA Commons in Santa Monica, Calif. She insisted, and I tend to agree, that when parents are in the process of getting a divorce, they need to focus 100% of their choices on how they will affect their kids. In fact, she listed focusing on yourself and not on your children as one of the top 5 mistakes that most divorcing parents make. After speaking with her for an hour, I could see her point completely.
Taking Care of Yourself
On the flip side, are you (like me) sometimes frustrated when someone says: “you need to take care of yourself”?
If you’re a single mom—especially those of us with small children, full-time care of those children, and little family support—the idea of taking a spa day seems nearly impossible. But taking care of yourself means very different things to different people. One of my favorite bloggers, Tracie Louise, eloquently explained some of the ways she takes care of herself in her latest post “Being Selfish”.
I know that I can’t always afford to get manicures, facials, massages, or go on shopping sprees, for instance. I do know, however, that it’s possible to squeeze in time during the week to go on a run (even if it requires a three-year-old in the stroller); take a bath (hopefully without a baby, but trust me, he’s snuck in before!); meditate; write; or take a community yoga class. Another selfish thing for me is to ignore the dinner mess and mounds of laundry and snuggle with my boys while watching a favorite show.
I think the biggest goal for me, and perhaps for some of you too, is to strike that delicate balance—when the pendulum finally rests at the center—between focussing on my children and their needs and exploring my own and having a bit of fun. During the first year of my separation I may have used the excuse of focussing on my kids to hibernate. Granted, my youngest was still a baby, but the only time I spent out was either pushing the stroller while he slept; cheering on the oldest on the soccer field; volunteering in the classroom; or writing an article at a coffee shop. It was quite hard for me to reach out to others, take exercise classes, or even sleep well—as I slept with the baby each night. I put on a good face, but I was literally getting by, moment by moment. Almost two years later, I try to ensure that I continue to cheer my oldest on at concerts or at soccer games; volunteer once a week at school; work; exercise; meditate; and find time for fun with the special person in my life. The effort is well worth it.
If you are where I was in my first year of separation—where you can barely muster up energy to do anything for yourself—I dare you to write down five things you’d like to incorporate into your life with a roadmap to make them happen. Even if it’s just sleeping in once a month. If this is too easy, I dare you to go even further: write down one thing you can do every day just for you. You’d be surprised how you can sneak some “me-time” in—even when you don’t have sitters or you have too much work piling on. Yesterday, with the baby sick at home, I thought it would be impossible to exercise or meditate. Well, a snuffly nose makes sleeping sitting up easier, so I put the little guy in the stroller and took off for an hour run while he slept soundly. In the evening, as the boys were watching a show after dinner, I snuck to my room and meditated for five minutes. I let myself focus on gratitude and putting a negative person’s actions and judgmental words out of my life. When the boys came down to find me, I was able to be present with them and even laughed when the youngest spilled juice on the floor. So, what I’m trying to say—in my characteristically verbose way—taking time out for yourself helps you spend more quality time with your kiddos. It’s hard to snap at the little ones after you mediate isn’t it?
(And, since I know how very different clinical depression is from mere exhaustion or sadness, please know that it’s not always possible to take care of yourself or pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Some of your friends and family members may not understand and can be creating more pressure for you. Read this information from the Mayo Clinic for information. If you think you are slipping into a clinical depression, please call your doctor. Here’s another article with online resources to help. )
For the rest of us…there are no more excuses. I’m adding one more item to my weekly for-me wish list. How about you?
- Take Care of You So You Can Take Care of Your Family (removeyourcape.com)
- Meditation Technique: So Hum (rickva.wordpress.com)