The Popularity Contest Syndrome
No young girl growing up in America is untouched be the September rituals of Miss America. If you could not be Miss America, the next best thing to be was Miss Congeniality: the one everyone likes. Now, give this some thought. How sweet must you be to get 49 women to vote for you? Clearly you couldn’t have told anyone that their song was off key or their swimsuit a bit snug. You couldn’t have had a grumpy day during competition or yelled at anyone because they took your hairdryer. In other words, the way to get this award is for everyone to like you. Motherhood, and certainly not single motherhood, is not a popularity contest.
Some of the things that mothers need to do, and must do, will not help you win a popularity contest, but will help your children become mature and happy adults. Many women want to turn away from this role of the mother who makes hard decisions; some even fall quickly into re-marriage so they don’t have to face these decisions alone. Re-marriage is not a solution for this; think for a minute, why would you assume that some poor man would feel honored to take the role of enforcer with your children, when you don’t want to do it? Unless he’s never been married and has been living with his mother (a book in itself), he probably faces the same children issues you do. The sooner you accept the fact that to be a good mother you can’t be popular all the time, the happier you will be. Unfortunately the period surrounding a divorce is not a particularly self-esteem building, feel good time so it is especially hard to hear even an unkind word from your children. A possible motivator is to close your eyes and picture the worst behaved child you have ever known (we all remember one). See him or her at 6 – 10 – 14 – 18! Now open your eyes and take charge – no one wants to live with that! This imaginary child’s behavior was probably sort of cute at 6 – wearing thin at 14 and down right scary by 18.
The Family as a Committee Syndrome
We all know that old joke that men tell about how they are in charge of all the big things in the family like world peace, global warming and terrorism and the wife is in charge of the little things like where they live, what car they drive and where the children go to school. This humorous vignette seems quaint today. Many people advocate the democratic approach to family life, like “teams” in corporate America where decisions are made as a group. Many single mothers get confused about this and how their “committee” should function. First of all, unless you have only one child, you are always out numbered. Secondly, as a single mother you must decide where you live, what school your children attend, who takes care of them when you are working and other major matters. Only you possess the knowledge and ability to make these things happen. Children don’t make these decisions in two-parent families. Why should they in a single-parent family?
When there are areas that children can appropriately make decisions themselves, they should. For example, letting them pick a fast food restaurant they like or wearing what clothes they want (this one may spark controversy, but remember no one ever went to first grade in their pajamas.) They can decide which friends to have over. The list grows and changes as your children do. Decisions, even unpopular ones like moving, which often occurs after a divorce, are yours to make. And you don’t have to defend them. Let the children stick to the pizza places and what clothes to wear. Like the quaint joke you make the big and little decisions, but I doubt you have much time to devote to global warming!
The Queen for a Day Syndrome
There was a show in the early days of TV called “Queen for a Day.” As a child I was fascinated by it and even at a young age was confused by the premise upon which the show was built. Women came on and told about the hardships of their lives, house fires, abandonment, illnesses, etc. The audience would vote, and the woman with the worst problem was crowned “Queen for a Day.” She actually got a crown and was showered with such gifts as washing machine, clothes, food and children’s toys. I never did understand how a new washing machine would make all these terrible things better.
In reality the “Queen” was getting emotional and financial rewards for being a victim. The show no longer exists, thank goodness, but unfortunately women who like to play the role of victim still do. In this syndrome you think of yourself as the victim of cruel people and events. Even if this is true, pull away from the dangerous role of a woman who refuses to take charge and change what you can change. The very first thing you can and should change is your own attitude. You will discover, over time, that you will start to feel better about yourself, and more confident as your attitude improves. Take charge and let your children know that you are there as mom and will take care of them. All the Queens for a Day in the world let their children flounder as they wait to be rescued by the King. And, even if the King does appear, he probably has a kingdom to run and children to raise, and wouldn’t be interested in a victim as his queen!
Before you go to the rest of the book – read and re-read this chapter until you:
1. no longer feel like a victim
2. accept the unfairness and lay it to rest
3. embrace the role of “mother-in-charge”
4. remember mothers are always loved – only sometimes liked
To Become – An Adult Woman
1. When you no longer act like a victim, you will no longer feel like a victim
2. Accept the unfairness of the situation – and lay it to rest
3. Embrace the role of “mother-in-charge”
4. Remember that mothers are always loved – only sometimes liked
This is an excerpt from “You’re It! Successful Single Mothering after Divorce.” Chapter One, Part Two
Article by Jeanne L. Ward