I got divorced after 15 years of marriage. With two girls aged 10 and 12 years and no college degree, I was happy that my settlement went in my favor. At my age and place in life, there was no way I was going to be able to get a decent job. Since I did not have a college degree either, things were worse off for me. I did have skills and this is what I used to keep myself busy. Yes, my small catering business got me some money too but it was never big enough and was pursued more as a hobby rather than a business. I never bothered about expanding since while my skills in the kitchen were great, they were lousy when it came to business management.
I really regretted not having gone to college. I know for a fact that had I been an earning member of the family, my ex would not have been able to mistreat me the way he did for years on end. This is the reason why I would constantly push the girls to achieve academic excellence. Right from the kindergarten stage I would make sure that the girls were ahead of their class. Then my divorce was slapped on the family by my husband and in this mess the girl’s also suffered.
From being grade A students both my daughters slipped to B minus and I went into a panic mode. I would force them to study. Cut out their television time and play got restricted to a bare minimum that they got in school during the PE period. I was so scared that the divorce was going to pull down their grades that I forgot to focus on anything else.
I did not have many problems going from the married to the single mom stage since in any case I was running the house almost single handedly, but yes I did get extra paranoid about education of the girls. My one and only agenda was their academic performance. About three months after the divorce I had a parent teacher meeting and was appalled at what the teacher had to say. She said my older one was really good at art, but did not want to take her work home since she said her mother considers it waste of time. I was also told that both my girls are petrified if they do not do well in their class tests. The school coordinator said she was ‘worried’ about the kids.
This was a huge jolt for me. All these years I had been trying to do what was best for my girls. Make sure that they would not suffer like I did and to be told that I had done all the wrong things was not a good feeling. At first I was really upset. I kept trying to tell myself that the teachers do not know what they are talking about and that my kids are doing very well, which is all that matters, till the signs of damage became clearer.
My older daughter started her period and rather early. The younger one became a really quiet child and someone in the family wondered if she was autistic. Suddenly things began to turn very gloomy in my house. One of my friends from school was visiting and I just broke down in front of her. She was a single mom too and a working one at that and I got some real good advice from her.
After my talk with her I was able to come to terms with the fact that children need to go beyond academic excellence in life, if they are going to be happy. I decided to ease up on the girls and involve them more in my day to day life. My older one began to help me in the kitchen and would get praises from me for every little thing she could do. The younger one was exposed to several outdoor games and we did a lot more play dates. In about a month’s time, my home had changed completely. My younger daughter was having a great time swimming and had made many friends. The older one was going very well in dramatics. Interestingly, both were now automatically performing quite well in the academic field too.
One of the most difficult tasks of a single parent is to maintain the right balance. I realize today that while I was pushing the kids towards studies, my ex was opening their world to the game of sports and other such activities. With him out of the picture, the balance was disrupted. All my married life, I kept presuming that my husband was not contributing to the house. I realize today, that he was doing his bit and his bit was very important to the all round development of the kids.
As a single mom I am today careful about my parenting skills. I look up the net ever so often in this regard. I am part of single mom forums where we can talk about several issues. http://www.singlemom.com/parenting-advice-tips-and-resources/ is a link I will stay updated with since there is some fantastic information to be found here. Many a times I read about such simple things on this site and yet it comforts me no end to know that there are other ladies in the same boat as me. There are some good links to be found here too. While I consult the site for parenting advice, I have looked up the loans and grants section too.
Being a single parent is tough no doubt, but with a little help and the right advice you can get really good at it. I shudder to think of what would have happened if the school authority had not jolted me out of sleep. As a single parent, it is crucial that we open our minds and work constantly towards giving the kids a well balanced life.