Stephanie Van Pelt is a single mom I met through Google+ (Seriously why aren’t you there yet? Connect with me!) who writes the blog Tech Savvy Butterfly. There she writes about technology, parenting, and how technology affects families for better or for worse. She also discusses these things on Google+ so if you’re new to the platform and interested in these topics, circling her is a must. This is her single parent story.
My journey to single parenthood was so exciting I decided to do it twice. I’m twice divorced with 2 sons, one from each marriage. The journey itself is full of bad decisions – my own and those of my exes. Low self esteem coming off of marriage #1 resulted in an even more disastrous second marriage. Let’s just say that no one was truly innocent in either of these matrimonies other than the children and move on.
This results in two very different single parent scenarios. My older son spends one week with me and then one week with his father. While we still bicker from time to time, we managed to keep our relationship cordial and later even friendly. I’m actually pretty happy about the fact that we’ve demonstrated to our son that even though we couldn’t live together as a couple, we have still been able to work together to raise our son.
My younger son hasn’t seen his father in more than three and a half years. At first this made me very, very angry. Now I’m grateful and to be honest, this is my preference. In his current state, ex #2 is not fit to be around children. He may never be. This leaves me as my second son’s sole parent, both more challenging and simpler in the same moment.
Who am I now? What is single parenting like for me today? It’s frustrating when my first ex doesn’t meet my expectations. But then again, that’s hard enough for married couples. While divorcing I think that’s the hardest thing to understand. Co-parenting is difficult in even the very best of relationships. We always have differences of opinions and those early angry days certainly compounded those differences. I have to remind myself that he also loves our son and is just doing things the best way he knows how….as am I.
By contrast, I don’t have to consult anyone when making decisions about my younger son. I also don’t have anyone else to help with the responsibility of raising him. That fact alone can be very wearying. Knowing that there’s no one else to tap out to – no one to call and say “Your son did XYZ!” I fear my younger son will not have appropriate role models or take on the absences of his father as his fault.
Through it all I’ve learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of achieving and I’ve grown into a better person. The key things I’ve learned:
- Develop a strong support system. It’s pretty much impossible to parent well completely solo. Develop a team of people to help you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Meaningful relationships with your family, your ex’s family, other single parents and other whole families matter. When you have a sick child, there’s someone to lend a hand. When you have a win, there’s someone to celebrate it with. You don’t need a spouse/partner but you do need that village. And it provides you with a little welcome relief and sanity.
- You will be amazed at how strong you really are. I had no idea I was such a strong woman until I became a single mom. At the end of the day, the responsibility of my boys rests solely on my shoulders. You know what? I got through it – I even managed to do it a bit gracefully. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when push comes to shove and it’s your children at stake.
- I have three main responsibilities in life and only time to do two of them well. Family, work and home. The house can wait. I’d rather read bed-time stories to my kids. Work gives me something of my own, outside of my identity as Mom and provides me with the income to support my boys. The boys are the light of my life. I can have a clean house when they’re not there anymore. We have too much fun being messy right now.
If you enjoyed this story as much as I did, I hope you’ll read past contributions to this series. Single parents can, and do, create loving and healthy environments to raise wonderful, happy, and loved children in. Here’s more proof: