Tag Archives: finding strength in divorce

Single Moms ARE Sexy: A Man’s Perspective

kissingmom

This past Sunday, as I was packing up the car for my son’s 3rd soccer game of the weekend, a neighbor popped over. He’s single, younger and been a friend since I moved in the hood five years ago. The conversation began about him, as he’s trying to decide if he could get married or survive having kids with his girlfriend. He knew that this weekend was hectic for me, as we saw each other earlier in the week and when he shared his fun weekend plans, I shared mine: attending a yoga workshop and working on a magazine article and a PR project. But I also had to squeeze in long road trips Saturday and Sunday afternoons for a soccer conference an hour away. He laughed as I struggled with a soccer ball and a folding chair and said: “See, dogs are SO much easier than kids!”

I just chuckled thinking how I hadn’t showered after my 8 a.m. yoga class and probably looked like the poster child for contraception. I replied, “Well, parenting is a club that requires insanity to join. Kids ARE terrorists, but they’re worth it!”

I figured the conversation was over, as we typically banter as I’m shuffling kids in and out of my house, or am parking my car, or on my bike returning from the strand. We never have terribly long talks, although we’ve been neighbors and friends a while.

He then surprised me by walking over and beginning a very serious conversation, that, not only made my day—but helped to renew my faith in dating, and in men in Southern California, in general.

First of all, I have ideas about what men who have never married and are without children would want—and I just don’t imagine that I’m on their list. AT ALL.

My friend gave me a gift that day of a perspective I hadn’t considered. And, he helped me see that by pursuing balance: by attending to my boys’ needs, as well as my own dreams and my own needs, I was on the right path.

It was just what I needed to hear, as I venture into my first attempt at dating in almost 15 years.  I hate to say it, but I’m a complete dating albatross from the 90’s. I met my husband in 1997, fresh out of a very serious relationship. I met him the day I moved to Atlanta from New York for an editor position. Even though I didn’t date him for 3 months, and stayed ‘just friends,’ he was the first date I had when I was ready. We were engaged shortly afterwards. Flash forward 10 years later. He has his mid-life crisis, finally leaving for good when our youngest is eight months old and staying permanently in Europe. Shellshocked from an international move, still breastfeeding and worried sick about my other son, the idea of dating, was just ridiculous. For nearly two years, I just kept my focus on taking care of the boys, staying positive and treading water. My first date, was actually a job interview, as I wanted to be an editor with his publishing house. Instead, we ventured into a very serious relationship that mirrored a marriage. So, as you can see, I have NO experience in casual dating—especially in a cool, Southern California beach town.

My neighbor, in his attempt to talk about his fears, ended up giving me an amazing gift from his perspective—which really touched my heart. I hope it does yours, too, especially if you’re a full-time single mom, like me.

The gist of his message was this: single men who have never married, want to know what their girlfriends will be like as mothers. They want crystal balls. They are terrified that their girlfriends, who were so cool and fun as singletons, will become obsessed and possessive with the children and never allow anyone to babysit. They have seen friends who rarely go out or go on vacation sans children. They have witnessed fun and intimacy drain out of their friends’ marriages after children arrive. They want to know that the future will hold moments of intimacy, excitement, travel and calm. They also want to know how their girlfriends will interact with their future children—but of course there is no way of knowing. So, when they see a single mom who has found ways to incorporate balance her life—it’s inspiring, hopeful and attractive. In fact, a woman who raises her kids solo, while also hiring sitters regularly, pursuing her passions and taking care of herself—while still finding time to be present with her children—is very attractive. It’s proof that fun, intimacy and individual pursuits won’t be forgotten once kids enter the picture.

Wow. Really?!

Here’s how the conversation began. Initially, he kept getting interrupted, as I was encouraging my 5-year-old to put on his shoes by himself (in the house) AND  to go up to his room to get his jacket. As I kept yelling through the garage doors: “I Can Hear You! Don’t worry!” to my 5-year-old, who is scared to run up to the 2nd floor alone without hearing my voice, my friend said: “My brother was just like that-scared of monsters. My mom used to yell at him. She yelled at all of us, all the time. You talk with your boys, not at them. You also don’t negotiate. It’s pretty cool.”

I was speechless. Who knew he had time to observe my parenting style?

He then told me how terrified he is of having kids. As I mentioned, he’s seen so many friends become miserable and disconnected after becoming parents.

When he touched on the reality of parenting being a struggle for intact couples who also have family nearby, I began to feel uneasy. I don’t like harping on my ‘story’ as I know that I am more than this story and it doesn’t define me. But the reality is, I have no family here and with an ex in Europe, I don’t get weekends off, like most divorced parents. I’m still a bit insecure about this, and imagine that I’m insanely unattractive to most men.

He then reiterated that he’s known me for five years and how cool it is that I hire my nanny and trust her. The reality is, I’m lucky that I can afford her. I spent much of my mother’s inheritance on sitter fees, but felt like it was an insurance policy for sanity. When my youngest was only 3, I spent a month in Italy. It was insanely expensive, but I’m glad I did and my boys were fine. It had been six months without a break, all of us needed separation. I had felt that it looked poorly on me as a mother. This sweet person was telling me that it, in fact, was the opposite.

He reiterated that single moms who are balanced, in shape, patient mothers, and still find time for fun, are incredibly attractive to single men. He encouraged me to not just date divorced dads who may be much older, a bit scared and emotionally unavailable from their divorces, and, perhaps, secretly want women to help them care for their children. Without saying it explicitly, he encouraged me to not sell myself short and to open myself up to more possibilities.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but isn’t that wonderful to hear?

So, my fellow single moms. Take heart. Focus on yourself, as much as your children. Be patient and present with your children when you are with them—as I’m sure most of you are—but pursue your dreams and your needs too. It’s not being selfish, it’s being loving to yourself. And as single moms, it’s rare that anyone asks us how we are, or what we need, isn’t it? So maybe we need to be our own advocates. And when we focus on these things, and making a better life on our own—and NOT on finding a significant other—maybe that is the right path towards more laughter, love, light and a compassionate circle of friends.

L. 

xo

Finding Strength, Keeping Kindness

BagnoVignonitoes

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

I’ve come to realize that I’m learning so many lessons during this painful four year journey as a single mom navigating divorce. I know so many of you can relate to what I’m going through, sadly. While I don’t want to talk about the particulars of my roller-coaster ride,  (which is a long story) I can tell you ,that even when I’m incredibly down, something inside me has started to shift. Maybe it’s the wonderful life/spiritual coach I had last year. Maybe it’s my yoga. Maybe it’s the meditation. Likely, it’s all three. But I’m *finally* realizing that I have needs and they need to be recognized and respected in order for me to ever garner any respect from anyone else. While I’ve said this before, it’s slowly starting to sink in that always putting someone else’s needs first, while swallowing my own—or trying to smooth things over after someone hurts me, instead of speaking my mind—doesn’t work.

Last year, my spiritual coach advised me to read Robin Norwood’s book Women Who Love Too Much. She feared that I would not learn the lessons of co-dependency that had been instilled in me since childhood. And she’s right. In graduate school, I saw a therapist who treated adult children of alcoholics and I became quite aware of how watching a co-dependent parent always cater to an alcoholic, trained me to put my needs last. When I watched a co-dependent parent always forgive after being repeatedly hurt, I learned that being treated badly is normal and to forgive divine. I ‘got’ the pattern with this therapist. I saw that when I was neglected and ignored by my alcoholic parent, it showed me to always watch for his moods, his needs, and to stay quiet and to rarely voice my own. I didn’t feel important enough. And when you don’t feel special, it’s hard to fight be treated with respect and as an equal. Deep down, I didn’t feel that I deserved it. (I mean, who else would tell their husband to take a new job that paid less and required him to work 2 weeks/month abroad while I’m at home, after an international move, with a 5 month old colicky baby and a sad 7-year-old. Seriously, it’s nuts.)

Putting husband, friends, children, work, first is something I was taught, like many women. But the underlying message screams: ‘I’m not worthy.’ It’s something that I never admitted consciously, but subconsciously, it was there. Depak Chopra calls it ‘conditioning’ based on how we are treated in childhood and by significant others. Norwood explains that we are not what these messages tells us, but we can’t feel any other way unless we recognize it and work toward ‘reconditioning,’ through yoga, meditation, saying positive attributes, therapy, etc. So, basically, it takes time.

After therapy in graduate school, I swore I would never put myself in that situation and I went years without dating. I had the two month litmus test, even back in undergraduate school, which meant, I broke up with someone after two months. The reality is that I was scared I’d give too much and give up on my writing dreams and myself. And I had good reason to be scared. I fall back on what feels comfortable, what feels like home. But that’s not a safe place for someone like me.

So, the lessons continue.

This past weekend was a low point as I was terribly lonely and exhausted after working at an insane pace (which I am actually grateful for!) and juggling the needs of my attorney with a settlement we’re trying to wrap up, and my sick four-year-old who was often at home instead of school.

I needed some R&R. My boyfriend had a needy friend and father to contend with and their own agenda. So, at one point, I let my older son play with a friend, walked my little guy to the beach in the stroller. He was so tired he fell asleep and I just laid in the sand. I listened to the volleyball players and the laughter and I tried to shut out all the negative messages that started back up regarding the divorce and focus on my breath. And I prayed. I prayed for strength and kindness. As simple as that. I prayed to be strong enough to stand up for what I need and believe in, while also being kind. It is possible to be both, don’t you think? I can voice my needs and be firm in situations that involve my children , yet remain true to myself. I can focus on what is healthy and positive while walking away from what is toxic, in a kind, loving way.

So, even though I didn’t have a sitter for the weekend, I kept my thoughts at this level. I dragged my boys to yoga on Sunday morning and left them in the lobby with yummy snacks and video games. I worked out and prayed for strength and kindness with one of my favorite teachers and let my boys see the healthy vibe of the yoga environment. There has to be a way to get through all of this madness with healthy boys, and a sense of self-respect.

I may never be able to stay still and calm in the midst of a storm, like Buddhist teachers try to do (See my post Zenful Reminder at Bedtime), but I can anticipate the storm and watch myself carefully. See, there is a storm approaching for me personally and its likely to come to a head at the end of the month. My goal is to stay strong and not lose my cool. As a very wise friend told me yesterday: “You can be self aware and not selfish. You have to respect yourself if you want respect.”

Baby steps.