When people are trying to describe the depths of their feelings for their children, trying to impress you with how much they love them, they frequently say how they would, without a second thought, throw themselves in front of a train to save them. Who can argue with such courage and self-sacrifice? I, for one, contend that this is a whole lot less impressive than it appears at first glance. In fact, I think it’s the coward’s way out. If you throw yourself in front of a train to save little Oscar, you die a hero. In addition, you don’t have to stay around to do homework, enforce rules, drive five million carpools, prepare countless cupcakes and recite to little Oscar the most famous line in all of parenting, “I don’t care if everyone else in the world is doing it. If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you too?” Certainly a lot less glamorous than the train option.
Parenting is by its very nature a personal commitment to the physical and emotional well being of a child grounded by unconditional love. Rarely is parenthood played out in the dramatic train scenario, but rather in the small, daily rituals of children and parents, meal time, bedtime stories, talking about a new friend at school, a hard lesson in sharing, a sun drenched day at the beach, planning the ever important birthday party, a new baby, a warm hug and so many more too numerous to mention. Whether it is preparing for the tooth fairy or picking a wedding dress, this is the stuff that nurtures and feeds the parent-child relationship. Some days this commitment is as easy as a small child seeking comfort in our touch or as hard as holding your own with a defiant teenager forging their own path. The basic core of parenthood is the same if you are married or divorced and the same rituals and challenges face us as we help our children grow.
There is no question, however, that single parenting presents some unique challenges; some small, some large. Small is like remembering to buy milk before you come home, because if you forget then all of you, pajama clad baby and all, will have to make that trip to the store since you are the only adult in the house. Large is accepting the fact that the only person whose parenting style you control is your own. Small you will catch onto very quickly, since it doesn’t take too many ventures into the night with sleepy little ones to make you remember the milk. Large will take longer to understand and implement, but no concept is more crucial to your success as a single parent
Once the reality sets in that you are alone with your children, the door is locked for the night and you’ve eaten a box of chocolate chip cookies in bed (one of those days), it is important to look at your new parenting role. Think about it in light of how you have functioned as a parent in your marriage and how you want to go forward as a parent. It is really an opportunity to take a hard look at your parenting style and figure out what you expect of yourself and your children. This requires taking a long look at your parenting style as a couple and how you need to change to adapt to your new status. For example, if you left the discipline to your husband and were the “fun” mom, then you are familiar with the phrase “just wait until your dad comes home.” You need to think about discipline and how you want to approach it. If, however, you were the parent who set the rules and enforced them, and your spouse had the “fun role,” then you need to figure out how to be firm and fun
In my divorce and single parenting classes I would often hear people panic at the thought of parenting alone. Yet, when they thought about it honestly, they realized that they have been parenting alone for along time, with the illusion of a supportive spouse. Perhaps you will realize that you and your spouse never did develop a parenting style. Whatever the former situation, now is the time for you to become a mother-in-charge and develop your own style
This is an excerpt from “You’re It! Successful Single Mothering after Divorce.” Chapter Three, Part One
Article by Jeanne L. Ward