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Single Mothering: Life After Divorce

You're No Slacker, So Cut Yourself Some Slack

You need to develop thick skin as a single mother. People are not always understanding of how complicated your situation can be. Even if you are fortunate enough to have an ex who does not drive you crazy and to have children who are well-adjusted, you are doing more in a day than you probably ever expected. You may be tired.

Let yourself off the hook and do not hold yourself to the standards of the mythical supermom. Even mothers in good marriages cannot possibly measure up to those standards. The biggest problem for women who are divorced single mothers is that they constantly feel inadequate about something. Life is too short to spend it beating yourself up over every little thing.

You might find it helpful to carry around the following permission slip in your purse. When someone wants to criticize your performance as a mom, just hand it over for them to read.

I am a single mother and I have permission:

  • To take care of my own needs—even if that means not being able to be all things to all people.
  • To have a messy house within the limits of the health code.
  • To not volunteer for everything at my child's school.
  • To not have to contribute to every gift or party fund if I can't afford it.
  • To be part of the world even though I do not have a husband.
  • To be treated with dignity and respect even though I am not always able to do things as well as I would like.
  • To be free from unwarranted judgment and criticism.
Womanly Wisdom

Children grow up no matter what is happening in their lives. You do not want to live in the past or too far in the future. You have enough to keep you busy right now.

Life Is Not on Hold

As a single mother you do not want to live your life as though it will begin again only when you remarry. If you are blessed to find a suitable mate who will be compatible with your life vision, that is wonderful. But you owe it to yourself and to your children to have a life that is not based on any future conditions. If you do not have expectations you will find that your decisions are made with a clear mind and are not clouded by what you think you and your children need. It is nice for children to have a father figure in the house but any child would be just as thrilled with a stable and happy mother.

Seeking Solace in Ritual

Make a good life for yourselves that includes spiritual connection if that is important to you. Most churches, synagogues, and religious communities can offer tremendous support for single mothers. These communities can also help stabilize your children's lives.

Family ritual is as important for a single-mother home as it is for a nuclear family. Do what you can handle and what will be special for all of you. Make it a bowling night once a month or have spaghetti for dinner on Tuesdays. Children do not have complicated needs. They just see what is special in life and enjoy celebrating simple things. Board games are great and offer inexpensive entertainment.

What you don't want is a family where each member does his or her own thing away from the unit. As the children grow this can enhance the alienation that comes from the experience of divorce. Even though you do not have a father in the home you should have a family unit whose members interact and are involved in each other's lives. Make birthdays special, even if they are simple. Make each member of the family feel important.

You may have had a divorce but you are blessed with children. The love you have for and receive from children is like nothing else. It is unconditional. Your children will truly accept you despite whatever limitations you think you have and will be a source of joy and love for you throughout your life. You will have tough times, as everyone does, and may even need outside help. But when you have children you have a richness of life that one who does not have them cannot possibly understand.

By working together you and your children can create a wonderful life that fulfills your dreams.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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