Do these 4 things when you don’t have your kids

The house is quiet as the kids are not home, but I’m feeling sick. In the early days of my single parenting my ex lived overseas and as my family lived interstate I cared for my kids full time. This was my first weekend without them. I had longed for it, planned for it, and now here I was, Sunday afternoon, ill.  The cause of being sick – over indulgence. I had tried to pack every desire into the weekend. I had eaten my favourite takeaway meal as I only had me to buy for. I had watched back to back romantic comedy movies, but I think it was the packet of chocolate biscuits, at least one block of chocolate and a packet of red frogs that upset my stomach. As my body ailed, so did my mind and I wallowed in self-pity, focusing on my circumstances and my loneliness

So, I went to sit by my fish pond (not the one above!), one of my favourite places to relax, journal, and for me to hear from God. This is the life lesson that came to me:

  • don’t cram every pleasure into time without my kids
  • take a balanced approached and ensure I self-care
  • re-create by doing something I love
  • connect with others to lessen the loneliness and invest a little in me and my future

You may have other things to add to your list or not relate to some of mine, but these have helped me enjoy, be re-invigorated and grow through the time I don’t have my kids. Once my ex moved back to Australia, we began turnabout weekends and this time alone become a source of strength to me and lost its ‘woe is me, I hate my life’ focus.

4 things to do when you don’t have your kids as a single parent

  1. Self-care
  2. Re-create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest

 Self-care

Self-care is not selfish. Self-care allows you to continue in the role as a single parent for the long term. It improves the flow of love and quality of your parenting as you are refreshed and giving of yourself from a full tank. Self-care includes resting, de-stressing, looking after your health (so a few treats, not the whole block of chocolate and packet of lollies in one sitting) and having some re-creation.

Re-create

Re-creation is another way of looking at recreation. You might think of recreation as something you do for enjoyment when you are not working. Re-creation goes further in doing something that builds you up and fuels you to continue life.

You can re-create by doing a physical activity that also adds to your physical and mental health. If it’s a team sport it may improve your relational health too.

Many re-creation activities like craft work, journaling, doing the crossword or a jigsaw puzzle and playing a musical instrument produce a mental state called ‘flow’. Flow is when you lose track of time and thoughts are focused on what has your attention – so your mind is not wandering or focused on you. Being in a state of ‘flow’ turns down your bodies stress reaction.

Connect

You are not designed to do life alone. Loneliness is bad for your health. You need people to support you as part of caring for yourself.

Loneliness has a mixture of social and emotional aspects.  The social aspect of loneliness comes due to a disruption in social networks. Emotional loneliness is due to lack and/or loss of intimate relationships. It’s common as a single parent to experience both of these – you may have lost your partner, you may have moved neighbourhoods, a low income can reduce chances to participate in group activities like sport and going out with friends.

There are ways to overcome this without spending money. Can you volunteer somewhere, join a book club through the local library, ring or skype a friend you don’t live near, meet up with friends for morning tea rather than lunch which would be more expensive?

Invest

Use your alone time to invest in yourself and your future, to create a vision that doesn’t completely depend on your role as a parent. Find and fill your passion and purpose beyond being a parent to help with this. Mine was writing.  This grew from a flow activity of journaling to writing books and courses that became my business His Heart Ministry Training. I joined writing groups, did some courses and invested my time without my children in living my purpose and building my future. Living your purpose is the goal of health.

If you are spiritual, use the alone time for contemplation, meditation or prayer.

So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself and trying to indulge every desire, as I did, use your time without your kids to your advantage. Doing something you enjoy, builds you up and refreshes you. You can learn to reframe it from a painful situation to something you may look forward to.

Putting legs on it

List one thing you can do under each heading and think about if you can combine them. Eg. Journaling for me was self-care, a flow activity and became an investment in myself and my future. I even connected with others through writing groups.

  1. Self-care
  2. Re- create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest

Now schedule it on your calendar.

Resources

How to have some R and R – rest and restoration

Self-care

5 steps to change loneliness from a burden to a bonus

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

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)

3 ways to help you to find your life purpose

There is only one you. No-one on the planet has the same genetic make-up as you. No-one has your exact personality or experiences. No-one sees the world as you do. You are a unique creation and there is a unique purpose for your life.

In a previous blog I outlined the five reasons why it’s important for you as a single parent to invest in you and pursue your passions.

bee-collecting-pollen-aaron-burden

But it raised the question ‘I am busy being a single parent. How can I find my passion, and still have time to cook tea?’ The answer is by doing 3 simple things:

  1. Consider questions
  2. Try something
  3. Take a test

What am I here for?

Finding your purpose goes back to the question of the meaning of life – what am I here for?

Rick Warren could be considered an authority on the answer to this question. He has written a bestselling book, ‘The purpose driven life’ that has sold over 32 million copies and was recently in the news with Michael Phelps’ success in the pool at the Rio Olympics.

Warren’s book explores how your purpose is shaped by your natural abilities and talents, your passions and what you like, who you are and your life experience. Read more about the Purpose Driven Life and for a Biblical perspective click here

Consider questions

To help with reflecting as you answer the questions you can:

  • Discuss them with a friend and get their perspective about what they see in you
  • Write about them in your journal
  • Just think about them

Questions

  • What do you enjoy doing now (sport, hobby, craft, etc)?
  • What did you enjoy doing when you were younger?
  • What makes your soul sing?
  • What are you good at?
  • What have you always dreamed of doing?
  • Who needs you?
  • What do you still need to do?
  • What legacy do you want to leave?
  • What makes you stand on your soap box?

In the resource section is a collection of blog posts that have questions to help you ponder ‘what am I here for?’

Try something

Often when you try things you find out if it is something you like to do, are passionate about and have the skills for. I learnt as a 15 year old teaching Sunday school to little kids that being a teacher to primary age children was definitely not for me!

Take a test

There are tests on the internet you can take to learn more about yourself such as the VIA character strengths test. There are Christian books with questions and guides. There are workshops to identify how you are shaped for purpose.

Finding your purpose is not an instant thing. As a busy single parent make sure you allow some blocks of time to invest in you, to self-care, and you can give some this time to exploring your purpose. Gradually build a picture of who you are and what you are here for.

Putting legs on it

Answer the questions, try something or take a test to learn about your purpose.

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

Samples of blog posts on the topic:

Christian books with guides to work out your purpose:

  • Warren, R (2002) The Purpose Driven Life, Zondervan, U.S.A
  • Brazelton, K (2005) Praying for Purpose for Women , Zondervan, USA
  • Max Lucado, M (2005) Cure for the Common Life, W Publishing Group, USA

VIA Institute of character: Strengths (take the test here) http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/Science-Of-Character

References

Warren, R (2002) The Purpose Driven Life, Zondervan, U.S.A

Photo credit: Aaron Burden unsplash.com

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

As my kids are flying the coop, I thought there wasn’t too much else to learn as a single parent. I was wrong (again! – see last blog).  Now I am so glad I have chosen to invest in myself. I have discovered five reasons to share with you about why you need to be pursing your passions and purpose beyond parenting.

Luke Brugger unspalsh empty nest

My empty nest

My kids are basically grown up, now in their early twenties. My boy lives interstate and my girl has just spent six weeks overseas pursuing her purpose and holidaying. I experienced an empty nest. I realised I am in a time of transition. My kids are transitioning to independent adult life -although they still want me if they need something (usually money but occasionally my pearls of wisdom).

After close to two decades as a single parent I recognise this journey isn’t easy and I have been eagerly awaiting the time when the kids leave home. But now that time is here and I am grieving the change a little. I am pleased though that I have spent time in the last few years increasing my pursuit of passion and purpose.  Resurrecting my writing and His Heart Ministry Training is part of this. It is acting like a cushion to absorb some of the impact of their push for independence, and it is a push. It’s hard and hurts sometimes. I know I will be alright as I have a vision of myself being independent of them. My vision doesn’t completely depend on my role as a mother. I have passion and purpose beyond being a parent.

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

So here are five reasons why it’s important to invest in you and pursue your passions.

  1. You are a role model to your kids
  2. You will enjoy your time of parenting as you have time for yourself
  3. It is easier for your kids to leave as they know you are independent from them
  4. It makes it easier to transition to an empty nest
  5. It is healthy to achieve your purpose

Role modelling living a life of purpose

Pursuing your passion makes you a role model to your kids. It gives them permission and shows them how to be their best.

Investing in your passions helps you enjoy daily life as a parent

If you enjoy some time out doing something just for you, it will help ease some of the stress and strain that is part of parenting on your own. When you are absorbed in doing something you love, time passes and it fills your soul – psychologists call it ‘flow’. You need times like this to provide respite and health to the body and mind.

It is easier for your kids to leave as they know you are independent from them

I know this from the personal experience of leaving home myself, so I intentionally wove this principle into my kids’ lives. I always spoke to my kids in ways to encourage them to pursue their dreams and modelled commitment to mine, so they would have the freedom to pursue their passion and purpose. Now as young adults this entails living interstate or overseas. They know I won’t be sitting at home lost and wallowing and that makes it easier for them to leave the nest.

It makes it easier to transition to an empty nest

I was a bit surprised by how I am feeling as I see my nest empty. So many years of wanting to have more time to myself and now it is upon me. But by keeping up with my passion, I know who I am without my kids. My self-worth is not wrapped in the role of mum. I can be other things and I can do other things apart from parenting. I am more than a parent. I am using my gifts and talents and that helps me invest in my future, in who I want to be, not lamenting the end of my role as a hands on parent and wondering  who I am. I can see my future with the kids doing their own thing and me doing mine.

It is healthy to achieve your purpose

The definition of health is achieving your potential, and living with passion and purpose makes for a healthier life. As a Christian I also know I am fulfilling the purpose  I was created for and can sense God’s pleasure when I do that. Check out more on living a life of propose and achieving your dreams here.

Putting legs in it

How can you start living a life of purpose today? Sometimes in the busyness of single parenting you lose touch with who you are and what you like. What did you enjoy doing when you were younger? What activity did you lose yourself in? How can you build some of this into your life now?

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

Positive Psychology: Living in flow

Psychology today: Finding flow

Photo Credit: Luke Brugger www.unsplash.com