3 Thoughts After 3 years of Being a Single Parent

I am a single parent. I’ve done this gig for 3 ½ years, and it’s been an adventure y’all. I think I fear what any single parent fears for their child :: are they set up for success? Are they at a disadvantage in life? Did I do the best I could for them? Are they missing out?

I recently went on vacation with my daughter to Croatia. My parents live there in the summer {yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds} and lots of my extended family visit in the summer. It was revitalizing. We are at the point I can sit on the beach or nearby café and my daughter can freely play. If something happens she can reliably tell me the story. The tantrums are gone {for the most part}, her fears can be rationalized, and a sense of self-preservation has emerged. She prays, she says please and thank you and she has a natural sense of empathy that I’ve always prayed she would have. I received praise over and over again from friends and family of how well adjusted and well behaved she was. Folks seemed slightly amazed that she was turning out so well. “See, you made the right choice,” was echoed over and over again. I felt like I could breathe. She’s 3… we are doing this!

And yet…I also felt crushing guilt. The truth is, I have demanded more of her. She has grown up faster. She has to be mommy’s helper, and understand when mommy is tired or her head hurts. She has to understand when mommy has a late night at work and I drag her to the office until 7:30 pm to finish up a study. At 3 ½ she often rubs my back and head at night when we lay down and lulls me into sleep. She likes to play “family” where she is always my mommy and she takes care of me. I feel the sting of robbing her of something. Of worry or anxiety a little person shouldn’t have. If I’m upset or off, her mood immediately sharpens and becomes uneasy. She is perhaps too fine-tuned to me and it is unfair. Am I taking away from her childhood in some way? Or teaching her my “busy-ness of life” and not how to enjoy it? Is my work ethic of constantly fighting, pushing, and trying to get ahead a negative thing?

With all this in mind, I do what I always do – I turn to facts. Here is what I have learned.

Kids of single parents often turn out to be amazing adults.

Studies have shown that kids of single parents do not have any more behavior issues then kids of dual family homes. And often kids of single working mothers tend to be more mature, responsible and better citizens. What TRULY matters is the relationship the kids have with their parents and the stress level in the household. They see you working hard, persisting, fighting the good fight and these attributes become part of who they are as well.

Take vacations with your kids…. even when they are young.

Yes I know traveling with kids is a pain but SO worth it. Imagine doing it solo. M has traveled since she was 6 months old. She’s been to Croatia three times and on flights nearly 20 times. This year alone M and I have gone to Disneyland and saw Minnie {Mickey was sleeping so we didn’t see him but really mommy didn’t want to wait 2 hours}. Even if she may not remember this trip since she was only three, the WAY a trip makes a kid feel and the emotions it evokes is more important then the actual memory! She excitedly talks about the trip to just about ANYONE who will listen and it was months ago. We’ve taken a few road trips as well, we will go visit my Alma Mater {The} Ohio State University this week to show her where mommy went to school. And all along the way we are surrounded by godparents, family, and long time friends who love my kid like their own. She knows it, feels it, and often lists for me all the people who love her. If that doesn’t make a trip worth it I don’t know what does!

Model the Behavior You Want to See

Some folks know this. I have a tattoo on my wrist with my daughters name on it. Above it is a quill writing into the name. I got it when she was a baby, holding her in my left arm as my right wrist was being inscribed. I did it for two reasons – to remind myself that life didn’t go as planned and we will simply have to write a new chapter our selves. Her and I. I also did it to remind me no matter what was happening or how I wanted to react to something that I am setting the example for her. If the action isn’t in her best interest or modeling the best course of action then I best rethink it because that little person is watching me.

When I am stressed that I can’t keep up with birthday parties, school assignments and all the miscellaneous events I can’t attend I remind myself of what I am doing right. I remind myself of how she is turning out. The memory of when we are lying in the shallow sand letting the surf roll over us tanning our behinds in the warm Adriatic shore created a powerful memory to draw on. When she rubs my back to help me sleep she is modeling what I do for her. When I scold her for bad behavior and she cries for her daddy, it stings but I know I am disciplining her to be a conscience human who understands choices and consequences. She now will come up to me after such moments and explain to me that she understands why I was upset and that she still loves me. “In fact mommy you are my true love because I love you and you are the most special person to me – did you know that is what true love is?”

I do know. I’ve known for 3 ½ years, baby.

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Ana T. enjoys sharing her life observations with a healthy dose of humor as she navigates life with her pint size sassy sidekick M {November 2014}. She comes from a loving, loud Croatian family raised in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2008 she made the jump to Houston where she full time practices and teaches optometry. 2014 - 2015 was a blur of survival for her: difficulty conceiving, a rough pregnancy, a seemingly happy marriage shattered in a Lifetime Story–esque way. Being alone as full-time single parent/career woman with a newborn living miles away from her family definitely wasn't the plan. Despite all this, Ana T. and M are tearing up play spots, eating their way through town, traveling all over, and THRIVING. Ana T. is into trying out and laughing at fitness fads, ridiculous Facebook statusing, and at 34 still searching for ANY craft she could have a smidgeon of talent in {currently it’s knitting… stay tuned}.

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