Two steps to live a whole life

When I was at church once without the children, the worship leader asked me after the service who I was. She said that although I looked familiar she didn’t recognise me without my two children. How often do I not recognise me without my children? Take away the label of mother – and taxi, cook, cleaner, homework assistant, behavioural therapist, referee and what is left?  I define myself by the roles I fulfil, not by who I really am.

My blog ‘8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one’ asked the question, ‘As a single parent do you see yourself as incomplete?’ The photo comes from a collection called ‘wholeness’

Here’s two steps to live a whole life as a single parent (also applies to all parents).

  1. Find and live who you are created to be
  2. Believe you are whole person

Who are you without your kids?

As a parent your role will always be that of parent. Your children will always be a priority in your life … but you are whole without them. You need to live your purpose as a role model encouraging them to do the same, and not be co-dependent, pulling your love and life purpose from them.

It has taken me a long time to fully find myself beyond being a single parent.

Step 1: Find and live who you are created to be

It’s not an either/or choice between parenting and purpose. It’s a yes to purpose but with the support of others to take some of the load, releasing you to live your purpose. This is why you need community; community who sees your strengths, will support your weakness, and help you live your purpose. Don’t follow my example and do both leading to burn out. Live as the person you were created to be including being a single parent. Parenting- investing in your children – is part of your purpose.

Need some help finding your purpose?  click here

Do you need someone to complete you?

Overheard conversation: What attracted you to your new boyfriend; ‘His house’.

Many single parents can be consciously and unconsciously driven to find a partner to meet their financial and security needs – to help provide for the family, to share the load of parenting and discipline. Someone to look after the kids that doesn’t have to be paid.  Someone to cover the pain of loss and loneliness. In their brokenness and need they maybe choosing an unhealthy relationship just to have one.

Over 90% of single parents were part of a couple so probably didn’t plan on parenting on their own.1  As a single parent family you are complete and as a single parent you are complete, although today’s language can make you feel like you are incomplete. When people refer to their partner as ‘my better half’ or ‘my other half,’ this implies single people are incomplete – a half person waiting for their other half to be complete, to become one, to be whole.

You don’t need anyone else to complete you. One is a whole number (ask any mathematician).

My experience of wholeness

This section contains Christian content! I’m reading a book at the moment by Ann Voskamp called, The Broken Way. I always knew saying ‘yes’ to Jesus was more than a ticket to heaven. It was the forgiveness of my sins by His dying on the Cross. I am learning it includes entering into a union with Him, like in a marriage where everything is held in common. All the good things of Christ’s are mine, and He takes all of me – my bad and broken included.

Three quotes from her book:

 When we’re rejected and abandoned and feel beyond wanting, Jesus cups our face: “Come close, my Beloved.” When we’re dirty and tear-stained and despairing, Jesus Christ is attracted to us and proposes undying love: “All that you’re carrying I take…and all that I am is yours?” 2

The pieces of me, the shards I didn’t know how to gather together, the ache that kept me up at night, that I didn’t even have words for – none of the pieces of me would find peace – until I could see and feel and experientially enter into the reality of my union with Christ. Peace isn’t a place – it’s a Person.3 (My emphasis in bold.)

…his miraculous embrace that can end our abandonment, our aloneness. It’s this enveloping relationship of the outstretched cross, sharing in the oneness of the very life of Christ.4

Step 2: Believe you are a whole person

Hollywood tells us we need another person to complete us, our soul mate. This is not true.

You are whole. You do not need another person to complete you.

Putting legs on it

What is your purpose?

What support do you need to live it? Who can support you?

Where do you find your worth and wholeness? How can you change your mental image of yourself to reflect that you are whole?

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter
References

  1. HILDA Melbourne University (2016) The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14 p19 https://www.melbourneinstitute.com/downloads/hilda/Stat_Report/statreport_2016.pdf
  2. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p46
  3. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p47
  4. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p48

Photocredit: Tim Stief unsplash.com (from a collection called Wholeness)

8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one

It was an often repeated event.  It could be a ‘meet the teacher’ event for school parents, watching a concert or the basketball final. I was there to support my kids and sitting alone. Through rose coloured glasses I saw everyone else sitting grouped in families – two parents chatting, grandparents and the odd aunt or uncle in the cheer squad and I sat by myself in a cloud of dark thoughts and self-pity. I felt that others were looking at me, mocking me for being by myself.  To overcome this I reminded myself that we are a family, we are not a broken family, we might be a small family unit but we are a family nonetheless. It stopped me feeding the paranoid, self-absorbed thoughts.

My family

What about you? As a single parent do you see yourself as incomplete? Do you use the label ‘broken family’? My family lived interstate which may have exacerbated my feelings of feeling alone, but in speaking with other single parents, it’s a common experience feeling isolated at events where you perceive every other family has two parents and is perfect. It’s not true but feelings misread the context. It can bring up feelings of failure and shame. How do you overcome this?

You are a complete family

See yourself as a family. Remind yourself you are a complete family, just as you are. This can take some persistent changing of your thoughts to engage with this mental picture. Encourage your children to embrace it also. It is important to see yourself like that and not be paranoid about what others think of you. You might be thinking it’s easy to say ‘just change your mindset’, but it’s hard to do. Here’s 8 ways to help the process.

8 steps to help you see yourself as a family

  1. Don’t describe yourself as a broken family. You are whole and complete.
  2. Develop family time with specific activities that everyone enjoys and can participate in.1
  3. Support each other, going to concerts and sporting matches. Be each other’s cheer squad.1
  4. Keep family traditions and start new ones. 1
  5. Have fun. Create enjoyable snippets of time that will be the children’s memories of their childhood.
  6. Do things as a family (leaving the paranoia of judgment at home).
  7. Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family. 1
  8. Find a surrogate family for your children if you don’t have family close by or willing to be involved. Remember be safe!

What can this look like?

After attending a concert (of which there were many – dance, drama and music) we would stop and get a special ice-cream on the way home, combining steps 2, 3, & 4. I went to the concert feeling proud of my kids, and to combat the aloneness I would start a conversation with the person next to me usually asking who they were there to see (step 6). We also had our pyjama day tradition where no-one had to do anything – we relaxed at home in our PJ’s watching videos, playing games, reading and ate whatever we could find (steps 2, 4, 5)

Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family

Children need to have a sense of belonging and knowing where they fit in their wider family, including your parenting partner’s family. Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family.

I hadn’t appreciated this until my children were having some professional counselling and the counsellor mentioned the children ranked wanting to know certain people in both their father’s family and mine as a top-three priority. If they placed such importance on it, how could I ignore it? As my ex lived overseas it was up to me to ensure that the children met and had special time with his family, even though it wasn’t comfortable for me initially.  I invited his family to the children’s birthdays and concerts and we celebrated together.  Later, I took them to his family funerals which didn’t feel strange, though others outside thought it was. This reinforced to me the importance of not buying into the thoughts and judgements of others, but to define and celebrate our family as we saw it.

Some parenting partners are able to amicably attend their children’s special events together giving their children a bigger cheer squad.

Draw your family

To know how your kids see your family ask them to draw it.

I have precious pictures from my children at different times showing our family. One I proudly brought from an art show fundraiser at school in which my child had drawn the three of us and called the picture ‘my family’ (picture in this post). Later for a German project, learning to use German words for family, my daughter drew herself and her brother in the middle with her dad, his wife and step brother on one side, and me and the dog on the other. It took a while for the German teacher to find the words for step-brother.

To help explain the concept of step and half siblings to children see ‘My Family Bush’ in the resources below (contains Christian content).

Putting legs on it

Ask your children to draw their family. Use this as a discussion starter.

What steps can you incorporate into your life?

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter
Resources

Blended Not Shaken Ministries offers children’s resources and workshops to Christian schools, churches, counsellors and chaplains. Karina Hudson desires to minster to step families and single parents by providing support, encouragement and discipleship. She runs monthly single step mum support groups in 5 locations around Adelaide. In her books she, her husband and children openly share their experiences.  Her books are available through her Facebook page and she has a website coming soon

  • My Family Bush – helps bring meaning to the concepts of ‘step’, ‘half’ and ‘full’ as they apply in blended families. My young adult daughter loved the statement that step-parents ‘step-in’. I like the bit where she points out that Jesus experienced a blended family. He had a step-dad in Joseph and had half brothers and sisters.
  • My Two Houses – tells the story of a child from a blended family and how he is helped by prayer, scripture and the knowledge that God is near and can be your friend.
  • Caught in the Middle – is the story of a child whose relationship with God through the Bible and prayer, helps with the difficulties faced and feelings experienced as a result of having divorced parents

 

References

  1. Hart, A. (1996) Helping your children survive divorce, Word Publishing, USAp181-182

How I flourished as a single parent (my seven keys)

This blog was going to be titled ‘how I survived single parenting’. There were times when all I could aim for was surviving till the end of the day with all of us intact, but we did more than survive as a family. Overall we have flourished.

tulips Krystina Rogers resized unsplash

I started single parenting when my kids were preschoolers; they are now young adults pursuing their own dreams. We are still close as a family even though we don’t live in the same state in Australia. There were times when I despaired of this close bond ever happening.

My seven keys to flourishing as a single parent

Here are my seven keys to not only survive, but to flourish as a single parent:

  1. Have a support network
  2. Practice self-care
  3. Practice forgiveness – especially self-forgiveness when you get it wrong
  4. Adjust to the season
  5. Be a resilient role model
  6. Ensure your kids feel your love
  7. Be a family

I learned these the hard way by practising the opposite, copping the consequences and looking for a better way. That’s why I wrote ‘One Together’ and minister to other single parents to help them on their journey.

Be intentional

It takes intentionality to flourish as a single parent; it doesn’t just happen. I will provide resources to help you do this through information on the website, blogs, eBooks and the One T workshop. What worked for me may not work for you as your situation will be different, but from experience supporting others, these keys can be useful starting places to develop your skills as a single parent and flourish as a family.

Have a support network

To flourish as a family, it cannot all depend on you. You will need community to provide the role models you cannot be and you will need support to survive the tough times. See Why every single parent shouldn’t parent alone

Practice self-care

Self-care includes – caring for yourself as a whole person in all areas of your health, and balancing caring for yourself with caring for your children. By caring for yourself you show your children how to value themselves by looking after their health. See self-care as a single parent, 7 ways to improve your health as a single parent and 10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

Practice forgiveness

Forgiveness is essential to parenting well. You need to practice forgiveness of others as part of being a role model. You need to forgive yourself for the times you are not the perfect parent!  See forgiveness

Adjust to the season

You will require different support throughout your journey as a single parent and need to adjust your parenting skills. Each season has its own challenges; toddlers are different from teenagers! I am experiencing a glimpse of my next season – the empty nest. I’ll reflect on that in a blog soon.

Be a role model

Parents are considered the foremost role models for their children, even with the increasing effects of peer pressure in teenage years. If you are a single parent then you are ‘the’ role model – no pressure! See Role Modelling and Your children are watching you. What are they seeing? Six questions to assess your role modelling.

Ensure your kids feel your love

All humans are born with an innate need to be loved; a hunger for love. To explain the notion of love hunger, psychologists illustrate it with the concept of love tanks. Love tanks are a symbolic representation of our need for love – Dr’s Hemfelt, Minrith and Meier, all eminent psychologists or psychiatrists, in their book Love is a Choice, pictorially show love tanks as heart shaped which makes sense as we associate the heart with love. Who hasn’t inscribed the initials of their latest crush inside a love heart.

Every child is unique in the way they relate to the world. As a parent you need to know and understand this about each child to ensure they feel your love. Sometimes whilst you think you are giving love, they are not receiving it. To fill their love tanks with unconditional love, you need to do your homework to find out how best to reach them. This means detecting how you best convey your love and how they best receive it. More on this in later blogs, for now check out the resources below.

Be a family

You are a family – it may not be the average mum, dad and 2.3 kids, but you ARE a family.  It can take some persistent changing of your mindset to engage with this mental picture. Encourage your children to embrace it also. It is important to see yourself like that and not be paranoid about what others think of you. See Being a family

Putting legs on it

Choose one of these keys to focus on in the next month, adapting your parenting to the key. See if there is a change in you and your family.

Need encouragement as a single parent? Click below (contains Christian content)

Resources

Keeping the love tank full by Gary Chapman

Five languages of love. Take the quizzes and discover your love language and your child’s love language. Read more on love languages by clicking here

Five languages of  love – love tank  by busykidshappymom.org

How to love your child? Inspired by Ross Campbell by motherhow.com

References

Hemfelt, R., Minirth,F . and Meier, P. (1989) Love is a choice. Thomas Nelson Inc, U.S.A.

Campbell, R. (1992) How to Really Love Your Child. SP Publications, U.S.A.

Chapman, G. and Campbell, R. (1997) The Five Love Languages of Children, Northfield Publishing, U.S.A.

Photo Credit: Krystina Rogers www.unsplash.com