How many of you have heard such sentiments as: “Poor thing. You have to be both mom & dad to your children. It’s tough. Your kids need a male influence.” Or something along these lines that make you feel as if you, alone, can not possibly raise children successfully. It’s scary isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you feel like you aren’t enough? Like you aren’t capable? Like you are insufficient and can never be sufficient until you find that MAN. But that kind of thinking can render a whole lot of hurt if you start to desperately just let any MAN into your children’s lives.
Listen to me clearly: YOU ARE ENOUGH. And when you find the right man to make YOU happy and who will be a good influence on your children, then you can let that person into your wonderful family. But for right now, protect that family and know that your parenting style can, and will, be enough to raise successful humans.
Yes, it’s true that the single parent with sole custody has the daunting responsibility of being the enforcer of discipline, as well as the care-taker, the champion, the soother, the cook, the maid, the tutor, the driver, the cheerleader…their everything.
But why make it Mom AND Dad? I find that offensive. I know plenty of wonderful dads who are just as compassionate and patient as any mom I know. So I’ve come realize that I just need to embrace a new version of discipline. I am not both Mom and Dad to my boys. I am the sole parent of my children and I have to find a way to discipline that is true to myself, commands respect, yet is still feminine and caring and mothering. It’s possible.
So to be clear, my children do have a father. He lives in Europe and is really much like a cool uncle. He sees them 4 weeks a year and it’s always on vacation. So no schooling, no carpooling, homework, discipline, soccer games, back to school nights, sick days, etc. But, and lets be super clear, I’m very grateful for his support.
I’m lucky. I know many single moms whose husbands left and never looked back and never sent one child support payment. That is just incomprehensible to me.
So, I’m lucky to have some financial support. Yet I still do all the parenting and I’m learning that I’m just not great at discipline. It’s not my strong suit. So I need to ask for help. And I’m doing that. As well as stepping into my own shoes.
I had a remarkable dream a few weeks ago. It’s not entirely strange for me to have lucid dreams with deceased parents or grandparents of my friends. I guess I’m one of those receptors. My mother, who passed in May, as well as my former father-in-law, has come into many of my dreams lately, too. So, when a good friend’s father, who passed recently, came into one of my dreams, it didn’t seem all that strange. He was pointing at his son’s enormous shoes. I knew who it was because they were skate shoes with green and red and black and enormous. My friend is very tall. He then pointed at the sun and then at the beach. I saw a child trying to step into the footprints already marked on the sand. A small foot trying to fit into big prints, stretching legs as far as possible to make it happen. He then smiled at me and shook his head. (In my dream.) The waves washed away the prints, showing the child that he shouldn’t be following illusions. I then saw my friend growing up and instead of trying to fit into his father’s prints, he was starting to embark on his own path, with no prints before him, trusting his own vision, his own thoughts, his worth. There were no prints in front of him to follow, he was making his own prints, fresh, unexplored, unique, not trying to be anyone else, or embark on another person’s journey, or meet anyone else’s expectations. He was making his own way. Before I woke up I heard, ironically, in my friend’s voice, not his dad’s: “Step into your own shoes.”
I can’t say exactly what this will mean for my dear friend. But for me, it’s about my children and how I parent them. I can’t be an enforcer like a typical dad, or their dad, who could be tough in a good way. There are no bedtime quarrels with their dad, for instance. Their dad would never have to sacrifice me time, like I tend to do… But I do need find a way to garner balance in the household. It’s no longer OK for me to go to bed each night at 10:30 p.m. because my youngest keeps being ‘frightened.’ And, of course, when he finally goes to bed, I still have to clean up and do other chores. It’s exhausting.
And, it’s no longer OK that every morning my youngest has temper tantrums about going to school, potentially making me late for a new job. It’s also not OK that my youngest screams about brushing his teeth or going to soccer practice or games. My life has a lot of drama due to my youngest. But guess what? My youngest never had a father. His dad was traveling by the time he was 3 months old and left by the time he was 8 months old…He never had that fear of ‘what will dad say or do when he finds out?’ like a lot of children have. So, I have to figure out a way to garner balance without giving up my own personality which isn’t one to instill fear.
OH, but how I need to have peace in my household. I need self care. I need respect from my youngest and also some personal space. This past Friday a friend needed to talk with me on the phone. My son kept getting up and making excuses as to why he was scared and it was 10:30 p.m. before I could call my friend back. It’s been 7 years of very little me time. I deserve to be able to get to work on time, to read, to call friends, and to b r e a t h e. I know that IF my ex husband was the sole parent, he’d have them ship shape within a week because he just wouldn’t put up with so little time for himself. And they’d get that straight away.
So, it’s been a wake up call for me. And my friend’s dad seems to care.
No, I can’t discipline the way my ex might. But I can discipline with love and compassion and calmly the way I feel comfortable. I can step into my own shoes.
So, that means telling my little guy he has no ipad or utube videos until he can stop screaming about going to school, hitting me about going to school, or having tantrums over brushing his teeth, or going to soccer. He has to respect me. But I *have* to stay calm, loving, not make it personal, and stick to my guns by taking away what he cares about most: his ipad. I was so worried for so long about him not feeling loved or valued or wanted. But now I see that I can still discipline in a responsible way without making it personal and being loving. I have to stay calm.
And, in the meantime, I’ve started a new rule that my ex agreed to (hip hip for little victories!) that I take one Saturday off a month). Even if that means I go down the road to a hotel and veg. … My ex & I will share nanny fees. I no longer go 3 – 4 months without a day off or the ability to sleep in one Sunday a month!)
And I think my boys will appreciate me more because of it.
So, here’s to little victories and BIG AHA moments. It’s a learning process. I still have so much to learn. … And am so grateful for the process and who shows up to support me on this journey. The Universe is amazing. And so filled with L O V E.
With Love & Light ~
I found myself nodding throughout this entire post. People love to put others in boxes, don’t they – to wrap them in expectations based on their age, or their gender, or whatever. It drives me nuts.
I agree. Thank you.