Be Willing to Make Changes as a Single Mother
- Friday, June 27, 2003
Most single moms hear at least occasionally, "Daddy didn't do it that way," whether we're frying potatoes or cleaning out the garage.
When Melanie's children said things like that to her, she used to remind them, "Well, Daddy's not here!" But she soon realized such a retort only deepened the gloom. Finally she forced herself to ask them to show her "how Daddy would do this."
To her delight, Jimmy, her 10-year-old son, remembered how to pour the gasoline into the lawn mower tank without splashing. Soon she was asking Jimmy how he would tackle a task.
Take an Occasional Risk and Grab This Moment
We can become so worried about the future - paying bills, making friends, finding a new environment - that we miss the joy of this moment. This concern was an especially tough area for me to deal with because I'd always had my security blankets - friends, family, familiar environment - wrapped tightly around me.
But once I forced myself to take little risks, even to changing my basic wardrobe color from the pinks I used to wear to the deep purples I'd always loved, I discovered a heart for adventure.
That realization quickly translated into having fun with my young children, including garbage-bag tobogganing near their grandparents' home. I even took to carrying a box of oversized bags in the trunk for such impromptu romps.
Even a walk in the woods became an adventure. And looking back now, we recognize that our favorite memories from those early years of adjustment are in the unplanned event - the trips to the cider mills or art fairs - not the trips we overplanned for weeks.
Look for the Silver Lining and Enjoy New Experiences
When I was married, Sunday afternoons revolved around football. If I wanted to invite someone over for dinner, they had to like football. If I suggested we visit relatives, we had to leave either well before or immediately after the game.
Now these many years later, I confess that, while I still miss my husband, I don't miss football one bit.
As I reclaimed those fall and winter Sunday afternoons, I started looking for those things Jay, Holly and I could do together. Museums, plays and orchestras quickly filled the time that had once belonged to football.
Those activities were some of our choices for Sunday afternoon; they may not be yours. The point is that, depending on your tastes, budget and the ages of your children, do whatever appeals to you as a family. Maybe visiting with friends and relatives is more to your liking, or taking in a matinee or going to the zoo or whatever.
If you're outdoor types, you've got Sunday driving, hiking, biking and romping in the park, as well as enjoying skating, sledding and all the rest of those cold-weather sports when the temperature drops and the snow starts falling. Indulge and enjoy!
Analyze and Adjust and Celebrate in New Ways
Altering the way we've always celebrated holidays is often the smartest way to handle the pain.
Just after we moved to Colorado Springs, I had lunch with Arlyne Ballard, my realtor and new friend who was wading through the pain of an unwanted divorce.
As she sipped her diet cola, she said, "I remember a guy in our office who said nobody invited him to their Christmas parties after his divorce. The holiday is still four months away, and already I'm wondering what I'm going to do."
I shrugged. "That's easy. You and your kiddos are coming to my place for Christmas dinner."
She shook her head. "I can't do that. There're five of us."
I insisted I was cooking and that if she didn't come for dinner, she'd have to come for leftovers.
Finally she accepted, only after she insisted we go to her place for Thanksgiving. Suddenly her eyes sparkled at the thought of filling her home again.
Within a few weeks, her guest list consisted of an interesting group of single parents and their children that she teasingly called " The Lost and Found Gang." We all hit it off so well that I invited all of them to my home for Christmas.
The Lost and Found Gang is now at the core of my social circle. And all because Arlyne and I were willing to analyze our situations and adjust to a new way of doing things.
Let Down Your Hair and Be a Kid Again, Too
Karen's two children constantly argued over a small blue pillow in the family room. Then she saw teddy bears on sale - soft and fluffy - with tummies just the size of that old blue pillow. She picked out a brown one for her son and a white one for her daughter.
Then just as she turned away with her carefully chosen selections, another white bear - this one with a floppy arm - caught her eye. He was imperfect; no one would buy him. Suddenly, with a surge of kinship, she bought him and named him Ralph.
Many nights, after her children had gone to bed, she sat on the sofa, watched the dying fire and hugged her broken bear. Anyone who's met her in the last few years can't imagine that scene, but maybe she's stronger now because she allowed herself those evenings of hugging a fluffy bear.
Dare to Dare and Do Something Different
Peggy's week in her blue-suit office world had been rough. Now Saturday's chores loomed; it was raining and both her kids had colds. She pulled on her sweatshirt, the noticed she had it on backward. She sighed and started to turn the logo to the front.
Suddenly she grinned at her mirrored reflection and turned her sweat pants inside out before she tugged them on. Then she pulled her hair into a top knot and tied it with a pair of her daughter's lavender tights.
Not only did she feel appropriately dressed for the gloomy morning, but she still occasionally gives in to other tension-relieving "weird days."
Sometimes we have to force ourselves out of our ruts. When things start to close in on Darlene, she takes her children for a walk or, in bad weather, to the mall. Their assignment is to see how many different sounds they can identify. The idea is to do something different - and something fun.
Are you one of those who has to have things "just so"? I used to be. But when the New York editorial job offer came, and we moved into a small condo, the cost of living was so high on the East Coast that I couldn't afford wallpaper right away. So we slapped paint on the walls and moved in.
Within a couple of days of unpacking our boxes, I had hung - with dozens of straight pins - several Amish and Southern quilts to add brightness to the rooms. Then on the awkward wall next to the stairs, I hung the scatter rugs my Kentucky grandmother had braided years ago. Only a few of them were unused; most were ones I had wiped my feet on at her backdoor years ago, never dreaming they'd someday move with me to that great end of the world - New York.
When everything was in place, I stood back to admire the splashes of color against the off-white paint. It was magnificent! What I originally meant as a temporary measure quickly became my personal decorating signature.
Excerpted with permission from the book "From One Single Mother to Another" by Sandra Aldrich, Copyright 1991, Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003.
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