Yesterday I got angry at being a single mom. To get angry in and of itself (for me) is a rare occurrence. To get Angry to the point of tears is even rarer. And yet that’s where I found myself yesterday. And it was a frightening place to be. I despise getting angry, I hate it. I may even have a phobia of it. Good grief, I hate anger.
It’s silly and funny today, looking back on what happened and evaluating it. I had been hauling heavy limbs for 2 hours out to the street, as well as raking up debris from Hurricane Irene. Alone. With many more hours to go. I was hot (it was 90 degrees yesterday), mosquito bitten, and wore out. I plopped down on the floor of my bedroom, angry. In fact, you know that saying “He was so angry, he saw red?” Well I think that I saw red yesterday. I was boiling angry. And terrified of being that angry. I wanted to stamp my feet and ask God where my (ex)husband was instead of helping me with the hurricane clean up. But I know the answer. He is in prison. And he wouldn’t be able to help even if he were out. And there is nothing I can or should do about that. So I got up, preached to myself and marched myself back outside to finish the job that needed to be done. And 5 hours later I finished it.
I’m just starting to formulate my thoughts on this new reality of being a single mom of four kids. Here are a few things I have learned, or am learning:
1. I need to both raise and lower my expectations.
That sounds like a dichotomy. And it is. But what I’m finding out about this single life is that much of it is a dichotomy. Each situation, each decision is so incredibly multi-faceted.
When I raise my expectations of myself and of my children, I typically get results. I can not afford to lower my standards for what I expect out of myself or out of my children. Life is hard. Being a single mother, or not having a father in one’s life does is not an excuse for laziness, for poor attitude, or failing grades, for poor parenting decisions–for anything. When the standards of expectations are lowered, than why try to meet them at all? But when they are raised, when there is an expectation that the grass will get mowed by the 15 year old, that the laundry will be done by the 17 year old, that the dishes will be unloaded, that attitudes will be respectful–then it actually seems to lessen the stress on both myself and my children.
That said, I must also lower my expectations. In the back of my mind, I need to remember that being a one-parent household is stressful on everyone in the family. I try to preach to myself that, at the end of the day, if we’ve worked as hard as we know how to and yet we’ve not accomplished all that we should have or planned for the day, that it is ok. That it is more important to go to bed knowing that we gave everything we’ve got, then to go to bed consumed with frustration over what was left undone. Or to not go to bed at all.
Unfortunately or fortunately, tomorrow always comes. And then we can try again.
2. Being a single parent means there is no room for disorganization. Instead, organization is a key element to survival. Routines are important. I have to know where important document is and be able to find it in a timely manner. And not only that, but I must take the time to read things so that I can understand them. I have to have a calendar system that works for the 5 of us. And peace is created when chaos is not allowed to reign.
3. Single parenting means working double time to make sure that each child is getting face time with me. In other words, I’m outnumbered 4 to 1. It’s my kuleana, my responsibility to insure that each child is getting some time with me each and every day. Some may say “Why, that’s easy to do.” But as they get older, it’s not that easy. They start to be more independant. They get jobs. Schedules get all out of whack. I must make it a priority to be in the moment with each of my children, every single day. There’s no one else to do that, and I can’t let that slide.
4. I must stick to the spiritual disciplines. When I don’t, things go south. When I am consistent in at least a few of the possible disciplines, such as studying scripture and praying in the morning, taking a sabbath (which I am a failure at), and others, then my heart is settled better and I am thus better able to love my children with all my soul.
5. I must somehow keep them involved in church. Another thing I fail at. But by keeping them in church–others will see them and check on them. Church is our family, I need people in my church family to help me love and encourage my children.
1 John 1:4 is a very important verse for me. I need to work diligently to raise my crew into adults. This verse says:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
That’s what must happen before I can go home.