Shortly after Ben’s father walked out, before we moved back to the States, there was one prayer that kept me sane in the midst of those dark days. “If this is going to be my situation, all I ask is that it be used for good.”. Since then, I’ve been able to connect with so many newly single parents and it’s for them my heart aches, as I so easily remember those days of uncertainty where nothing about life feels familiar. Feeling like a ship after having weathered a storm, looking for a safe place to dock, but no lighthouse to guide the way.
As years have gone by, I’ve seen the goodness in God’s timing, and how having been a single parent for almost a decade has allowed me to serve others as they make “this” their new normal. And while I would never wish this life for anyone, I do wish I could share all that I’ve learned along the way, in the hopes of being able to help. So today, I am sharing 10 things for the newly single parent, that I wish I had known when I became one, too.
1. You don’t have to have everything figured out immediately. Give yourself grace.
All changes take time. And this life change is no different. It’s understandable to crave a sense of normalcy but your goodness as a parent is not defined by how quickly you put the pieces of your life back together.
2. It’s ok to cry. A lot.
It doesn’t mean that you’re weak; it’s a sign that you’re allowing yourself to grieve. And this is ultimately how you heal.
3. Having a support system of loved ones to lean on will be invaluable, but ultimately it’s up to you to do the work.
Find you tribe. Yes. Absolutely do this. But your tribe cannot heal you; only you can. We are social creatures and we were not meant to be alone, so by all means- have the girls nights. Have the brunch dates where you vent to your sounding board. But ultimately, the real healing will come not from that, but from you digging all the hurt out of your emotional junk drawer, and actually processing it. Picking it up, sitting with it. Allowing its’ existence in your life and acknowledging it’s presence and purpose. Only then will you be able to move through the pain.
4. Practical strangers will all of a sudden ask you the most personal questions. It’s up to you to decide how open you want to be.
I’ve come to a place of acceptance with this, but there was a time when as a newly single parent, the prying questions would really affect me. Meeting other parents, and almost immediately being asked where Ben’s father was, would inevitably invite a whole barrage of intruding questions. Questions like, “so does he pay you child support?”, “how often does Ben see his father?”, “are you worried that it’s going to mess Ben up not growing up with his father” all became common to hear within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. I’ve since learned how to walk that line but I’ve found that often times, people don’t understand how intrusive or hurtful their questions can be.
5. It’s not selfish to put your health first so you can show up for others.
As a newly single parent, it is ok to go to the gym, or go to therapy. It is ok to make your physical, mental and spiritual health a priority because it is not possible to pour from an empty cup. For a long time, I felt terrible for taking my son to the gym with me and having him go to the “Kids Club”, but I soon realized that it was necessary in order for me to show up as the best version of myself.
6. People will judge you. And that’s ok. Let them.
I learned early on that any judgmental looks or comments I received were more of a reflection of the other person, than of myself. That a judgmental heart comes from ego, pride, and perhaps unresolved hurt in their life, and that the best thing I could do was to pray for patience, kindness, and for them. Outside judgement will come as your life looks different from the norm, and with this, we have two options. We can return the “favor” with aggression or defensiveness, or we can model how to treat those who treat us unkindly. We get to make that choice.
7. This life change can be an emotional death sentence. Or it could be one of the best things to happen to you. You get to decide what the narrative will be.
8. How you choose to handle this life change will become your child’s guidebook on how to walk through difficult situations.
9. Your kid is going to be okay.
10. It is going to be okay.
It may not feel that way today. Or even for many “todays”. But if you do the work to heal, a new normal will slowly appear and the hurt will fade. For me, this took years. Years to process betrayal, lies and everything in between. But I promise you that on the other side of all the pain, there is beauty and grace. You just have to get there.