Before You Date a Single Parent

So there is a single parent in your life that you are interested in.  Before you take the plunge to ask him or her out there are some things you need to know.

1) Our time is precious. We have a lot going on ALL THE TIME.  Like normal single adults, we love to meet new people and do things, but don't waste our time.

2) We need a plan. The days have long gone for us to have last minute discussions over coffee or impromptu dinner plans. Our activities usually involve another person caring for our children so giving us notice is vital to our functioning routine and peace of mind. 

3) Our children are more important to us than you are. They came first and will always be number one in our eyes. They are our responsibility and we take that task very seriously.

4) Please leave your parenting advice at the door. If your plan is to "help" us in our parenting, please recognize that we were doing just fine before you and will be okay after you are gone. Unsolicited parental advice is usually not accepted well so probably safest bet is to avoid.

5) Don't ask to meet our children quickly.  Honest fact is that our guard is up toward anyone who may hurt our kids. We will move very slow when it comes to introducing our children to someone we are dating.  In fact, don't be surprised if you aren't even mentioned to our kids until there is marriage talk.

Dating for a single parent is more than just a fun night out. It requires a babysitter, expense to pay the babysitter, uncertainty if dating is what we really should be doing, and even a little guilt that we are doing something for ourselves instead of for our children.

Many people may not feel ready to journey down this path with a single parent and I totally understand that. The journey can be very rewarding but is also one that should not be jumped into lightly.  People can get hurt.  And by people, I specifically refer to the kids.

Too Busy For Thank You Notes

Christmas day has come and gone.  The presents under the tree have been opened, scattered throughout the house, and you are left with the memories of what another holiday season has created. I don't know about you but this season is usually a whirlwind for me and when it's over I find that, that is when all of my true busyness comes into play. I'm talking about the aftermath. The path of destruction left behind and the overwhelming feeling about taking down all of the decorations, packing them "just right" for next year.  Along with the bareness of the walls, shelves, and lack of festivity, the fact that my new chores have just begun leave little to be desired. 

During this time, it is easy to feel like you simply survived the rush of it all but don't forget about thanking those who selflessly thought of you as they were shopping. I feel lucky that I grew up with a mother who made sure thank you notes were written in adequate timing and that I was taught the art of expressing thankfulness for everything.  To this day, I write notes no matter what the kind act. I find it a way to continue an old-fashioned tradition of paper and pen action to express a feeling towards another person.

With the increase of technical offerings, e-cards are great because they require zero postage, but they seem so impersonal. Even if the rush of the "after season" is affecting you, be sure to place Thank You Notes at the top of your list.  After all, the people in your life are way more important than a perfectly packed Christmas decoration box.

Alone on Christmas- 5 Things To Remember

As Christmas fast approaches, it brings significant changes seasonally as well as full schedules and gatherings.  I've always loved Christmas and couldn't wait to decorate, bake yummy goodies with my family, and celebrate the traditions.  Those memories and experiences are why I am still in love with Christmas.  They are why I longed to pass memories onto my son and give him something to cherish like I had. First to cherish the Christmas story.  Then to cherish memories that can be made this time of year.

This year will be quite different in my household. This will be the first Christmas without my son. The first Christmas I will spend alone. I will be transparent that this year I'm not feeling quite as festive. The story of Christ's birth is alive and very much well in my soul, but the presents, the tree, the memory-makers just don't seem all that important.

I struggle with this more than I'd like to admit and I'm figuring there are other single parents struggling also.  Parents who legally, willingly, or reluctantly spend Christmas without their children.  Waking up on Christmas morning alone, disregarding traditions because alone they would be heart-wrenching to do, or knowing that you are missing an important day...those are just a few reasons that my heart aches for the single parent enduring what I am this season. I'm not sure anyone can understand the depths of this feeling until they have gone through it.

It is because of this feeling and an inspiring conversation I had with a very close friend of mine that I have created the top 5 things to remember as you go this holiday alone.

1) Remember that you are not truly alone. God is there and is someone you can talk with, cry with, or simply just be with. Take heart in the reason for this Christmas celebration and concentrate on strengthening your relationship with Him.  Your children are okay.  They may not be with you, but they are making some of their own memories.

2) Christmas celebrations do not have to happen on a specific day. You can celebrate before they leave or after they return.

3) If you do have day specific traditions, it's okay to do them alone. You might be surprised at the satisfaction knowing that you kept them up.

4) It is okay to wallow. If you need to wallow and you want to stay in bed and just "get through" this day, that is okay! It is important to feel your feelings.  Really feel them. You begin to understand what causes them if you allow yourself to feel them. People who haven't gone through this feeling will not accept this easily so keep it private and don't announce it, but take the time for yourself as you need.

5) Stay off of social media. Do not use this as an opportunity to create a pity party and do not log in to watch all of the great memories your friends are making. Wait until your children are back home to look and see how everyone's holiday was.

Bottom line is that being without loved ones on Christmas is difficult but there are action steps you can take to survive and dare I say, even enjoy the season still.

Share your tips on my Facebook page!

Kids Need To Be Kids

It is an easy place I see single parents cozy up to.  Specifically I see it in single moms.  It's an easy place to go to and it's comfortable for us...for now.  So it makes it okay? Not at all.

What am I talking about? I am talking about kids who are forced to grow up quicker than they are mentally ready for or capable of living productively.  Since I am a mom, I will focus on the single moms here for a second.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  You are alone in raising your children and you have an older sibling that can carry conversations and interact with you on an almost friendship level.  What do you do? You invite them into an adult world much earlier than they are ready.

In one particular instance this teenager I know who has lived with his mom his entire childhood is now living with his dad, who is my close friend.  His dad is up in arms at the things he has been privy to.  He has already seen rated R movies and pornography.  He feels he runs the show because back at home with his mom, he does.  He asks questions prying into the personal life, finances and decisions that his dad makes.  He has absolutely no respect for women and feels he is above rules.  Why? His mom made him "man of the house" with his other 5 siblings.  He runs the show back at home.  He calls the shots and decides what he will or will not watch, do or be a part of.  His brain is not developed enough to understand what he is putting himself through.  His protector (mom) is unavailable to help him as a growing child because she has already made him a man, long before he was ready.

This is wrong.  It is very wrong.  Children need to be children.  Teenagers need to be teenagers.  They should be thinking about the grades they are getting and who their friends are.  They should not be worried about the parental bills or most anything related to the adult world.  As a teenager ages, they will need to know more about the adult world but while they are young, let them be young.  They are not your friends, your stand-in partners in life.  They are children.  Let them be children.

5 Steps- Help Your Child Deal with An Absent Parent

My son has acquired a new friendship with a boy his age who lives down the street from us.  They have become quite close and it was recently that I learned his dad is a single father because his wife walked away from their family when his children were less than 2 years old.  His kids have never met their mother and have told my son that they think she died.  Although my son is without his dad most days, there is a deeper burden that weighs heavy on your heart when you hear that a child thinks his mother, whom he does not remember, has died.  This boy plays wonderfully with my son and when he had left to go home one day, I let my son know that he was a really great friend and that this boy probably needs a good friendship since it is probably hard for him to not have his mother.  My son uttered words that will forever speak volumes to an absent parent.  My son said, "Ya, probably as hard as it is for me living without my dad."  

Shudder.  My son equals losing a mother to death with having a dad who is barely in the picture.  The intensity in that one sentence brought me closer into the reality my son is living with everyday.  Living without his dad most days to him feels like his dad isn't around at all.

Children grieve differently than adults.  Adults are more experienced in grief and disappointment first hand.  Most adults have experienced the range of emotions that go with this and have learned ways to cope with loss.  Although divorce or separation are traumatic for us as adults, we have more maturity for learning ways to "move on".  What holds us back is what we see presented in how our children are coping.   For children, they begin their journey not understanding fully the loss they are encountering, especially if that loss happens as a very young child.  As they age, they realize the loss they experienced deeper and deeper.  They are aware more and more of the absent parent and what they will never experience first hand.  A child may feel guilty for the absent parent.  They may feel they for some reason are responsible for the other parent being distant or not available at all.  They also may feel like they are a burden to the active parent.  Children do not know how to express guilt in the same ways as adults and may be observed in behaviors or emotions that are negatively self-reflective.

So what are we to do? How can we ease these feelings and inspire healing?  I have a few suggestions:

1) Squash negative thinking.  Be sure that you are not reinforcing any negative talk from your child.  Even if what they are saying is true, be sensitive to what your words will reinforce especially if it is reflective of how they view themselves.

2) Express your blessings. Tell them that you are blessed to be their mother/father each and every day.  Let them know the things you love about them and why you are a better person because they are in your life.

3) Be informative.  Let them know how many people love and support them, by name.  "Uncle Joe,  Cousin Susie, our friend Vickie, love you so very much and are available to you when you need them."

4) The details of your situation are not important.  Do not worry that your child understands exactly why the other parent is not around. It really doesn't matter and does not help your child cope with the loss.

5) Intercede for your child.  Unfortunately, we are not always blessed with the possibility to speak with the absent parent on behalf of how their actions cause infliction upon our children.  If it is possible, constructive conversations are necessary to stand in the gap for your child and what they need.   If these conversations are not possible you should still be interceding for your child in prayer.

Our Own Journey

Growing up it never occurred to me that there were kids in my neighborhood, school or church who were going through the effects of divorce.  I never even thought about it once.  I was always told how outgoing, friendly and sincere I was to other people and how it was noticed that I went out of my way to help anyone who was feeling down.  How did I never notice such a growing epidemic in the people around me?

I think back to friends that I had and it becomes painfully obvious that I was so absorbed in my own situations that I never really thought about the pain my friends were going through, at least not on this deep of a level.  That is, not until it became my pain.  I think that a lot of us can resonate with this feeling when we look at a situation we know nothing of and are not directly affected by.  We tend to give a sigh for the hurt and even pray, but how does it really affect us? Are we drawn to comfort, give friendship, or even standing in the gap for the hurting soul?  This realization of the intense feelings that children of divorce go through has never been as clear as when my very own flesh and blood became a victim.

On most days my son appears very happy, content and full of life.  It can be deceiving to what emotions are happening within him, even during happy times.  If I am not paying attention to his actions and words spoken I could miss an important message.  He may not show it but there is a lot processing in his mind every day.  One day I was thankfully listening and I heard his heart speak.

We were driving from a fun day out.  He had just finished laughing at a joke and drinking a special treat.  As we passed residential houses, he glances over to a child playing with her dad in the front yard while the mom looked on from the porch.  He says under his breath, "must be nice to have a mom AND a dad."I addressed the comment right then and there and with much more compassion than I have shown to anyone I spoke these words...

"You do have a mom and a dad.  We both love you very much.  I am sorry that you are feeling the pain of an adult decision and circumstance and I will do everything I can to create memories for you that are special to you.  Your journey is different than that little girl's journey.  God will bless your life differently than he will bless hers.  Her appearance is something you admire, but we never know what her situation truly is.  Let's pray that she is indeed in a good family home and that she feels the same amount of love that your father and I have for you.  I know that you miss your dad and I want you to always know you can talk to me about that.  It's okay to feel what you are feeling but please remember that each person has their own journey.  Your journey is special and out of it I know you will be a blessing to the Lord and others."

Let us not only remind our children of their special journey, but also ourselves. We have the potential to do great things if we focus on the future and resist the temptation to let the past dictate our future.

Great Parent-Child Date Nights!

This is one of my all-time favorite topics to talk about. Dating your child.  Dating is a way for two people to bond, get to know one another and discover attributes that are positive or negative about the other person.

As a mother, I want to know that my child is growing spiritually, has a good understanding of what it means to be a man, that he is happy and content in life and that he is confident and likes who he is. By dating my son and spending time, just the two of us, I will learn those things.  And the bonus will be that he knows I want to spend time with him and that I care.

Only having one child, date nights are fairly easy for me to accomplish, however I have a friend who has four children and so her solution looks quite different. Once per week she has a date night with one of her children and they rotate so that each person has a turn. Sometimes she chooses the date night plans and sometimes they do.  She has worked out with another parent that they babysit the other children during these outings and she babysits for them when they have theirs.

After speaking with her and compiling my own list, we have some great ideas for you as you venture into this bonding time with your children, one-on-one. 

1) Putt Putt Golf/Glow Golf
2) Movies can are good, but since you sit without talking, do dinner or something else before/after.
3) Dinner at their favorite restaurant.
4) Scavenger Hunt around town.
5) Bike ride to a park where you have a picnic.
6) Bowling.
7) Frozen Yogurt
8) Go somewhere scenic and watch a sunset. (beach, mountains, park)
9) Try on outfits at clothing stores with no intent to buy, but just to have fun.
10) Get pedicures.
11) Go to a state/county fair.
12) Museum, Aquarium or Art Gallery. A lot of places have kid-free days.
13) Take a walk together.
14) Go somewhere to look at the stars.
15) Pick him/her up from school a bit early and get an ice cream.
16) Make Dr. or Dentist appointments more than just getting business done.  Have lunch after or grab a fun snack.
17) Walk around an indoor or outdoor mall.
18) Exercise together.
19) Go to a community pool.
20) Make something together.  Artwork, pottery, clothing, blanket, a meal.
21) Water gun fight outside.
22) Play with their toys, with them.
23) Wash the car or pet with them.
24) Bless someone else with them.  Make someone a meal, dessert, etc. and take it to them, together.
25) Make "thinking of you" cards and take them to a retirement/elderly home.

These are just some ideas but there are so many more that are cost-effective, as well specific to where you live. Being able to talk and converse about topics important to your child is number one. They need you to care about them and what they care about.  When you show an interest in their thoughts and life interpretations it enables them to feel important to you.  They are likely aware of how busy you are and whether they say it or not, the time you take to spend with them will stick in their memory banks forever. But, even if your child is very young, begin this habit of dating them and you will be glad that you did.  Be sure whatever you choose for your date night, that you are able to hold conversation and good listening time.

Dating for the idea of bonding is the main reason that I am an advocate for this, but there are great side effects.  As a parent, you will know your child better and be confident about where he/she is in their life journey.  You will teach them how to date someone (i.e. my son opens my car door and learns how to act respectfully) and you will be building memories that will last a lifetime. The more you date your child, the more the habit will be instilled that they can talk to you and most importantly, that you will listen. Something to remember is that you listen without giving advice unless asked. Simply give them a platform to share and let them venture into their own decision making.  Guide but do not shut them down or date night will no longer be a positive experience for you both.  Your children are watching you and likely how you bond with them is how they will bond with their future children, friends, spouse, etc.  Be a good example.  Both of you will be better for it. 

Living The Dream

Have you ever asked someone how their day was and they reply with, "Living the dream"?  I always find this so intriguing because depending on the tone in their voice that phrase can mean two completely different things.  If said sarcastically it implies that they are not happy with their life and that they are just plugging through day-by-day.  If said with a smile and an upbeat tone, one would assume that person to be speaking truthfully that they are really living their dream.

So, how about you? Are you living the dream or are you just getting by in the day-to-day? I think a lot of it is a matter of perspective.  This single parent lifestyle isn't easy, but it isn't always hard.  How are you interpreting your situation? Do you see it through the lens of bitterness, betrayal, loneliness or hurt? Or are you looking through the lens of hope, God's promise and success?  Truth be told we all probably waiver back and forth between both eye-goggles.

In this new America that we are raising our sons and daughters, it can seem like a scary place and our goggles can become foggy with worry, anticipation and fear.  It can feel like we are fighting a lose-lose battle.  I mean let's be real here.  We are Christians in a world that is trying to pull our children away from our faith and values every day.  Not only are we doing our very best to raise godly children alone, but we are facing at every turn the possibility of losing a spiritual battle.  I will never forget the day when my 4th grade son stepped into the car after school and before even saying hello to me, asked, "Mom, what is a homosexual?"  Not at all the conversation I thought I'd be having with my 10-year-old, as I picked him up from school that day.

How can we protect our children, uphold our values and still feel like we are "living the dream"? I am not going to pretend that it is going to be easy and a basket of joy, but perspective can help quite a bit.

1) Shower Your Children In Prayer. It is probably the most important thing you should do for your children.  Pray protection, grace and mercy over their lives.  I read Psalm 91 over my son each day.

2) Lead By Example. Be the person you want your son or daughter to be.  If that is positive, spiritual and hopeful, be that.

3) Address Issues When You Need To.  We are adults and know much more than our children will or should. Only address issues with them when it is time for them to know.  For example, explaining homosexuality with my 10-year-old wasn't on my "to do" list at his age, but because he asked, it became priority.  Know what your children are exposed to and equip them with head knowledge from you before they hear it from others.

4) Know The Word Of God. 
How often to you and your best friend talk? If you had a book about your best friend with all the things you needed to know to have a successful friendship, would you read it? Reading God's word is imperative to having a relationship with Him. I guarantee you a certain peace if you devote yourself to scripture and it will greatly help with your perspective.

5) Keep Watch.  We are to never let our guard down.  Always stay on top of your situations, people that you are around and situations that can cause you or your children to stumble. Life can be a wonderful enjoyment and should be, but be mindful of the moments that steer you into the wrong direction. Your children are watching and will follow you.

This life is meant to be enjoyed.  America may be heading down some scary paths but our God is bigger than all of that.  He may not change circumstances but He will get us and our children through. You are not alone and you can definitely stay on the right path while "living the dream".


Psalm 91 (Insert Your Child's Name)

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Life Under A Microscope

As much as single parents try to fight it, truth is that we live a life much differently than a dual parent home.  Our lives are not better or worse necessarily, but it is a reality that we can feel watched and scrutinized more in our parenting, life or financial decisions, and even our romantic ventures.

I have friends who are married and have children, and setting aside the dual parent blessing, there seems to be a much different life led by them.  They are never questioned when they decide to take a family vacation as to how they are able to afford that.  They do not regularly receive pity from others during public tantrums or the dealings with a misbehaved child and likely would not endure a conversation of living in an unsafe area for their children.

Sometimes when I write this blog, I realize that I'm trying to appease all who read it- married, single, divorced, kids/no kids.  That's a lot of pressure until I remember that this blog isn't for everyone.  It is for single parents.  It is referencing situations that we deal with or encounter that not everyone will understand or even agree with.  That being said, I have opinions just like everyone and encounter the world through my own eye goggles.  My attempt is not to state fact, but to state my opinions and offer ideas and encouragement through my experiences.  That's really what it's all about, right? Offering encouragement to others through the situations our lives take us in.

Why is it that single parents, whether male or female feel put under a microscope and analyzed? Why is it that when someone doesn't have a spouse, they are immediately deemed incapable of making decisions for their children without the helpful input or analytic advice from others? Even I, find myself sometimes being the culprit of unsolicited advice towards a fellow single-parent friend.

Like I said, this is my opinion but I think it's because that is how people want to help. We ask and ask for help and there just isn't a clear direction as to how someone can help.  Most likely, they do not mean any harm and truthfully are trying to be the "other" voice of reason we simply do not have as single parents.  Helping comes in many forms and we just haven't been clear in our ask.

We also need to realize that there are stigmas attached to single parenting that we are just not going to get away from. We make less money, are completely stressed out and tired all the time and that we are anxiously awaiting our soul mate.  Are we these things sometimes? Sure.  All of the time, likely not.  But it's important for us to realize within ourselves that we are capable people.  We are amazing individuals who care so much for our children that we are giving all we can of ourselves.  We are not better or worse off in our situations but we are doing the best we can, just like our friends and family who try to help us in any way that they can.  Sometimes, that advice is needed and sometimes it's not.  Take it or leave it, but always keep perspective.  We have reason to be proud of our families and ourselves. 

Removing The Mask

We live in a world where people are striving to be better than each other and struggle to keep up the appearance that we have everything under control, at all times. People wear masks all around us.  Masks that tell everyone that we are okay. Masks that conceal our hurts and our pain. We even wear masks that help us pretend that we are in a place in our lives that we truly are not. 

The hardest part of wearing a mask, is that we all know when we have a mask on. We know when we have purchased a car outside of our financial ability for status, when we have said we are okay but are fighting back tears, and even the mask that says we have an amazing life when deep inside we are struggling to understand why we are parenting alone.

We all know the truth. The truth is that no one has life under control at all times and that there is always someone who will be better at something than you. Why then do we continually reach the point of exhaustion and stress that is associated with how the world perceives us? Isn't it time that we care more about doing some things well rather than all things well? Isn't it more important to concentrate on the eternal rather than the material? Dr. Meg Meeker recently said something to me that was very enlightening. She said, "I firmly believe that each person should live within their strengths because within their strengths they do good work. Living outside of your talents and strengths is not good for anyone." Knowing your strengths and where God has placed you for this season in your life will help you remove your mask and feel more real.

What I'm talking about isn't necessarily a single-parent issue but something that most people deal with. Allowing yourself to truly live in your season will help others around you as well. It does me no good to pretend I am something that I am not. It does no good to stress myself out for the sake of how I appear to others. When I live in my season I can truly be vulnerable and available for others. Time to remove the mask.

Leaving a Positive Legacy

Today as I dropped off my son to school, he reminded me that I volunteered for his classroom to help make drums and celebrate in a pizza party.  I had completely forgotten amongst the craziness of my schedule and he looked at me, I think waiting for me to say I wouldn't be able to make it because I had not put it on my schedule, but truth is that work is very busy and there just isn't time in the day for me to function much outside of all my commitments.  I run a very tight schedule in order to be the "perfect" parent.  I set aside time for him so that he doesn't feel I ignore him in order to work.  Sometimes I get placed "in check" with the fact that parenting isn't scheduled and "perfect" parenting is a lie that is so easily believed.  I am quick to forget as a single parent that I cannot give an itinerary to every day.  Things just happen and in this instance as I pondered my response, I chose to listen to that spiritual voice in my head that said, "THIS is what your son will remember! Either that you were too busy OR you thought this was important above all else."  I get to take 3 hours and be with my son doing something for him and with him but most of all, he will remember that he is a priority in my life.

When I think about leaving a legacy behind to my son or to those around me, the feeling is daunting for sure.  Thoughts circle around in my head of self doubt, ability or relevance.  I'm a single mother and work very hard each day to ensure that one day my son can say that he grew up in a godly home with food on the table and clothes on his back.  My ultimate goal is that he develops his own amazing testimony for Christ.  How then can I leave him a legacy? Is my legacy determined by how he lives his life? Is my legacy the memories that he has of his childhood and my guidance? The word, legacy, can be loaded and almost scary.  If you think about it long enough you'll agree that there are good legacies and bad legacies.  Adolf Hitler left a legacy, a very negative one.  Dr. James Dobson is leaving his legacy, a very good one.  Each of us is an imprint into the history books, some more deep than others.  When it comes to your family and especially your children, however the large footprints are left by you, the parent. Sure, people like Dr. James Dobson will leave an imprint into my son's life from a result of my choice to take the good sound advice he has given me, but the largest imprint into my son's life will be from his parents.

My question to myself daily is, "How are my actions going to be viewed when my son is raised and my legacy is all that remains?" This question is a driving force behind my desire to be a good mom.  We all make mistakes, and I don't mean that we have to be perfect.  Our children are going to remember the environment they grew up in.  Will it have been angry, scary, unsafe, and unloving or will it have been confident, safe, secure and loving? How will the words I have spoken or the time I have spent reflect on the person I was or the parent I chose to be?

Legacy doesn't have to be so scary after all.  Just simply making the best decision at the time will slowly but surely show the legacy that our children will remember. 

One Chance To Raise Them Right

I love being a mom.  It is the best-worst job ever.  If you are a parent, you know exactly what that means.  I am blessed beyond measure with one amazing son who at ten years old already knows compassion, empathy, grace and best of all, how to show the love of God to others.  Even though he is all of these wonderful things and more, he is still a child.  A child that is learning about life and the ups and downs that come with living.  A child that sometimes makes mistakes and chooses to defy my authority because his increasing need for independence drives him.  He loves big and falls hard.  He dislikes school, but loves to be creative. He needs boundaries but acts like they stand in his way.  He is a child, that reminds me so much of myself.  

Good parenting is tough.  Good parenting is relentless.  Good parenting is crucial. And good parenting doesn't come natural for everyone.  It is especially difficult when you haven't prepared. What do I mean by, prepare? Think through possible scenarios, get your game plan, know how you'll react when situations arise and always remember to show love through it all.

My very best friend, Jennifer was raised by two amazing parents. Cheryl and Gary were not just fulfilling their parental duties by feeding, clothing and providing shelter for them.  They sacrificed their personal comfort for what was good for their children, they had game plans, they went against the grain of society and they worked together. They knew their children's desires, passions, talents and character.  Most of all, they showed their kids love.  Love from hugs, kisses, encouragement, and physical presence but also through boundaries and expectations.   Cheryl wrote a book entitled, Before They Graduate and in it she tells stories, gives advice and helps motivate parents to be the best they can be for their kids, because we only get one chance to raise them right.  When I read this book it was fun to remember the stories, but most of all it was refreshing to have great parenting techniques confirmed.  I don't quite remember how I felt about their parenting techniques while I was the best friend coming over for visits with Jennifer as a teenager, but what I do know is that all 4 siblings are wonderful, responsible and loving adults.

Okay, so I'm referring to a loving married couple raising children but what about the single parent who doesn't have that loving spouse by their side?  What about us? How are we as single parents supposed to work full time or more, keep a household and have enough energy and motivation to instill good parenting to our children?  The answer is not simple.  The answer is very complex in definition, but also obvious.  We have to.  Our children deserve good parents so that they can be great adults. There is no one else who can or will step up to the plate.  We may feel overwhelmed at times (get help).  We may feel unqualified (research, learn and get help). We may be exhausted (get help).  We have a job to do and we have to do it well.  Our children are depending on us. If you noticed a theme, it is important to get help.  Truth is that we are not super heroes and there is a reason that children were meant to be raised in a two-parent household.  It is a lot of work but it can be done and done well. Be honest with yourself when you feel like you are drowning.  There are people around who want to help but need to know how.

The main take-away is this: Anyone can be a mom or a dad.  It takes determination, effort and willingness for sacrifice to be a good parent.  Our children need good parents.  Know your children, understand their weaknesses and strengths.  Take the time to plan how you will parent each of them and what you will need within yourself to do this.  You have a lot on your plate, that's a certainty but with God, you can do this.

5 Ways To Love Yourself

Being a single parent has moments of highs and lows just like any other journey in life, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that I have to think about myself just as much as my child or I will lose sight of who I am as a person in this entire process. Our needs are important too and the better we take care of ourselves, the better equipped we are to take care of our children.

1)     Wake up 15 minutes or more before your kids. When you wake up in the morning, before checking Facebook or checking in with your text messages, check in with yourself.  Do a few stretches in bed to loosen up your muscles, sit up and say a prayer for your day.  Take those 15 minutes (or more) before your kids wake up to start the day in peace and calmness. Gain perspective before you rush about your routine.
2)     Drive to work in silence.  It is really easy to fill our day with noise to drown our how we are feeling or to move about a routine with fun and enjoyment.  Noise and fun are great, but it is important for us to continue to learn about ourselves.  The drive to work with an empty car is a great time to really think about situations, emotions or issues we may be dealing with but are too busy to confront.
3)     Give yourself a gift.  Budgets may be tight and the idea of shopping for us is last on our list.  Treat yourself to one thing per week that is for you and only you.  It doesn’t have to cost money.  It can be a peaceful walk on your lunch break, a hot steamy towel over your face for a quick beauty treatment, eating the last cookie in the cookie jar.  Little perks to yourself send messages that you are worth it.
4)     Make a decision to realize your worth.  You put forth extreme effort in raising your kids and doing that all by yourself! That’s a huge undertaking and you are doing it.  Every single day! Take time each day to remind yourself of that.  Even if you don’t believe yourself in the beginning, keep saying, “I am an important person and of great worth. I matter.
5)     Walk away from toxic relationships.  Whether those are romantic or platonic, keep people away who are dragging you down and are negative. To be a positive person you need to be around positive people. It may hurt initially, but after time you will be better for losing the negative baggage. Negative people only know how to be negative. Positive people can be the game changers for you and how you perceive life and yourself.