Co-Parenting, Positive Mindset, Single Mom

10 Tips for a Fresh Start After Divorce

Divorce is hard. After all, change is hard and divorce is a whole lot of change.

There are times in our lives when change is generally welcomed:  Going off to college.  The start of a new relationship.  Marriage.  The birth of a baby.  In those circumstances, the benefits of change seem to usually outweigh the negatives.

But breakups, separations, and divorces are not such a positive experience.  Suddenly, the life you had planned out for yourself has come to a dead-end, and now you are faced with a world of uncertainties.

For anyone who has become a single or divorced mom, you probably know what I am talking about.

A million questions plaque you:

How will you pay the bills?

How can you do the work of two people when there is just one of you?

Will you ever find love again?

Are your kids going to be okay?

 Are you ever going to be able to see your ex without wanting to cry or scream (or both)?

Will you be okay?

What is life going to look like for you in five years?  One year?  6 months from now?

It is utterly and completely terrifying.

But what if you look at change as a good thing?

Yes, you can mourn your relationship, especially if you were not the one to choose to end it, but don’t just sit there in the depths of despair and loss.  Pick your chin up and make the most of this new start.

How can you do this?

1. Make a List of Your Blessings

I don’t care how dire your situation is, you have something to be thankful for.  In fact, you probably have many things.  Write them down. No matter how big or small they may be. 

We all have things that we take for granted. What are yours?

Once you have completed your list, put it somewhere that you will see it.  When you feel yourself starting to despair, pick up the list and read those blessings again.

2. Build a Positive Co-Parenting Relationship with Your Child’s Father

This is for your child and for your peace of mind.  No, it is not always possible, but the less drama in your life, the better.  Taking the steps to have a positive co-parenting relationship is better for everyone.

How can you even begin to get there when you are possibly feeling angry, hurt, jealous, a sense of loss…no matter how you feel, it probably isn’t the way you felt whenever your marriage first began. You may feel like you will never be able to look at your ex-husband without feeling hate. But it is possible. And it is the best way to move on in a positive way.

While I could (and will) write a stand-alone post on how to build a successful co-parenting relationship in the future, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Reframe: Instead of thinking of your ex-husband as YOUR ex, start thinking of him as YOUR CHILD’S Father. Your parenting teammate. This will help you put things in perspective.
  • Try to focus on the good things he does as a father instead of the mistakes. And remember…we moms make mistakes too.
  • Include him in your child’s life. Keep him informed of events and activities. Maybe you’re hoping he doesn’t show up to the play or soccer game so you don’t have to see him, but your child will probably be sad and hurt if he doesn’t.
  • Be kind. Make light conversation. Don’t get personal (no questions about dating, finances, lifestyle, etc), but DO discuss your child together…his/her successes, struggles, the cute thing he/she did the other day.
  • Send pictures of your child doing life to the other parent when the child is with you. That helps keep both parents engaged in all of their child’s life, not just part of it.
  • If your child’s dad begins dating, make the effort to speak to the new flame if she shows up at pick-up/drop off or at a school event or performance. Be kind. She is someone who is in your child’s life, and the more people who love your child, the better! No matter how different you two may be, you can likely find something in common that you can talk about.
  • Make sure to inform your friends and family that you plan to have a positive co-parenting relationship with your child’s father. Don’t let them put down your child’s dad in front of your child or around you. We’re being positive here, and negativity will only hold you and your child back.
  • When your child’s father does something to make you angry (and he will…after all, you’re both only human), step away. Take some deep breaths. Write down what you want to say. Consider whether this is a battle worth fighting over. Re-read and re-write in a kinder way if needed before pressing send.
  • If your child’s father meets your kindness and positivity in a less than favorable light, be patient. He may think you are playing games. He may feel like you’re trying to manipulate him. Stick to your guns. Be consistently kind. Respect his role in your child’s life. Hold your jealousy in check by re-framing him as your child’s father. Eventually your good attitude will probably rub off as he begins to trust that you are legitimately on his side.

I do know that there are some men who do not want to be fathers, for whatever reason, and maybe as you read this you feel as if it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe your child’s father left. Maybe he has mental or personal issues that keep him from being able to parent. Maybe he is too focused on his new girlfriend to think about the children. Or maybe he wants to parent but has been abusive to you or the children and it is an unsafe situation. That is unfortunate, and you need to do what is best for you and your children. If you do not have someone to co-parent with, that is okay and your child will be okay. But for those who have a willing participant, a positive co-parenting relationship is worth the work, and it is more valuable than winning every fight.

Lastly, and most importantly, no matter whether your child’s dad is father of the year, or if he is unavailable or violent, forgiveness is key. It is better for you. It is better for your child.

3. Gain Control of Your Finances

I never paid as much to my finances as I did when I was first on my own, with my small little income (even with child support, it was so much less than I was used to). For the first time since I was 23 years old, I had to pay my own bills. Maybe you are in a similar situation.

In that first year on my own, I learned to shop sales, coupon (although I’m admittedly not the best at this), cook healthy but cheap meals, etc. I started to budget and keep tabs on my credit. While it’s still a work in progress, and I still make mistakes, I am learning to make positive financial decisions.

If you are looking for sound financial advice from a fellow single mom, I suggest you check out www.wealthysinglemommy.com. Another great place to start would be Dave Ramsey. You can find local classes or check it out online HERE.

Yes, it is more stressful to be in charge of the finances myself, but it has also been liberating.

4. Volunteer/Help Those in Need

One of the best ways to find joy in a time of grief and sadness is to focus on helping others! You could volunteer at church or at a charity organization, sponsor a child at Christmas (if your funds allow), collect items to make care packages for the homeless, etc. Whatever need in the community that you are passionate about, find a way to work to fill it.

As an added bonus, you can get your kids involved as well. Along with teaching your children how to be fantastic human beings who have compassion and care for others, you may also be helping them as well as they process and grieve as the family that they one had turns into a new type of family.

5. Sketch Out Who You Want To Be

This is a new chapter of your life. Why not take it as a new opportunity and make the most of it?

There may be things that you wanted out of your life that you couldn’t pursue when you were married. Maybe your ex-husband made fun of you when you mentioned something that you were interested in trying. Maybe you just didn’t have the time to devote to your passion while you were a full-time wife and mother.

This is a fresh start. Who do you want to be in five years? Write it down and find activities/classes/etc. to get you there.

6. Make New Friends

This is a new venture, and your life has changed. Some of your friendships will probably stay the same, or even grow closer. Many will change or cease to exist.

Your former relationship did not exist in a black hole, and others will react to your split. Some may rally for you. Some may rally for your ex. (It would be in everyone’s best interest if you would try to be positive and not put anyone in the middle, but some may still choose a side). Some may just feel uncomfortable with how different your life is now and shy away.

No matter how many relationships you retain post-split, it would be helpful to make friends who are just yours and who are hopefully in a similar situation. After all, it is much more helpful to date and navigate this new life as a single parent when you have someone to share it with!

If you want to make new friends, but don’t know how to find them, don’t be discouraged! Check out my previous article about finding new friends as a single mom!

Photo by Something Beautiful Photography

7. Have Fun With Your Kids

This whole thing is new to them too, and it’s probably been pretty darn stressful.

If you used to be a Stay At Home Mom, and now you’ve gone back to work, they may see you less. They may have had to move from their former home. They may have also lost friends as their lives changed.

Look for ways to engage when you are with them. If you have moved, look for exciting and unique parts in the new area. Go exploring. Hit up a playground. Put down your phone. (I’m speaking to myself too here). If you’re exhausted, cuddle up and watch a movie.

Make the most of the time you have with your kids. It will be good for them and for you. Plus, you are likely now splitting that time with the other parent, so those moments are even more precious.

Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash
Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

8. Make New Traditions

This is not just for the holidays (although you should definitely come up with some fun new traditions for every holiday that rolls around).

One of the traditions that we started once I was separated is that every night that the kids are with me, we eat dinner all together at the table as a family. While we are at dinner, we take turns discussing our “highs” and “lows” (the best and worst parts of our day). My youngest also sometimes adds in a “funny”. Extracurricular activities can sometimes make this tough, but with some accommodations (eating a heavy snack and a late dinner or eating a cheap dinner out near wherever the activity takes place), we are usually able to make it work!

Another tradition we began was to have date nights. I aim to have one date night per kid per week, although sometimes we miss a week here or there. While my oldest is at dance, my youngest and I go out for ice cream or a cupcake and vice/versa. The kids love that one-on-one time with mom that they get less of now than when there was another parent in the home.

9. Try Dating When You Are Ready

Don’t rush into it, but when you want to give it a try, go ahead and dip your toe in the water. Don’t go in with high expectations, but have some fun with it. After all, one of the perks of being out of a relationship that was not good or healthy is having the freedom to pursue a new one with someone else.

I was terrified to start dating again, and while at times it can be exhausting and stressful, it’s also exciting. Just be smart…don’t bring someone that you are dating around your kids too early and try to make good choices. Don’t forget that your decisions this time around affect more people than just you.

When will you be ready to start? It’s different for everyone. Some people are never ready and are perfectly content and satisfied with their lives as is. And that is okay too.

10. Do Adult Things

Spend time with your children when they are with you and make the most of it, but do some things for you too! NOT just dating. In fact, do these things before you ever go on your first date:

  • Sign up for a new book club, bible study group, recreation league, etc.
  • Find out who YOU are.
  • Paper yourself with a spa day if you can afford it or have a DIY spa day with a good book and a bubble bath at home.
  • Go on a walk or run by yourself.
  • Join a gym if you have the time/money/childcare.
  • Try new things you were scared to try before.

Going out and socializing at night with friends is a awesome way to make new friends and potential dates, but moderation is key.

You likely have every other weekend at minimum all to yourself while your children are with their dad, so use this time to grow and figure out who post-divorce you is. She is probably a whole lot different than pre-marriage you.

Yes, it is change.  No, it isn’t fun, but there are positives in your situation, no matter what it may be. 

Focus on those positives and live your best life as a single mom.

Positive Mindset, Single Mom

You Can’t Be Pro-Life Without Being Pro-Single Mom

I have seen many Pro-Life posts and shares on my Facebook feed in the past couple of weeks, and we all know why:  New York signed a bill that made it possible for a baby to be aborted up until the moment of birth.

What I have NOT seen are posts that celebrate Single Moms.

It’s as if most people don’t see that the two go hand in hand.

Picture this:

You head into the check-out line at Wal-Mart, and the woman ahead of you pulls out an EBT to pay.  Like most moms with young children, she seems a bit frazzled, hair a mess. She’s alternating from sliding the card to keeping her two bouncing children in check.  You notice she has no ring on her left hand.  The man behind you makes a comment about how his taxes helped pay for her food, and you watch as a flush colors her cheeks.  What do you do?  How do you feel?

What if I told you that same man was sharing anti-abortion memes the day before?

Let’s think about this logically.  Some people 1) Do not support free birth control  2) Want to ban Plan B  3) Claim to be Pro-Life and 4) Complain when a single mom has to use government assistance.

That, my friend is NOT Pro-Life.

You can’t be Pro-Life and then complain about mothers who get government assistance.

You can’t be Pro-Life and want to ban Plan B (which is NOT an abortion pill.  It does not abort a baby).

You can’t be Pro-Life and not want to hand out free birth control to everyone.  (54% of those who had abortions in 2015 were not on Birth Control while 41% were using it inconsistently).

You can’t be Pro-Life and shame or look down on those who had the baby that they could have aborted.

The reality is that many people have sex.  Not all of them choose great partners. Sometimes this is because they are a bad judge of character, but many times, a person doesn’t reveal who he really is until it is too late.

Supporting single mothers and celebrating their choice to give life instead of looking down on them can only help the abortion rate continue to decline.

How can those who oppose abortion support single mothers?

Financially

According to a survey conducted in 2004, 23% of women who were having an abortion said they did so for financial reasons.

Babies are expensive.   If a single mother had more resources available to help her, maybe that would help her make a different decision.  After all, 86% of those women who choose to have abortions are unmarried, and 59% have had at least one child before.

So in theory, a woman may have decided not to abort in the past, but now she does not see how she can financially support another child.

Change the Narrative About Single Mothers

33% of the women who had abortions in 2015 did so because they did not want to be a single mother or were not ready for a child yet.

Some of the same people who scream that abortion is murder look down on those who chose to give their babies life.  How does that make sense?

According to waitingtillmarriage.org, only 3% of people waited until marriage to have sex between 1994-2003.  Between 1954-1963, only 11% waited until marriage to have sex.  That  means that a lot of the people who are looking down on single mothers should really be counting their blessings that they are not in the same predicament.

*While I think waiting until marriage is commendable and an attainable goal, if the Pro-Life Movement’s objective is to save more babies from abortion, we must all be realistic about the facts.*

As a single woman with an unplanned pregnancy, one would think that part of the appeal for abortion would be that no one would know.  If she keeps the baby, there would be no way to hide that the pregnancy exists.  In my opinion, this is what makes the option of adoption a less attractive choice than abortion for some.

An interesting statistic was that 54% of the abortions performed in 2014 were done on women who had affiliation with the Church (either Protestant or Catholic).  Could it be that the demoralization of unwed mothers has led to more abortions from those who identify as Christian?  After all, if one sin has already been committed, maybe committing a subsequent sin to cover up the first seems like the best option.  If a woman is a “sinner” no matter what, why not commit an additional sin to save face or her reputation?  This is just speculation on my part, but food for thought.

If being a single mom could be easier, and seen in a more favorable light, maybe more mothers would choose to walk down that road instead of taking the quick and quiet way out.

Support Programs that Support Single Mothers

While there are some government programs that provide assistance, you may also have local ministries or programs that provide some type of additional help.  Actively look for those programs and support them financially, as a volunteer, and by sharing them on social media.  That may make a bigger difference than sharing about how abortion is murder.  At this point, I don’t think many people in America are in the dark about abortion.  They may, however, not know about the programs that can help out single moms during and after the unplanned pregnancy.

Take the Time to Listen to Single Moms

Many single moms have heartbreaking stories.  Their boyfriend broke up with them after they got pregnant.  A guy who was supposed to be there went MIA.  Some are survivors of abusive relationships.

Many single moms are trying the best they can.  They work full-time, and then they spend the evenings and weekends parenting alone.  Some do have some government assistance, but some make just enough money with their job not to qualify.  Many receive no child support, or their previous partner is thousands of dollars in arrears.  The majority are just trying to raise their children the best they can just like most moms.

But the best thing about single moms is that they are survivors and fighters.  They are proud about what they have accomplished.  Tell them that you have noticed.  Tell them that they are good moms.  They probably don’t hear it often enough.

Be a Friend

“The physical difficulties of only being one person who has to be responsible for so much isn’t the hardest part. Yeah, I’m sleep deprived and stressed and constantly on the go or looking for something that someone lost. The hardest part for me has always been the lack of a partner to support me in being a mom. The absence of someone standing there lovingly admiring my kids when they say silly stuff or do something special for the first time. And when my kids are hurting and it breaks my heart, there’s no one there feeling that with me to console me. For me it’s always been the lack of emotional support that makes it so incredibly difficult.” – Karen

Being a single mom can be lonely and isolating, especially if the mom has no one to help her with childcare.  Be there for her.  Listen to her stories and watch her videos of her kids.  She may not have anyone else to share those special moments with.

Give Her A Break

One of the things a single mom craves is rest! If you like children, offer to babysit for her while she does something for herself or even just takes a nap. If you aren’t a kid person, you can offer to help in another way, such as helping with dishes, laundry, or bringing a meal. Many single moms are used to doing everything by themselves, and while they may be rocking it, everyone deserves a break now and then!

Pray

Pray for the single moms in your life and community.  Pray for their children.  Pray for our society.  Pray for compassion.

I don’t know all of the answers.  I DO know that being Pro-Life only makes sense if you also support the mothers who give their babies life.

Let’s use this opportunity to celebrate those who gave life to their children when faced with a difficult decision.

Celebrate and support the single mom.

Positive Mindset, Single Mom

Why I, A Single Mom, Take Pictures With My Kids and Their Dad

Why I, a Single Mom, Take Pics with my Kids and Their Dad

Why Involve Him at All?

How involved should a single mom allow her kids’ dad to be in her life?  And why take pictures with someone you used to be romantically involved with? Since my divorce, I have joined several single mom’s groups, and each one has countless questions (or rants) about this very issue.

Some moms go to the extreme.  If their kids’ dad doesn’t want them, then they will do everything possible to make sure that the dad has little or no relationship with his kids.  Some women go the other extreme and live in the same house with their exes so that their kids can have as much access to both mom and dad as possible.

But most of us are just trying to find that perfect balance in between.

My children have always loved their dad, and he was an involved father.  We used to spend a lot of family time together, so that was a hard adjustment when things ended with us.  We still even ate lunch together for awhile after church every week, although it was a little painful for me to be honest.

With time, however, the awkwardness and pain ended.  We each have our own spaces and lives now (we actually live 3 hours apart), but we do still have the occasional meal together with the kids, usually revolving around pick up/drop off or a school or dance event.  He joins us on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought the kids, and we all eat breakfast together.   We sit beside each other at school events and dance recitals.  We celebrate the kids’ birthdays together.  I can only speak for myself, but it feels comfortable for me now, and I hope it’s the same way for him.

I do know that there is no one who I want to be at those events in my kids’ lives more than him.  He is their dad, and even though things didn’t work out the way I wanted between us, that doesn’t mean that I want to ruin things between them.

I don’t want for my kids to have two birthday parties, or to celebrate and not have one of their favorite people, their dad, in attendance because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.

I don’t want for my kids to run down and see what Santa got them without having their dad there the way that my dad was.

But Why Take Pictures With Your Ex?

I’m not sure when we started taking family photos at some of these events.  Usually, someone else asks if we want a photo together (sometimes they don’t even realize that we are no longer married), and we take one.  Every time, I am so happy to have that moment preserved for my children.  It is a moment captured in time when they are with the two people who made them.  And they always look so happy.

The issue of pictures as a “family” came up in one of the single mom groups that I am in and one girl commented that she has always made the point to take family photos with her daughter and her daughter’s dad so that her daughter would always have them when she grew up.  She said that she only has one photo of her with both of her parents, because her parents were not together when she was growing up, and she said that she always treasured that photo.

After she made that comment, several other children of divorced, or never together parents agreed that they also would have loved a picture of their parents together with them, but they never had that.

Even though I am no longer with my kids’ dad, that does not mean that he is no longer a part of their family.  They still have only two parents: him and me.

Every time we take a photo together, my daughter has a photo that she can put on a poster at school of her family like everyone else in her class.

Every time we sit together at her dance recital, she only has to look one place to see the people she loves.

Every time we eat a meal together or experience a special event together (like getting ears pierced or dying hair for a birthday present), she will remember that BOTH of her parents were there.

We have a lifetime of family events to attend together.

She has a lifetime of memories to create.

My hope is that she will remember all of those memories fondly, and that she won’t feel like anyone is missing.

And she’ll have the photo to prove it.

I know that not every mom has this option.  Not every dad wants to be involved.  But for those who do, why not embrace it and give the gift of two parents to your children?

But Won’t Other People Think That’s Weird?

If you choose to let your kids’ dad be involved, you may get some backlash.  Friends or family may not want to be around your ex.  The thing is…your ex is your kids’ dad.  If it is your kids’ recital, school event, birthday, etc. your friends and family should be able to suck it up like both of you are and put on a happy face for the kid they love.

Significant others can make things messy as well.  So far, we have not had this problem.  I told my boyfriend from the beginning that my goal was to have a friendly relationship with my kids’ dad.  Instead of feeling threatened, he admired that.  He joined us on Christmas morning and at other events, and made an effort to get to know my ex.

That is what adults do.  They look for the good in those people who their kids’ love so that they can be friendly and kind and actually enjoy them.

And, let me tell you…it gets easier.

At first, your smile in that photo may be a little forced, but after some time, you’ll find that it is more relaxed.  Just like that first time you sit beside each other at an event may feel uncomfortable, but after a few, you’ll find yourself laughing together about something your child did.

So, Is Taking Pictures With Your Kids’ Dad Worth It?

Yes.  It is absolutely worth it.  Share the moments.  Take the pictures.  It’s worth it for your kids, and it’s worth it for you.

Positive Mindset

Raining Lemons

Y’all.

I have been looking so forward to starting this blog about being positive and living your best life as a single mom, and then, oh the irony.  Today, the day I finally took the plunge and bought my domain, my toilet overflowed ALL OVER THE DOWNSTAIRS.

Tomorrow morning, my oldest daughter will be put to sleep for the first time for a minor procedure and her dad is not able to make it due to being between jobs and living in another state.  My youngest just got over the flu.  And then this happens.

Today is a day when I feel like I have been dealt a few lemons.  Too many lemons.  Well, I’m trying to do my best to make the best darn lemonade I can.

We are all dealt lemons sometimes.  Divorce.  Job loss.  Moving from somewhere we love.  Sickness.  Death of a loved one.  I know I have had all of those thrown at me and more.  But it isn’t about the lemons, what matters is our mindset when they come.

When lemons come my way, I try to deal with them and stay positive, even when I want to curl up in a ball and cry (and sometimes I do that first, just being real here).  However, I don’t stay in that place.  I reset my mind on the positive, and these are some of the ways that I am able to do that, even when everything is bad.

  1. Look for the positive in the situation.  There is always a positive. Tonight, I caught the water before it ruined the entire downstairs.  That’s a pretty big positive.
  2. Meditate on your blessings. My kids are generally healthy.  The flu did not spread through our home (knock on wood).  Speaking of homes, we have one and it is a nice one in my favorite place to live.  I have a wonderful family and lots of friends.  I am not doing this thing all by myself, even if it feels like that in the moment when no one else wants to take care of my sick kid and no one else is there when the toilet overflows right when I need a break.
  3. Ask for help. Tonight I called my parents for advice on how to deal with the plumbing issue (and to commiserate with them).  When my daughter had the flu, I posted on my neighborhood page looking for someone to bring me Elderberry syrup (I had cash) and I had two different strangers bring me things I needed to take care of her since I couldn’t get out.  Even though my daughter’s dad won’t be there tomorrow, my boyfriend will be at the hospital when we get there and my dad is going to come when he has to leave so I won’t be alone.  If you need help, ask for it.  Then pay it forward.
  4. Create more positives. If your life right now is just one big lemon, focus on the problems and tackle them one by one.  Have no friends?  Make some (get started here).  Dating life stagnant when you don’t want it to be?  Put yourself out there.  Unhappy with your health?  Start making choices to move towards your goal.  Create more positives in your life instead of focusing on the bad.
  5. Accept that life will not be perfect.  Life is not perfect for anyone.  There are some things that we just have to deal with.  Parenting is hard.  Relationships take work.  Dealing with an ex on a regular basis because you have children together isn’t super fun.  Focus on the things you can change and control, and look for the good in the situations you can’t change.

I am not perfect, and sometimes I have to have a bit of a breakdown before I get to the stage where I can look at the positives, but it really does help to reset my mind and look for the good in a situation instead of wallowing in the bad.  Because no matter how great a person’s life looks, there is always at least a little bad.  And no matter how awful your situation or mine looks, there is always at least a little good.

What are your tips for keeping a positive mindset when it is raining lemons?