Being a single mom is undoubtedly hard. It’s hard in a way you can’t really understand until you are in the throes of it. Like when you were pregnant, and people told you that having a newborn would make you tired. Remember that? I recall thinking, yeah, I stay up way past midnight and still wake up and go to work tired, I’ll be fine. Then the baby comes and your definition of tired is utterly reinvented. Being a single mom is no different, you must experience it to really understand how difficult life becomes.
The hard parts are different for all of us. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s juggling busy schedules, sometimes it’s chasing the impossible work/life balance. For me, my biggest struggle was trying to be the nurturer and the disciplinarian – roles typically reserved for 2 parent households. I did my damnedest, but with 2 very different kids I found myself performing a daily Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. One kid had a great day while the other got in trouble at school. So, a smile and a high five to you, turn around a deliver a stern look and a consequence for him. How confusing that must have been for my kids? I was failing at both roles and leaving a gaping hole in my family.
One day, as I was really trying to figure it all out, I realized that I needed a teammate in all of this. I was not dating, and fully aware of the complications of bringing another adult into the situation, so that was not the answer. Instead, I asked myself what if instead of trying to react to and regulate every circumstance my kids encountered, I simply joined them on the playing field. I decided to start addressing our family as a team. We all had roles to play on the team, and we all had a responsibility to the success of our team. I sat my kids down and we spoke at length about our new family dynamic.
The truth is, nothing changed as far as my hierarchy in our family. But instead of dividing and conquering my kids, I encouraged us to all weigh in on the good and bad parts of our days. We talk so much more, and I yell so much less. My kids have learned each other’s love languages – one son thrives on physical touch, while the other seeks out words of affirmation. They have been empowered with the skills to comfort each other and even me on the tougher days. When one of us has a win – we all win, we all celebrate.
By putting an end to my polar opposite parenting, I’ve lifted a weight off my own shoulders. I’ve given my kids the gift of an engaged mom instead of an overlord. I see them growing as better people through their understanding of empathy and teamwork. We hold each other accountable and we lift each other up. We are invested in each other’s successes, we cheer for each other louder than anyone else, and we’ve created a safe place to express our thoughts and feelings.
My kids and I are a team now, and there is no other team I’d rather play the game of life with than the people I love the most.