This article was originally published in FemaleNetwork.com.
Ana Santos, the author of Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal, shares tips for any mom struggling to cope with a newly solo status.
By Ana Santos
Life happens to the best of us. Sometimes having children doesn’t come with a co-parent either by choice (separation or abandonment) or by circumstance (death of a spouse); even by temporary circumstance (families with one OFW parent).
It’s not easy, but there are strategies that can make it a bit easier or manageable, at the very least. We sat down with Michele Santos-Alignay, a registered guidance counselor at the LOVE Institute at Ateneo de Manila University and the formidable Dr. Margie Holmes to get some ideas on answering that all too elusive question: “Now what?” that comes after the curveball of being a solo mom.
How do you handle being a solo parent? Do you deny it? Do you harbor thoughts about getting back together again even though you know that it is not possible? Do you see yourself as a victim?
You have to tell the kids the real status of your relationship with their father, says Michele Santos-Alignay. You don’t need to give them all the details, but you do need to explain things to them in an age-apt manner.
Santos-Alignay suggests something as simple as “Dad will not be here, but he will visit and you will still get to see him. It does not in any way, change our love for you.”
She also stresses the importance of having your child hear the news straight from you. “As a parent, guide him [in]to making the correct conclusions and assumptions about your family set-up. It will also be your chance to assure him about the love that he will continue to receive unconditionally.”
(Photo by Witold Cizmowski via sxc.hu)
“Some people may be call themselves your friends, but their opinion about your status may not be the same as yours,” says Santos-Alignay.
And when emotions are still raw and tensions are still running deep, you don’t need to be around catalysts who will only fan the flames.
According to Santos-Alignay, moving on is a process. It’s not an overnight thing. Don’t weigh yourself down with people who will derail you from moving along this process.
(Photo by Sanja Gjenero via sxc.hu)
Citing her own experience as a school guidance counselor, Santos-Alignay says that it helps the children the most when they (as teachers and counselors) are engaged by the parents and, in a way, are seen as satellite parents.
“Often, changes in the child’s behavior are manifested in school rather than at home,” she says. “Make the school teachers your children may spend more time with your partners in raising your child and watching for these changes so that they can be addressed.”
Tell the school about the changes in your household, and maintain open lines of communication with your kid’s instructors, coaches, and even the parents of their best friends.
(Photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons)
Take time to assess your situation. What are the factors you need to immediately deal with now that you will not have a consistent co-parent? Often, being a solo parent means less time and less money. What are the things you can delegate to household help, friends, or relatives? What are the things you will have to remove from your budget entirely?
It may mean a slightly simpler way of life, but that will infinitely be less stressful than the possibility of drowning in debt. It will also require a lot of advance planning, but it will pay off when you are not stressed about taking on too many activities.
The importance of this exercise of taking stock of the situation is to be able to plan your life and pull yourself together. Your children depend on you and look to you for strength.
(Photo by Sean Carpenter via sxc.hu)
Don’t feel guilty about loving and taking care of yourself. Self-love is giving yourself your due, but not neglecting others around you. Know your imperfections and weaknesses, and then work on them so you can improve yourself. Spoil yourself every now and then. And when your schedule is busy and your life seems chaotic, give yourself a few moments just to breathe and relax.
(Photo by Jef Bettens via sxc.hu)
Failed relationships damage our sense of self-worth. Limit the bitterness and the blaming. It is important to have self-worth because you cannot give your kids what you don’t have.
Do that by:
a. Watching what you say.
Dr. Margie Holmes, in her contribution to Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal, suggests calling to mind that on — should be ONE half of your child comes from his father. “That might make it easier to bite your tongue when you feel like saying something about his/her father,” says Holmes.
b. Refusing to feel sorry for yourself or apologize for being a solo mom.
Don’t ever say “Solo mom lang ako (I’m just a solo mom)” or “Ganyan talaga. Wala tayong magagawa. (That’s how it is. There’s nothing we can do.)” Instead of empowering you to take control of the situation, statements like this make you out to be a victim of circumstance.
When, at 42, Bea (name changed upon request) found herself abandoned by her husband, who replaced her for the cliché of a younger woman, she wasted no time burying him—literally.
She and a group of close friends gathered around in her backyard and burned her husband’s letters, clothes, and shoes. They made a whole ceremony of it and later scattered the ashes in Manila Bay. Jewelry and other gifts were pawned for a song.
“It may sound dramatic and over the top, but it was incredibly liberating and exactly what I needed to move on,” she says.
(Photo by Knuckles Xs via sxc.hu)