Tag Archives: child-rearing tips

Q&A with former Solo Mama, Angela

Today I visited with Angela, who solo-parented for two years during her children’s formative years. I loved her insights…so many things she said resonated with me. Let’s sit down, sip some English Breakfast tea, and hear what she has to share with us.

tea pot

DVC: The verse Lamentations 2:19 was especially meaningful to me while raising my children alone. It says, “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord; lift up your hands toward Him for the life of your children.” Was there a particular verse or passage that really encouraged or uplifted you during your single-parent years?

A: Oh yes! My favorite passages during that time came from the Psalms. I learned in Psalm 34 that the Lord would be my protector, provider, and He would answer me in my time of trouble. He would rescue me from my fears! Psalm 34:6 said I didn’t need to be ashamed. When I felt ashamed at the failure of my marriage, at the shortcomings of being a single mom, I could turn there and find hope.

DVC: Tell us how long you single-parented, and how old your kids were at the time.

A: I solo-parented for two years. My children were elementary through junior high at the time. But as many women experience, the weight of parenting fell on me throughout their earlier years as well.

DVC: During my single years, my parents and my ex’s parents really stepped in and helped with things like transportation and meals. Did you have a strong support network?

A: No, I didn’t really have a support network. Coming out of the abusive situation, I hadn’t been allowed friends and my family had been systematically alienated. It took a lot of prayer, work, and time to build a new support network. But I had a family friend who held my mortgage. She helped me by providing relief for a year of my $300/month mortgage. (That sounds low, but it was an inexpensive mobile home.) I paid off a ton of debt and then started paying on the mortgage again.

DVC: I know there were a few things I wish I’d done differently. Do you have any regrets from those years?

A: Absolutely. I’d do so many things differently. But then, I wouldn’t have the wisdom I do now to help others with what I learned. I think I made a ton of mistakes, flailing around trying to find my way. The dating thing, wow, so embarrassing. But loneliness, even from a bad marriage, is a difficult situation.  If I had it to do over again, I suppose the one thing I’d do is be single longer and not date for a lot longer. I don’t think I gave myself enough time to grow and heal.

DVC: But there were also things I did that turned out to be the best decision for them. I enrolled them in Christian school, taught them the gospel, enforced consequences, rewarded them for positive behavior. Looking back, what are some things you know you did right?

A: I love this question because we beat ourselves up for our mistakes too much. I think I did a good job connecting my children into healthy activities and church activities. I made sure my sons were around healthy men/coaches and my daughter had an outlet around healthy coaches, both men and women. I had to fight for those activities because my ex-spouse tried to force me to stop putting my children in any extra-curricular activities through the courts. He didn’t want to pay for them or take the kids to anything. He won in court, not having to pay, but he couldn’t win forcing me to stop enrolling and allowing my children those activities. So I paid. I worked extra to do it at night while they slept. But I do not regret it. My children explored their talents and callings because they could go to those activities. But they also had healthy adults pouring love and wisdom into them. I see them now, as adults, so much healthier for that decision. I knew I couldn’t be everything for them. I had to find others to help me provide healthy input and grow their talents.

DVC: Can you think of anything you’d like to tell other single moms to encourage them?

A: Don’t get so caught up in the financial support from the ex. That can too easily get construed as the battle when you’re really fighting for your children to have a healthy, happy life. My lawyer(s) couldn’t see the battle wasn’t money. Money was a symptom of the problem. In court, that’s where they wanted to start. By doing that, they lumped me into the exact place that didn’t fit. I felt painted into a character that had nothing to do with me. Instead of the funding issue, get creative with education and employment. I worked in sales and on weekend did craft fairs with my children. By working on weekends in craft fairs, my children did the activities with me (unless they were at a camp or kid event) and we spent time doing it together. That built relationship and a sense of working toward a goal together.

I have to say that my children are all very good with many aspects of business. Doing these craft fairs together built their skills in sales, creativity, and relationships. But I also helped them do fundraisers for their dreams. If one wanted a certain camp, I helped them find a way to make and sell Christmas cards or chocolates or yard work. This way I didn’t have to say no, my child learned to work for what they wanted, and I did it with them to help them learn how and to stay safe in the process. I’d do that all over again! Because of these creative ways to earn money for activities and experience my children have ended up traveling around the country and world. They never felt like they couldn’t do something because we’d find a way to focus on the dream and work toward it.

Yes, there were many meals I ate what was left over after my children finished. Yes, I had to get creative and communicate a lot with bill collectors after the divorce. But one year after, I had gained a confidence that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Now, if someone says it can’t be done, I say, “Hmm, I bet there’s a way. I’ll give it a try.” I don’t take someone else’s negative opinion as my fact. Very rarely has that other opinion proved true. But most often, creativity has proven triumphant.

 

Happy Mothers’ Day, Solo Mama!

narcissistic-mothers-sm

In honor of Mothers’ Day — I saw this Facebook post earlier this week, and it just about ripped my heart out. Yes, there really are mothers like this one, who put their love lives ahead of their kids’ welfare. We need to keep speaking out against these Mommy Dearests, and do our best to erase the damage they do to these kids. Kudos to teachers like Lauren who are willing to get below the surface and reach out to these hurting kids.

(Reposted with permission.)

I get asked all the time why I teach. I never know how to answer it quite right, so I usually say something sarcastic like, “Because I’m really a huge fan of hearing myself repeat the same thing sixteen times in three minutes,” or “Because summers, obviously.”

There was boy in my morning class, I’ll call him Danny. At least three times a week, he showed up over an hour late to my class. He was always behind, never quite knew what was going on, and his late work caused extra grading for me. Frankly, he annoyed me. Every time he showed up late, I assumed he didn’t care. He wasn’t responsible. He didn’t respect me. Finally, I asked him. “Danny, why are you always late?” He shrugged. I said nothing, and waited for a response. He sighed, “My mom got this new boyfriend, and whenever she stays the night at his place, no one is home to make sure my little brother gets on the bus. I make sure he’s awake and get him on his bus, but that means I miss my bus and have to walk.” How far is your house from school? “A little over a mile.”

Whoa.

Danny IS responsible. Danny DOES care. Danny DOES value his education. See, whenever Danny was late, he would miss the school’s free breakfast and go hungry until lunch. He’s frustrated with his mom, behind in his classes, and is hungry. Of course this 13 year old boy is acting out! Now, when Danny shows up late, instead of greeting him with a detention slip and an eye roll, I get to greet him with a genuine smile and a granola bar.

Danny humbled me. To be completely honest, I get humbled by my students daily. They make me realize that I can be impatient, judgmental, and imperfect. But the thing is, there’s no eleventh commandment that says, “Thou shalt be perfect.” Jesus just showed up, met people exactly where they were, and loved them. Then he taught, but only after their immediate needs were met.

I teach because I get to ask kids “why” every day. Why are you late? Why aren’t your clothes clean? Why aren’t you doing your work? Why do you want to sleep in my class? Why are you so afraid to take a risk? Why don’t you trust adults? Why are you acting out? Why are you arguing with me? (Sometimes the questions are ridiculous: why are you hiding in my closet? Why did you think it was a good idea to throw your shoe out the window? Why did you just lick your neighbor’s ear?)

The “whys” teachers ask aren’t to be punitive and shame kids. Teachers ask kids “why” because we get to treat students like human beings worthy of love and respect. Those “whys” show kids that we care, that they’re worthy, that they matter, and that they’re safe. We ask why, and then we listen… Really listen to these kids.

How Many Narcissists?

lightbulbs

Q. How many narcissists does it take to change a lightbulb?

<drumroll>

A. Only one, but he has to wait for the whole world to revolve around him.

Those of us raised by narcissist parent(s) sometimes use humor to band-aid the pain. What do you use to cover the pain? For many years, I used alcohol. But I thank the Lord for the counseling I received during my recovery that opened my eyes. Twenty years ago, I hadn’t yet labelled the role I was forced into as scapegoating, one of the offshoots of narcissistic abuse. But you don’t need a label to recognize mistreatment.

How I wish abusive parents understood the following diagram:

Abused Children—> Mean, angry adults/Substance abusers—> Child abusers—> The Incarcerated.

See the vicious cycle? Abused children grow up mean and angry. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and even abuse their own children. Often leading to incarceration.

Instead of Imagining no more heaven (a tragic visual), imagine no more abuse. Now that will be heaven!

I’ll close with the following quote from the attached link: “..behind closed doors, all pretense falls away. Only you, their child, knows what it’s like to endure their cold shoulders for days on end over a minor infraction, or bear the brunt of constant, age-inappropriate demands for perfection and strength. You know what it’s like to be parented by a narcissist.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/6-ways-to-know-you-were-raised-by-narcissists_5616b091e4b0082030a18f72?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063&section=australia&adsSiteOverride=au

~DVC~

Memories…All Alone in the Moonlight

Cat eyes-285825_640

I love Cats The Musical. Picture a tribe of human-sized cats slinking around dark alleys under the moonlight, discussing deep subjects like happiness and the meaning of life. Then Grizabella leaps onto the scene, singing that heart-tugging number we’ve heard a million times on the radio, TV, and in karaoke bars, Memory– the anthem of single mothers everywhere.

Memory
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember
A time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
~~Written by Trevor Nunn

Poignant, bittersweet. Celebration of a former life, Mourning over loss. The song turns dark, depressing, finally ending on a note of hope:

Look, a new day has begun.

But sometimes, during the dark days, before the new day dawns, we can barely make it through the now. And what about our kids? They suffer the most when a parent leaves. As I mentioned in a previous post, my divorce took its toll on my kids in numerous ways. If the divorce hadn’t happened, would they have been drawn to more respectable friends, instead of judging potential companions by their “cool” factor? Would my under-achieving son have lived up to his potential?

Sad to say, we’ll never know the answer to these questions until we get to heaven. In the meantime, I found the ministry Focus on the Family a wonderful source for solo mamas. The attached article tells how we can let God heal broken hearts…not only ours, but our kids most of all.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/single-parents/helping-children-heal-after-divorce/letting-god-heal-broken-hearts

~DVC~

Interview with Solo Mama, a divorced mother of three – Part I

divorceBlogger: We are all dying to know how you manage three kids on your own! What is your secret?

Solo Mama: Oh, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Shh, don’t tell them, but I sign them up for activities from morning ‘til night! That way they have no time to get in trouble.

For instance, after school they have softball or soccer or track practice. Sometimes it’s a game or a meet. Then it’s time for dinner, which one of them is assigned to prepare on a rotating basis. However, as they’ve gotten older, that’s pretty hit or miss. After dinner is Boy Scouts for the sons, or music lessons for the daughter. They have about an hour before bed to do homework. And another day is gone!

B: Wow, you must be busy with trying to work full-time as well.

SM: I love my job. I have a meme at my desk that says, “Work: The place you go to escape your hectic home life.” So true.

B: Do you ever get time for yourself?

SM: Weekends are “me” time. They go to their dad’s every Saturday night and come home Sunday evenings. During the divorce, he and I stayed as amicable as possible. You know, it’s far better to lose a little “stuff” than it is to make a lifetime enemy. I know too many divorced mothers who are teaching their kids to hate their dad. Unless he’s a criminal or an abuser, DON’T DO THAT. And even if he is, please don’t teach them hate. Don’t you think we have too much hate in the world already? Yes, explain to your kids that their father did wrong and they have permission to sever their ties with him if he has hurt them. But at the same time, don’t express bitterness toward him. If you need to vent about him, be sure your kids are not around. You know the saying, attitudes are caught as well as taught.

B: Well, that’s all we have time for now. We will continue this interview tomorrow, when Solo Mama will reveal her number one secret for keeping her sanity.