Stepping Into Their Shoes

Assholes Edited

We talk a lot about how hard it is to be a single parent, a parent in general, and how kids have it tough but they have to be responsible anyway.  I know it appears as if everyone should suck it up.  However, as my sister tells our friends, “Don’t let her fool you.  You mess with her family and she becomes a mama bear.”  She’s right.  Sometimes, transitions are hard and my girls just need a damn break.  This is perfectly normal and I try to give it to them.  Your kids need to understand that they are understood and not in fact, surrounded by asshole adults who don’t have a clue how they are feeling.  Validation is key in almost every relationship, especially with your children.

You should cut your ex and yourself some slack.  Please take a moment and think about how hard this is on your kids.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t think having divorced parents is an excuse for bad behavior, and adults who still blame their parents failed marriage for their relationship issues, need to grow up.  More than half the population is divorced, stop making excuses.  You are not unique.

All that said, having two homes fucking sucks.  Sure, you get two of every holiday and many times, two of everything.  But they also have to constantly keep track of whose home their belongings are located.  They do without things they forget.  They have to remember things other kids don’t, because they can miss school deadlines if what they need is at the other house.  They struggle with stability and remembering what rules apply at which home.  They miss out on events depending on what weekend they fall on.  Most importantly, sometimes they just want mom while at dad’s house, or vice versa.

Think about the last vacation you went on.  Trying to remember what to pack and get where you needed to go.  Having to stop somewhere because you forgot something and cannot be without it for the duration of the trip.  The stress of being out of sorts and having to “settle in”, when you arrive.  And this is for VACATION.  Your children have to do this every week while attending school, meeting deadlines, practicing their instrument or sport, etc.

I am not saying that your kids don’t need to figure it out, or that they don’t need to be responsible.  But remember that sometimes, they didn’t want to leave dad and that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  Sometimes, they have a bad day and wanted to sleep with their smelly, faded, well-loved, teddy bear, and they forgot it.  They don’t have our adult freedoms and cannot simply go out and pick up what they forgot or feel they need.  Step into their shoes and see things from their point of view.  Your kids will really appreciate it and you’ll be a better parent for it.

Who Said I Was An Adult?

Funny Edited

So today is my birthday.  Why am I writing on my birthday?  Because I love it.

Birthdays have always been a time of reflection for me, much like New Year’s Eve for most people.

I feel old.  Let me clarify.  I don’t think I’m old and don’t think I ever will.  I enjoy every year more than the last.  I had my oldest at 23 and my youngest at 26.  I’ve always felt “old”, because since I had children, people think I know things.  Wrong.  Also, my kids don’t know what the Snorks are and think Fraggles are boring.  What the hell?  I’m failing as a parent if my kids don’t like Fraggles.  Kids don’t know why you save a document by clicking the blue square because they’ve never seen a disk, and my youngest teaches me functions on my iPhone.  For these reasons, I feel old.

I thought I’d be an adult when I was 18, then 21, then when I got married, then when I had kids.  So far, I still don’t feel like an adult.  I have adult responsibilities but I still have no idea what I’m doing.  I feel like at any moment, someone will figure out I’m a fraud.  My children will determine that I don’t have all the answers and they certainly did NOT come with a manual.  My bosses will figure out I am totally winging it.  I may be successfully winging it, but making it up as I go nonetheless.

Everyone, at least once in their lives, finds themselves puking outside Denny’s after a night at the club, being comforted by drag queens, right?

Your Boss Doesn’t Care That You’re a Single Parent. Get Your Shit Together

Get Your Shit Together Edited

A reader requested this post and I couldn’t agree more that it is a necessary evil.  You know that I’m all about personal responsibility.  While you may have a support system, in the end, it comes down to you.  This applies for your job as well as at home.

I get it.  I’ve been there.  It sucks and it’s hard.  But as I tell my kids, “life’s tough and I hate to tell you, it doesn’t get any easier”.

Your kid is sick, daycare won’t take them, you don’t have a spouse to stay home instead of you, and you know you are going to get it too, so there’s a recovery period for your child and then you.  If you have more than one, you may have the joy of returning to work only for the sibling to get it as well.

No, it’s not fair.  Women already make less than men.  Women have to take off to have the baby.  They are also generally the ones who stay home when they are sick.  Married women already have to prove they will be reliable, something our male counterparts don’t generally have to deal with.  Now, you’re single so the stakes are higher.  You CANNOT lose this job but you need to care for your child.  This is not to say men do not have these issues as well.  My ex has to balance work and home all the time, and I am not always available to take the girls on short notice when he gets stuck at work.  He is jumping through hoops all by himself.  Being a single parent is hard.

All that said….your employer does not care.  They have a business to run and they expect you to be there, and rightfully so.  They count on you and you count on a paycheck.  See how that works?

This is what most single parents forget; married people have trouble when their children get sick too.  When I was married to my ex, our oldest developed RSV.  I had a new job, but she was VERY ill.  We kept her out of daycare to avoid this and she still got sick.  My new employer was not happy because my ex could not take off, and it looked bad.  Every time the nanny got sick, she called in, so there was that issue as well.  No childcare situation is perfect.  Now, when my kids get sick, we try to swap off or each take the sick child a half day so we do not miss a full day.  Some things cannot be avoided.

Things happen to everyone, single or otherwise.  Sometimes, your employer is going to have to figure it out.  However, I can almost guarantee that unless you have a disabled child, the majority of your absences are from a lack of planning, not emergencies.

  1. Keep up with maintenance on your car.  Yes, you may get a nail in your tire now and then.  However, change your car battery before it is dead.  Blowing out a tire you didn’t replace, or engine failure due to your lack of maintenance, can and should be avoided.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Sure, you are going to get sick but this is the exception, not the rule.  Your employer will understand a scheduled doctor’s appointment.  They will not understand constant last-minute appointments.  Your goal should be 2 weeks notice for all doctor’s appointments.  If you are going to be going through anything medical, which will require multiple absences or an adjusted schedule, have a meeting and discuss it prior to.  Agreeing to make up the time will remind your employer that you human and things come up, but you not a slacker.  Same goes for your children.  Regular checkups and vaccinations go a long way.
  3. Maintain your house.  The stain spreading across your ceiling?  It’s a roof leak.  Handle it and do not wait until your living room caves in at 7:00AM to call your boss.  Regular maintenance on your car, you, and your house, cuts down on a ton of last-minute scrambling.
  4. Pay your bills.  I know this sounds obvious but if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t think to mention it.  Your boss doesn’t care that your utility bill is due that day.  So was theirs and they paid it without missing work.
  5. ANYTHING can be researched online.  Do your research from home and know exactly what you need to do to accomplish your goals.  Need to sign up your tots for soccer?  Go on the website, figure it out, and try to pay over the phone on your lunch break.  You should not be taking off work without notice for non-emergencies.  Basically, learn to manage your time.
  6. Discuss visitation with your employer (preferably in writing if possible).  In my case, we rotate every Friday.  My employer is always aware of this.  This means for them that when I have my girls, I am out the door at 5:00PM and not a second later.  If your boss has constant emergencies, which make you late, they need to learn to manage their time and you leaving them with their own mess may be just the training they need.  However, they also know that on the weeks that I do not have my girls that I am available to work later if needed, and I am happy to do so.  This way, they see that you are not using your children as an excuse.  You reproduced, congratulations, they don’t care.

See the pattern?  If you don’t constantly have the above-mentioned “emergencies” (which really aren’t), when your daycare calls to say that your kid is projectile vomiting, covered in purple spots, and growing a tail (or whatever other crap you made up to tell your boss), your employer will understand because it is not the norm.  And if they don’t?  Quit, because they are assholes and family is the most important.  Just make sure you aren’t being a whiny bitch before you assume they are the asshole.

You Have One Life and You Have a Right To Live It

Life is Short Edited

Everyone knows you love your children.  Everyone knows you wish your marriage had worked out.  Not because you necessarily could see yourself being with that person anymore.  Probably because you wish you didn’t have to share your children, because no one gets married hoping to get divorced, and/or you may feel you failed at something.  Everyone knows you work hard to make everything function.  And if they don’t?  Fuck ’em.  Yes, yes, I’m already cussing (“live so the other Christians wonder if you’ve been saved” – Dr. Brown).

Here’s what you need to know….you also get to have a life outside of what was, what might have been, and what others expect.  No one expects you to mourn forever.  You have one life.  Stop proving how hard you work and how much you love your kids, we know.  Anyone who sees your Facebook page with a picture of EVERYTHING YOUR CHILDREN DO, knows you love your kids.  <—–Sorry, I had to make a Facebook joke here, I don’t care that someone I don’t remember from 6th grade is having a bowl of cereal.  And oh look!  They took a picture, because apparently we need evidence of his sugar bomb fruit circles.

Only we can live our lives and we only have one shot at it.

My ex texted me after our split and I quote, “thank you for giving me my life back”.  He said this while riding a motorcycle with his friends and learning to love the things that we jointly forgot how to do while wading through diapers, late utility bills, and sleepless nights.

While you are building your children’s self-esteem and teaching them to follow their dreams, are you following yours?  Why as parents do we remember to lead by example until it comes time to teach them that you are a person too, that you have goals and dreams, and most importantly, feelings?

What does this mean for you?  It means you have one life and only you get to live it.  Your children will grow up and go off to live their lives.  We know you love your children and they will ALWAYS be a part of you, no matter where they go.  But if you do it right (no one really wants their 35-year-old son living in their basement, playing World of Warcraft), they will eventually leave the nest.  You get to have a life.  Go live it no matter what anyone thinks.

Vanishing Belongings – Where The Hell Is My PE Shirt?

Laundry Edited

We’ve all been there – vanishing belongings.  It’s 6:30 in the godforsaken morning and one of the kids suddenly cannot find their PE shirt.  Whether you are married or divorced, you want to strangle them.  You are about to have the, we’ve-talked-about-this-a-million-times-you-would-have-known-it-was-missing-if-you’d-put-out-your-clothes-last-night, talk.  But if you’re anything like me, your kids are spared from this mostly because you are so sick of listening to yourself, since you’re the only one listening anyway.

This is even trickier when your kids have two homes.  You don’t even know what home it’s in, who to blame, or who to beat.  When was the last time you even saw the damn thing?  Part of you wants to call your ex who is blissfully sleeping because they only have to get themselves dressed this fabulous Monday morning, and how do they not know at this point that the kid has PE on Mondays?  Another part wants to inflict bodily harm on whomever is closest, even if it’s the dog.  The last part, wants to just go back to bed and give up because you thought briefly about making sure the kids clothes were laid out last night, but didn’t want to get the hell up AGAIN, so you let it go.  This morning you, hates last night you.

At 6:30AM, there is little to be done but to say, “then I guess you’ll be wearing something else”, and then continue to make your tea before injuring someone.

So, what does this mean for you?  There are a number of possible solutions and I employ them all.

  1. Your kids have to be responsible for their things and responsible for bringing them back and forth between houses.  A great fix for my oldest is having to explain to the 32 intrusive peers in her class why she isn’t wearing the right clothes.  You better believe she’s better about it now or at least she’ll learn not to care about other’s opinions.  Both are OK with me.
  2. The obvious fix that we use is having more than one of each thing.  No, this absolutely does not always work because somehow, at one time or another, your kid ends up with all 57 pairs of whatever, at your house.  A word of caution, DO NOT go out and purchase a new version of something every time your child needs one at your house.  You do not want your children assuming that they should have 2 of everything or that they can get the newer, nicer model if they “forget” it at mom’s.
  3. Actually communicate.  I know, I know, but “their my ex, and if we didn’t suck at it, we wouldn’t be divorced”.  Now that you two live separately, don’t answer to each other, and have a different dynamic, you have to learn new methods of communication.  If you cannot talk without fighting, use email or text.  A simple, “Hey, since little Bobby-Sue has PE on Fridays (our swap day), all her casual shorts ended up at your house, which gives her very little to wear on the weekends here.  Tonight (Thursday), could you please remind her to pack a few pairs?  I mentioned it before she went to your house but it’s been a few days and I’m not confident she’ll remember.”  See how easy that is?  Then, if she doesn’t pack them you can yell at them both for forgetting!  Yay!  I’m kidding, don’t do that shit.
  4. This one is last because I know some parents who utilize this but it is my least favorite.  Bail out your child.  Have a hidden back-up that you pull out for mornings like these.  I hate clutter and promote personal responsibility.  As such, I think the child needs to learn from not planning ahead, and your ex needs to learn that their kid is going to be pissed if they are never coming through.  Putting the pressure on yourself to constantly adjust for others’ shortcomings is exhausting and makes you resentful.  Remember, this is their path.  However, as mentioned above, sometimes (definitely not all the time), you just have to fix the problem to keep your sanity.  As long as this is not the norm, you will all survive.
  5. If none of that works, try a bubble bath and some wine.  At 6:30AM???  Yes, if that’s what it takes.  And chocolate, always add chocolate.

 

No One is Coming – Learning Self-Reliance

Bitch Mittens Edited

We’ve all had these weeks….  Here’s one of my recent fun ones:  Monday I chaperoned a field trip, which was fun but have I mentioned that I kind of only like my kids?  Tuesday I sat for 3 hours at Lice Solutions because both girls had lice AGAIN because the Palm Beach County School District has the stupidest policy ever and as a result, we spend an exorbitant amount of money on repellant, which doesn’t work and then the subsequent treatment.  Wednesday, I spent the entire day completing mid-terms for grad school (prior to graduation), and then scrambled to catch up at work because I fell behind by taking off Monday.  All this reminds me of a line that has been running through my head lately only I cannot remember where I read or heard it…. “No One Is Coming”.

Now, before you misunderstand, this does not mean I do not have a support system or people who love and help my family and I.  I have a wonderful sister and friends who would help me if I had a dead hooker in the trunk at 2AM.  All that said, in the end, I have to figure it out myself.  All those people who love the girls and I, are not going to do it for us, and they shouldn’t.

Let me provide an example.  So, I’m treading water in single mother territory.  I am failing, and simultaneously realizing that aside from killing bugs, my ex handled some things I simply didn’t know how to do.  Anyone else incapable of setting up a pack-and-play?  So my friend drops by.  I’m sitting on the kitchen floor with assorted tools surrounding me and I’m attempting to put together the new highchair.  I have a beer sitting next to me and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth (this is noteworthy since I am not a smoker).  He asked if I needed help and apparently my venomous response scared him, because he backed away slowly.  After much deliberation he finally told me the legs were on backwards and that’s why it wasn’t going together.  I took his advice, but refused to let him help.  Why?  Because I was on my own now and was going to have to figure out how to put this shit together.  Today, and every “batteries not included” fucking Christmas morning going forward.  Afterall, I couldn’t wait for my friends to visit, for my kid to be able to eat in a highchair.  No one was coming, and I’m an idiot.

Why did it take me so long to finally figure out that I’ve got this shit?  Because I’m weird and I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Who cares what’s going on at your ex’s house?  At the end of the day, it is it is our home and most importantly, it’s where I am raising two children.  Our house counts too even if there is two of them.

What does all this mean for you?  It means to stop waiting.  No one is coming.  You have to be self-reliant.  You have to learn to take care of things.  Your children need to see you taking action and fixing things that need fixin’.  Your kids have to be tough, so do you.  Do NOT be one of those adults they see that complain incessantly, yet do nothing to improve their situation.  Also, I will punch you for that shit.  It’s annoying.  Fix it, or shut the hell up.

“Honey-do list” not getting done?  Do it yourself.  Waiting for permission you don’t need?  Get past your issues and start doing something….ANYTHING.  You are waiting for your life to start and guess what?  It’s already started.  Stop reading my ramblings and go make a change.  No one is coming…it’s all you.

Don’t Let Them Eat The Brownie Batter

Sperm Edited

There will always be someone who is stronger, smarter, prettier, and more charming (and can walk in heels).  But sometimes, even though I know this, I get something in my head and then realize, long after, that I am a FREAKING IDIOT.

Allow me to provide an example for you.  I used to read every parenting magazine and book I could get my hands on.  Since our mother died young and we were never exposed to children, my sister and I had to completely wing parenting.  I remember reading some things that were helpful and some that I was just glad I didn’t have to deal with such as, “How to keep your toddler from smearing poo on their walls at naptime”.  YAY!  One bullet dodged.

I once read an article about ideal foods for children.  It actually explained not to let your children eat raw eggs or raw meat.  I remember thinking “no shit, thanks.”  I even remember talking to my sister about how I was done with parenting reading material because it wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.

I still remember reading this article and feeling superior.  But again, I’m an idiot.  Fast forward, and I am baking brownies with my daughters.  Once they were in the oven, the girls happily licked the spoon and cleaned out the bowl, just as we did when we were kids.  As they ran off to clean themselves up, I was wiping down the counters and guess what I remembered?  WE ADDED 2 UNCOOKED EGGS TO THE BROWNIE BATTER THAT THEY JUST ATE.  That’s right, superiority destroyed.  Apparently they do have to tell people not to let their children eat raw eggs because there are people as dumb as myself out there.

No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.  Pointing out others’ mistakes only serves to make yourself feel superior.  No one needs that.  So do your ex, your children, and most importantly yourself a favor and let it go.  My children didn’t die and the next time we baked, I admitted my mistake and explained why they couldn’t lick the spoon.  They learned some important lessons:

  1. Mommy doesn’t know everything (no one does) and she isn’t afraid to admit that
  2. To admit your mistakes when you are wrong
  3. To always offer an explanation as to why you are changing your mind not just because you “said so”

What does this mean for you?  I know I am always telling you to go easy on your ex and you should.  But don’t forget to go easy on yourself as well.  Everyone messes up.  You are human.  Besides, being right all the time isn’t realistic.  Your kids need to see that you are fallible as well.  You are their role model, and they need to know that you are not perfect and you do not expect them to be.