Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Lowering My Expectations April 1, 2013

PerfectionismI’m a bit of a perfectionist.

All my life I’ve attempted to make the most of this trait by disallowing myself to settle for less than the best from my efforts. I set high goals for myself and I achieve them. If I don’t achieve them I am NOT my best friend. I do not like having to admit even the slightest failures, but I’m honest to a fault so I cannot trick myself into believing that I’ve done well when I haven’t done as wonderfully as I wanted to. This can be a great self-motivating technique, but it also has the potential to chip away at my self-esteem.

Lately I’ve been trying very hard to lower my expectations. It’s not that I don’t want to achieve great things. Don’t get me wrong, I will own a mega yacht someday 🙂 It’s just that I don’t like making myself feel bad all the time. It’s not intentional, but it’s usually the result of not measuring up to my own semi-delusional standards that get me depressed and make it even more difficult to tackle the obstacles ahead.

I cannot take full credit for my choice to go easy on myself. Credit goes to the combined counsel of people commenting on this blog, my children’s play therapist, my midwife, women in my support group, my therapist, Supernannyand Supernanny (yes, Jo, the British Supernanny…I’ll elaborate later) who have led me to this realization.

Lowering my expectations doesn’t mean that I don’t still expect the best from myself, it’s just that I don’t expect so much from myself constantly. Does that make sense? Take yesterday; after two days of madness from Terra’s fourth birthday and Easter, the house was a disaster. I was feeling overwhelmed by all the cleaning that I needed to do and really wanted to have a clean house, but instead of my typical work-like-a-slave-and-get-it-done-no-matter-what mentality, I decided to be realistic and kind to myself.

I committed myself to cleaning one room, washing and drying one load of laundry, and spending ample time playing with my children. Surprisingly enough, even on barely any sleep, I worked on the goals I set for myself, had a great time enjoying my children (who were much better behaved yesterday – some significant changes in my parenting can take the credit for that), and although I was busy it was much more relaxing. ExpectationsI didn’t clean the entire house, but when I went to bed I felt accomplished.

It was so much better than going to sleep feeling like a failure for not completing an impossible amount of chores (and I’d have probably spent a good portion of the day annoyed with anyone who interrupted my mission).

Most of the people I mentioned before helped me to realize that I am only human, that the load I’m carrying is quite heavy, and that I have to try to take things one step at a time to both not get overwhelmed and to stay positive about not being able to do as much as I’d like to be able to do everyday. I cannot thank everyone enough for helping me to be okay with not driving myself crazy; working working working to finish every task on my list by the end of each day. One of my biggest goals though, one that is always on my list, is being the best mother I can be, and in so many ways being a perfectionist was hindering my mothering.

Supernanny came to call and helped me along with my parenting. I’d never actually seen the show until last week, but as I folded seemingly endless loads of laundry until 2am I watched several episodes and learned various techniques that I could apply to my parenting. They were all fairly simple techniques, and a lot of them I’d already used before, but being reminded of them helped me.

They called themselves the "Super Long-tailed Space Cats" :)

“Super Long-tailed Space Cats” 🙂

Also, seeing other people’s children do things that I see mine doing was encouraging; I was no longer alone.

The most significant thing I took away from my Supernanny marathon was to lower my expectations of my children’s behavior. It’s not that I’ll start to allow disrespect or bad manners or potty mouths or back talk, but I’ll keep in mind that children are children. They really do want the approval of their parents, they need consistent boundaries, and it’s hard for them to lack the power that they see coming with adulthood. It can be difficult for them to come to terms with their emotions, and they constantly need praise. I want my children to know that I love them. I want them to know that they’re perfect as they are. I want them to feel good about trying new things and that even when they’re not great at something I will always be there cheering them on.

For the longest time there has been a lack of consistency in my parenting. Partially because of the breakdown of our family, partially because it was difficult for me to transition with my children from their infancy to their current stages and stay true to attachment parenting. It was difficult in part because I began expecting too much perfection from my children.

In their Easter dresses and new wigs, courtesy of my mother!

In their Easter dresses and new wigs; courtesy of my mother!

I’ve learned so much since becoming a mother. Every day reveals new layers of life, intimacy, emotion, empathy, responsibility, and compassion. What lowering my expectations has really helped me with all around is to become more considerate toward myself and everyone else. Nobody is perfect, we’re all just trying, and it’s a lot easier to try when everyone is smiling, praising one another, and having fun.

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Beautiful Mama Blog Award March 18, 2013

A huge THANK YOU to Julia of Wailings of a Work at Home Mom who nominated me for the Beautiful Mama Blog Award! Julia continuously reminds me that one of the greatest joys of motherhood is reliving your childhood with your children. I always thought I’d be a wonderful mother because I could empathize so well with children. I was a great babysitter, the coolest camp counselor, and the biggest clown all-around. I thought I’d never lose my playful spirit, my outgoing persona, my zest for adventure. I may not have lost those pieces of me, but they’ve certainly been suppressed by the negativity of the past eight years. I want to enjoy life the way I used to; back when I was making life and life wasn’t making me, back when I saw beauty in the simplicity of things, as children do.

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Rule of the Award:

  • Click the above image and use it in your acceptance post.
  • List three things you love about motherhood.
  • Nominate as many moms as you like and let them know of the award

 

Motherhood is amazing for a zillion reasons, but if I have to narrow it down to three…

  1. Pregnancy and Birth-  no matter how discomforting, trying, grueling, intense, or any million types of difficult these stages can be, they are also amazing, sacred, awe-inspiring gifts from nature. Nothing humbles me more. I cherish the sacrifice, and in those hours, days, months, I am the strongest woman I’ve ever been, fueling my passion to become the strongest mother the world has ever seen.
  2. Watching them grow– It’s bittersweet to watch your babies growing so quickly into the unique people they’ll be. Part of you wishes they could be babies forever, part of you wants them out of the house for all but holidays. They are so beautiful, you hope to capture every quirky grin and cute costume and milestone. They are so beautiful, and you cannot help but to think of the future, when people will desire them, and you hope you’ve taught them well enough to choose wisely.
  3. Learning from them– Being a mother has taught me an enormous amount. From how I behave when I’m disappointed to how to unconditionally love someone. But I’ve not only learned emotional lessons; teaching them forces me to learn things, pleasing them forces me to try things, keeping them safe has given me the drive to create harmony in our household, and they constantly inspire me to be the best mama I can be.

 

Other mama bloggers who deserve this award (even if they’re not blogging about being mothers):

 

Thanks again, Julia!!!

 

Just Got Real February 25, 2013

Wow.

Nohra has been here for five days and sometimes it still seems like a dream to me. I really have three children.

I really have three beautiful little girls.

Nohra is absolutely amazing, my calmest child by far. Her temperament is incredibly mellow. I know that she may not keep this personality, but it’s much appreciated at the moment.

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My sister was able to come the day after Nohra’s birth to help me out and she’s leaving tomorrow. It has been so wonderful having her here. Everyone assured me that things would work out, and everyone was right.

I couldn’t have asked for a better midwife or a better birth. This is the first birthing experience that I’ve had where I can say without hesitation that it went perfectly. My neighbor/friend was amazing the day of the birth; I received such an immensity of love and help from her. Another friend let me borrow her dehydrator to prepare my placenta for encapsulation, and I’m quite honestly shocked by how much my sister committed to being useful. I feel very cared for and I am so appreciative.

Everyone who has helped me through this has helped to make it the best transition imaginable.

Thus far I am doing well to keep myself from thinking any sad thoughts. I may come close to considering something negative, but I quickly brush it away. There is so much to do right now. So much to accomplish in the next six months. I cannot bother with the unknown, the pain of the past. I need to stay strong for my curly girls. I need to stay strong for myself.

At this moment I feel so incredibly capable. I do not know what will become of our situation. I do not know what I will do or where we will live after I graduate, but…today I feel like I can make it work out somehow. Today I am not worried about our future. Today I know it’s going to be fine.

Everything is going to be just fine.

Maybe I am dreaming?

 

A Wonderful Christmastime December 26, 2012

Christmas Day went better than expected. I’d stayed up until 5:30am on Christmas morning assembling the girls’ dollhouse.

The dollhouse has an elevator! It is taller than our Christmas tree. Hopefully they'll let me play with them!

The dollhouse has an elevator! It is taller than our Christmas tree. Hopefully they’ll let me play with them!

I’m sure that it would’ve taken less time if I’d a) had an electric screwdriver b) had gotten more than three hours of sleep the night before and didn’t have such a hard time comprehending the instructions c) had time and space to start working on the dollhouse before Christmas Eve and/or d) had a husband helping. It took me six hours, two calloused hands, and one more sleepless night to get it done, but I did it! I was proud of myself, but I was totally drained on Christmas.

I must have stared at these directions for 2 of the six hours it took me to assemble the dollhouse

I must have stared at these instructions for 2 of the six hours it took me to assemble the dollhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve we’d attempted to make sugar cookies for Santa. The girls always love helping me in the kitchen so I let them pour ingredients and do some mixing. Just as I was about to scoop the flour I noticed mealybugs. Great. Another all day project of cleaning the cupboards is ahead, but at that moment I just tossed the bag and used an unopened box of gluten free flour instead.

 

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The recipe I was using for the cookies didn’t call for gluten free flour. Sometimes the gluten free all-purpose flour is interchangeable with regular all-purpose flour, but for this recipe the dough was not holding together enough to be rolled and cut into cutesy Christmas shapes. I opted to add chocolate baking powder to half of our dough and convinced the girls that Santa would love our uniquely layered cookies. They were easier and faster than decorating  shaped cookies, they got the job done, and the girls gloated that they were probably the only children in the world who’d left Santa the type of cookies we’d made. Probably so. They tasted a bit chalky.

 

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On Christmas morning the girls divvied up the gifts. I’d only written their names on a few of them. They opened and oohed and ahhed and thanked the gift givers. I told them that some of their gifts were donations from people in the community. I want them to understand that people can do great things for those they don’t even know. They were quite pleased, and they’ve vowed to help me go through their toys so that we can give things that they no longer play with to less fortunate children.

 

Santa stuffed stockings and left fairy costumes

Santa stuffed stockings and left fairy costumes

Santa and his reindeer enjoyed our cookies and carrots

Santa and his reindeer enjoyed our cookies and carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided early in the day that I wasn’t going to make the Christmas feast I’d intended to make. The turkey and homemade everything else can wait. I was far too exhausted and needed to rest my feet. I spent a good portion of Christmas lying down. The girls played with their new toys and enjoyed themselves without much need for my help.

 

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My mother and sister know that I rely on maps and printed directions. Their gifts should keep my eyes on the road and the girls' tantrums under control!

My mother and sister know that I rely on maps and printed directions. Their gifts should keep my eyes on the road and the girls’ tantrums under control!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother and sister and the girls got me presents. I was also given numerous gift cards from classmates, my landlord, donors to my support group, and friends. The girls made me their presents at school; I absolutely love them!

 

Terra made a Christmas tree out of her hand prints!

Terra made a Christmas tree out of her hand prints!

Amara made me an ornament with our family on it!

Amara made me an ornament with our family on it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before bed we played several games of Uno. Amara is surprisingly good already and Terra (she played with her cards face up on the table so that I could help her make choices) won twice! It was a lot of fun. I didn’t have much time to stress and think about what I was missing. I tried to just enjoy my daughters’ joy. Seeing them happy and carefree and being able to relax for a moment was the greatest part of Christmas.

 

The Good Things November 21, 2012

I’ve only been a single mother since late May 2012, but nearly every mother who has gone through a similar situation shares my sentiments:

We were single parenting long before we were actually single.

There are some things that have actually changed though. I may have had little time to myself before leaving him, but at least the children didn’t have to come with me to pap smear appointments. I no longer hold out the hope (though it usually wound up in disappointment and added resentment) that someone will help carry the load. I no longer have anyone to vent to about the children’s behavior on a rough day or the hardships of pregnancy. There is no soft skin to bury my face into, no strong arms to wrap around my waist and hold me tightly until I’m feeling okay.

There isn’t any abuse, but there aren’t any of the good things he brought to our household either. I miss the good things tremendously.

I miss the way he made me laugh. I miss our talks about the country, society, history. I miss him teaching me things. I miss his cooking. I miss his hair. I miss the smell of his skin, and the feel of his large hands. I miss the feeling of being protected from everybody; he was the only one who could truly hurt me. I miss the dream of loving each other eternally. I miss knowing that I had somebody.

I miss saying, “my husband,” in conversations. Now I don’t know what to call him. We are still married, but…

I miss his ears. He always thought they were too big, but his head was big and his ears fit it perfectly. I miss the way that he said my name. I miss watching him play video games that were too complicating for me to see how they could possibly be entertaining.

There were so many good things.

Tomorrow marks six months since The Big Incident, but somehow I’m supposed to smile and host a celebration.

Before The Big Incident, there was energy surrounding his presence. Whether he was raising hell or being peaceful, he was there. Whether he was gainfully employed or gleefully indulging in one of his vices, he was there. Whether he was contributing to my attachment parenting efforts or being a dictator, he was there. Now he is gone, and though there are countless ways things have gotten better, the reality of being alone, truly alone, makes getting things done just a bit harder than ever.

 

Unhealthy Obsessions August 10, 2012

Not a portion of my day goes by without my contemplating, nearly obsessing, about him. I wonder what he’s doing, how he’s feeling, if he’s thinking about me, if he’s eating properly, if he’s sleeping at night, if he misses me, if he’s thinking about our daughters and our unborn baby, if he’s sorry for what happened, if he’s trying to change.

A friend of mine tells me that my constant thinking of him is a way to keep him with me, to keep from being lonely. She tells me that I’ve kept him with me mentally as a way to keep from losing him completely. I think she’s on to something, because no matter how much I try to move past our relationship I find myself questioning: Does he still love me? Would he want me back?

I don’t maintain the fantasy of being a couple, but I still entertain the idea of being friends. I love him. I wonder if he hates me. I wonder what he is telling his family. I wonder if he is plotting to kill me. I miss the way he smells. Although everything I’ve learned from counseling tells me that I should have little hope for him coming to terms with the facts of our relationship admitting to being a batterer, I patiently await the day when we’ll be able to have a conversation.

It’s strange. For eight years before The Big Incident I had heard his voice every day. I had seen his face. I had touched his skin and shared his space. I was being mistreated, but he was with me. I am alone now, though not entirely without him. He possesses me with every motion from our growing baby in my uterus, there is nostalgia in every album, every moment with our daughters is a reminder of what I’d hoped would be, and everything I do is partially influenced by his absence.

I wonder how I’ll carry on without him. I know I’ll never love again. I wonder if he is already looking for a new companion. I’m certain that I no longer want to be with him, still it’s nearly impossible to let him go.

 

Mourning My Marriage July 27, 2012

You might think that any woman who has been abused will be elated once her abuser has been removed from her life.  I used to think that way. It seemed so simple. I would scream at the women on my television screen who’d continuously profess their undying love for men who were clearly undeserving.  Why doesn’t she just leave? What is she thinking? I thought they were fools. I thought they were weak. I swore it wouldn’t happen to me.

Movies don’t really prepare you for modern abuse. It looks different in real life, and it may be harder to recognize when it’s happening to you. I spent so much of my relationship in denial; justifying his behavior, striving to be a better partner, trying to prevent his wrath. Lately I look back and find it hard to believe that I really put up with so much crap, but it didn’t always seem unreasonable.

I fell in love with an amazing man. He had so much potential. He was sexy and intelligent and a little bit of an asshole, he had all the makings of being the alpha male of my dreams. He had a past filled with problems, but now he had me, and together we could do anything. We would rule the world. Or, at least that’s the way it seemed that things could be in the beginning, and intermittently throughout the next eight years.

When you haven’t been in an abusive relationship it’s difficult to empathize with victims. When you haven’t had your perfect love take a nose dive into domestic violence, then try to recuperate from its depths, it is almost impossible to understand why anyone would risk it happening again. Abuse can be very complex; for me it was interwoven with times of peace, understanding, reconnecting, and revisiting the dream of being the perfect team, the perfect family, an enduring example of unity.

I have since learned more about abuse, and I realize that these periodic “good times” were just a part of the cycle. Before, I thought that they were signs of hope.  I look at the wheel of power and control given to me by my counselor and feel ignorant to not have realized the truth earlier on.

I had refused to see myself as a battered woman. I didn’t want to leave and become a single mom. It was embarrassing to admit how I was treated, and I’d told no one the full truth in so long that I was terrified no one would believe me. I also had hardly anyone I could tell, because I’d lost most of my support system when I fell under his spell. Even still, I didn’t want to give up on my husband, so I continuously convinced myself that things were not so bad. I desperately clung to the idea that we could make anything better together.

Now I am mourning the loss of my dream. It’s difficult to realize that I never would have succeeded, no matter how much I suffered, how hard I tried, how much he meant to me. I am finally removed from the relationship, but I will always love him, and I will always wish that things could have worked out differently. Just like those impossible women on my television screen I couldn’t relate with long ago.