What to do with Mother’s Day pain

You can’t miss Mother’s Day and all of its pinkness. Social media posts celebrating wonderful mothers. Mothers posting grateful pictures of their children. Flowers on street corners. Advertisements for jewellery, chocolate, electric appliances– why an item of work? – to give Mum. Kindy children busy making macaroni photo frames. Lots of traffic as people drive to visit Mum or to take her out to lunch.

Mother’s Day. It’s a time of families meeting together, honouring Mums and full of love and warm fuzzy feelings…but not for everyone.

Mother’s Day is a lance for pain for many women. Those who:

  • long to hold a baby in their arms, and invest money riding an emotional rollercoaster trying
  • those whose babies (big and small, some who never lived outside the womb but left their presence on their Mother) are in heaven already
  • those whose mothers are in gone in death, dementia, circumstances or in rejection of the child
  • those whose dreams of a happy family are shattered in single parenting
  • those who are not with their children
  • those who never had the opportunity to partner and have children, and it’s all they wanted
  • those who through circumstances not of their choosing are raising children on their own
  • those who are adopted or the mothers who surrendered them

All this focus and media creation of an idyllic situation, heightens the sense of loss and longing for these women (and for some men).

Mother’s Day may have passed, but the emotions it brings forth, like poking the dragon, are still bubbling away. Later, I suggest how to manage these.

Honest reflections as a single parent, saying what we don’t always like to admit

I remember the early days of single parenting. Without another adult to organise the kids I took them shopping, gave them the money, pointed them in the right direction to the present I wanted and when they were really little even helped wrap the gift, then acted surprised on Mother’s Day. When they were big enough to give me breakfast in bed, I cleaned up the mess created with their offering.

Once my ex had returned to living close by, it become a day tainted by other emotions I don’t’ like to label let alone share publicly – like jealousy. When I shared my kids with him, I spent some of the day alone. Seeing my kids invest time and love in their relationship with their step mum  – which I encourage and I am grateful for her investment in their lives – but if I’m honest it still creates a pain in me, a bit of envy.

It’s a day, even now my kids are grown, I feel points to my failure  –  the loss of my marriage, my kids growing up without two parents. So, Mother’s Day still pricks a little.

What to do if this is you

  1. Admit what you feel. Label the emotions within in you – anger, betrayal, aching loss, jealousy and envy
  2. Process the emotions. Journal, speak to your safe person or to a counsellor, tap dance out your anger, be creative, walk somewhere that soothes your soul, focus on what you are grateful for
  3. Look for the reason behind the emotions and this may require some professional help like counselling or seeing a psychologist. What is it that raises your emotions – is it loss of the dream of a happy family or even family to hold your baby in your arms? is it grief from the death of your mother? is it the fractured relationship you have with your mother and again the dream of what it could have been? is it rejection and caused by an abusive parent?
  4. With your support person to help, deal with the reason.

What others can do

  • Be sensitive.
  • Check-up on those in your circle for whom Mother’s Day can heighten pain, and acknowledge their grief, ambivalence and even hostility to the day.
  • Provide support as needed.
  • Create communities where people are welcomed and celebrated for who they are, not just their roles.
  • Acknowledge others who have been a mother to you, thank them for their investment in you and the legacy they leave in you.

Putting legs on it

DO one action from the group you fall into: what you can do, or what others can do?

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

For daughters of narcissistic mothers read Psychology Today: When Mothers day hurts https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201305/when-mothers-day-hurts

Photo credit Melissa Askew www.unsplash.com

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)

Where are you on the control freak scale?

I have a theory – and it is just a Vicky Legge theory about a control freak scale!  At one end is the illusion you have no control and the other – the independent, stubborn control freak.

The control freak scale scale

My theory says many single parents sit at the independent stubborn control freak end of the scale. The very act of single parenting creates this in you. Nothing in the house happens without you. You must think through and enact everything. You control everything. Even if the kids do chores, you have set up the schedule, you do the reminding and monitor if they have been done. You answer every question fired at you and help with homework! You are the maid, entertainment coordinator, gardener, taxi driver, budgeter, cook, and the endless list of providing what your family needs. I blame the nature of single parenting for pushing you to the extreme end of the scale.

At the other end of the scale is believing you have no control, not taking any responsibility for your life, expecting everyone else to solve your problems and meet your needs. Again, some single parents are pushed to this end of the scale by their circumstances. Poverty (and many single parents live below the poverty line) can create a cycle of welfare and powerlessness. Combine this with the overwhelming load of coping on your own especially if you are isolated, can make you dependent on others and handouts just to get by. This can be humiliating and devaluing, creating a mindset that you have no control, you are helpless and need others to supply all you need.

Neither of these is healthy.

I sit at the independent control freak end as do many of the single parents I have ministered with. In reflection, I can also see the influence of my family and my childhood contributing to this. I was raised in a family that said, ‘love many, trust a few and always paddle you own canoe,’ and the circumstances of being raised in a single parent home meant I took this on board to a deep level of never receiving help, let alone asking for it.

So now I am in a battle of wills between people trying to help me and me refusing, and I am learning the value of moving to the middle of the control freak scale and how to get there.  It comes from relationship.

holding hands brooke-cagle-unsplash

Pay it back, pay it forward, care for yourself, live your purpose

I refused help because I thought I had to reciprocate. I believed that if someone cooked a meal for us then I had to do the same for them. Three problems with this: a) I can’t cook very well b) I hate cooking and c) I don’t have time to cook for myself let alone the time or money to do it some for someone else.

I have learnt you don’t give the same gift in return. I do have a friend who cooks meals for us regularly, more often when she knows I have deadlines or I am unwell. She says I pay her back by spending time with her as a sounding board.

You can pay it forward where, if you receive a kindness, you do one for someone else.  Read about the benefits to you and the community if you do this click here 

The help can be a gift to release you to care for yourself or live your purpose both of which helps you, role models to your kids and potentially impacts others. You have value and are worth investing in.

Moving to the middle on the scale

So, the solution is to accept help that is offered from relationship, from people who wish to invest in you, but not as welfare or a project.  When friends offer to cook tea one night, look after your kids or weed your garden (are you listening to yourself Vicky!) you can use that time and energy to pursue your purpose or care for yourself.

See the help as an act of kindness that you can payback but it doesn’t have to be in the same way, pay it forward or accept as gift because you are valued and loved.

We are better together.

Putting legs on it

Where do you sit on the control freak scale?

No control___________________________________________________________Control freak

Are you declining help that is given in a loving respectful way? How can you change your attitude to this?

Are you demanding and expecting help without paying it forward? What random act of kindness can you do for someone else?

Are you valued and loved by others? If not, find a community who you can build friendships with. See blogs Increasing your support, How to build a friendship network, YouTube video on Using the circles of support

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

Pay it forward

Reachout.com: Pay it forward 

Pay it forward day

Random acts of kindness

Photo credit: Holding hands Brook Cagle and Lone kayak Filip Mroz www.unsplash.com

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

The do’s and don’ts of love tank filling as a single parent

By the number of love songs around, you’d think we’d have the answer to, ‘I want to know what love is?’ All humans are born with an innate need to be loved – a hunger for love. Not having this need met fully leaves wounds and scars that take more than time to heal. Studies have shown that where children receive gestures of love – for example physical touch – they are healthier, grow normally, mature emotionally and are even more likely to survive.

So let me introduce you to a concept I’ve found helpful as a single parent, not only to understand the dynamic that was happening in my family around love, but ways to improve it for my benefit and the sake of my children.

It’s easier to draw on a whiteboard than write about, so here is a video explaining it (with lots of hand waving from me and two word substitutions. Apologies for the light reflection on the whiteboard.)

Watch the video ‘Love Tanks and Single Parents’ by clicking here

The effect of single parenting on a child’s love tank

In a single parent family, the potential supply of love to the child is halved. This is compounded by the parent losing vital filling of their love tank from their partner. Basically, the single parent will need to supply more love fuel to compensate for the loss of the other parent but they will have less available fuel to do it.

You will need to be strategic in filling your love tank because there is no partner to help fill you and you may be the only parent filling the child’s tank. Therefore, you need significant others to nourish you, the parent. You need to keep your tank as full as possible.

Filling love tanks

Other people can help supply the children’s tanks. Encourage other family members, mentors, friends to connect with your children and be a source to contribute to filling their love tanks.

Safety warning: be careful who you introduce and encourage to have relationship with your children. As a single parent you are at risk of being targeted by predators – aiming for you or your children. They befriend and groom. Be aware and trust your gut. If you have concerns speak up, check them out or don’t be friends. From personal experience trust your gut and act, even if others excuse the person’s behaviour.

As a Christ follower I have another love tank available to fill all the tanks – both mine and the children’s, and that is God. Unlike human love, His is limitless and not dependent upon our behaviour. It will flow freely to us as a free gift of grace whether we return it or not. As a single parent I tap into God’s love as a way to fill my tank, but also encourage my children to fill their tank straight from God too.

So the diagram of love tanks could look like:

Love tanks diagram

In summary

As a single parent you need to:

  • keep your tank full
  • ensure your love flows down to your child
  • ensure your child can receive your love (we will talk about languages of love later)
  • encourage/create opportunity for the other parent, if they are around, to contribute to filling the love tank of the child
  • develop relationship with others who can fill your child’s tank such as extended family, friends, mentors – but remember – be safe

 Putting legs on it

Click here for the worksheet to draw who is filling your love tank and answer the reflection questions.

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

One Together: How to build a friendship network

One Together: Increasing your support

One Together: Why every single parent shouldn’t parent alone

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The Five Love Languages of Children U.S.A: Northfield Publishing, 1997.

Gary Chapman: The 5 love languages profile for children

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

References

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

Three cheers for you!

You’ve nearly made it. The year is almost over and you have survived intact as a family. I want to celebrate you for all you are and do as a single parent. You are amazing!

fireworks-stocksnap-chris-chadd

Unless you’ve been a single parent or witnessed it up close, most people will never know how hard the slog is. Everything depends on you from income, to house work, to child-rearing, to playing monopoly on holidays. So as the year closes give yourself a pat on the back for making it.

Yes, you may have lost your temper, and yes, you may not always have made the best decisions. Fatigue can sap your energy and your ability to be rational, but you have loved your kids for another year. You have created a family for another year. You have provided for and cared for your kids. You have taught them much. You have kept them safe.

Where you made mistakes, apologise and forgive yourself. See blog 3 steps to take when you get it wrong as a parent

As the year ends I hope you find some time to be restored yourself. Some time to have fun and enjoy your kids, enjoy your family, and maybe even enjoy some alone time. Christmas can be especially difficult with the intricacies of shared care, but you can find ways to enjoy it and build happy memories for your kids.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and we will catch up again in 2017.

PS If you need some encouragement for 2017 click below for my 7 day devotional (contains Christian content).

The devotional is to encourage single parents, that even in the midst of the tiredness, struggle and daily grind of parenting on your own, there is hope. For me as a Christian, this hope comes from God and what He says about me and my circumstances from the Bible. It is the whisper of His presence when I feel alone and overwhelmed; the light of the promise of a future when my present appears a never ending tunnel of darkness. I want to share some short reflections, to take you on a journey for seven days, to show you that you are not alone in your role as a single parent. The God of the universe sees and cares for you. He sees your struggles and He is for you, and He cares about your children as well.

Photo credit: Chris Chadd stocksnap.io

How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity

Whose turn is it for Christmas?

The difficulties of shared care at Christmas can tarnish its celebration. However, you can reframe the problem into an opportunity.

frames-jessica-ruscello

Last time we talked about the other parent and Christmas is one of those times that the other parent will feature in your planning. You know the questions and statements: Who will have the kids on Christmas day? You had the kids last year, it’s my turn! My family’s having the big event with all the distant relatives coming so they should spend time with me. Whose house will they wake in? Not all of these are asked or delivered nicely!

There may be competition with present giving. There may be complications with wanting to take the kids away on holidays. Plus there are budget issues and potentially time alone. I’m sure you can add to the difficulties that arise at this time of year.

My family live interstate and when it was my ex’s turn for Christmas I had two choices: travel and celebrate with my family and miss seeing my kids for Christmas, or stay at home and see my kids for some of the day and spend the rest of the day alone.  Christmas can be a difficult time.

So with all that dross, how do you make Christmas the time of enjoyment and celebration that it is meant to be?

Reframe it.

Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 1Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

So, in my example when the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’

The ‘something different’ some years was having a meal with a friend and her large family who always welcomed me as part of their Christmas celebration. Another year it was getting together with a group of single mothers who were also child free and we enjoyed a meal of take away chicken and salads on the best china, no cooking and no kids interrupting the conversation. In all of this I can reframe my Christmas with the positive statement, ‘I don’t have to cook.’ I don’t enjoy cooking and I’m not very good at it – I have exploded a roast chicken.

Other ways to enjoy Christmas

Create new family traditions that don’t revolve around Christmas day such as looking at Christmas lights, attending a Christmas pageant, visiting Santa or attending community events. We would go to Carols by Candlelight in the local park, sit our chairs with friends and the kids would meet up with their friends from the local primary school. The kids were always excited when the notice and lights went up in the big pine tree in the park because it signalled the start of Christmas festivities.

You can develop a routine leading up to Christmas to create your family’s Christmas tradition which allows freedom for who the kids will be spending time with on Christmas day. Shared care on Christmas can be part of the tradition!

What have you done that creates a tradition or reframes Christmas? Please share you thoughts in the comments as this could help someone else.

Reminder: ‘what is best for the kids?’

Using the word ‘turn’ to describe who the kids will spend time with makes them sound like a pawn in a game, dehumanising the impact this has on their lives. It’s about us, the parent getting our needs met, not what is best for the children. We should consider them in our deliberations and conversations. See blog the one step in dealing with other parent

‘When dealing with a parenting partner, the golden rule is the children should be paramount in all considerations, with their welfare being of the utmost importance. Put the children first’.

Putting legs on it

Write down your thoughts about Christmas.  Now reframe them and tell yourself ‘the reframed story’ rather than the ‘woe is me’ one.

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

University of the Sunshine Coast: reframing your thinking http://www.usc.edu.au/media/3850/Reframingyourthinking.pdf

For children’s books to support children in shared care arrangements (Christian content) ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘My two houses’ click here

References

  1. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=reframing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=ga80WMi9OcqEogO41p_wBw

Photo credit Jessica Ruscello unsplash.com

 

4 strategies to ease the household load as a single parent

It’s easy as a single parent to rush from one demand to the next. You have an endless ‘to do’ list that grows by the day. You live in overload, feeling overwhelmed by your schedule and the mandate of being the only adult in the household. Nothing happens in the house unless you do it or initiate it. I found 4 strategies helped me to manage the load:

  • Share the household tasks
  • Schedule
  • Margins
  • Pyjama day

You may have other strategies and I would love to hear them and share them with others.

rock-clombing-kalen-emsley-unsplash

Share the household tasks

This is age dependent. As your kids gets bigger let them have responsibilities that are a part of the household functioning. They will learn much needed skills for adult life. I used to feel guilty that my kid’s friends from couple homes weren’t doing chores but in later life my kids were more helpful around the house and equipped when they have to live on their own.

My kids were paid a small amount of pocket money but could earn extra by completing tasks from the big chart of household jobs. The amount of money was based upon the difficulty and time required to complete the task. Some tasks were rewarded with a small amount of cash and others carried a higher monetary incentive. The kids would tick what they had done and at pocket money time I would add in the extra cash.  An unexpected benefit was knowing how long it was since someone washed the dog!

I was happy to spend the time teaching the skill so the child could learn how to do it e.g. clean the toilet, or hanging up washing so it wasn’t pegged through the middle of the garment. As the whole idea was to lessen the workload on me, I also needed to drop my expectations of the quality and resist the urge to re-clean after them.

Schedule

Scheduling is a way to balance out the activities of the family, ensuring everyone has time investing in their passion and there are times of rest. Taking the time to schedule allows you to be in control of your calendar and review opportunities as they arise to ensure you have the time and the energy to meet them.

At the start of the every year we planned what activities the kids wanted to do. We looked at the budget, what was available and its cost, and the calendar to work out what was possible with our resources.  I limited being out of the house to a couple of nights in a week, so we had down time at home. I tried to plan the activity nights so both the kids were involved in an activity at the same time, so whilst they were occupied I had time to self-care. Often I walked with a friend or along the river to feed my soul. Also I looked for classes where their friends went so we parents could car pool and I only had to drive one direction.

Margins

Margins are the blank edge on busy pieces of paper. Likewise your schedule needs margins. They are ‘the space between [ y]our load and [y]our limits’ 1.   Don’t totally fill up the calendar.  Having blank spots in the schedule allows room for delays, unexpected interruptions and new opportunities.

I learnt scheduling based on the ‘Stephen Covey’ method where you allocate blocks of time to achieve a goal rather than use a ‘to do’ list. In allocating the block of time you build spaces between them for meetings to run late or a chance to have a short time out.

Pyjama Day

Pyjama day is a chance to chill out as family.

It was a favourite in our house.  On pyjama day no-one had to do anything. You didn’t have to get dressed, I didn’t cook so we scrounged food e.g. you could eat potato chips and biscuits, whatever you could find in the cupboard and prepare yourself.   You did what relaxed you and filled your soul e.g. read, play video games, do a puzzle, sit in the sun. We also did fun stuff together like playing board games. It was a time to rest, enjoy each other and refuel ready for another time of activity.

What else helps you?

I would love to hear about your strategies and share them with others.

Putting legs on it

Try one thing and let me know if it works for you. Share something you do with me.

Resources

Crazy Busy by Kevin Deyoung

Hybels, B (2014) Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, USA

Stephen Covey

Balance

References

  1. Deyoung, K. (2013) Crazy Busy, Crossway, U.S.A, p27

Photo credit: Kalen Emsley www.unsplash.com

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.

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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

10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

I pictured my life as a single parent, wearing a pile of hats: taxi driver, cook, gardener, homework policewoman, light globe changer, everyone’s diary, and pooper scooper for our pet dog! A teetering stack balancing on my one solitary head.  Single parenting involves the art of balancing – balancing everyone’s competing needs and time. You cannot care for your children without first caring for yourself.

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It is so easy as a single parent to cut back on caring for you. I miss exercise, always with a good excuse of course! I fill rest time with emails or taking the kids somewhere. I volunteer to help others when I should be asking for help. I allow work to encroach on family time.  I crowd out my hobbies and passions with kids activities. The list goes on; more hats join the wobbly pile.

You need to be intentional and practice balance. Here are some strategies to help you do this:

10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

The following 10 ways come from participants in the One Together course as we brainstormed how to achieve balance:

  1. Look at everyone’s needs – are there ways that more than one need can be met at once. eg I use to walk with a friend while the kids were in a dance class.
  2. Ask the other parent or others to help.
  3. Learn and practice time management skills. (see below)
  4. Review activities to maximise leisure time.
  5. Drop your standards of housekeeping, particularly if you are working. Encourage the children to help with household activities according to their age and development.
  6. Beware the expectation and obligations of friends, family and the outside world. It’s OK to look after you and say ‘NO’ sometimes.
  7. Review your working hours and budget so you work enough to meet your commitments but have as much non-work time to enjoy your children and care for yourself
  8. Don’t be so regimented in your time schedules…
  9. Spend quality time with each child whatever that looks like for them.
  10. Practice mindfulness.

Time management

There are many different ways to ‘manage’ time and prioritise the endless list of things to be done. Find one that works for you.  Two of the major differences in approach are working to a priorities list (however you determine them) or working to blocks of time. Described simply the blocks of time method means you allocate a specified time period to a role or task and when the time is finished, whether the task or role is completed you move onto the next. This can be arranged in your weekly schedule (see resources below).

Mindfulness

Being present in the moment is important. Worrying about blocks of time or other jobs on your list is a sure way to increase stress. Sometimes while I am cooking tea, I am also trying to wash the dishes, racing back to something on the computer and maybe even bringing in the washing. What invariably happens is I burn tea, can’t pour the water off the pasta down the sink because it’s full of soaking dishes, so my frustration level rises and I yell at the kids. By focusing on just one thing eg cooking tea, I can relieve my stress by staying in the moment and concentrating on the one job in front of me.

Putting legs on it

You can do a self-reflection exercise to see how well balanced you are.

Look at the 10 strategies list above and see what you are already practicing. Choose another strategy to try with your family and evaluate the result.

Download a 20 plus paged Self-care Pack by clicking below

Resources

Photo credit: Mike Birdy www.stocksnap.io