A family friend has a saying he has told me growing up: Failure is only failure when you stay there. After my marriage failed, despite my efforts to make it succeed, I felt like I had failed. Failed as a wife, failed my dreams of what I wanted my life to become, and most of all failed my daughter. When going through the divorce proceedings in court and fighting for custody, it is hard not to let it take over your life and assume the identity you lost as "wife". Here are some things that I have learned that have helped me let go of the bitterness and anger, the guilt and defeat, and feel successful and content as I moved forward with my new identity and my new life.
1. Create Stability.
When I left my ex-husband, it wasnt a planned out thing. I didnt have the luxury of explaining what was happening to her. For her, and for I to an extent, we were living in a home that we had known. A home with memories, good and bad, filled with our "stuff" that made it comfortable. Within a 24 hour period we were living out of the few things we were able to take that were stuffed into black trash bags and living with my parents. Now, for some it isnt such a rushed thing. But either way, it is a change in life. And change, no matter what the capacity or transition time, can be scary, especially for a child. I knew it was important to create a sense of stability for her, and in doing so I created a sense of stability for me. We found a condo we could afford soon after leaving. This created a space that was ours. We started new routines: she would have hot chocolate while I drank my morning coffee on the sofa together, etc. We started new traditions: cleaning the house together while cranking up the dance music. We found new things that we enjoyed doing: Get Out Of Town Adventures were when we would gas up the car, and drive to a location to sight see, play in the sand, and find new places to eat at. We also made sure to incorporate old traditions and routines into our day to avoid feeling like things were completely different, ie. she still slept with her baby blanket at night, still made dinners at home, etc. It was important for me to teach her, things werent better or worse, they were just different now. The one thing that remained through all we went through was each other. I made sure that she was my priority and we spent plenty of time playing together, finding new memories, and cuddling together.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles." — Audrey Hepburn
When I first read this quote it clicked a trigger deep in my soul. Audrey was right... it was ok to be a hopeful romantic... it was ok to watch the Notebook over and over again. It was ok to allow myself to believe in good things again,.. but it was RIGHT to make those beliefs a reality. I had choices in my life I could make to bring in hope, love, peace, security, happiness, and joy. Despite what I was feeling, I had to choose to do things that would evoke those emotions. Printing or writing out inspirational quotes and posting them in locations to read regularly also helped as good reminder. It wouldnt happen over-night, but I knew with some hard work and dedication I would soon be able to smile with hope for a better tomorrow.
3. Single Mom: it isnt an oxymoron!
I remember when I was single, dating was fun, hanging with friends was a daily occurrence, and I was carefree... with only my happiness as my priority in life. Then when I became a mother I found a new purpose in life. She was utterly dependent on me for everything, and if I wasnt attentive she would suffer. But I loved it. I loved watching her smile at me, laugh for the first time, pat my back with her chubby little hands as I held her and patted her back, seeing her big dark eyes in the night look up at me when she needed a midnight snack. Suddenly my happiness was wrapped around her little finger. Yes, there are times when you are utterly frustrated and ready to give up. But the pride you feel when you made it through the 3 months of colic, the teething, the all night flu... those are when you feel complete. Being single, and being a mom can feel like it is two separate ends of the spectrum. On one hand you want to enjoy the company of a man and feel desired and hot and sexy again... and on the other hand you feel you have to be attentive to your child's needs which can be an all encompassing task at times. So how do you balance both? PRIORITIZE. Your first responsibility is being a loving mother. This means providing a safe environment for your child to thrive in. Creating an income to give your child a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, food on the table, and electricity to light the bulbs. Your second responsibility is to find a place you can confidently stand on your own as a woman in this world. This second responsibility is closely intertwined with the first. You need to give you the pleasures to make you happily available to your child with undivided attention. If your stressed on romances, complications of divorce, challenges of financial gain, etc, you will not be able to give your child the attention they need and crave. The thing to remember about dating again is balance. Men may come and go, but you will ALWAYS be a mother, and they will always be your children. That will NEVER change. They should stay your number one- but allow yourself the occasional indulgences of pedicures, dinner dates, nights out with the girls, or anything else that makes you feel like YOU.
4. Working Out The "Tions".
Frustration, depression, aggression, elation, stupidification... these are all emotions that can weigh us down and spiral us into a slump on the couch in a heap of tears. Although there is a time and place for crying and grieving, it isnt healthy to stay there. We cant be a loving mother when we are consumed with emotion. I found that expressing those emotions in physical activity was extremely therapeutic. I would do yard work, go for a jog, wash the car, scrub the grout on the counters, reorganize closets... anything to put that emotional energy into a beneficial task that took vigorous effort. This helped me feel successful, productive, and I was able to let go of that emotional oppression that was holding me down. For me physical activity was the best, sunshine, exercise, and productiveness released the right endorphins that elevated my mood and helped me find peace again.
5. Create a Sanctuary.
6. Give yourself small things to look forward to.
Even if it is splurging on sushi at the end of the week, making cookies on Thursday, a playdate on Monday, it is worth looking forward to. In life, it is all about the small things in life to enjoy to the fullest. I love getting flavored creamers for my coffee and look forward to it the moment my eyes open. I love marinating meat in preparation for a bbq. Having something to look forward to allows you to not let the divorce or custody consume who you are. It gives you something else to occupy your mind and discuss with friends.