The five favorable traits of successful single moms (like you!)
The five favorable traits of successful single moms (like you!)
Ever meet a person who seems perpetually positive regardless of how episodic the events of her life? I know I've met and heard from many. Single moms with disabled children, or battling a debilitating disease while undergoing a custody case, or managing to provide piano lessons for the kids when the company has just announced 300 job cuts - these are women who appear to jump through hoops to get through a normal day, but they still have energy left.
I'll never forget one woman who described the circumstances of her partner's disappearance, and how she dealt with a brain tumor while trying to establish paternity, and juggle a job, raise her daughter and attend law school. I was speechless. Before I could even murmur, "How ..." she cut in with (probably her only negative statement ever), "What really depressed me was that I'll probably graduate law school two years later than I hoped."
Is that all? I asked myself. I didn't know whether to say, "Hello, your life is hell," or feel guilt about all the drama in which I indulged when I became a mom (which didn't even warrant the same ratings.)
But I've learned from my own experiences and from listening to others that those who handle any challenge that comes their way usually possess five basic characteristics which are incorporated into their daily lives.
These five traits - wisdom, wit, dignity, confidence and courage - can become part of your life and positively affect everything you do, say, feel and think. See how you can be more successful at parenting while taking care of you, too.
The smartest thing a single mother can learn is that life is unpredictable for everyone - no one is immune from life-changing events whether tragic or blessed. She's wise enough to know that marital status has little to do with snow days, car accidents, job layoffs, feverish children or winning the lottery. But she also knows that when these things threaten a single parent family, advance planning is important.
Wisdom is not so much knowing everything there is to know about custody to co-parenting, or childrearing to childcare but knowing when you have choices and when you don't. Sure, collecting advice about parenting solo is necessary. But so is accepting that your child's father may remain uninvolved despite all your efforts, and choosing to thrive regardless of his input.
Another really attractive trait that I've found in those who cope remarkably well is a sense of humor. And let's face it - study after study has proven the power of laughter is a healing aid to all sorts of ills - from cancer to grief. In fact, researchers say that because of all the facial muscles pulled into place when you muster a smile, physiological changes occur that provide a sense of well being. When your brain is happy, so are you.
When I first learned that I was going to be pregnant without a partner, it was easy to fall into a depression. But I remember adopting a humorous attitude helped me more than anything. Once, when a client came into the agency where I served as art director for seven years and saw my ninth-month "spread," I was worried what to say when he commented, "Congratulations! I didn't even know you were married."
"Yikes, I'm not," I quickly replied. "I hope I'm still pregnant and this isn't just a beer belly!" We both laughed and he wished me the best of luck. Later, I lost my job during one lunch hour too many at the pediatrician's office. I started my own business and actually won this client's account. Within a year, I took three accounts from my ex-boss, primarily because the clients said they enjoyed working with witty people.
Humor also is a great parenting tool at least for distinguishing between funtime and when you "mean business" (just lose the smile). "Wit-less" parenting is tough. So laugh - with and without your children - a little each day.
In spite of common single mother stereotypes, you know, the irresponsible teen, or the zoftig woman, slumped on a sofa, eating bon bons and watching Jerry Springer, most mothers heading households are actually very dignified. I've talked with many, young and old, some with newborns, others whose kids are in college and some graduates even helping to raise grandchildren. They all possess this matriarchal dignity, a quiet power that was rarely seen in the mothers in my days of growing up. Unlike my own twice-singled mom who was a mechanic as well as glamourous before, during and after marriage, most of my girlfriends thought that their mothers were doormats - helpless servants to husband and house - a most undignified role at best.
Another mom on welfare dresses impeccably when seeing her caseworker. "With make-up and a simple, polished look, I rarely feel intimidated. In fact, my caseworker seems to be particularly polite to me," she points out.
Dignity can have a look, an attitude, pride, or simple or elegant presence. But to be a successful single mom you must have this ray of dignity that whispers, "Of course this is how it should be. Matriarchs are back. Matriarchs are in."
Being self-assured is a valuable trait for anyone, but it's a pretty big asset for a single mom. Because you get to make many decisions without input of another adult, you need to feel in control.
But having confidence alone isn't enough. If you don't take care of yourself, if you neglect your body, your health and your mind, it's easy to erode your confidence into "just getting through each day."
Be sure to maintain your best possible physical and emotional health by resting, eating right, exercising, warding off stressors and finding a 1 spiritual home. Remember that confidence grows stronger when supported by others. Support groups and reaching out to those in your community is important.
Courage and confidence go hand-in-hand. When you feel confident in your decisions, it's not hard to muster up courage to explore new things. Whether you are pregnant - with no nearby friends and family - seeking out childbirth classes or a coach; a long-time unmarried mom entering into a serious relationship; a divorced mother of grown kids who is ready for a major career change; or a woman just contemplating single motherhood, taking the first step is a very courageous move.
Remember, you don't have to be brave or funny or even wise all the time. But by adopting these five traits, you can organize your life around the realities and strengths of single parenting, and not around others' expectations of who you are and who you should be.