In a few days, I will celebrate my fifth Mother’s Day as a single mom, a day my middle child once pejoratively described as “Single Mother’s Day.” A lot has changed since then, from my outlook on life as a divorced parent to the progress I have made since then toward gaining financial independence, including starting my own business. But what I am most proud of is how well my children have adjusted to being “children of divorce” because, let’s face it, our kids are our number one priority and worry, especially when life as we know it gets turned upside down. As I approach this Mother’s Day, I give thanks for the “Single Mother’s Day” I know now. Here are five reasons why.
1. My children understand both of their parents love them. Even during a “good divorce,” it is always a challenge to shield our children from any and all conflict that comes up. My kids were 11, 10 and 6 when my husband and I first separated and saw and heard far too much. One of the saddest moments for me was when, during an argument, my youngest child overheard his dad pinpoint the time he felt our marriage “got bad.” The period coincided with my refusal to continue living in Asia. At the time, I returned to our home in the United States with our children, including our infant son, and although my husband followed less than a month later, he always resented my leaving when I did. After hearing us discuss why we were divorcing, my then first-grader came up to me and said, “But that’s when I was born.” My heart broke that he could even imagine our divorce had anything to do with him. But, unfortunately, my son internalized what he had heard as children often do. My husband and I spoke to him and reinforced how happy we were to have him. However, it remains a moment in my life that, to this day, I am ashamed of and will never forget.
2. My children realize their parents are real people. The above example is only one of many screw ups my husband and I had as we figured out how to best parent our children, particularly with the added challenge of today living 8,000 miles apart. After a lot of trial and error, we found a system that works for both of us but, more importantly, our kids. Every divorce and parenting situation differs. From address to parenting styles, the challenge forever lies in creating a stable environment for our children, even when the “other parent” doesn’t say and do as we want, and vice versa. We don’t always get it right. And we certainly cannot do it all, especially when parenting separately. We are human, and our kids grow up seeing our failures as well as our triumphs.
3. My children are responsible. Becoming a single parent means facing a new reality that we may not be able to do everything, whether materially or because of time constraints, that we did before our divorce. As my children grew older, I gave them additional responsibilities around the house and delegated to them where I could. Now that they are 16, 15, and 12, I have kids who know how to cook, bake, wash their clothes, clean up after themselves (most of the time), and take responsibility for their schedules and reminding me where they need to be and when. I needed help, asked for it, and got it. What happened was I felt better and more in control. The best part was, so did my children.
4. My children know they can depend on both of their parents. As a single parent of three who works, I cannot make it to every game, school event, or activity, and neither can their father. My kids may not always like it, or understand why we prioritize the way we do. However, they also know that we are always there for them, rooting for them and cheering them on, even if we cannot always be there physically. Somehow at the end of the day, it all gets done. The kids get to where they need to be and, if they don’t, life still goes on. Their father and I are the wizards behind the curtain, and they get that.
5. My children are happy. Now, I am going to be realistic here. There is a lot of teenage and tween angst in my house. Despite the chaos of it all, the complaining about homework, school pressure, how often we get on each other’s nerves, what I have cooked for dinner on a particular night (hey, if they don’t like it, they know how to make something else), we are all doing okay. In fact, we are doing better than okay. In the days following my separation, I found the older of my two daughters lying on the floor in our kitchen pantry crying. Distraught myself, I could hardly comfort her. But eventually, we healed and found a new rhythm. Without a doubt, we still have our moments, but divorce is not the reason we are or the reason we are not – for anything. And this coming Sunday I will be celebrating Mother’s Day not as a single mother but as a mother. And I couldn’t be prouder.