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Author Archive for Gayle

9 Ways to Reduce Your Stress as a Single Mom

When I was first separated, I remember people talking about what a stress it would be to start parenting as a single mom. I couldn’t imagine it would be any different since my ex-husband hadn’t ever participated in the parenting duties.

But I was wrong. I had completely overlooked the support of having another adult human being in the home could be. However small his participation had been – he had participated in SOMETHING. Suddenly, while I had done most of the physical parenting labor in the past, I was now doing all of it AND responsible for keeping a roof over our heads.

While the circumstances may differ, nearly 25 percent of children in America live in single parent homes. It may have been the result of death, divorce, separation, or becoming a single parent by choice. Whatever the reason, the challenges are nearly the same.

There are at least nine things you can do to help reduce your stress level so you can parent your children and be productive at work without blowing your top every other minute. Even if you aren’t physically yelling and screaming, the stress you feel from frustration and irritation is also felt by your body and by the people around you who have become adept at reading body language.

My dog knows from my body language when I’m ready to take her for her afternoon walk. We don’t go at the same time each day but she invariably understands the slight shifts in my body at my desk chair, or the way I get up that indicates I’m not heading for a bathroom break, but rather for an afternoon walk with her.

Your children and your co-workers can also fairly easily read your body language and know when you’re stressed, even if you don’t say anything. When you minimize your stressors, you can bring peace and joy back into your life and your relationships with your children.

Finances

This is often a major stressor in your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have, the issue is a big one. You may not have enough for groceries next week, or may not know how to invest the coin you do have. One way or another, you need to get a handle on your current situation and make a logical and reasonable plan for the future. You’ll be amazed by how much just this knowledge and a plan can reduce your stress. By ignoring the issue altogether, it increases your stress as you may believe the situation is worse than it is. Even if it’s exactly how bad you imagined, it will not change until you face it first. And facing it will reduce your stress and help you develop a reasonable plan of action.

Set up a Daily Routine

A consistent routine for your daily activities helps your child feel more secure in his environment and helps reduce your own stress level over what should be done next. Dinner time, packing lunches, bed time, and naps should all be scheduled to help you plan the rest of your day.

Get Rid of Guilt

All single moms have rights. YOU have rights. You are a loved and blessed woman in God’s eyes and He wants you to believe that. It may be easy to feel guilty about time you may not spend with your children, how you reacted at dinner last night or that you don’t have enough to buy your child’s new favorite toy. But being a single mom is not about being easy – and in the end, feeling guilty is not easy at all. If you feel guilty about disruptions in your family life, like divorce or separation, get support from a local group. It is more important that you grow your relationship with your children and take care of your family, and guilt will keep you from that goal.

Kids Need to Be Kids

It’s important to remember that your children are children. They aren’t your local support group. They have problems and issues of their own. They need your support and structure to help them feel secure and loved. Children who are secure in their environment are better able to become strong, functioning adults. If you find that you rely on your children for emotional support, or sympathy, then it is time to seek out that support outside your home.</

Get Support

No matter how strong you may be, you shouldn’t take this journey alone. Find a trusted family member, therapist, counselor, pastor or good friend who can offer you the emotional support you need. No one is an island unto themselves and you WILL need someone because it’s just the way we are wired.

Answer Honestly

Where my family lives there are condominiums and apartments directly next to each other. The condominium section is gated and there’s a chain so the apartment community cannot drive through. The apartment community pays for garbage removal using dumpsters and the condominiums have individual pick up from a different company. There is one family in the condominiums that routinely sends their two girls with garbage to the dumpsters in the apartments.

It is very important to practice honesty when you talk to your children and answer their questions. Children are like little computers – they often remember everything. If you don’t answer honestly, what you tell them today will come back to haunt you later.

When those two little girls grow up and start hiding things from their parents, the parents may wonder where the girls learned this behavior. Some of it will likely be from their friends or just about being teens – but it’s a good bet that some of it will have been learned at home.

Consistency is Key

Children and adults thrive when they understand the expectations. You likely would quickly change jobs if your boss changed the rules every week. While you have the choice to leave an inconsistent environment, your children don’t. You might think that being lenient once in a while is just showing them you love them – but there is a difference between giving grace and being lenient.

There are always consequences for the actions you take. Whether it is the choices you make or the ones your children make – there are consequences. If you were to steal a gallon of milk from the store because your children were hungry, grace would be when the judge gives you community service for your actions while leniency would be when the judge doesn’t require any punishment at all. You could have gone to a food bank, asked a church for help or called a friend or family – there are always choices to make and consequences for those choices.

Grace is a wonderful thing that teaches your children to show others grace – leniency just teaches them they can get away with just about anything.

Set Written Rules

Again – consistency is key. When your children know exactly what your rules ARE, they can follow them or choose to disobey. Writing them down helps them to learn to read and to rely on written ideas and not memory. Make the rules global instead of specific so your list isn’t miles long. Instead of saying they must not hit their brother, make the rule that no violence will be tolerated.

Make Time for Yourself and Your Children

There are a limited number of hours in your day, and it’s likely you burn through them quickly every day. However, both you and your children need your attention. You need to pay attention to your emotional health doing the things that feed you – friends, workouts, music, walks, reading or whatever it is that recharges your batteries. Your children also need your time and energy. You don’t need to spend days together, but more than minutes each day.

You might feel like you don’t have time to spend individual time with your children, but think of it as an investment. The time you invest now pays off when they are teens and adults, in the time they invest back into you. Children don’t raise themselves well. Take time to listen to their daily struggles, pay attention to changes in their behavior and try to remain positive through the whole thing.

Simple Strategies To Find Your Business Idea

Whether you want to be an entrepreneur today, or not – some of these strategies outlined below may help you define not only how you might make a few extra dollars, but may also help you define exactly WHO you are.

Have you ever seen “The Last Holiday” with Queen Latifah? One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from that movie – my other fave is from Hitch. The movies are not current – but the content is timeless.

In this movie, Queen Latifah has just learned she has a terminal brain condition. After cashing in all her money, she packs up and heads for a snowy mountain retreat where she intends to live out her last week or two of life. While there she coincidentally meets the owner of the big box store where she had been employed, along with a politician from her district, and their partners.

At dinner one night they learn about her story. When asked why she was spending her time at the resort she says, “You know how it is. You keep your head down, and you hustle and you hustle. Then you look up one day and you wonder, “How did I even get here?””

This is a nearly perfect picture of how we all seem to live our lives these days. Each day is packed with “things to do,” from housework to school work and your job. Somewhere in all this mess you find time to be with your friends and if you are REALLY lucky, you pick up a book or a magazine that isn’t related to anything you HAVE to do.

For some, developing a small business is a way to get out from under a massive mound of debt, while others do it as a way to express themselves and earn a little money at the same time. But, before running off to try the next new thing, let’s figure out a few rules that will make your journey safer and more productive.

SOS

Forget about Shiny Object Syndrome. If you subscribe to any newsletters, you’ll likely have received ads about how you can work from home – if only you purchase the next piece of software, information product or way to produce a service that EVERYONE needs.

In the first place, not everyone needs your product or service – no matter how great you think it is. In the second place, the only thing the ads are selling are products. The owners are not interested in your success, no matter how much they say they are. They are selling a product or a service and whether it is or is not successful is up to YOU.

Your first task is to forget about the next shiny object that comes along and stay focused on what you determine is the road you want to journey.

ACTION

Once you’ve determined the road you’ll travel, it’s time to travel down the road! Right action is the ONLY way to experience success, no matter what anyone else ever tells you. If you want to be a writer, you must hone your craft. If you want to produce videos, you must practice. If you want to produce a physical product, you must have a prototype that you test and use. If you want to have a service, then you must advertise and get clients.

Determine WHAT you want to do. Make a PLAN to do it. Now take right ACTION.

 

Those are the two rules to keep you safe and moving in the right direction. You’ll take a misstep or two or three – but if you get up, revise the plan and keep moving, eventually you’ll get to your destination. Have a business is a lot like going through life. You might not have imagined yourself as a single mom, but this isn’t the end of your journey.

So how do you determine WHAT you want to do?

What you read next may not be news to you, but if you haven’t acted on the information then you are no further ahead than if you did have the information. So – ignore the shiny objects, make a plan and take action.

Research, research, research

You’ve heard the expression that the value of any property is based on three factors? Location, location, location. For the most part, the same is true of any business you start. Without research into many factors, you’ll likely stumble more times than you care to.

Before you can research the actual business idea, you have to HAVE an idea. And that takes research too – just a different kind.

Start by making a list of the things you enjoy, the things you are good at and the things others say you are good at. Don’t keep anything off the list. Maybe you’re good at organization, making lists, writing, research, parenting, relationships, numbers, accounting or building. It doesn’t matter what it is  – write it down. If it helps, make categories to help you think about where your talents lie.

Pay attention to what others have told you in the past. What are the things you’ve done that you’ve enjoyed, done well, had fun with or that others have asked you to do for them? Has anyone ever said to you – “someone would pay for that!” Nothing should be left off the table – this is the time to consider everything.

Part of your research is to find what things may fit together. Maybe you’re great at cleaning and organizing. Have you thought of starting your own housecleaning business? You may clean homes or you may organize people you hire. Maybe you love children and organization. Can you organize a babysitting coop? Are you a whiz at the computer? Can you hire out your skills?

You may not build a business – but maybe you just want to freelance your work to others. Do you build beautiful websites? Can you do the books? Are you a great crafter? Do you make good matches? Does being a dating coach or life coach sound like something you could be good at?

By using talents you already have, you can learn new skills and build a business you love.

But, by learning and recognizing your talents, you can also enhance your performance at your current job, become a better parent, engage more with your friends or just pay greater attention to your own life and get greater enjoyment from what you already know how to do.

Why Developing a Strong Core Is Important

Your core muscles are those that surround your abdomen and middle to lower back. These are the muscles you show off on the beach, the ones that hold you upright while you sit and walk, protect your abdominal organs and protect your spine. These may very well be the most important muscles you may condition and strengthen.

A strong core means your clothes hang well, you are at less risk of your abdominal organs falling through your vagina, and can carry those groceries in from the car each day without help.

Recent research has now demonstrated that a lack of movement during the day increases your risk of osteoarthritis and an inability to move as you age over 50. This is something you must start thinking about by the time you’re 30 and not wait until you’re 50 and trying to make up time so you can stay independent after you retire.

And a strong core plays a role in these plans.

Another symptom of a weak core is lower back pain. Unfortunately, lower back pain is one of the most common pain reasons people visit their doctor and one of the more common reasons people get hooked on opioid prescription medications.

There is currently an opioid epidemic in the U.S. Our country consumes 75 percent of opioid prescriptions in the world while having just 5 percent of the world population. The number of deaths from opioid overdose is now quickly approaching the number from car crashes.

Although opioid addiction may lead to heroin addiction, it starts with a prescription from your physician. The reason behind this epidemic in the country is multifactorial – but one solid reason is an overabundance of prescriptions written for chronic pain, most frequently lower back pain.

You may prevent the need for pain medication and experiencing lower back pain by developing strong core muscles that protect your back.

But how?

In a day packed with work, children, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of your home, do you really have time to workout and exercise?

The real question should be – do you really have time NOT to?

In other words, without core work, cardiovascular work and high intensity interval training – your health suffers, your relationships suffer and your weight management goals suffer.

Realistically, in order to strengthen your back and abs you don’t need more than 5 minutes every day. Can you find 5 minutes to look and feel better?

It seems like a silly question. These simple exercises can be done first thing in the morning while you’re waking up, or last thing before bed as they don’t increase your release of hormones that may keep you awake at night.

Of course these shouldn’t be the only exercises you do each day, but if you don’t usually exercise then it may be a good place to start and work forward from here.

Planks

These are probably my favorite as they work your body from shoulder to knee, front and back. They take no more than 3 minutes and give you the most bang for your buck – so to speak.

Start out in on your stomach on the floor. Place your elbows at shoulder level and rise up on your toes and elbows, keeping your back straight.

Some find this places stress on the lower back, often because your body is a poor position. To correct the stress, tuck your pelvis toward the floor, tightening your buttocks.

If you are new to exercise, start by holding this position for 15 seconds. Relax for one minute and repeat. Do two the first week, three the second and then gradually increase the amount of time you hold the plank position until you reach holding it for two minutes and doing two repetitions.

Side Plank

This is a variation on the front plank focused on your obliques and outer hips. Start by lying on your side with your lower arm bent at the elbow. Place this elbow beneath your shoulder and your upper hand on your hip. Align your head, shoulders, hips and ankles and then push your body toward the ceiling while balancing on your elbow and the edge of your bottom shoe with one foot directly over the other.

Start by doing one on each side and holding for 15 seconds. Work up to doing two repetitions on each side and holding for up to 2 minutes.

You can make this move more challenging as you get stronger by doing side crunches. Get into the side plank position. Lower your hips toward the floor without touching the floor and then raise them to the ceiling, repeating 10 times on each side.

Flutter Kicks

Many women find their lower abdominal muscles are the hardest to address. This movement will help your planks train your abdominal muscles from top to bottom.

Lie on your back with legs extended, toes pointed and your hands underneath your buttocks to support your lower back. Lift both legs off the floor slightly and alternately kick your legs up and down.

This movement engages your lower abs. Start with 10 kicks for two sets and work up to 50 repetitions for two sets.

 

Seven Simple Strategies That May Increase Your Success As A Single Mom

WHERE is the “Easy Button?”

Staples had it right when they invested that big red button for their advertising campaign.  I just wish they had REALLY invented the darned thing! Life is no small task for most people, and being a single mom is not for the faint of heart.

Once upon a time, long ago, I was married and shared some responsibilities with another person. Granted, he didn’t take on too much, had no idea how to be a parent and even less inclination to learn – but it was another body in the house.

Do you ever get tired of doing it all on your own?

There are more days than I can count that I am grateful I haven’t had to be alone in this parenting journey. God blessed me with a loving and engaging sister. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but more often than not she is on my side. She offers objective opinions, helps me to see situations from my children’s point of view and has saved me from myself more often than I can count.

I may want to strangle her tonight, but tomorrow we’ll still be together. We are family, and best friends – a wonderful combination cause she can’t get away from me!

Over the years, with her help, and the help of several therapists, I’ve learned strategies that have helped save my relationship with my children. No matter what stage in life we’re in – from diapers to married daughter and beyond, these have saved my sanity and my children.

Here are seven of my favorites – I hope they help!

1.  Take a timeout!

Over the years, as my children were very young, I learned and appreciated the advantages of giving a timeout. It gave them time to settle down and me too! But, as they grew older it was something I phased out as they kept telling me how it made them feel like they were still a baby.

After trying – rather unsuccessfully – to deal with my youngest son’s anger issues, we headed off to a therapist who once again introduced me to “timeout.” Essentially it WAS a timeout from each other. The rule was whenever one or the other of us needed time away to calm down we told each other and we HAD to disengage.

Don’t wait until your child asks for a timeout, take one yourself first.

2. You need support.

Everyone needs support. It is literally impossible to do this job alone. You might sometimes feel like you’re alone but the trick is to be sure you aren’t. It’s likely you already have friends and family who would be there to help, but it’s important that you tap into that resource and use it.

Taking your life journey alone is a fool’s effort whether you have children or not.

3. Your children need a mentor outside of the four walls of your home.

Your children need someone other than you to help them balance their own life journey.  It is helpful if that mentor is a man as he will give a different view to your children. That male can be a youth pastor at church, a special teacher or a friend of yours. It’s not necessary they spend hours and hours with your children, only that they are available.

4. Respect runs in two directions.

I am a BIG believer in respect – and I believe that respect runs in two directions. It’s a bit like the comments people yell at their computers – “Do what I want you to do, not what I’ve told you to do!”

In other words, your children notice when you show them respect; they learn how to show respect by watching a mimicking you. If you don’t respect them it will be exceedingly difficult for them to respect you. They may be able to fake it at an early age, but as they reach maturity this little mistake will drastically affect your long-term relationship.

If you want a relationship with your children when they have children it is a wise decision to show them the respect you demand from them.

5. Love is unconditional.

Both my daughters have had friends whose mothers were very open about how they didn’t want them. These girls were mistakes that essentially ruined the lives of their parents, or so they were told.  In the first case the girl was first born, out of wedlock, supposedly forcing the parents to both leave school. After this they went on to have six more children, neither finishing college – but they always blamed their lack of education on their first daughter.

In the second case, the young girl was second born, always playing second fiddle to her older sister and being told that she was a ‘mistake’ as they only wanted one child.

In both instances the girls were permanently emotionally damaged by their relationship with their parents. Both wanted – and did – leave as soon as they reached 18. The first lost her virginity at age 12, searching for love – in all the wrong places. The second is writing a different story, but only because of strong relationships she has outside of her family.

You love your children unconditionally – no matter how angry they make you, no matter what mistakes they make. You don’t have to love or accept their behavior, but that has nothing to do with WHO they are. You love WHO they are and discipline WHAT they do.

6. God gave us two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.

Most of us (me included!) love to talk. Most psychologists and therapists tell us that we often aren’t listening to the other person in our conversation but instead are formulating our response to their first statement. However, God gave us two ears and one mouth because it’s more important to listen than it is to speak. In fact, you’ll accomplish more in all your relationships if you listen to what the other person (including your child) is really saying.

  7. Learn your love languages.

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a phenomenal book called the Five Love Languages that literally saved my relationship with my youngest son. The basic premise is that we all communicate differently – which is common knowledge. However, those communication differences also include how we communicate love to another person. If the person we love shows love to us in a way we don’t understand we feel unloved.

After reading the book I could identify the way in which my son was communicating love TO me, and therefore understood love FROM me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the way that I was communicating love TO him and he didn’t feel loved. This was feeding his anger and relationship problems within the family.

It wasn’t a quick fix, and it certainly wasn’t the only thing we had to do to make things better at home, but it was one of the pillars that made it all happen.

Over 25 years I’ve learned there are no quick fixes, no fast therapy changes, and no way that I could have done this alone without ending up in a locked room.  These strategies are only the beginning, but they are a strong beginning, to achieving the goals you set for yourself as a single mom.

 

Whether your idea of success is a million in the bank, healthy children or a lot of strong relationships – only you can identify your definition of success and only you can achieve it. Having strong, healthy relationships with your children is a great start to accomplishing any goal.