Excuse The Mess Blog is a lifestyle blog and single mom blog with a goal to empower women to be the best versions of themselves. I want to share with you my travel tips, recipes for busy moms, health and fitness wins and losses, coping with divorce and all the beautiful mess of my beautiful life.
Growing up it was understood that when someone said they were sorry, we were to say "I forgive you." It was practically required. I grew up in a religious home where the word forgiveness was very loaded. It was my understanding that since God forgave us, we were to forgive others. It was gracious and it was the "right thing to do". Unfortunately, of no fault of my well meaning parents, I was born a Libra and I am, by nature a peace keeper. My mantra could very well be, "Why can't we all just get along?" Because of my inherent desire to please, this idea of forgiveness manifested itself in, what I've come to understand, was a very toxic way.
The definition of forgive can be confusing:
-stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
-cancel (a debt).
-used in polite expressions as a request to excuse or regard indulgently one's foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.
My understanding and application of forgiveness followed the last interpretation. I believed that when you forgave someone you excused them. That it was the "right thing to do". Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." but for me, forgiveness was my weakness. Throughout my life I had "forgiven" or "excused" hurtful things instead of standing up for myself and forcing myself to deal with and work through painful or confrontational things. Instead, I just "forgave". I had done this so much that it's caused me to retreat from anything that might cause me pain. I would rather not risk the pain for the sheer fact that then I would have to, not only the burden of healing from the pain, but the burden of finding a way to "excuse" what caused me that pain. Turns out that I my understand of forgiveness was wrong and living a life with a wall up to anything that might end up causing pain is not healthy.
Thankfully, I've come to a place in my life where I've been able to redefine forgiveness. For me now, forgiveness means accepting that the past will never change and being grateful for what it taught me or where it is leading me. It absolutely doesn't mean that I excuse the actions or the words that caused me pain, but I do understand that just as those action or words do not define me, they also don't define the perpetrator. My forgiveness doesn't excuse them from any consequences, even though in some cases, I wish it would. My forgiveness is simply me accepting that the past cannot be altered and deciding to let the past be a stepping stone instead of a burden.
Redefining forgiveness has not only allowed me to truly forgive, but it has allowed me to have a new sense of gratitude for my past and to give it grace. I can't change it. I don't have to understand it. I can't change my choices. I can't change others choices, but I can choose to be gracious to myself and to others because the past chapters of my life have been written in permanent ink, but how I choose to let that past determine the future chapters is entirely up to me.
In the current political climate there is a lot of talk about women's rights and the audacity of men to make decisions about what women can and cannot do with their bodies. All of this talk has gotten me thinking about how my son is raised. As an unapologetic feminist I have always had the intention of raising him to respect women's place in society as equal to men's, to see the importance of women in our global structure and to contribute to the fight for equality in his own way. But recently I have felt especially passionate about it and have really broadened my perspective as to what raising my son as a feminist means.
Let's start with the definition of feminism:
The advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
Contrary to popular belief, feminism isn't about hating men. Feminism IS about equality. We have come a long way, but we aren't there yet and we need strong women AND men to stand for and fight for equality. I will do my damnedest to make sure that my son feels empowered and proud to be a voice for equality for women.
But, I must ask...Why aren't there more male feminists? Why is it so taboo for a man to be a feminist? My theory is that the problem lies at the root of how we are raising our boys. The miseducation of masculinity and the importance of male emotional security may be the biggest culprit. After all, the real oppressor to women is not men in general, but men who have been misguided about what it means to be real men; associating things like being emotional with being weak, and in turn associating being emotional with being female. Of emotion = weak and emotion = female then the natural conclusion is that females are the weaker sex. This is a problem.
So I will raise my son to know that he is allowed to be emotional and that doesn't make him less of a man. I will raise him to know that he doesn't have to puff up his chest and fit into a stereotype of masculinity. That really strong men are vulnerable because vulnerability takes courage. That there is never a good enough reason to put someone else down just to raise yourself up. That every human being on this earth, including him deserves to be treated fairly and equally. That he doesn't need to feel threatened by strong women, but empowered and inspired. That being a nurturer does not make you less powerful. I will do my best to keep him from hearing phrases like..."grow some balls" insinuating that you are stronger if you have balls. Let's get real here...kick a man in the balls, then kick a woman in the vagina and you tell me which is stronger. I try to keep him from hearing phrases like "don't be such a girl", but when he does I'm quick to explain to him, even at four, that unfortunately that person must not understand how awesome girls are. Then we talk about all the awesome girls we know. I've realized that it's not just my job to make sure that he respects women, but that he respects himself enough to not be threatened by anyone that is unlike him, women included.
I have to believe that boys who grow up feeling confident, loved, respected, trusted and allowed to safely express themselves don’t need to seek hyper-masculine security blankets to confirm who they are. They don’t need to harass or exert authority over women to prove their worthiness. They don't feel threatened by equality, but instead embrace it as an integral part of society. My hope is that boys raised this way will become leaders who are true to themselves, their strengths and aware of their ability to affect change, that they don't feel the need to conform to the toxic masculine stereotypes of the past.
So I will raise my son to be a proud feminist, not because I hate men, but because I believe in equality and because I believe that we have the power to raise a generation of men that defines masculinity differently. A generation that is proud to stand up for the rights of ALL men, women and children. I believe that children, by nature, understand and accept equality because they haven't yet been jaded by inequality. Therefore, we have a responsibility, as parents to cultivate this and to raise girls and boys to become adults that understand that gender equality and feminism isn't controversial or political, it's just common sense.
This is my busy, travel season for work and I would be lying if I said that I didn't indulge in some airport Auntie Annes pretzels here and there. The smell taunts me and sometimes I cannot resist. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't let myself feel guilty about enjoying things like the occasional airport pretzel or an indulgent meal because I deserve it and because I adore food. I love to eat good food and sometimes it's healthy good and sometimes it's not. Instead of feeling guilty or denying myself foods that I love, I just try to make sure that I keep things balanced. I live by the 80/20 or sometimes 70/30 rule of eating and it doesn't feel like a chore at all. In fact, usually after indulging during a weekend of travel my body actually craves healthy and nutrient rich foods so it doesn't feel like I'm "sacrificing" or "dieting" during the week. In fact, I despise the word diet. I eat what I want and what I need in balance because life is too short to not eat that donut, but life is also too short to not take care for the body I have so that I can live longer and eat more donuts. You see how I did that there? Say the magic word with me...."Balance." It's the key to being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable for LIFE.
Here are 10 foods that have belly busting super powers and that I use to me stay balanced.
1. Peanut Butter
Peanuts contain L-arginine, an amino acid that works to improve blood flow throughout your body by helping blood vessels "relax" — all of which can help to mitigate fluid retention.
A cup of peas packs 8 grams of protein and tons of key bloat-reducing nutrients. It's got nearly all of what you need daily for vitamin C, plus magnesium, potassium, and iron — all of which aid in counterbalancing sodium and bringing oxygen to blood cells.
I love tuna for a quick snack or meal and it doesn't get any better than fish when it comes to healthy protein, especially tuna, salmon, and sardines. They're filled with important omega-3s and lean protein, helping you fill up and curb cravings.
4. Greek Yogurt (Unsweetened)
Greek Yogurt contains probiotics, a.k.a. friendly bacteria that help boost immunity, regulate gut function, and banish bloat.
Berries are packed with fiber (up to 9 grams a cup!) and antioxidants but contain less sugar than most fruits. That combo makes them a satisfying and healthy choice. Mix with some Unsweetened Greek Yogurt and you've got a delicious and nutritious breakfast or snack (also toddler approved).
Grains get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but that's because refined grains (processed foods) are linked to wider waists. However, 100% whole grains are bloat-busting superstars because they're packed with minerals and de-puff by counter-balancing salt. Stick to brown rice, quinoa, wheat, barley, millet, farro and amaranth for the biggest benefits.
7. Leafy Greens
Plant-based omega-3s belong in any healthy eating plan, but leafy greens and cauliflower are especially helpful for reducing waist lines and getting things back on track when you'e splurged because they're loaded with minerals like potassium, which can help offset the bloat-inducing effects of sodium, commonly found in those airport Auntie Annes pretzels.
Good news for all of you lovers of this fruit: A 2013 study linked eating avocado regularly to lower waist circumference and BMI. What's more, the monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy and filling, reducing the urge to graze on processed foods later on. Avocado toast anyone?
Filled with potassium and magnesium, they offset the bloat caused salty processed foods and pack in plant-based prebiotics which feed your good bacteria.
The potassium in citrus helps combat bloat while the antioxidants fight inflammation, which is associated with belly-fat storage. Add some citrus to your water or check out my favorite juicing recipes to add some citrus to your day.
So don't be afraid to indulge in some of your favorite "naughty" foods and certainly don't beat yourself up about it. Just remember to balance things and find the joy in also rewarding yourself with healthy foods that make you feel amazing! One of my favorite quotes about nutrition is from Dr. Jade Teta and she says, "There's one actual rule-the only rule in nutrition- and that is: Do what works for you!"
The other day, after fixing one of his broken toys all by himself, my four year old son exclaimed, "Mom, I did it! I'm soooooo smart!" I laughed and agreed with him that he was, in fact, very smart. Then I started to think about how I hoped he would always see himself the way I did. In an ideal world, he would keep that four year old confidence and boldness all through his life, but I know from working with teenagers for almost twenty years that making it through those teen years and coming out the other side with self assuredness is easier said than done. I start to see the confidence dwindle in the kids I teach around the age of 10. They start to hide their light. They become more timid, more hesitant to answer questions and their gaze shifts toward the ground more. Then as they become teenagers they still struggle with lack of confidence, but they all try to hide it in various ways. They feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, scared to grow up, but also wanting to be grown up. They can be mean. They can be irrational. They can be exhausting, but they are hands down my favorite age. Am I insane? Possibly, but insane or not, I love them. There was a time that I felt so hopeless watching them become descend into the abyss of teenage-doom, but then I realized that I it wasn't all gloom and doom. These years are the years where they are primed to be molded and having an opportunity to have a hand in that molding process is a privilege. I've also always felt like a bit of a misfit myself and I was blessed to have people in my life that guided me and supported me through those difficult teenage years and now I get to pay it forward with a job that allows me to build into the lives of teens daily. So I wanted to share six things that I have found to be keys to surviving and thriving for those of you lucky enough to have a teenager or multiple teenagers in your life.
1. Be Patient
The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and controlling impulses and doesn't finish maturing until we are in our late twenties, so even though may want them to think like an adult, the truth is that it is not scientifically possible. They are learning so many things about themselves and as much as you may want to rush the "maturing" process, it can't be rushed. So be patient with them as they learn and grow.
This is true for all human beings: Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. No matter how irrational you may think they sound or how much you want to interject your own thoughts, opinions and solutions, practice just listening. All too often, adolescents are not heard, because adults “know best.” When they are not heard, they begin to resent or withdrawal. After a while, they stop trying to communicate all together and the relationship grows distant. It is also difficult to trust someone who will not even listen to you, but being heard is empowering. Believe it or not, I have learned a lot from taking the time to listen to teenagers.
Can teenagers be irrational? Absolutely! Am I asking you to play into their irrational thoughts and feelings? No, but whether rational or not, the fact is that they DO feel those feelings and just validating that you understand that they feel that way can go a long way. Often times they feel dismissed and misunderstood and someone saying, "I know you are feeling sad. I know you are feeling alone because you genuinely feel like no one likes you. I understand how those feelings can be totally overwhelming. How can I help?" can make a world of difference. You can and should steer them toward more rational, positive thoughts, but it's important to validate that their feelings are real.
4. Be Honest
You may not always have the answers and that's ok. The answer may be something that they don't want to hear, or maybe, the answer is something that you don't want to say. No matter the case, they need your honesty. I've found that teens are very perceptive and intuitive by nature. They know when an adult is being fake with them, but they will respond with whole hearted joy when they feel an adult is genuine and open with them. They don't need you to be perfect. They don't want you to be perfect. They want you to be real, honest and approachable. They are much more likely to be honest with you about the difficult things if they feel like you would do the same for them.
5. Lead By Example
You may swear that your teenager hates you, that you are the last person they would look to emulate, but I can assure you that they ARE looking to you to lead them. Parent, Coach, Teacher, Mentor: Whatever capacity you deal with teens in, they are looking to you as an example of how to adult. They are anxiously awaiting their turn at adulthood and you are showing them how an adult should behave. One example of this is body image. So many teens struggle with body image issues. They talk about how fat they are. They diet. They obsess over getting the right selfie. How are we teaching them to love their bodies? Are they hearing us talk about how we don't like our bodies? Do they hear us talk negatively about our appearance or others? We set the tone for them and any time we see them acting in a way we don't like, the first thing we need to do is check ourselves to make sure that's not a learned behavior from us. If it is, then go back to #4 and be honest with them. Tell them that you struggle with that as well and make a plan to be better together. You're not perfect and that's 100% ok, but as you make mistakes let them see you own them in an honest and healthy way. Then when they make mistakes they will feel much more at ease coming to you.
Studies have shown that emotionally stressful situations impact the adolescent brain more than it would affect the adult brain: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. -Frances E. Jensen, MD
With suicide rates at an all time high in teenagers, it's never been more important for them to feel like they are loved and supported. They may roll their eyes at you, but tell them you love them all the time. Tell them you support them. Stop referring to your adult life as "the real world". That makes them feel like you don't believe any of their problems or feelings are real. They have feel an enormous amount of pressure and their lives can feel overwhelming and sometimes confusing so have their back even when it seems silly to you. Your support could make all the difference in the world.
The truth is that they can be a pain and the transition through teenager years into adulthood is like a bumpy rollercoaster filled with uncertainty and emotional highs and lows, but we are blessed to be a part of it. We are blessed to get to build into these young minds that hold the future in their hands. We have a responsibility to them to show up, to listen, to lead, to love and to support without judgement and if you really open your heart and mind, you might find, as I have, that they actually have a lot to teach us.
Last week I was in LAX airport battling a cough and head cold. I was looking for breakfast when I spotted a juice bar. "Perfect" I thought, "I'll just grab something to give me a boost of nutrients to help kick this crap out of my system." I was pleased to find a blend of orange, carrot and ginger, but not so pleased to find out that those 16 ounces would cost me $13. I begrudgingly paid it because it's what I needed, but I suddenly had a greater appreciation for my juicer at home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking freshly made juices helps your body absorb the nutrients better than eating whole fruits and vegetables and it gives your digestive system a rest from working on fiber. They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help remove toxins from your body, aid in digestion and even help you lose weight. Sounds like a win/win to me! As a bonus, it's a great way to sneak more vegetables into your kid's diet.
Below are just a few of the fruits and veggies you can juice and their health benefits.
Apples – Helps to fight inflammation and heart health.Beets – contain nutrients that may help lower your blood pressure, fight inflammation, and support detoxification. Carrots – known for being a good source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, and potassium. Carrots have been linked to lower cholesterol levels.Celery – low in calorie since it is mostly water. It is a low-glycemic food and a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K.Cucumber – since it’s 95% water, it’s an incredible detoxifier and helps with liver and kidney functionGinger – aids in digestion and supports the immune systemKale – low in calories, powerful anti-oxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, and helpful for arthritis and autoimmune diseasesLemon – a highly effective cleansing agent, helps body become more alkaline and cuts through the bitterness of greens.Oranges – immune system booster since it is high in Vitamin C and low in calories.Pineapple-especially rich in vitamin C and manganese, providing 131% and 76% of the daily recommendations. High in antioxidants and bromelain which helps with digestion. Spinach-loaded with carotenes, amino acids, iron, iodine, potassium and magnesium, Vitamins A, C, K, E and B complex and helps balance the pH level in your body.
Here are 10 recipes to get you started, but the possibilities are endless!
1. Anti-Inflammatory Juice
4 Celery Stalks
1 Cup of Spinach
1 Knob of Ginger
2. Belly Buster
1 Small Cucumber
3 Celery Stalks
1 Knob of Ginger
3. Cleansing Juice
2 Hearts of Romaine
1 Celery Stalk
4. Ginger-Aid Immunity Booster
1 Bunch of Kale
1 Green Apple
1 Knob of Ginger
Optional: 1 Clove of Garlic (peeled)
5. Carrot Immunity Booster
1 Knob of Ginger
6. Beauty Elixir Juice
4 Celery Stalks
1 Knob of Ginger
7. Migraine Reliever
1 Cup of Pineapple
3 to 4 Kale Leaves
1 Celery Stalk
8. Hydration Boost Juice
9. Anti Aging Juice
1 Red Apple
10. Toddler Approved Immunity Booster
These are just a few recipes, but you can really tailor your juice and your kids juice to your specific needs and tastes. I would love to hear your favorite recipes and I'm happy to answer any questions you have in the comments below. Happy Juicing!
We all want to be winners. Have you ever met anyone that likes to lose? It seems only natural that we would want our children to win as well. Not only is it more fun for us as parents, but we love them more than life itself, of course we want them to be successful. I would like to make the point that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting your child to win and rooting for their success. In fact, that’s part of our job as their parent to be their biggest cheerleader, but there’s another side to parenting that isn’t quite as fun, but is vastly more important.
I have had the privilege of teaching dance for a living for the last 20 years. I also have the privilege of judging dance competitions all over the country and no matter where I go or who I teach, one thing is certain, people love to win. Winning is fun. No one is arguing that losing is preferable to winning, but I would like to make the argument that it’s not a bad thing, and even though it may be painful in the moment, it can actually be more beneficial than winning.
Here are a few reasons you can be thankful your child didn't win.
1. They Learn to Lose Gracefully
I had a parent a few years back that shared a story with me that I will never forget. Her daughter, about 8 years old, had a trio that had been doing well at regional dance competitions through out the year and at nationals they placed in the top three and had to re-compete for the first place trophy. They didn’t win, but her daughter smiled and cheered for the winner. When they got in the car to go back to the hotel, her daughter started to let out her emotions and the mom said to her, “Go ahead and be upset. It’s okay to be disappointed, but I want you to know that I’ve never been more proud of you than I was tonight when you stood there and smiled and cheered for the winners even though I knew you were sad you lost.” That moment of learning to be gracious and humble was more valuable than any trophy.
2. They Gain Perspective
When a child doesn’t get the results he or she wants, it’s an opportunity to gain perspective. Maybe that perspective is that they aren’t as good as they thought and that can be a motivation or a discouragement depending on how we, as their parents, package it. One thing that I can tell you is that you aren’t doing your child any favors by telling them that they deserved to win and the judges got it wrong. Whether that's true or not, that won’t help them. It just leads to entitlement and laziness. There is always room for improvement and there will always be people better than them and that is ok. Losing also allows them to gain perspective on what can be done differently. Maybe it’s that they need to be more consistent. Maybe they need to work harder. Maybe they need to not put so much pressure on themselves. Maybe they need to prioritize differently to reach their goals. Maybe they need to just be patient, which leads me to the third.
3. They Learn Patience
I often remind kids that dance is not a fast food drive thru, it’s more like a slow cooker. It takes awhile to see the results of your hard work. We live in such an instant gratification world and it’s important to take every opportunity to teach our kids that not everything is instant and that there is value in consistently working hard and being patient to see the results. It’s important not to get discouraged when they don’t instantly get the results they want, but to keep pushing and working because it will pay off in more ways than just winning. Learning the value of doing little things consistently and being patient to see results is something that filters into whatever they choose to do later in life.
4. They Find Motivation
There’s a saying that if you are the best in the room, you are in the wrong room. If your child is always winning, are they in the right room? When did you feel the most motivated and driven? Was it when everything was going right and you felt on top of your game or was it when you knew that you had to dig deep and step it up if you wanted to reach your goals? People tend to rise to the bar that is set for them. There's no shame in being beaten by someone better than you. Let it inspire and motivate you. The most successful people have a habit of surrounding themselves with people that push them and challenge them. It’s easy to become complacent when we are always winning and it’s no different for our children.
When I was a freshman in high school I competed for Dancer of the Year and got last place. I remember getting the results in the mail. (yes…in the mail. I’m that old.) I knew I didn’t win, but I never dreamt that I was LAST! My mom watched me open the envelope and saw my face drop. My eyes welled with tears as I told her that I was actually last place. I was so embarrassed. She didn’t skip a beat and said, “Well, that’s disappointing, I guess you’ve got some work to do. That just means it will be even more shocking to everyone when you go from last to first.” My mom gave me perspective, motivation and encouragement. She didn’t say, “WHAT?! That’s crazy! They don’t know what they’re talking about!” She didn’t encourage me to try volleyball. She made it clear to me that this was just part of the process. That if I wanted it bad enough I could have it, but I had to do the work and I couldn’t dwell on the failures. I had to let them be my motivation. To this day, I’m not sure if my mom actually believed that I could go from last to first in two years or if she was just trying to be encouraging and supportive, but that was a pivotal moment for me because I realized that failure was not the end, it was a necessary part of the process. Two years later, I did as my mother had predicted and won that award and it meant even more to me because of the failures that I had along the way.
It’s natural for us, as parents, to want the best for our kids. We don’t want them to feel pain. We don’t want them to be disappointed. We don’t want them to fail, but our greatest successes in life often come after pain, disappointment and failure. It’s our job, not only to cheer them on when they win, but to see the opportunity and blessing in the times when they don’t. The truth is that our kids are going to fail ten times for every time they succeed and every time they do is an opportunity for growth, but they need our guidance and encouragement. They need us to give them perspective and to show them that life is more than winning and losing. So take a deep breath and remember the bigger picture. Give them a hug. Tell them that you know that they feel disappointed and that they have every right to feel that way and then take advantage of that opportunity to help them be better, stronger and more equipped to handle life and the disappointments that inevitably come with it.
So your ex is dating and seems to be super happy, now suddenly everyone wants to know when you are going to be dating. You’re not getting any younger. You know you are a catch, but yet, you can’t even begin to convince yourself to “get out there”. This is my current reality. Is it that my bed is just that comfortable and Netflix is just too enticing? Possibly. I’ve used the excuses “I’m just too busy. I don’t want to shave my legs. I don’t have the energy. I want to focus on myself.” All of those things are true, but lately I’ve been thinking about whether or not those are just the cover story. As I see some of my recently divorced friends happy to head into the dating seen or even starting full relationships and happy about it, I ask myself why I have zero desire to date, much less have a serious relationship.
As far as I can deduce, there are 5 reasons as to why I'm really not dating right now.
I joke about not wanting to shave my legs, but let’s be real, as women, there’s a lot of upkeep that needs to be done regularly when you’re dating that I truly don’t have a lot of desire to do. But there’s also the comfort of the “known”. When it’s just me I know what to expect. I am a caretaker by nature and when I’m single I can take all of my energy and put it into taking care of myself and my son. I am in my comfort zone, there’s no denying that and the thought of venturing out of it is scary, which leads me to my second reason.
2. Fear of Pain
This is an obvious one, but boy, oh boy is it huge! I ask myself if having a relationship is worth the risk of being hurt again and it’s an emphatic “NO”. I feel somewhat guilty about that response because I know that the only way to feel true love is to open your heart to it and that includes risking the pain, but that doesn’t really console me. I’ve felt true love. I’ve felt the pain. I don’t want to feel the pain ever again. So what now? I’m happy. In fact, the happiest I’ve been in awhile. Why would I do anything to risk that? I am fully aware that relationships are the most important things in life, but I can have plenty of relationships in my life to bring value without having a romantic relationship right?
3. My Son
Every major and some minor decisions that I make in my life involve asking the question of, “How will this affect my son?” When I think about dating, I immediately worry that it will somehow negatively impact him. The pivotal moment when I knew my marriage was over was when I realized how the stress of my relationship with his father was affecting my ability to be the best mom possible. So I guess it’s only natural that I worry about how any other relationship will affect him, but one thing I am quite certain of is that I will not put up with anything or anyone that ever hinders my ability to be the best mom to my son I can be.
4. Fear of Losing…Again
When I think about falling in love again, any butterfly feelings are quickly squashed by the fear of loss. When you put so much of yourself into a relationship and then fight for that relationship year after year only to see its eventual failure, it’s exhausting to think about pouring yourself into another relationship that may very well fail. I know that this sounds pessimistic and I’m sure Julia Roberts’ character in Eat, Pray Love would be sorely disappointed in my lack of enthusiasm for the love portion, but nevertheless, it’s where I am in this journey. I also worry about loss even more because it could impact my son. What if he gets close to this new love of mine and then it doesn’t work out? Then, he’s not only experienced his parents’ relationship fail, but now another heartbreak. I expressed this concern to my ex when he started dating and he was quick to remind me that our son will experience all kinds of loss in life and it’s not our job to shield him from it, but to teach him how to deal with it. Yeah…yeah…I know he’s right, but I still feel the need to protect my heart and my sons.
5. The Unknown
I am 37 years old and haven’t so much as kissed anyone, but my ex in the last, holy crap I just did the math, 12 years...TWELVE YEARS! If I wanted to start dating I don’t even know where I would begin! Not to mention, aren’t all the good ones taken by now? And listen, I know that I look pretty good for my age, but I’m still an almost 40 year old single mom who doesn’t like to shave her legs. At this point in my life, I’m afraid I’d rather wrestle a mountain lion than venture into the unknown dating world in hopes of finding love. Yet, there’s the nagging reality that I’m not getting younger.
The truth is that I know all of these reasons may very well be excuses and I know that love can be worth the pain and effort. I know that only with great risk comes great reward, but right now, this is my reality and that’s ok. There’s no time table saying exactly when you should start dating again. There’s no law saying that you even have to date again at all. Your journey is just that, yours. I feel like as a society we put so much value on being “with someone”, but I have found that a full and happy life CAN exist separate from being in a committed relationship. I am healing and growing in my own time. I am wholeheartedly enjoying my alone time and I refuse to feel pressure or guilt about this hairy legged part of my journey.
Let's be honest, cooking a homemade meal for dinner isn't always possible. In some "Leave It To Beaver" world I would be able to have the laundry done, house clean and make a healthy homemade meal every night all while working a full time job, but I am not Joan Clever, nor do I aspire to be. Some nights we will have peanut butter sandwiches or we will order pizza because that's life. But on the nights that I want to make a meal, haven't planned ahead and we are already hangry, I like to use some of these quick and healthy-ish recipes to have dinner ready in thirty minutes or less. So put down the take out menu and believe me when I tell you that you CAN cook dinner from start to finish in less time than it would take to get food delivered.
Whether you like it or not, the reality is that after you and your spouse split, they will eventually date again. Moving on with someone new is normal and can be healthy, but it can also bring up a lot of emotions. Dealing with those emotions can be like walking through a minefield. Chances are you are finally feeling good about your new life and finally not thinking much about the pain of ending that relationship so much. You have come to terms with things and then BAM! you are thrust into a whirlwind of emotions that you want to sweep right under the rug, but you don't because, well, you're not doing that anymore. But now, just when you thought you were done dealing with emotions around your ex, he's dating....and happy.
For me there have been 4 emotions that I have had to work through.
Initially, I was overwhelmed with the anxiety of someone new being around my child that I didn't know. I often obsess about how things will affect him and, in this case, I felt very powerless. I don't know this woman and suddenly she is going to be a fixture in my son's life. Will he love her? Will he tell her things he doesn't tell me? Then I realize that I am spinning...Snap out of it woman!!! I started to think about how there were several people in my life that were also in our son's life on a regular basis that his dad didn't know. He can't control every friend of mine that spends time with Ares and I can't control every person that he chooses is allowed to spend time with Ares. I decided that I needed to let go and trust that he loves him as much as I do and wouldn't allow anyone to hurt him or be a negative influence in his life. I also reminded myself that I'm his mom. No one else will ever be his mom and if there is one more person in his life that shows him love, why would I be upset by that.
This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. I found myself angry that someone else was benefiting from all that I had to deal with. This shouldn't have come as much of a surprise for me because I actually predicted it. We had a phone conversation shortly after we separated when I said to him, "What sucks is that someone else is gonna benefit from all of this that I've been through." The truth is that when relationships fail we learn a lot about ourselves and ideally the next person will benefit from those lessons learned. So yes, she will benefit, but it's a two way street because I will also be better from the lessons that I have learned. So when I feel those feelings of anger and see him doing and saying things that I had only dreamed he would have for me, I try to remember that.
For me this was the biggest surprise of all. I've had these random flashbacks to how his mistress made me feel. It was feelings of not being enough. Feelings of "What does she have that I don't". In this case, though, it's different. I don't want to be with him anymore, so why do I feel this way? For me, there's been a tendency to look at the relationship, which I actually know nothing about, other than social media posts, and say, "Wow...apparently she has something that I don't." It's another validation of sorts that I was "not enough". The truth is, pardon my French, THAT'S A BUNCH OF BULLSHIT! The other day when I recognized those thoughts I wanted to slap myself. I know that I was, in fact, enough. I know that no relationship is perfect. I know that, in the beginning of our relationship we were just as happy as they appear. I know that comparing never leads to anything good, but nevertheless, as embarrassing as it is to admit, it did trigger those feelings of insecurity.
It may sound a little cliché, but I always wanted him to be happy. There were times where I about killed myself trying to accomplish that, so it's actually really nice to see him happy without me having to lift a finger. It's nice to know that someone else is dealing with the things that I didn't so much care for dealing with. It's also nice to think that the universe has a greater plan for both of us. I've yet to even consider dating anyone. I want my divorce to be finalized first, but also I just don't want to be in a relationship with anyone, but myself right now. I am loving this time of living my life just for me and my son. Let's be real, I also don't want to start shaving my legs regularly. But I do love the idea of someday finding someone to share my life with and seeing him find love does give me a sense of possibility for myself.
Moving on is hard and watching your ex move on can be equally hard, but no matter what emotions it evokes in you, you have to remember the truth of who you are and where you are. You've come a long way. You have grown and changed and your ex's relationship is no reflection on your self worth. It's like the circle of life, but the circle of love. Everything is cyclical and people do move on to other people. Focus on you. Focus on your own life and being the very best version of you that you can be. Block people on social media if need be, but more than anything else, stop comparing. You are different than her and that's ok. Your relationship's are different and that's ok. The time you take to move on is different and that's ok. Hell, your definition of love may even be different, so quit comparing. Focus on being the bad ass that you are and just let it be. I can promise you that every minute you spend worrying about "them" is a minute you've wasted.
When you think of a single mom what images does your mind conjure up? Is it someone barely holding it together, stressed to the max, struggling to pay the bills and quite possibly wearing pajamas at the school drop off? When people think of single moms they usually feel one of two things, pity or respect, and maybe a little of both. The truth is that the stereotype of a stressed out single mom is there for a reason. It is, in fact, hard. It is exhausting and often lonely. Whether you are co-parenting or totally on your own, it's tough. Along with the stress, though, comes a silver lining.
1. Setting An Example
I know this may not sound like a silver lining, but I believe it is one of the best parts of being a single parent. It's in the struggles that we find what we are made of. All too often we put pressure on ourselves to be "perfect" parents and it's just not realistic. Not to mention that we all define perfection differently. If you are single parent, I'm willing to bet that being "perfect" is the least of your concerns. On a good day, my kid gets to school with breakfast in his tummy, shoes on his feet and without any morning meltdowns for either of us. There are times where I feel guilty for having to work when he's with me or having to travel to make money, but I shake that guilt off knowing that I am setting an example for him. He will know that if he wants anything in life, it is up to him to make it happen, no matter how hard. I am proud that my son will see that I struggle and that I will get to set an example for him of perseverance, working hard for what I want in life and more than anything, finding the humor and beauty in the imperfection of life.
2. Doing Things Your Way
Obviously this is different for every situation, but whether you have a co-parent or not, you have the benefit of doing things your way on a day to day basis. I remember a time when my ex and I were still together and I would make a decision that he didn't particularly agree with, maybe to give him applesauce too late in the day or to "baby" him when he was sad, an argument would ensue or at the very least a comment made and I would feel frustrated that my parenting decisions were being questioned and sometimes even feel guilty for those decisions. Parenting is hard and we are always wondering if we are making the right decisions, so there is a bonus to being able to make those decisions without someone else there to question us. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that my son has both of us, with our different parenting styles because I know he benefits from both, but there's something awesome about being able to do things my way when he's with me.
3. Organization and Time Management
I've never been good at time management and staying organized is struggle , but let me tell you that since I have become a single mom, I haven't had much choice. Between working several jobs, making sure that bills are paid on time and bringing snacks for school holiday parties, there's always something going on and no one is gonna help me keep track of it, but me. I've gone from having a planner that I barely used to color coding my planner, living by Google reminders and time blocking every week. Not only is it necessary, but it has positively affected every area of my life. I even time block personal time so that I don't feel guilty during that time thinking that I should be doing something else.
4. The Bond
There's nothing that I cherish more than the bond that I have with my son. I know that it would exist whether I were single or not, but being single has allowed me to focus solely on him and building that relationship. Whether it's movie night in mom's bed, a trip to the Target or just a lazy afternoon playing play dough, the times of "just the two of us" are the times that are the building blocks to a bond that means more to me than anything in this world. I hope that he always feels like he can tell me anything. I hope that he always wants to have movie night. Taking this time in my life to build into the bond we share has been my greatest blessing.
It can be scary and lonely as a single parent, but there are also so many blessings that come with it and there's no denying that it has made me a better person. I am lucky enough to have an amazing support system that reminds me that I'm not alone and that I'm doing awesome. Hopefully you have the same, but if you're a single parent and no one's told you lately, let me tell you. You've got this! You aren't perfect, nor should you be. Your kids are lucky to have you and if you are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, stop for a moment to think about some of the amazing things that come with being a single parent. Most of all though, remember that you aren't alone and that, even if you get your kid to school with no shoes on, what matters is that they are loved and you are doing great!