Becoming and living a single mom life has been an incredible challenge. And, like all challenges, the only way to face them is one day, and one step, at a time. I’m not sure if it has been the biggest challenge, but it has been the most enduring by far.
From the early days when I didn’t know if I could pay the mortgage, to the hormonal teen years and now the growth of my business that has infringed on my time with my youngest daughter – now entering her teen years – each stage has had challenges and obstacles, each stage has created problems and each stage has offered opportunities to grow as both a parent and person.
Sometimes I’ve taken the opportunity and at other times I’ve needed an added push from others.
While these times have not been unexpected – the challenges have provided me a chance to do things I would have not otherwise attempted. I’ve found ways to both thrive in the situations and finally emerge on the other side (of SOME of the challenges!) a new person.
Here are the strategies I’ve used to make it through intense loss, financial instability, hormonal storms and the challenges of everyday life.
ONE: Face It
I’ve never been one to hide my head in the sand. Unlike the proverbial ostrich, I’ve usually faced my problems head on. I don’t know if it’s been the way God made me, my mom raised me or my experiences in life. Whatever the reason I’ve always found the faster I could face the situation, the faster it resolved.
Sometimes help is required. Three years ago my youngest son was having trouble controlling his anger and I was taking it personally. Instead of being mom, I abdicated my role and sunk into a pit of sadness. His behavior reminded me too much of my past and I was still raw from the loss of a personal relationship I had believed was a gift from God.
Instead of facing his behavior and putting rules in place to help him control himself, I reacted and retreated.
It finally got to a place where I realized his behavior was only taking place at home, and only with me. He could control himself with everyone else. So we got help together from a counselor who straightened out my behavior, and thus my son’s.
Before any change happens you have to face the situation, evaluate it, understand it and make a plan. No plan happens without these steps, and sometimes you need the added insight from an objective person to get there.
TWO: Give Yourself Time to Grieve
When I was married I learned that crying was a sign of weakness, and my ex would pounce on that within seconds. I learned how to bury my feelings – all of them. I didn’t get very happy or sad. By the time we were divorced I hadn’t cried in almost ten years.
Grief and crying is normal behavior – and in fact, healthy behavior. Without grieving for what has happened, there is no way for your brain to fully appreciate the good things in life. Give yourself permission to cry, grieve, get angry and get over it. If you don’t you won’t experience the joy on the other side.
THREE: Identify Your Strengths
You have strengths! You couldn’t have gotten this far in life if you didn’t. It is important for you to acknowledge those attributes to yourself.
If you have trouble identifying the strengths that have allowed you to live fully to this point, ask someone. Your friends and relatives can readily identify your strengths. They are less likely to be honest about your weaknesses as most of us don’t like be critical of others – but we do enjoy complimenting people.
Are you a creative problem solver? A good mediator? An inventive financial planner? Do you have a strong social network of support? Have you found a saving faith in Jesus? Can you find humor in life? Do you know who to ask for help? Will you ask for help?
Each of these are strengths – and there are many, many more. Find yours, write them down and then use them.
FOUR: Set a Goal
Identify WHAT you want differently for your life and then set a reasonable goal you think you can achieve. When you achieve that one – set another.
We all need goals in life so that five years from now you don’t look back and wonder where the years went. When I graduated from nursing school my goal was that I would no longer be working weekends, holidays or nights within five years.
And, because I had a goal and made steps to achieve that goal, I wasn’t working weekends, holidays or nights in five years – and never did again.
Pull out a notebook and start writing down the things you enjoy doing, how you interact with your environment, what you find fun and exciting – and then objectively figure out how you can integrate some of that into your daily routine.
For instance, you might enjoy working puzzles and relationships with new people. Would you like to work with students and career counseling? What about working with adults looking for a second career? How about being a life coach? Or working with companies to streamline their business?
FIVE: Reframe Your Doubts
Anytime you are faced with a challenge it brings up doubts – in your abilities, your opportunities, in your journey and whether you have the strength to finish.
Reframe those doubts into questions.
One of the most interesting and powerful things I learned many years ago from marketer Jim Edwards, was the power of questions. When you ask someone questions you get information you’re looking for to solve a problem.
But, what happens when you ask yourself a question? You don’t often ask YOURSELF a question because you probably think you already know the answer and don’t need to ask.
Try asking yourself questions about your environment, your children, your relationships, your career – and then look for the answer.
If you don’t think you can take action on your goals – ask yourself “why?” Don’t settle for a pat answer – “I’m not smart enough,” “I don’t know the right people,” or “I’ve never done this before.” Each of those have answers – YES, you are smart enough; you can meet the right people; of course you haven’t done it before but it doesn’t mean you can’t.
Doubts are there because you put them there – reframe them to questions, answer the questions realistically with actual fact, then MOVE ON!
Movement in your life is often precipitated by a great challenge or crisis. This may be true because we are not often inclined to LIKE or look for change. Status quo is easier to deal with than thinking about doing something differently or becoming someone different.
The expression, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” comes to mind. I remember hearing that growing up, and it influenced my thinking for years. If I was familiar with – and could handle – my current daily challenges, why would I take on others?
It’s thinking that kept me in an emotionally damaging marriage for years. It’s thinking that I allowed to guide my career choices. It’s thinking that even guided my nutritional choices!
Before you can experience real change, growth and movement toward your hopes and dreams, you have to make change. These changes will make your life different. You’ll be different. You might lose a friend or two – and you just may find a couple of new great friends. You may find new challenges and experience greater joy – but you won’t know until you try.