This post is for the single mom who wrote to me privately after reading my post Being Worth The Effort. Our dialogue broke my heart. When you wrote: “I’ll never feel worthy of a man’s love,” I could tell that your mind was made up. There was nothing I could say to reach into that depth of pain and change your mind. Platitudes don’t work.
The pain that a woman feels after being cheated on and abandoned with little children to take care of is unbearable. It sinks deep into your bones. And it’s very hard to come out from this feeling positive and trusting and hopeful—or worthy of a good life. But it is possible. And you’re on the right track. I know because you are feeling it. The women who run from it, point fingers, blame, drink a lot, date a lot, are masking the pain. And there’s no shame. We all do what we can to survive. You are going to get through this.
I don’t have all the answers. I know what worked, and didn’t work, for me. And I want to share this as the club we are in, the full-time single mom’s club, is one that no one should comment on unless they have membership. To say our lives are hard, is an understatement. To say our lives have more meaning than most is also an understatement. To that end, I focus. I am the rock for my kids. I, like you, am the one who cooks, cleans, shuffles back and forth to school & practices and who has very little social life because of a lack of support. We are the ones going solo to games, celebrations, helping with homework, staying up all night when they are sick. We have no weekends off, unless there is help from family. Sometimes family isn’t always uplifting help either. We are bombarded with guilt and exhaustion and loneliness.
But please promise me that you will never, EVER, say you are not worthy of a man’s love again. What your husband said to you as he was leaving shows his level of consciousness. Shame on him. Don’t let what he did—or what he said to justify what he did—eat away at your soul. It’s easier said then done. I know. This is also a club whose membership is one that few want admittance to. But it’s our journey. And when you come out on the other side, I hope you’ll feel as lucky and as hopeful as I do today.
With that said, I know how painful it is, especially with really little children. I get it. You are tired. You are lonely. But you are also so very special and strong. Your children love you endlessly. They are safe because of you. They see the world with love and peace because of you. Their father, if he shows back up in any way, will still be the one who gave them up, who left, who put another woman or selfish needs above them. YOU, are showing them that they are more important than anything in this Universe. Is there anything more precious than that?
Intellectually you get that, I know. But when you’re in the trenches and exhausted and sleep deprived, it’s hard for the message to sink in. Just keep going. Your children are babies. It’s hard to garner a really good perspective when feeling alone, abandoned and exhausted. I so remember those days. I don’t like to think about them anymore. But I will share them for YOU. I will share them because 7 years ago I was where you are now and am in such a better place today. I, too, had nights when I was up and down with a baby alone. I recall sobbing into my pillow while breastfeeding and praying my older child wouldn’t hear. I had no idea how I would make it. Who to trust. When my ex left he said horrible things to me, like I wasn’t enough. When he left, we had an 8 month old and a devastated 7 year old. The things he called me to justify what he did, aren’t suitable for this forum. But they ate at my soul. Between exhaustion, depression and little sleep, after a year, I nearly broke down. I began having panic attacks. I fell down on a city street with the baby in a bjorn. No one helped me up. I remember seeing stars on the walk home and thinking how badly I wanted to call my mom, then riddled with Alzheimer’s. I had never felt more alone. I didn’t want to ask for help or tell anyone, because I feared it would sound like I was having a pity party.
When I went back to work, my baby, now 2, kept getting sick, three emergency room visits within a year. (I found out later it was due to toxic mold in our house.) I was at my wits end. I was up all night. My first boyfriend post separation was jealous of my time with the kids and with work and the pressure nearly killed me. He urged me to quit my job due to my stress and health, but was overly involved and threatening about it, suggesting he might even cheat from lack of seeing me. It triggered my need not to let things fall apart. The needless guilt I carried over for not ‘being enough’ for my husband was projected onto this man unconsciously, and I put him first and resigned from a job. I wasn’t stable due to the lack of sleep and from not taking enough time to heal before I started dating. I lost friends because of it. I apologized, but the damage was done. In the end, people who haven’t experienced this sort of trauma, and it is a kind of trauma, just can’t understand. Keep your head up and don’t try to make people understand. Here is a list of things that I feel strongly about, that helped me. Hopefully these will help you on this journey too:
- Fake it till you make it.
- Tell yourself your life is great when you wake up. Seriously, do it. “Thank you for an amazing life. Thank you for another day. Thank you for my babies. Thank you for this bed, this apartment”…these are what I used to say.
- Smile every time you leave your house. Make it look easy until you start to feel like it is easy. People will wonder what your secret is. Let them. Don’t let them know you cried yourself to sleep. Don’t be ashamed of it, but just know you are moving forward. Smile like a Cheshire cat with a secret, because you DO have one. Your life is going to be great and on your terms, very soon.
- Trust in the Universe. I know, it’s hard, but try it anyway.You have a journey and an important reason for being here. You are divine, eternal. Trust you will be OK.
- Be patient with your kids and remember they are gifts from God. Count to 10 if they tantrum. Mine had colic. Put him in a swing or crib and take 10 deep breaths before coming back. This, too, shall pass.
- Tell your children they are special. Tell them you love them, every, damn day.
- Tell people how wonderful your children are, even on days when they have tantrums.
- Write in a journal the funny things they do or say so you can give them to them when they are older.
- Take a lot of pictures of the kids smiling, of you and the kids smiling.
- Every time you smile, remember your smile is an awesome achievement! Your ex can’t take away your right to be happy. Wear your smile proudly.
- Write in a gratitude journal every night, even if you only write: ‘I am grateful I ate dinner.’ It’ll snowball until you are bursting with gratitude.
- Find a way to exercise and get out of your head. Even if you take the stairs at work, or buy an exercise video and do it in the morning or night. Maybe put the little ones in a stroller and run in the morning. Find a way to get endorphins flowing.
- Swap babysitting with a friend.
- Join a library and join a free reading group for the kids or for you! If they have a career group with your library, or speakers go, it’s free!
- Start exploring every thing you liked to do before you had kids. Make a list and a dream board.
- Join a Meetup group for meditation or hiking or picnics with other single parents.
- Join support groups, but limit your time in ones where parents are bashing their exes or wallowing in their stories without figuring out ways to improve their lives. You’ll get lost in their stories and their fear may linger into your day.
- Don’t bash your ex EVER in front of the kids.
- Avoid going out with friends who drink too much or talk smack about their exes in front of your kids.
- Begin your own traditions. Kids love them.
- Be super selective when you start to date. Avoid men who insinuate your children are in the way. Break it off with anyone who belittles you or drinks and is obnoxious in front of your children. Your children will ONLY see people being respectful to you from now on.
- Find a spiritual practice. Whether it is yoga (I know that’s expensive, but check out cheap online yoga or DVDs!), church, meditation, a positive therapy support group, etc. Find a way to surround yourself with messaging that you are enough.
- Don’t tell your story to everyone. Many people won’t understand or will freak out about it. It’s human nature to want to point fingers, to find reasons to explain something. She must have done something. Or she wasn’t a good wife, etc. because then it assures them that they will never have to go through anything similar. I tried to talk with a friend who asked about my situation and she kept saying things like, “You must have had a clue you were in a bad marriage” or “There must have been signs that he wasn’t happy.” That conversation poured salt into my wounds and no, I hadn’t a clue and we were happier than most of our married friends. Go figure. So, be very careful who you talk with as the ‘talk’ may end up making you miserable. You don’t need it.
- Remember, sometimes shit happens and it’s not a reflection on you. YOU are NOT to blame for your husband’s infidelity. AT ALL.You are both on your own journeys. You are worthy of love and of having a faithful husband. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we respond to them. Remind yourself of this during the divorce process as it gets worse sometimes before it gets better.
- Get a weekly game plan. By Sunday you will be so exhausted you might cry when watching cartoons. How can you get a break? Is there a daycare at a church? Even if you sleep while they are in daycare an hour, it’s worth it! Do you have a supportive bff who could watch the kids for an hour while you sleep?
- As you start to heal and find moments of happiness, strength and health, don’t get discouraged if some of your friends aren’t supportive or happy for you. It reflects their consciousness, fears or that they are stuck in the victim role. Some want to be miserable with others. Some want to have complaining buddies. Don’t go there. Just drift and say a prayer or light a candle for them. We ALL deserve to be happy, healthy and at peace.
- Post the word RESPECT in all caps on your bathroom mirror. You have been through a lot. Respect yourself. Not many can do what you do with as much grace and love. I’ve seen CEOs & olympic athletes fall apart when their kids have tantrums. What you do is HARD.
- It will get better. Life will become easier. Believe that.
- The love and patience you show your children, will come back to you.
- Your children will never, ever forget what you do for them. They are worth it and you are worth it.
- No man will ever bring you happiness and a feeling of worth. Not completely. And That’s OK. Be happy anyway.
- Breathe deeply every day and know you are getting closer to your best life, your best self.
With much Love & RESPECT,