We are back again with part 2 of a 4 part series with Sophia Loukaides. Here she goes through her most lethal arsenal of tools that defends here in her single mother’s warrior battles. [Read part 1 here]
Woman Warrior by Kid Acne by Ms. Sara Kelly
Part 2: Single Mothers Warriors
Single motherhood is now “the new norm”.
According to the Single Mother Statistics on singlemother.com, 4/10 children in the US are born into a single parent household and a single mother will head 84% of those households.
There is a very strong correlation between social mobility and single motherhood.
What does that mean for someone who is or is becoming a single parent?
It means you are not alone and you need to be a warrior.
Single mothers face challenges on a multitude of levels.
Culturally, single mothers have to deal with the deep stigma attached to single parenting.
Emotionally, the threat of being in survival mode can be incredibly hindering to rising above your situation.
Economically, if you’re a mother, it’s very likely you make almost half compared to a married mother in the workforce, let alone a 2-income household.
Financially, in most US cities, rent and childcare are more than your actual paycheck.
I have experienced the compounding challenges of single motherhood and know there is no easy way out of the situation.
Although there could and has been books written about how to respond to your child’s needs, as I explained in my last post, “Lessons From My Big Queer Framily” the path to creating a healthy and supportive loving environment for your child, begins with you.
Here Are My Top 10 Tools for Surviving as a Single Mother Warrior:
1. Accept and Evaluate Your Situation
Although it sounds intuitive, this is one of the hardest things to do.
I remember fighting endlessly with my mind, to accept that I was not giving my child the traditional family ‘he deserved’.
The fact is, life will have its difficulties.
You should be entitled to more support and help because of your situation; however, you most likely won’t be.
According to The Single Mother Guide, the poverty rate for single mothers was five times that of 2 parent households, putting most single mothers at an annual income of $25,000 or 51.9 % are on the poverty line.
Accepting and evaluating should also include your finances and resources. Accepting the more difficult aspects allows you to enjoy the abundance of blessings that single motherhood can give to you.
Most of all, single motherhood allows you to meet the warrior within you.
Once you’ve accepted the injustice inherent in single motherhood, and realized that millions of women are also in your shoes, you’re ready to start setting goals to brighten your future.
Leading companies like Google have been responding and admitting to the lack of diversity and equity for women in tech.
Only 31% of people in tech are women and only 2% African American; and just 1% Hispanic.
Yet more women are needed in tech than ever before.
The tech industry provides a plethora of opportunities for you to be educated and work remotely, it also provides higher salaries.
Try taking a course in coding at one of the many sites like Code Academy, to see if you like it and join women in tech communities to find scholarships, grants for childcare, and mentors with new organizations like Girls Who Code.
By Vitagraph Company of America (Internet Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Understand, They Don’t
No matter how much your family, friends, and colleagues love you, unless they have been through single parenthood themselves, they won’t understand.
Try and have limited expectations of what people can offer, and as painful as it may sound, let go of friendships that may not benefit your new life.
It’s okay to find new friends and step away from some other groups of people that no longer allow you to feel supported.
Your taking on a different role in life and the kinds of people you have around you will either support or distract from it. Choose wisely.
When you feel overly judgmental of others or yourself, forgiveness is a very powerful tool to utilize.
Forgive yourself and others every day.
Forgive yourself for being human and forgive others for their humanity too.
It may not take away sadness or the inevitability of having to let something go but forgiveness allows you to be free of the weight it has on you.
Try Deepack Chopra’s 2 Minute meditation on Love and Forgiveness. The psychological impact of forgiveness is incredibly beneficial and even helps you live longer!
By Thomas Quine (Armadillo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Saying “No” & Putting up Healthy Boundaries
There are times in your life when you should always be generous and giving with others, but you can’t do this unless you know what boundaries you need to create for your current environment.
There are many negative connotations around the word ‘selfish’, but if used appropriately, making sure you are taking care of you allows you to actually be there for others without depleting your resources.
Don’t underestimate the power of the word “no” and how many different ways you can say it.
Even though you may love your mother or friend that supports you, if they can’t understand or accept that how they are acting is causing you additional stress, you need to remove them from your life until they can or the situation changes.
When you say no compassionately and purposefully you can take control of your life and the energies that come into it.
I often suffered from lawyers, calling me at all hours of the day demanding my time.
I decided that I would only pick up the phone on Tuesdays and read and respond to emails (that I filtered to go to a special folder) during that allocated time and had peace throughout the rest of the week.
You will be surprised how well things turn out when you are able to maintain and put up healthy boundaries.
Native Americans used the armadillo as a symbol to teach about healthy boundaries. Although this applies to Native American “Medicine Cards” the simple exercise in it can help you identify and create your boundaries: Armadillo.
The story of Doctor Dolittle, being the history of his peculiar life at home and astonishing adventures in foreign parts By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
4. Make It An Adventure
Whether it be taking a trip to the local park or getting your car out of the tow yard, find a way to engage your child and change your perspective to one of adventure.
Your children won’t care what you are doing as long as you remain engaged and present with them.
I used to go into a panic every time something major happened to my resources or time, however, when the situation already sucks, why make it worse for yourself or your kids?
For example, once when my car was towed, my son and I pretended that we had to save it from Captain Hook.
My son was Peter Pan and I was one of the lost boys. We dressed up and brought fake swords. We went to the police station got the stolen map (receipt for payment) and then got to the two sites in the nick of time to get our car from Captain Hook (the man who worked at the tow yard).
It was easy to pretend Captain hook ruined the cars there and my son was mystified and gratified… it was better and about the same price as making a trip to Disneyland.
I left there feeling energized, rather than depleted.
Brain structures involved in dealing with stress and fear. By National Institutes of Health [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
5. Mind Matters
Anxiety, according to Dr. Steimer, “…is a psychological, physiological, and behavioral state induced in animals and humans by a threat to well-being or survival, either actual or potential.”
Parenting is tough no matter what your household looks like.
Even though we are working more and harder, we are also experiencing higher levels of poverty and according to one study, this is one of the factors that contribute to the assumption that, “single moms may be at a higher risk of mental illness”, like depression and anxiety.
The same study also notes that we often downplay or fail to address such illness because of fear of disclosing and because of major tasks we have to accomplish in a day and because of the real fear mother’s face of losing their children if they do have one.
In addition, many single parents come from lower income neighborhoods where they have experienced community violence and have experienced violence in their relationships or in previous ones.
You should try to understand the difference between trauma, depression, and exhaustion in order to get the most effective care.
Once you identify that, you can find the kind of help you need.
Know that you can afford the time it takes because you may not be able to afford the breakdown if you don’t. Your kids need you.
There are many ways you can get help.
Check out these resources that the Center of Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University put together for single mothers: here.
Special Note: If you believe you are suffering from trauma, I would not advise you to seek help via the insured route unless there are healthcare providers that offer trauma-informed therapy.
If you have suffered domestic violence there are hotlines and support groups you can access. If you need some other kind of support and don’t have enough money, there are tons of apps and chat rooms that offer support.
6. Reinvent your World and Future
Now that you’re a parent, you know, you know you are not going back to who you were BC or before a child.
Without even realizing it, your values change and you respond differently to the world. Becoming a parent is an opportunity to re-define your future and yourself.
You have to be a bloody superhero, therefore create one within yourself and find inspiration from other’s homes, lives, and creations.
Visualizing is a large part of manifesting. Imagine what you and your child/children will look like in your dream situation.
Once you know what your dream world and life would look like you can take essential steps to get it.
This is a great tool to help you to creatively re-imagine all of the ways your life could be.
Try making a mood board for your life.
When times are tough, my son and I used to talk about the treehouse we would live in in the future and after bedtime, I would create Pinterest mood boards to help me visualize what it could look like.
Portrait of Marie Curie By “Wide World Photos” and “Underwood and Underwood, New York” [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
7. Finding Inspiration and Faith
Instead of comparing yourself to others, find a way to be inspired by others that have or are facing adversity like you.
Single motherhood requires a creative and innovative approach to all aspects of life.
It’s almost impossible not to panic when it feels like everything’s falling apart. Let go of unhelpful ideas about how it is for you and find the fodder for trailblazing your own way.
When you’re in survival mode it’s hard to feel empowered, however, take the help that’s out there, and educate yourself on what the world can offer the new you.
Ask yourself what you love to do—what makes you forget about the time when you do it—and actively be involved in doing it or making a job out of it.
You will succeed more this way and it will give you the stamina to take on the necessary challenges.
Look up other single mother warriors of the past to gain inspiration.
The list is vast and many women that ended up becoming single mothers, throughout history, have overcome extreme adversity and they can show you, you can too.
For example, Marie Curie (pictured above) received two Nobel Peace prizes 5 years after becoming a single parent.
She was a physicist and chemist most well known for her work on radioactivity.
8. Find a Community and Share the Load
I cannot emphasize this point more.
You are not alone.
There are plenty of people out there that would like and have the resources and time to be there for you and plenty of people that you can combine forces with you.
Romantic relationships come and go but providing a community of which you can support and be supported by others is the “new family” of our coming generations.
Finding some relief from child care, housing, and loneliness can be detrimental to the survival of your family.
There is a severe housing cost burden in the US– 30-50 % of income, especially most single mothers, is spent on housing and rent.
In addition, childcare costs make it difficult to go to work, let alone have a night off.
I write a lot more about how I tackled finding a community in “Lessons From My Big Queer Framily” but depending on where you live and the lifestyle you live, there are many more resources that can help you find and be supported by one.
Join a local MEET UP group, go to your local church or find one or two other single parents that are willing to share your load.
Another mother and I switch off giving each other night out. Share housing and childcare costs with another single mother.
Websites like CoAbode, provide the opportunity for you to meet with other single mothers and live together.
9. Take Care of Yourself
You may be a warrior but you’re still mortal.
The health and safety of your child depend on your own.
Often we get caught up believing that our child should come first and we forget to prioritize ourselves.
Changing your habits and lifestyle to suit the warrior role is essential.
The easiest and the most effective way to change your habits is to get more sleep—it does more than changing all your other habits combined.
But we all know rest isn’t really a characteristic of single parenthood.
There are many other ways you can make some simple adjustments to your eating, exercise, and mental health habits to boost health and stamina.
When your immune system is low, it’s not prime territory for making good decisions and maintaining healthy relationships.
Even if the situation seems like a losing battle, as situations often are in single parenting, there is always another solution you may not have thought about, that can alleviate the stress or intensity of it.
When a crisis actually hits, research from Washington State University has proven, “sleep loss impedes decision making in a crisis.”
Before you make a decision or reply, please be well rested. Almost all replies or decisions can wait one day before you address them.
Get a night’s rest and be open to feeling differently about how you respond to the situation the next day.
Also, try some of The 30 Ways to Take Care of Yourself As a Single Parent, that About.com has prepared for you. They are very helpful!
By Mike Baird from Morro Bay, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
10. Create Pocket holes of Peace
Sadness, anger, and stress, as a single parent affects not only you but also your children.
None of these emotions are bad to have, they are normal responses to an unjust situation or world but they need to be addressed appropriately so they don’t affect your children’s life/ lives.
No matter how bad things are, it can always get worse, so be kind to yourself.
Your children really do feel everything, so it’s important to remove yourself from the negative feeling or emotion when spending quality time around them.
A mind is a powerful tool and we can create pocket holes of peace for our children’s emotional safety and stability. We can do this through our imagination.
If you like to write, draw, read or journal, the creative process is also a great outlet for creating peace within the chaos.
Our mind, single mother warrior, is the most important tool we have for overcoming the challenges we have to face.
Find a peaceful place or a meditation app or relaxing binaural waves to put on when the pressure is on.
Digipill which makes meditation easy, even for the most distracted, so you can help get over what’s weighing you down, even momentarily and be able to be present until you can resolve your own feelings independently or with other adults.
For me, I find my happy place comes from the discovery that creative writing brings me and the support it can bring to others.
Parenthood is sacred and it’s magic.
To all the single mothers out there, I wrote this for you:
To the mothers that valued their lives as whole and beautiful before becoming one;
Who mourned the death of a self they no longer could embody and fought back against the injustice of having to endlessly choose between two bad choices.
To the mother’s that brought their children into an imperfect world and situation and made the most of it…
who fail often… but never give up;
to the ones that look at the joy and beauty in their children’s eyes and use that to recreate themselves, their values, and find possibility, where there was none.
To the mothers that know life isn’t a walk in the park and nor are they at times.
Whose children becomes their greatest teachers and are humble enough to value the pure moments and lessons they provide:
Motherhood is falling flat on your face only to get back up with a new one.
It’s the mess…
It’s the joy,
It’s the discovery of love and life,
Where you never saw or imagined it before.
It’s the pain of feeling your heart in someone else’s body…
It’s the sleeplessness,
And it’s the tiny toes…
Toes in white sheets,
And it’s the dancing.
It’s the sticking around even when you don’t know how to…
I’m so blessed to be guided into each day into the chaos by the most beautiful little man… and thank you for everyone who has been there for us over the last couple of years.
You know who you are and I love you.