Single Mom Diaries: A Typical Day

5:30 AM: The sound of my alarm wakes me. She is asleep in my bed so I fumble in the dark, find my phone, and silence the alarm. Resist the temptation of “10 more minutes”.

I rise.

Make coffee. Sit quietly. And think about… nothing.

6:30 AM: His alarm breaks the silence. She cries, not a fan of the mornings. He moves quickly, silently. She is slow and angry.

I rise.

Make the best of what I’ve been given. Catch a glimpse in the mirror and think “you look good… enough.”

Smile. Pull her hair into a ponytail, kiss her sweet cheeks, and remind her she is loved.

There are ants in the shower. Tiny red ants. I want to pull the shower curtain back and walk away. Avoidance. My preferred coping method.

I rise.

Grab a can of ant spray and cover the tub. The room fills with fumes. I close the door.

7:30 AM: Drive to school. Tell them you love them. Tell them to be brave and kind. To be a friend and a blessing. Remind them learning is a privilege, and education is a gift.

Wave goodbye. Smile. Breathe.

The kids are all right. They are happy, smart, and kind. They love well. Breathe.

Drive to work and think of all the things you left undone. Make a mental list. Remember to carry over items from yesterday’s list. Cross-off items that are over a month old.

Hope they really…weren’t…THAT…important.

8:00 AM: Arrive at work.

Focus. Smile. Wave. Exchange pleasantries. Make a new list. Write this one down. Everything is important. EVERYTHING is THE MOST important.

Prioritize. Strategize. Focus.

Ignore the phone when the school calls to remind you of the papers you didn’t sign.

Ignore your parents when they call to see how things are going. You’ll call them back.

Add it to the list. The other list. The one that only grows.

Interestingly enough, ignoring the boy who DIDN’T call is harder than ignoring the one who DID. Ignore them both.

Focus. Plan. Work.

4:30 PM: If you leave now you’ll beat traffic. They will make it to practice on time. Coach will be happy. Kids will be happy. If you leave now everyone wins.

If you leave NOW, tomorrow… WILL BE HARDER.

I rise.

5:30 PM: Drop them off at the pool. You want to stay and watch them practice like your mother did. Like the other mothers do.

No.

You want to WANT to stay and watch them practice. You are tired and thankful for a break.

You’ll use the time to read books, and write stories. Plan vacations. Clean the garage. Clean the kitchen. Paint. Fix things. Learn to cook. Ride a bike. Exercise.

6:15 PM: Put a pin in all your plans. Be happy that you let the dog out, started a load of laundry, and made a decision for dinner. Pasta… again.

7:15 PM: Home. Showers. Cook… something. Anything. Fresh. Balanced. MUST SERVE VEGETABLES. Sit with them. Talk to them. Ask them about their day. Smile. Laugh. Teach them to keep their elbows off the table. Offer them more while you eat less. Resist the temptation to clean while they eat. Hope they don’t notice, you’re not hungry… again.

Send them to brush their teeth while you take care of the mess. Pat yourself on the back. You are very good at cleaning messes you didn’t make.

Breathe.

8:45 PM: Bed. 20 minutes of reading or, “the teacher will get mad”.

9:00 PM: 1 minute more and I will go mad. Close the books and your eyes.

I rise.

Kiss foreheads. Pull blankets. Tell them I love them. Tell them they are my treasures. My people. Turn off the lights and walk away.

9:30 PM: “Can I sleep with you?”

No.

“Why not?”

Because mommy wants to sleep alone.

“You’re mean.”

Then because I am mean. Goodnight.

Who are we?

“The 3 musketeers!”

All for 1.

“And 1 for all!”

I smile. They are happy and fast asleep before I start to cry. Not because I am sad. I am not sad. Because I am tired, and it’s Monday. And tomorrow my alarm will wake me up at 5:30 AM, and she will be in my bed. And I am not sure I can do it all again.

But I will rise.

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Single Mom Diaries: Anxiety

Anxiety+Girl

Question: “What’s it like being a single mom?”

Actual Response: “Oh, it’s great. There’s no parent splitting in our house.”

We laugh.

What I want to say is this:

I live in anxiety. Not with it, in it. Like I have literally packed up all my crap and made anxiety my state of residence.

Have I always lived in anxiety?

I don’t know.

I think I used to vacation there but I lived in calm. Lately, I live there and vacation in calm. So, yeah, it’s great.

The moral of this story is to take more vacations. Which I am sure we can all agree is the moral of every story.

Back to anxiety, it’s terrible. There are so many terrible things aren’t there? Orphans, cancer, the 2016 Presidential Election, hot Cheetos, we could go on and on. Let’s just add anxiety to that list and agree that maybe it’s not the worst thing ever, but it certainly does not help make life any more fun.

Anxiety is terrible.

Have you tried therapy? Yes.

Prescription drugs? Yes.

Prayer? Yes.

Meditation? Yes.

Exercise? Yes.

Eating well? Yes.

Journaling? Yes.

More prayer? More yes.

Does anything work? Yes. Yes. Yes.

It all works. Differently, and at times one strategy is a better fit, but a hearty YES; all the things work.

Do you still have anxiety? Yes.

A well-meaning friend once told me, “Shaena, you have to stop saying you have anxiety. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy”. I’m not sure he was really clear on how that works, but let me be clear; admitting that I live in anxiety has not caused me to live in anxiety.  I don’t believe I’ll always live here, but I’m here now. While I’m here, I’ll do the heart work necessary and gain some skills that will help me on my way. The alternative is moving to a small mountain cabin, growing out my leg and armpit hair, and surrounding myself with pictures of cats and tiny hamsters eating burritos, and… I think the kids would complain and that would give me anxiety… so probably not.

Instead, I’ll hold these three things in my heart and be thankful for the lessons, coupled with the Truth, that get me through. Maybe they will help you or someone you know avoid their own recluse cabin.

  1. Don’t be afraid to admit where you are right now. Until you can do this, you wont be able to process how you got there or where you are heading. Nothing is wasted. (2 Corinthians 1:4).

      2.  Change always comes. If you want    to move, you will. It might take longer than you hoped but you will. Don’t lose heart. (1 Peter 5:10)

  1. Gratitude helps, but time is what heals. Be patient with yourself. Prolonged struggle doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for the progress you have made. You are being strengthened and that process takes time. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

 

I have a beautiful life. I am loved well. I am thankful above all else, and I spend more time in joy than most people I know. I am also really proud of the progress I’ve made in the last two years. But, I will not strip this journey into single parenting of it’s emotional consequences and pretend that I have magically managed to remain unscathed. I live in anxiety. It is what it is.

Good days look like prayer, and baths, and playtime, and laughter, and sweet sweet calm. Bad days look like nervous energy, fingers raw and bleeding, and a thousand distractions.

I have to fight for the calm in my heart that used to come so easy. Most days I win and I go to bed feeling like a bad a$$. Some nights though, I climb into bed surrounded by anxiety, breathe out a sigh of disappointment, and agree to fight again tomorrow.

 

I guess, in a way, that’s winning too.

 

Praying for you friends. For all the battles you win silently. 

Xoxo Shaena

Confessions of a Superhero

Confessions of a Super Hero

Other possible titles:

If I tell you what I really think, will you call me a bitter divorcé ?

Words you write when you are out of Xanax.

There is not enough Botox in the world to hide the fact that I feel tired and old.

Misguided Musings of a 30 something single mom.

 

In just two years I’ve become a real life super hero, this is my story:

We don’t have to talk, we are not friends”.

That was all I could manage to say. That was the last thing that I said. I didn’t look at him again. I didn’t look at her either. I just rolled up my window and drove away. I don’t know where they went. Maybe to celebrate his new found freedom, or to revel in the fact that they had won some great prize in an out of court settlement that included very little time with the kids and even less financial support. I don’t know where they went, and does it really matter? He had made his choice and I would make mine. And so I closed the door on ten years of my life.

Ten years of hopes and dreams.

Ten years of joy and laughter.

Ten years of fighting and strife.

Of contention and hurt and more heartache then our marriage was capable of withstanding.

I closed the door behind me and stared out into a world full of terrifying possibilities, armed with only the tiniest glimmer of hope that somehow, in the end, all the wrongs would be made right.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

It’s important to note that by this time I had been a single mom for over a year. Gone were the nights of holding my children as they cried themselves to bed and then slipping into my own bed to do the same. Gone was the fear and worry that my former “stay at home mom” status would prevent me from ever getting a good job, or a good job that I liked. Gone was the fear that I would never be wanted, and that what I could offer would never be enough. And the loneliness that once threatened to rob me of all future joy; was more of a dull ache only noticeable when I focused on it, and I never did.

 

At this point in my life I tried to date. I use that word “try”, about as loosely as you can use any word, because in hindsight, I did not “try” at all. I got out of these “relationships” exactly what I put into them, basically nothing. To be fair, I’m not sure I was ever good at dating… I mean, I was married at 21 so that leaves only my high school boyfriends to chime in… but please don’t because that would be insanely uncomfortable.

The point is this; it is extremely awkward for Christians to date after a divorce. Call me a hopeless romantic, but still hard to forget how, “the one” turned out. And while I totally agree there are a lot of someone betters out there for me, I am plagued with the reality that there is also someone worse, and that guy makes being single seem pretty stinking wonderful. And so, I am content to wait. On time, healing, confidence, hundreds of cats to take over my home and drive me out into the street where I am forced to make new friends, God, anything… I am just waiting. And trusting that when it is right, I’ll know.

Things that steal my joy:

Not having enough time with my kids.

Watching them miss their dad.

Knowing that my chances of marrying Bradley Cooper are basically non-existent.

Seeing them disappointed.

Knowing that even at my best, I will never be both a mother and a father.

Seeing them disappointed again.

Being so tired my body aches.

Seeing them disappointed again and again and again.

Commuting 2 hours a day and then coming home and feeling like a zombie.

The road map of wrinkles that line my forehead.

Things that bring me joy:

Being able to provide for my kids.

Daydreaming about sharing a front porch and a double rocking chair with Bradley Cooper.

A community of friends and family who held my arms up when I was too weak to walk.

Disco dance parties in my daughter’s room.

The way my son looks at me with such gratitude and pride when I come home from work.

All of the things that make up Elly’s world.

All of the things that make up Nicky’s world.

Knowing that I am building a legacy in them, and they will always be my proudest accomplishment.

Interesting work.

Cute clothes.

Knowing that I am not alone, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Feeling loved every day.

Having a front row seat in the lives of two really cool little humans.

Remembering that this is only one chapter and that the rest has already been written and is just waiting to be read.

 

In truth, some days are awesome and other days suck. I can appreciate that I am not a conventional superhero. An argument can be made that there is nothing super or heroic about me… get behind me Satan.

Although it may be fair to say there is nothing spectacular or even particularly interesting about my life right now. I’m trying to do the best with the cards in my hand, like all of the other amazing parents I know. Still, there are seasons of motherhood that seem more trying than others. This has been mine. And so, you will forgive my bold self-proclaimed superhero status, and just remember sometimes I need to be reminded that I am more than a conqueror.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

Love,

Shaena

PS,

This blog is for moms like me. Your lives are not perfect, but you wake up every day and you do the best with what you have been given. You are beautiful and your story matters.

 

“Stay at Home Mom” needs an upgrade

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I HATE my job title. It is in dire need of an upgrade. Until then…

Please don’t ask me what I do. I might cry.

And even if I don’t, I will read between the lines of your well-meaning,

“It’s the most important job in the world”.

Because, let’s face it, hardly anyone really believes that. If they did, they would rally and riot for better pay, benefits, and equal opportunity! They would fight for justice so no mother is left behind, and every woman in America is able to stay home and raise her own children if she wants to. At the very least, they would come up with a better job title!

Please don’t ask me what I do. Because experience tells me that depending on who is asking, answering, “I’m a stay at home mom”, might not sound important enough. And might be followed by disappointed looks and an awkward silence that aims to shame.

And, here is the deal, even if there is nothing between the lines for me to read, I will just start making *STUFF up.

And I’ll hear things like:

“What a shame. Another female lost in the wake of the feminist movement. Left behind without a brain, or a dream, or the drive to use her brain to realize her dream. So instead she stays at home all day long, eating bon bons, keeping up with the Kardashians, and watching her youth fade into oblivion; while her children raise themselves”.

Things could get ugly. So please don’t ask me what I do. Because, the best title someone came up with when describing what I do was, stay at home mom. And lets face it, that sounds lame.

The truth is I am:

  • A student first and foremost, because when I started this job I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
  • A nutritionist
  • A chef
  • An artist
  • A musician
  • An interior decorator
  • A personal shopper
  • A therapist
  • A nurse
  • A dentist (pulling teeth like a boss)
  • A soccer coach
  • A ballet instructor
  • A motivational speaker
  • A mediator
  • A sheriff
  • A teacher
  • An entertainer
  • A playmate
  • A maid
  • A chauffeur
  • A nanny
  • A party planner
  • A gardener (though arguably the worst… hooray for zero scape)
  • A plumber
  • A stylist
  • A scientist
  • A pastor (gasp)
  • A story-teller
  • An adventure seeker
  • A dream maker
  • A friend
  • A confidant

 Okay go on, ask me what I do.

I do all these things and more… sometimes on the same day. And still have time to change the world one snotty nose at a time. So for goodness sake can we give this job title an upgrade already? I was thinking:

Stay at home mom

Domestic Goddess

People Farmer

Superhero

What do you think? Suitable upgrades?

Love to all the moms out there. So thankful for you. You are invaluable.

Xoxo,

S

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

 

In the image of God, NOT mom

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My kids are so different!

 I often marvel in the fact that children raised in the same home, parented in the exact same way, can be as different as night and day?

And it’s not just that they are different from each other, they are different from me!!! Try as I sometimes do to shape my kids into perfect little replicas of my ideal self (you know, the one who prefers celery sticks to gummy bears), my kids still do things their own unique way.

And I was thinking…maybe that’s okay.

What if, as a parent, I worried less about teaching my kids “the right” way to do EVERYTHING, (as if I even have a clue what that is), and focused instead on the REASON to do things.

What if I encouraged them to solve problems, think creatively, and value that THEY are made in the image of God and NOT in the image of Mom!

Things might take a little longer, but it could be fun to see what solutions they come up with.

We are all different. Made uniquely and distinctly in the image of God, and EVERYONE in our family has something unique to offer. Even our kids!

Is it scary to think your kids might possess skills and abilities that you may not have?

“A godly leader has the humility to allow his kids to shine and doesn’t have to be the resident expert.” Parenting By Design

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans

12:4-5

Question: How do you encourage your children to be who God created them to be?

Embracing the “mom cut”

Beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised

Proverbs 31:30

I cut my hair.

You know what they say, “as the kids get older, the hair gets shorter”. I don’t actually know of anyone that says that, but it seems like something “they” would say. Who the heck are “they” anyway?

Anyway, I did it. I got the mom cut. I’d like to think it’s more of a Katie Holmes/ Victoria Beckham kind of mom cut, but a mom cut nonetheless. It has taken a little getting used to it as I first had to mourn my long shampoo model locks that were mostly in my head rather than on it. They were really painful to loose.

Why do people make such a big deal about the mom cut anyway? It’s as if there is this unspoken fear that the people who see moms in the grocery store will know that they are moms and not young hipsters by their haircut. OH THE AGONY. As if that magical flowing hair would have hidden their children who are undoubtedly with them in that store! Or okay, not hidden them…but at the very least the long hair says “she’s cool, she’s like a young, hip, mom”. And every mom wants to be a cool mom right?

Eh, cool is overrated. Motherhood is not. When my kids were babies I wore their barf like a badge of honor. Later… and still, I wear bags under my eyes to remind the world that I get less sleep than my kid-less counterparts. And now, I will proudly rock a mom cut or any other tell that screams, “she’s a mom people”.

I love being a mom. I love being their mom. They, my two little gems, are my heritage, my gift of grace, and my proudest achievements. They tell the world that I have labored, and loved, and live a rich life alongside two perfectly imperfect little people.

Maybe it took cutting off my hair to realize being a mom isn’t about giving up youth and beauty; although there is a fair amount of that. It’s about labor, and love, and the legacy you leave behind.

I’m embracing the mom-cut ya’ll, but more than that… I’m embracing the gift of being a mom.

Look out mom jeans and t-shirts with my kids face on them; here I come! God, please no!!!!

Praying for you moms especially this week. That you will learn to love each wrinkle on your forehead, stretchmark on your stomach, and every other little tell that lets the world know how richly you’ve been blessed!

And for those of you who aren’t moms but made it to the very end, GO YOU! And let me encourage you too. Fully embrace the season you are in! Be sure to give as much, if not more, attention to your character as you would your haircuts. Whether you ever rock a mom cut or not, beauty is fleeting, oh girls, but a woman of godly character can change the world.

Xoxo

S

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Amazing Grace

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“You’re like God”.

His words took my breath away.

I had heard of kids saying similar things, but this was my kid and, well…quite frankly, he knew better. He had to be confused…or maybe I misled him. Man, did I ever mislead him!

My mind flooded with memories of all the mistakes I’d made in his short life. The time when I fed him sweets and then forgot to brush his teeth, and the time when I forgot to feed him at all. The numerous times he’d seen me lose my temper, raise my voice, or storm out frustrated.

He’d seen me rude.

He’d seen me impatient.

He’d seen me unkind.

Unloving.

Unforgiving.

He had to know I was imperfect in every way.

And I was his, “like God”?

In that moment, it was hard to imagine a less suitable comparison. This picture of an imperfect God my son had painted over a lifetime living with an imperfect mom had to be corrected. Still saturated from the flood of emotional memories, and barely audible,  my own voice somehow managed to reply simply:

“How so, babe?”

His answer challenged me.

“Well, you always love me. Even when I sometimes don’t listen, or I throw a fit. Or even if I have to go to time out, you always love me the same. That means you are like God. That’s the same as like he love’s me”.  And suddenly I understood.

Grace.

Favor unearned, undeserved, and inexplicable apart from a holy God.

It was grace.

My son wasn’t confused, nor was he misled into thinking his mommy was something more than what she was. He understood God was perfect and he wasn’t trying to create Him in my image the way I’d sometimes done when I loved something. To him, I am “like God”, because I am covered in grace.

And my love for my children is just a reflection.

If you do everything else wrong sweet mommas, do this right. Teach your children about grace. Teach them that it was by grace that they are saved (Eph 2:8-9), and that their confidence is found in it (2 Cor 1:12).  Tell them God is able to make all grace abound in them, that always having all sufficiency in everything, they will have an abundance of grace for every good thing they do (2 Cor 9:8). Teach them grace was given to each of us (Eph 4:7), that we are justified by it (Titus 3:7), and stewards of it (1 Peter 4:10).

Look, I know you have a lot of things you need to teach them. Teach them those things too! But teach them to value grace above those things. And if you do that, precious friends, your children wont just receive grace, they will distribute it.

And THAT has the power to change the world.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” 1 Peter 1:2

Did this blog encourage you? Why not share it with a friend? And while you are here, you might also enjoy, Surviving Elly’s World.

Praying for you! That you will walk in grace, and that the world will know from where your confidence comes!