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10 Things a Single Mom Needs to Say to Her Kids

10 Things a Single Mom Needs to Say to Her Kids

There’s no way to beat around the bush. When my beautiful children were the ages of three and five, their father left us. I found myself facing all the responsibility, all the frustration and terror, and all the pain and sleeplessness of raising two amazing little beings on my own. On good days, I surprised myself with the confidence that I could do whatever it took to make it through the challenges. As the kids and I moved through the years together, I often wondered how they were perceiving the conflict and challenges of our lives.Their understanding of events and circumstances changed during their growing-up stages. I tried to respond to their questions in age-appropriate ways with just enough information to satisfy them at that stage of their lives. It was like feeding them the story little bits at a time, in the hope that it would someday all come together for them.

Now that they are grown up, I want to formally bring all those pieces together. I want my kids to know (with clear adult minds) what it was like for me to be a single mom and how special it was to me, in spite of all the challenges. One more time, in a comprehensive all-ages way, I want to shed light on these things so we can blast away any cobwebs left. I want them to be able to settle into themselves and march forward with peace into their lives.

I hope these 10 things I have said to my kids will help other single moms talk with their kids about this, too.

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To all my raised-by-a-single-mom kids out there…

1. You need to know: Being a single mom was about you, not me.

I admit, sometimes it felt like this single-mom-thing was happening to me. I felt sorry for myself and wondered if I could do it. I sometimes shrunk from the heaviness of my responsibility. However, in the end, my focus always came back to you and what I needed to do for you — and that was my saving grace. Once I got over my pity party and moved past my sorrow and questioning, I found strength in my role as the mom who would help you find your own strength. Yes, I took time to care for myself. I learned to take time away to be with friends and pursue my passions, but at the center of my life was you, and I liked it that way.

2. You need to know: It was hard to be a single mom, but not too hard.

As an adult, you might be tempted to feel sorry for me when you realize how difficult it was for me to be a single mom. It’s important for you to know that I always bounced back from difficulties. I found my dance and came up with ways to deal with seemingly impossible things. It turns out raising you alone wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I ended up feeling proud of what we accomplished together. We were also very lucky to have the love and support of family members and friends. In a way, your father’s absence was made up by the presence of many others in our lives. You need to know this today, so you can have confidence that you were raised the right way. Knowing that will make you strong. You will face hard things in your life. However, they won’t be too hard. You will have the power to overcome, just as I did.

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3. You need to know: You made me laugh and brought me joy.

The seriousness of some of the situations we were in might weigh on you as you continue to grow and change. Don’t let it! The bad stuff is not at the heart of what we were as a family back then. The great power behind us was (and has always been) love and fun, and laughter and joy. We knew how to do silly dances in the living room when we couldn’t sleep. We knew how to ignore housework and let loose with the bubble guns. We knew how to fun-erize anything that was slightly annoying or boring. We could also quietly analyze life’s problems together and come up with brilliant solutions. We also made jokes or made music to take away the stress. Take no ownership of the heaviness, which I know children of divorce sometimes are wont to do. Without you, my life would have been much less bright. Take those jester’s skills into your future.

4. You need to remember: “Take the good and leave the bad.”

You know this saying well. We used it all the time. Whether it was you-know-who being a little crazy-headed, your friends when they were overbearing, teachers when they just didn’t get it, or anyone or anything else in life, this motto carried us through. It carried us through with each other sometimes, too (wink). It can still carry you through anything life throws your way. Don’t dwell on the bad. Doing that gives energy to the wrong thing, and the bad usually doesn’t truly belong to you. You have a birthright to take the good to heart, embrace it, and make it grow. If you learned anything from this journey at all, I hope it’s that you have a choice in the way every moment of every day of the rest of your life will go. You can make it go well, simply by choosing the good and letting the bad lie.

5. You need to know: Single moms don’t know anything.

Some people would like you to believe I didn’t know how to take care of you the way you needed to be taken care of. On the surface, maybe you realize now this is not true. However, you will be tempted throughout your life to question it, because it’s a channel cut when you were young. Remember that now you know I am an intelligent and capable person and parent. Even if I didn’t know what I was doing sometimes, I figured it out, just as if I had still been with your dad. I don’t urge you to do this for my sake, but for your own. You need to feel the confidence of having been raised by a parent who WAS capable of taking care of you, come hell or high water. You need to know that you don’t know anything either. When you admit this, you will be able to figure things out and take care of yourself.

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6. You need to know: Single moms sometimes make mistakes.

So… having urged you to remember how capable I was, I need to now urge you to remember that I was (and still am) only human, and so are you. Mistakes are in our DNA. If you can forgive me for the mistakes I made as a single mom, you will be able to forgive yourself for the mistakes you will most certainly make throughout your life. We are so much more than the circumstances that surround us. We can claw our way up any hill we fall down. We can figure out how to not fall down again, because we don’t like it at the bottom. Take pleasure in the FACT that you, as a human, with the muscle behind you of things greater than yourselves, have the ability to overcome anything.

7. You need to remember: Mama-Bear power is real.

If you remember, when something threatened you, or when I thought it was threatening you, my single-mom Mama-Bear persona took over, like The Hulk takes over the professor. Sometimes it was the threat of you not doing your homework and ending up living on the streets. Sometimes it was the threat of someone older taking advantage of you, or a friend leading you to trouble. The mama bear in me rose up because my life experiences gave me the ability to see the potential consequences of those situations. First, I want you to understand this because I hope you will love me for it instead of resenting it. Second, I want you to know you have that kind of power in you too. Decide what you care about, then allow your own bear-sized power to rise up and protect it.

8. You need to know: I don’t think your dad is the devil.

Okay, I admit sometimes I used to think he was. He did, after all, leave me to deal with my own little hell of a financial ruin, broken love, logistic catastrophes, social desolation, and a blitzed future. You should probably hear this as adults, so you know it was real. It’s natural that people feel these things, under the circumstances. You’re old enough now to know that I was devastated. And, yes, I blamed him. But you also know I got past it. You also know, without a doubt. that you were not a part of that little hell, in the least. In fact, right smack in the middle of hell, I found heaven: You — and your cute faces, bad puns, and tender little hugs. I figured out how to earn a living, navigate the challenges, find new loves, and create my own bright future. I don’t know your dad well after all these years, but I am absolutely convinced that he loves you and has always loved you, just for you, in the way he knows best. You need to know, I think it’s okay for you to like him, to love him, and to be loved by him. It’s even okay to tell me what you love about him. I know now that he is not the devil.

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9. You need to know: It’s okay to love and get married.

You’ll hear me say, I probably won’t ever fall in love or get married again. But that’s just me. And that’s just now. I’m smart enough to know some relationships work out well, and that’s what I want you to remember. It’s okay to fall in love and get married. It’s one of the great and glorious adventures of life. Just because love brings challenges, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grab it and live it with gusto. Go all the way! Just remember to consider your choices carefully. Listen — truly listen — to your heart before you leap. Give your head enough time to weigh the pros and cons honestly. Then, if it makes sense, jump. Make sure you are treated as well as the other person in the relationship. And be sure you both have the right weapons to fight the battle. Then fight like mad to keep it. If it really is not going to work out, you will recover, as I did. When love appears in your lives, go for it with your whole heart and be happy.

10. You need to remember: I am still here. Being a single mom to you didn’t wear me out.

It’s natural to believe single moms sing the halleluiah chorus when the kids leave home, because they are worn out from years of solo parenting. I admit, I like having my own space now after living toe-to-toe and feeling the weight of responsibility for so many years. But I think you feel the same way, right? You were ready to be on your own when you left home. And so was I. On the other hand, do not ever think I became so worn out being a single mom that I don’t want to be your mom anymore. In fact, being your mom is what I’m most proud of. Being your mom gives me the most energy and joy in my life — still, to this very day. This is a cliché for a reason. Moms feel this way, for truth. So, I’m counting on you to call me when you need a ride to the all-night pharmacy or when you don’t quite have enough money to fix your bike. Text me when you need to brag about your latest creative genius or you just remembered a funny grandpa-joke we used to tell at the dinner table. I’m still here to share life with you through happiness, sadness, frustration, and any kind of hell.

Featured photo credit: Girl Looking at the Sun at Sunrise/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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