10 Truths I Wish My Family and Friends Knew About Single Parenting

Call it my Single Mama Manifesto

Call it my Single Momma Manifesto.

1. Single parenting doesn’t mean you have to be single. You have the right and ability to have a relationship. That relationship doesn’t need to meet the parent’s/friend’s/family’s expectations because they aren’t in that relationship. They aren’t the parent. They have zero say. They can get on the wagon or get left behind. Happy momma = happy kid = end of story.

2. Reminding me that my kid doesn’t like the “poor kid daycare” doesn’t make my life any easier. Guess what? I don’t really like it either, but unless I want to get fired or quit my job, it’s all I can afford. Reminding me instead of finding the positive in the situation is bringing excess negativity into my life.

3. Telling me that I should sacrifice everything for my kid is, frankly, bullshit. If I don’t fill my own cup, how the hell am I supposed to fill my kids? She deserves a happy healthy mom, and happy healthy moms don’t ignore their own needs.

4. Offering parenting advice to a single parent when you have never been a single parent is probably never a great idea. You are unfamiliar with the unique aspects of this very different form of parenting and do not understand the nuanced way you are forced to look at every single tiny issue of everything.

5. Once you have given advice to a single parent, don’t expect them to take it. I don’t make any decision lightly about anything, so no offense but if I decide to do the opposite? That shouldn’t offend or disappoint you. If you care for me and my child you support my decisions 100%.

6. Showering my kid with expensive or profuse gifts does not give my child a realistic expectation of what life is like. When they assume I can do the same, then are repeatedly upset and angry that I cannot provide that same level or same things, I am automatically the bad guy. And let me tell you, as a single parent, we are always the bad guy since there is no one else around to be one.

7. Having different rules at your house means that I have to work twice as hard to ensure my kid follows mine at our house. Time is my most valuable commodity as a single parent so don’t waste mine.

8. Needs are different than wants. My kid needs food, clothes, a place to live that has electricity and the ability to go to school. Anything else is negotiable and I have the right to cut it from our lives without guilt. Pitying my child is not the answer. Supporting my decisions is. My child deserves the right to understand what their life is like and the ability to learn to manage stress and disappointment. I frankly feel as though teaching children early on about financial responsibility and management is a positive, and not a negative. “I cannot afford that right now,” is not a taboo phrase, it’s a teaching one.

9. What you feel should make me happy may not, in fact, make me happy. It may make me miserable. My happiness is not something that can be determined by the wants or wishes of others, no matter how much they care for me and my child. Only I can understand what makes me happy. The only thing that should matter is when you see we are happy? Be happy for us.

10. If you notice we don’t speak or see each other as often, it’s probably due to your negativity or criticism. Negativity is something I cut from my life like a cancer. Single parenting is stressful enough when you are trying to live a life of gratitude. Introducing negativity, be it in words, actions, or disapproval brings no value to our lives and therefore will be avoided at all costs.

 

Needed a Miracle…Got a Rockette

My guardian angel is apparently an 85-year-old former Rockette from Brooklyn.

My guardian angel is apparently an 85-year-old former Rockette from Brooklyn.

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The past few weeks have been some of the most difficult of my college career. Financial stress, picking up bartending shifts, what seems like impossible deadlines, exponentially growing coursework, no time to look for jobs, Easter holiday planning, balancing blended families, parental responsibilities, and so on and so on. My gratitude had fallen and I was struggling to remember why I had decided to even go back to school in my 30’s.

Then I met the Rockette. I’m going to call her Miss R. I don’t know her name, but I know a lot about her. She is 85 and recently totaled her little 14-year-old red car that she drove to Alachua, Florida, from Brooklyn, New York. She cried when they said it was totaled and again when they didn’t give her enough money for it to buy a new one. The day I met her was her first experience using the bus, and her first time away from home in almost 4 months.

I was standing behind her in the line to the only lane open and she was handing the cashier a grocery cart to help her cross the busy street to the senior center with her purchases. When I walked up, the cashier and another employee were attempting to set up the cart so she could put the bags inside. The minutes ticked on by and the people behind me left for other places in the store to check out. I knew I was going to be late to pick up my daughter from school.

To be honest, I wasn’t even at Walmart to shop, I was meeting a woman who was buying a wall hanging I was selling for extra cash and decided to run in to grab air freshener since life with kids and animals stinks…literally. What I thought was going to be a quick run in and out was showing signs of not happening. The cart was finally complete and I could tell Miss R was stressed and upset. She turned to me and said, “I’m sorry. I need this cart to get my groceries to the bus. I’ve never done this before and it’s been 40 years since I’ve needed to ride a bus but my car was totaled and I’m just so lost without it.”

Time stopped.

It was as though all of my stress and worry about my problems fell away and I was able to finally breathe again. None of my worries were life altering. None of my stress was any worse than any others I’ve dealt with in life. So I only had enough money to get me a month past graduation? So what. I have 15 years of serving and bartending experience I can figure something out to get by. Homework is overwhelming? So what. I have A’s in my classes and I could fail this entire week and still get B’s. No time to look for a job? So what. I can pound the pavement the day after graduation and make it work. Holiday planning? Ha! Who cares! The ONLY thing that matters is that I have a beautiful blended family and people who don’t care if we eat prime rib or peanuts as long as we are together.

I helped Miss R navigate the chip system for her debit card since that was also new to her, and walked her outside. I told her to have a lovely day and began walking to my car. I knew I was almost late already, but something held me back. I turned and looked at the parking lot, the curb Miss R was attempting to drag her cart over and the incredibly busy highway she was going to need to cross shortly after…and ran back over to Miss R. I took  her cart, hauled it up and over into the grass and grabbed her arm and said I would love to help her over to the senior center.

It was a significant walk made a little longer due to her slight limp, which she explained was due to a fall she had that also made it impossible for her to dance, which she has done since she was 5 years old. Miss R danced her entire life and did it well, considering she high-kicked her way into becoming an honest to god Rockette in New York City. She said she spent years dancing at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, and only left when another company offered her more money to travel the world. And travel she did. She traveled her entire life, spending the most time (only 2 years) in Germany.

She said she had danced 5 days a week at the senior center we were quickly approaching until injuries from her fall curtailed that lifelong hobby. Here was an 85-year-old woman (With WAY better legs than I have EVER had) alone and experiencing the loss of her car, her independence she had because of it and her passion, dance, and here she was,  out learning how to survive…and with lipstick on.

If Miss R can do it, and in style, so can I.

The gigantic bottle of wine she bought is probably a good idea too.

 

 

 

Shelving Dreams

2 years ago I reached for my dreams…or what was left of the one I still remembered.

And today life delivered another uppercut in a series of financial blows that took me, once again, to my knees. I’m no longer in the position where I am able to wait for the dream job I went back to school for. I’m going to need to accept whatever job I can find as soon as possible. And it makes me feel a little like the last 2 years of stress, sacrifice and psychological exhaustion were wasted.

I live in gratitude. I do. I try to. But sometimes you need to feel the pain, feel the hurt, feel the overwhelming loss of a dream in order to figure out what your next step is. The only thing I know right now is that the next step may be forward, but it feels so much like going back. And that just kills me.

I find myself sitting and staring and asking myself, “Did I do something to bring this on myself?” No. Life happens. It’s not my fault. But goddamn it, it still feels like failure. So taking a few moments to feel it then pushing back to my feet to heal it and to move the hell on. Maybe new dreams will rise to be even more beautiful than those left behind.

A girl can hope.

 

 

Dude…Where’s My Car?

“No seriously. Where the %$&# is my car?!” – Me while turning in circles in my own damn parking lot in front of my condo.

“No seriously. Where the %$&# is my car?!” – Me while turning in circles in my own damn parking lot in front of my condo.

*Record Scratch*
*Freeze Frame*

Yep. That’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation. Or at least that’s how the movie about the last weekend would start if said movie existed outside of my crazy, still in shock mind.

1. No alcohol was involved. No, seriously I swear it.
2. I am still a little ashamed that one of the first things out of my mouth to my boyfriend at that moment was, “Dude…where’s my car?”

Saturday morning the man and I left for our first out of town adult getaway. Adult as in without his son or my daughter, not some hedonistic naked hotel. Well, I guess the idea was pretty much the same except not in public (hopefully) and at some point we were going to be meeting my (fully clothed) best friend and her husband for cocktails and so that they could finally meet the first man I’ve managed not to scare away in 3 years. I mean, look at us.

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We’re adorable. How much trouble can we really get into? Ok, so we can usually get into a little more than a little trouble but this time we were perfect angels. The good ones even.

We headed down to St. Petersburg, got checked in, got food, and ran through the rain (yes, I had a literal black raincloud following me) to the little bar on our hotel beach to meet up with the bestie. 24 hours later we are headed back home, missing a wallet and his ID, but without any additions to our records, so I’m calling that a win. Well, I would call it a win up until we pulled up to my house.

I walk inside. I walk back outside.

“Dude…where’s my car?!”

Empty. Freaking. Parking. Space.

My first trip out of town with the man to get some quality fun time and I come home and someone jacks my damn car.

From in front of my condo.

I’ve had a few moments in my lifetime where I seriously contemplated if I was a serial killer or a renowned dictator or even a Nickelback fan in a previous lifetime to deserve these things. This was definitely one of them.

If anyone has ever had a car stolen from them, there’s not much you can do. You call the cops, you call your insurance, you freak the *&%# out when you realize you don’t have gap insurance and then you bake cookies. No? Ok, well that’s what I did. And right now, I’m just waiting and hoping to god the asshat who stole a car with a booster seat in the back and a freaking textbook on Race, Gender and Class Issues in the Media in the front seat (which of course I need for a midterm in 4 days) decides to calmly park and leave it somewhere without any damage. Or minimal damage. Or at least less damage than totaling it would be so I don’t have to continue paying on a car that someone else is driving around or cutting up for parts.

Here’s to hoping I was Mother Theresa and not Mommie Dearest in that past life.

 

 

 

How To Build Your Mini’s Confidence Mountain: One Drive at a Time

I am not the perfect parent.

I forget things. I miss countless school activities thanks to a full-time school and work schedule and simply because I am a single mommy and have my hands full with normal day duties. I don’t play as often as I would like, and our lifestyle requires my daughter to be more self-sufficient than the average 8-year-old.

But one thing that I get right, and one thing that has empowered my relationship with my daughter is how we spend our morning commute to school.

Every morning I spend part of our 25-minute drive telling my daughter what qualities I love most about her and why. Then I follow up with opportunities I hope she has that day to showcase those amazing qualities.

It’s ridiculously simple, actually. But seeing her self-respect and self-confidence grow since we began has been one of my most proud parenting wins. When all too often I feel as though there aren’t enough.

An example of today’s confidence conversation:

Me: “You are such a hard worker! You have bounced back into a school schedule and your riding lessons with such energy. You got home late from a two-week trip Monday night, had school Tuesday and yesterday you spent hours at the barn. THEN you came with me to the market to spend playtime with friends and a late dinner. Even though we went to bed a little later than we normally do, you woke up today smiling and energetic and ready to go to school. I am so impressed by that in you.”

Me: “Do you know what I also love about you? That you are such a kind and compassionate friend. Your teacher told me that you befriended the new student in your class that doesn’t speak English as well as the other students. That was a wonderful act of kindness and I am sure that made his first day at school so much better than he had expected.”

Me: “I hope that today you have opportunities to show others how to energetically tackle their days with a positive spirit. Your energy is catching and I know that other kids will be happier and more willing to work when they see how much fun you have doing it.  I also hope that today you can find ways to be a kind friend and to show others that being kind to others is one of the most wonderful things we can do.”

My daughter: “Can you turn the radio on now, please?”

Ok. So the dialogue is mostly one sided.

However, her face and demeanor have changed. She is glowing and perhaps even a little embarrassed. But. Every day, she says a little more and is a little less embarrassed. That is the ultimate goal for me as her mommy. I want her to feel comfortable and confident accepting compliments and observations about her personal qualities. And feel comfortable complimenting others about theirs.

Creative Bullying

Do you ever have those moments where your kid does something wrong, but it is so damn funny that you have to take a moment to crack up before you crack down? I do. I have those ALL THE TIME.

But what happens when your kid is the one hurt by one of those hilariously awful moments? That’s where it gets tricky.

Yesterday a kid who has been known to bully my strong little mini told her he eats horses.

EATS. HORSES.

My child is a horse lover. She’s actually a lover of all living things, but horses come in first. To be honest, they probably come before most people in her list of loves. She was horrified. Horrified to the point of actual tears.

I will give him points for creativity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% against bullying. Any practice with a direct link to child suicides is just plain wrong. How I handle bullying does vary, though. If it does not involve physical harm or extensive, repeated mental harm, I recommend taking the high road. I use that moment to talk about what makes people angry and want to hurt someone else. I use it as a lesson in empathy. Kids need to know how to react to cruelty. It doesn’t end in childhood.

But if that moment occurs when another kid lays a hand on my mini? Or bullies to the point of emotional damage?

You’d better believe that hell hath no fury like this angry mama.

 

5 Survival Tips for Single Parent Students

The American Council on Education says the percentage of single parent students is rising. 59.7% of these students are the first of their family to go to college and also make an average of only $14,071 a year. Add in children and full/part time employment to the mix, and it creates an incredibly difficult mountain to climb.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research looked into some of the major issues single parent students face, and what can be done to ease their paths into academic success. Using these facts, and a little of my own experience, I created a short list of tips to keep in mind if you find yourself a fellow single parent student.

And remember… It’s gonna be OK.

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When You Finally Get It… #WeWillRise

2016 is turning out to be the year of the woman.

Women in business are Leaning In and shattering glass ceilings. We are pushing back and demanding to be heard in boardrooms across the globe. We are redefining femininity, and we are fighting sexual harassment in the workplace, in Wall Street and in The White House.

wewillrise

2016 is turning out to be the year of the woman.

Women in business are Leaning In and shattering glass ceilings. We are pushing back and demanding to be heard in the boardroom. We are redefining femininity, and we are fighting sexual harassment in the workplace, on Wall Street, and in The White House.

Here’s to strong women.
May we be them.
May we know them.
May we raise them.

I left college during my senior year. I ran away. I ran away from a traumatic situation, an overload of stress, and an inability to cope with my circumstances. I’ve considered it my greatest failure in life.

Last year, I decided to turn my life upside down and move across the country to go back to the University of Florida. I decided to turn my greatest failure into my second greatest accomplishment (My first, being a mother). I left a career as a data analyst in the IT/Manufacturing industry. It doesn’t sound exciting, but I was proud of it. I worked my way up from entry level customer support and was promoted 3 times in 3 years. And yet, I was still constantly struggling to prove myself, to prove my value.

Let’s talk about value.

I’m a single mother. I almost died giving birth, with my best friend holding my hand and my parents in the waiting room, thanks to eclampsia. And yet, I walked out of that hospital on my own 2 feet with a new lease on life and was back at work within 3 weeks.

When I couldn’t afford food during a hard time, I stood in the welfare line for hours upon hours to get assistance, then listened to people tell me I was what was wrong with this economy when I used them at the store.

After applying to about 100 jobs and being denied, I threw caution to the wind and told my last interviewer that I didn’t care what the job was. I would clean their floors and they’d be the cleanest damn floors in the company, if that’s what they needed. I just needed a job.

4 years later, I decided I needed more.

Now, I balance being a reporter at a radio station, a freelance social media strategist, and a sometimes weekend bartender. I balance being the mom of a precocious 8-year-old who lives and breathes horses and wants to spend every waking moment at the barn. I balance a full load of senior level classes at a campus where I look like a parent instead of a student. And I’m loving every minute of it.I finally know how lucky I am to get the chance to balance it all. I finally get it. I am not alone in this struggle. This is not a story of failure. This is a story of survival.

Girls across the globe are fighting for the right to learn. They’re fighting for the right to embrace the same education that is freely offered to their male counterparts. First Lady, First Lady, Michelle Obama‘s “Mission to Educate Girls Around the World” is sharing so many of these stories from around the world, showing how  girls gather together every day and say #WeWillRise.

Compared to these, my story is a simple one. It’s a story that thousands of women share. It’s nowhere near the most difficult. It’s nowhere near the most affecting. But it’s mine, and I want my daughter to know it. I want my daughter to know that #WeWillRise.

 

Naughty By Nurture

That moment you realize…she gets it from her momma.

My kid’s a little naughty…and I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t let her get away with everything. Once in a while, though, you have to smile behind your hand at the nonsense. I see myself in those moments more than any others. It’s not intentional misbehavior. She isn’t harming herself or others. It’s just… that little sneaky thrill you get from being mildly naughty. I get it…I totally get it.

I was a naughty kid myself. I may or may not still have my moments.

I think a little naughtiness is a sign of creativity and eccentricity. I love seeing her mind at work, even when it’s due to a brilliant little idea like hiding a rubber cockroach on the cupboard door (been there), or putting makeup on the dog (done that), or setting up a life-size stuffed cheetah next to my bed so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up. (Oh, I definitely lost about 5 years of my life to that one.)

So the next time your kid’s a little naughty? Do yourself a favor… laugh a little, they probably got it from you.

 

 

 

It’s Gonna Be OK

Parenting on the best of days is still really really hard. There are days when the sun shines, the house is clean, you have money in the bank and you hear, “Mommy, you are my best friend!” There are the days that you run out of coffee, the dog pukes on the floor, the kid’s socks are “scrunchy”, you walk outside already late and see a flat tire. Then there are the days no parent wants to even consider. Illness, injury, loss of a child.

I lost my sister as an adolescent and saw what it did to my parents. There are no words. There simply aren’t.

Years passed and I became a mother. I will be the first to admit that my early years as a mommy were incredibly stressful. Learning to be a working single parent, dealing with depression and anxiety, and living in a constant state of self-doubt combined to create the epitome of an unhealthy, unhappy woman.

Then things started to change. There are simply too many factors to address today, and I’m sure they will pop up in the blog some other time, but one thing really impacted my mentality on daily living.

I reconnected with a family I had been very close to in my own childhood. We had lost touch over the years and the magic of Facebook jumpstarted the process of reconnecting,…although not in a manner that I would wish on anyone. They lost one of their children. A child I had babysat, binged on pizza with, and learned my first lessons in caregiving from. Simply put, my heart broke.

In the continuing years, we stayed in touch over social media, and I was able to witness possibly the most astounding parenting moments. I saw them band together as a family, mourn loss, yet still celebrate life.

During one of my most trying weeks this past year, they sent me a simple gift that reminds me every single day that hope exists. It will always exist. On our best days and on our absolute worst. They sent me a sticker with a simple acronym. igbok.

It’s gonna be OK.

And it was. And it will be. One day at a time.