Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being Single: It's a Mine Field Out There!

So...in case you missed it in the "About Me" page above...I'm single.  I've been single for nearly four years.  The second year was very much a conscious decision.  I found myself headed down the exact same path and attracting the exact same kind of man.  Oh HELL to the freakin no!

The only way the pattern was going to stop was if I stopped it.  I did a lot of soul searching...crying, begging, pleading, whining, bargaining, "why me" -ing...and came to the conclusion that I was not ready to date.  In fact, I NEEDED to NOT date.  Another pattern I had found is that I had always...I mean from the very first boyfriend in elementary school...leaped from one relationship to the next!

Now wait a minute! I did not say I am a cheater or ever was nor did I say I slept with everyone of them...it was elementary school!  I did, however, generally speaking, have not but a matter of a couple of months...TOPS...from the end of one relationship to the beginning of the next.  I could not remember ever having gone one solitary year having stayed single.  As a result...this realization hit VERY hard...I had no real idea who I was...ME...Heather...

How could I not know who I was as an individual?  Here I was 32 years old, mother of two kids, married & divorced 3 times, college graduate, career woman...but who am I?  This was a question that had to be answered before I would be ready to date again.  I couldn't be any good to another person...I couldn't truly give myself if I didn't know who myself was...that doesn't sound quite right.

That year was full of a lot of ups and downs...in fact the next two years would be so full of health problems with my daughter, behavior issues with my son, bullies to my son, a near miss with my daughter and a boy *gritting teeth tightly*...I found myself at the end of the year last year in a conversation with...wait for it...a guy!  We were exchanging how long we had been single.  I had initially said almost three years, then after some thought, I realized it was nearly FOUR years!  So much had happened during those three years that I missed a year!  It was my new job.  I spent so much time training and trying to learn my job, settle my kids into a new home & school, still dealing with behavior problems with my son that I lost a whole year!

Did I really go three years not dating anyone...at all?!  No.  I gave it a go a few times.  I met a couple of really great guys.  For whatever reason, it just didn't work out between us.  We remain friends, but speak rarely.  I met more than my share of creepers.  During that first year of my strict "no dating" rule, I turned down a couple of guys who had asked me out.  One got incredibly upset and took the whole thing personal and there went the name calling and accusations...I'll let you fill in those blanks!

 
Mostly I talked with a lot of guys...yes, talked...conversations....some really great conversations...then...after a week or two....nothing!  No "I don't really feel an attraction;" no "I have an interest in someone else;" no "goodbye, have a nice life."  NOTHING!  They just stopped talking to me.  WTH! Right?!
 
I had met a couple of guys in whom I was very much attracted.  Mind you I'm not attracted to a man simply through looks.  I admit, I have to like what I see in order to be completely attracted.  But! A man can look like Channing Tatum and be a social peria...a complete ass...womanizing...manipulative...abusive...
intellectual wet noodle and he is the ugliest man on the planet to me.  A man does not get my attention whether he be visually stimulating or repulsive if he is cannot stimulate me intellectually.  Granted I do have a laundry list of other factors that I cannot help but be turned off if they are not me to my liking.  We are human.  We all have this list!
 
The men to whom I was attracted had all these things.  So why did none of them workout?  ONE.vital.requirement...they all lacked it...emotionally available!  Really?!  Isn't this a "chick" problem?  I never imagined meeting a man who wasn't ready to commit to a relationship because he was not yet over the last, whether it be a year ago or four years ago. 
I remain patient.  Regardless of their being emotionally unavailable, a man like that is what I want.  Someone who will get just as attached to me...emotionally, physically...mentally...intellectually...as I would to him.  This doesn't mean he or I would be stuck to one another like velcro.  Quite the contrary.  We'd be so connected at the core that we would not have the NEED to be in physical presence of each other every waking second of every day.  The distance makes us appreciate the time together all the more.
 
Waiting for a person like this requires a soft touch and a patient heart.  Both these traits are outside my character.  Typically, I don't have much patience, least of all with myself.  However, this is a character flaw on which I need to work.  I find this very situation the perfect test subject.  He's out there somewhere, right?

Single Mom’s Struggle: Mental Health, Part 2

Part 1

I am truly blessed to have some very wonderful friends.  They are supportive and offer advice when I need it.  On the rare occasion I can muster the courage to admit I need help and ask for it, they are the first in line to lift me up.  They are also the kind of friends to tell me when I need to suck it up and stop being so dramatic.  Yes…those truly are the BEST kinds of friends.

While I love my friends dearly, all of them are married.  One wasn’t married when I met her but she had been in a long-term relationship with a wonderful whom she did marry.  Another is currently engaged.  The latter two are my newest friends.  They were single mothers prior to their current relationship.  The rest of my friends either don’t have children or have been married since having children.  You see where I’m going with this…parenting advice from parents who have never had the experience of being truly single…no second income…no friends who live close by…no family who live close by…no outside financial support…no one coming through the door in a matter of days/weeks/months, who is actually only a phone call away, to co-parent…is advice taken with a grain of salt.

We love you.  We know you mean well.  But advice like “put them in time out for 3 minutes” while the child is scream-crying and flailing about like a fish out of water is easier said than done when it has been this scene, wash and repeat, for the last three days with no relief!  We single parents have no grandparent to call to the rescue; no co-parent to whom to hand off; no friend to come help (even if they are close, they are likely married and have kids of their own doing the same thing and breaking away isn’t feasible or they are a friend who isn’t married or who has kids and “yeah, right!” they’re coming to help with that mess!  Seriously!  The chaos going through our heads, as single parents, at that moment is indescribable to those who have never experienced it.  At that moment, our ONLY concern is to NOT physically harm our child!  The only option is to walk away…go to another room…shut the door…and try to drown out the noise until we can calm down.  We have no choice but to let that child behave however they are going to for those minutes.  The whole “if you don’t stay there and stand your ground to let them know who the parent is” does not work in a situation like this.  We MUST separate ourselves, as hard as it is to let our child cry.  Some of us choose to not let it endure and we pick up the child to console him/her or simply let go what it was we were trying to punish.

The next ensuing battle is dealing with those same married friends and various family members accusing you of “spoiling” your kids, not being harsh enough in your punishments.  REALLY?!  Are you kidding me?  You have no idea to what extent I’ve been dealing with this.  You have no idea what I’ve tried or haven’t tried.  You know only what you see for a few hours every few months!  Get real!  How about offering to take the kids for a few hours so mom can catch some uninterrupted sleep, take that heavenly bath, or find out what the big deal is with the Grey person in that novel her friend (married) lent her six months ago!  Don’t accuse her of being unfit.  Don’t offer to take her kids and raise them for her because she “just can’t handle it.”

Ask questions, then wait and listen.  She will tell you what she needs in her time.  Make the environment welcoming and warm and inviting for her to ask for the help she so desperately needs.  Let her know that asking for help does not make her weak, it makes her better.

Learning to ask for help when I need it, even from complete strangers, was the hardest lesson I had to learn as a single parent.  I’m not saying I ask for handouts and charity.  After my first divorce, there was a time when I had no choice but to ask for government assistance.  I couldn’t afford to feed my kids.  I waited until I hadn’t eaten in a month so my kids could have the food until I finally gave in and asked for help.  The relief that burden being lifted felt wonderful!  I wished I hadn’t waited so long to ask.  There have been some from whom I’ve asked for help who expected me to pay back every cent.  I had no other intention but to do just that, but when bill collectors are already beating down your door, the last thing you need is another one in a friend or family member.  Patience is what is needed.

The second hardest lesson I’ve learned as a single parent is that taking time for myself, to keep myself healthy, is NOT selfish.  The mere thought seems so until you begin to realize that taking that time is actually more for the benefit of the very charge you keep.  When I started my weight loss journey, nearly five years ago, I had no energy.  All I wanted to do was sleep or watch television.  I didn’t want to talk when I got home from work because talk is all I did at work.  I studied when I wasn’t working. I rarely slept, so much so that the last year of that marriage I battled insomnia.  I couldn’t sleep without narcotics only I couldn’t function the next day on them.  That wasn’t the first time I had trouble sleeping but it was the last time I would not sleep for nights on end until I took a narcotic.  What I ate was horrible!  I ate junk food.  Seriously, that was the bulk of my diet because it was fast and cheap.  Our dinners were “healthy” in that the contained a main course, two sides, and generally, a desert (junk, remember).  However, those meals usually came out of a can or box or bag or jar of some sort.

The decision to focus on my health came when I found myself crying in a department store dressing room because I needed a bigger size pant and was already wearing the largest I had ever worn my whole life.  At that time, I suffered knee pain (which I blamed on old basketball injuries), hip pain, and lower back pain that kept me from laying flat on my back.  While I denied it outwardly, I knew I was severely depressed, also.  The depression may have played a role in my marriage ending but there were still other factors that attributed to its demise.  I knew something had to change.  The one thing I knew I could change was how I felt about the person I saw looking back in the mirror at me.  The one thing that would change that was losing weight.  After all, I was at my heaviest ever.

As I began to lose weight, I began to feel better about myself as a woman.  I began to be happier, more confident.  Little by little, the pains began to go away.  I could lie flat on my back without pain in my lower back or my hip.  I had energy to play with my kids and find out about their day when I came home from working a 10 hour day and making a 3 hour round-trip commute.  We were eating better.  We were learning what food tasted like when it didn’t come out of a box, and I was learning that really wasn’t that much more expensive after all.  I felt clearer mentally.  I could focus on any given task, at work or at home.  I was becoming a better mother, employee, daughter, friend (gf/wife is TBD).  How did I manage to make this transformation?  Simple...I take time...for me...first.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Single Mom's Struggle: Mental Health, Part 1

I'm sure this question may spark quite the debate among women in general, whether they be mothers at all, single, married, working, stay at home, etc..  The reality is this question is relative to the person asking.  Given ones personal situation one may think she battles her own mind moreso than other women in different situations.  For the sake of argument, let's pose this question among only mothers, those who are married, and those who are not.

I have been in both situations.  I did not intentionally have children knowing I would one day be single, nor did I have them while I was single.  I was married to the same man when I had both my children.  Having been married & divoced three times, I'm often asked if my children have the same father.  They do.  Having children in the subsequent marriages, or even today was not, and is not, an option.  I had cervical cancer when my son (my youngest) was barely a year old, during the same year my first marriage ended.  Now that we have that question cleared up, let's move on.

When I was married the first time, my husband joined the local Army National Guard and was in bootcamp for a few months.  This was after our first child was born.  Our marriage hadn't been very good up to that point.  It was markedly better for the first few months after he came home.  Soon, however, he reverted back to what he knew best, which was go to work and come home.  He did little else to help out, lest I "nagged," of course...who needs that stress...it is easier to do the job myself.  Many times I found myself saying "I feel like a single parent. I'm the only one doing anything around here."  I had no idea what it was like to truly be a single parent.  I knew I was raised in a single parent home, but I knew only the receiving end of that life. 

The reality of the matter is that, while some partnerships require one parent to be physically absent from the family for whatever length of time, that family still has the reassurance of a second income or ability to live on one income while the non-working parent stays home with the children.  One parent being physically absent by no means makes a "single parent" home.

There is a lot to be said for having the peace of mind that you either get to stay home to raise your children the way you see fit or that you have two incomes on which to raise that family.  In either scenario, there is always another adult, a partner, with whom to share stress, someone with whom you can vent or pass off those particularly difficult days of disciplining the children.  Hell, it's nice having that other person around to simply ward off the ensuing attack of the children once you close the bathroom door behind you.  You are able to arrange an escape long enough to take a nice hot bath & enjoy a few lines in the latest "best seller."

Single parents have no such luxuries.  If we are to enjoy a hot bath, we do so at the only available time...after the kids are fast asleep...laundry is maintained...dinner is cleaned up...rooms are detangled...and it is somewhere between 11pm & 12 am...at which time sleep is so much more appealing than a long hot bath and who needs the stress of trying read a book only to never finish it or run the risk of falling asleep in the bathtub!  Sleep!  Yes, that is much more suitable past-time.

We have no choice but to live on one income AND miss the opportunity to raise our children as we see fit.  We spend as many waking hours as we can with our children, but those hours are often divided trying to squeeze in quality minutes with our children and taking care of everyday household duties required to provide proper care for those children.  There is no impending solice in knowing our partner will soon be there to help share the burden.  The thought of pursuing a partner in and of itself is a burden.  This burden is easily avoided.  We simply don't date.

Ah, dating!  Now there is an entirely separate rant!  Stay tuned for that one.  It will be a doozy!

For those few and far between moments we get to ourselves, we spend them wrapped up in our own heads.  We think about what life might have been like had we simpleystayed in our marriage.  Would things have gotten better?  Worse?  Could we have just sucked it up and dealt with whatever it was making the marriage unbearable?  Was the decision best for the kids or will it be bad for them in the long run?  This seemlessly endless barrage of questions leads to silent sobbing as we lie awake at night.  We muffle our cries in the empty pillow lying next to us so we don't risk the kids hearing, and thus, worrying why mom is crying.  We can't allow them to know we are weak...can we...because denotes weakness...inability to cope, right?

We have no one else to turn to who understands.  No one can provide support on a daily basis.  We don't want to burden anyone else with our own troubles.  That isn't what mothers do.

So, herein lies my question...do single mothers suffer a harsher mental battle than do other mothers?  How do we cope with it? 

Part 2

Friday, January 11, 2013

Back off! Mom's Working Out!!

Kim is the perfect example of a mother who learned the value of taking time for herself.  Read her story below.



After having 8 children, you could say I’ve always been a mom. But I wasn’t always 110 lbs. overweight. No, that came from putting on 10 lbs. with each baby and never taking that weight off.


After cooking and cleaning (I do about 125 loads of laundry and over 100 loads of dishes EVERY month), home-schooling, and taking care of my husband—I just didn’t have anything left over for me… until this year.

When I saw Tony Horton with his 10-Minute Trainer workout—I said, maybe I can sneak away for 10 minutes. And I started. Soon 10 minutes became 20, and then 30, and I finished 10-Minute Trainer!!! I loved it.

But after all those babies, I decided it was time to attack my abs with RevAbs. So off I went. When I started, I had to modify. I gave birth EIGHT TIMES!!! There was NO WAY I could even consider jumping jacks. But by the end, I didn’t have to modify at all—I CAN do jumping jacks!

So far, I’ve lost 75 lbs. I give credit to 10-Minute Trainer, Rev-Abs and Shakeology. I drink Shakeology twice a day for several months. It cut cravings and gave me a good amount of protein and both start and end my day with.

Best of all, I am going to be a grandmother—at 49—next month. I used to look like a grandmother, but NOT ANYMORE! Now, I don’t even feel like a grandmother. And after all this time, I can fit into my wedding dress!!!!
You can change your life, too. Take The Beachbody Challenge™, for the ultimate motivation to get fit! Select any Beachbody® program and once you complete it, share your results for your chance to win cash and prizes.  You can see the program Kim used (Power 90) here.  While you are there, browse around at the other wonderful challenge packs available.  Comment below or email me for assistance and/or questions.

Single Moms & Brains



Ever have days like this?  We moms have the stress of raising children, keeping a home, including doing all the grocery & clothes shopping, maintaining a vehicle (or two), having a career outside the home, and maybe trying to have some similation of a relationship.  To say we are "stressed" is an understatement!  By mid-week, I generally find myself in a fog, wondering about aimlessly looking for the last place I left my brain.

We find ourselves in constant need of just a few more hours in the day.  The only way to get that is to carve it out of sleep time.  Heaven forbid we spend an hour of that time on ourselves.  We get lost in the hustle & chaos of our lives, always helping & caring for those around us, hardly giving a moments thought to our own needs, much less wants.

We must support one another in reminding each other how important it is to take time for ourselves.  It isn't selfish to do so.  I know every mother would so much rather take an hour for herself each day than end up blowing up at her child for no apparent reason.  How we spend that hour each day is uber important.  We need to prioritize it and capitalize upon it.  The time needs to allow us to destress & recenter ourselves, along with helping us deal with the remainder of our day & the days to come.

So, how do we do that?  Sure a nice hot, peaceful bubble bath, soothing music, a great book, & a glass of merlot sounds like heaven...and we most certainly should make time for that at least once a month...but it isn't realistic to do on a daily basis.  We need something that can be daily that will serve us & our families best.  The best use of that time is exercise.  Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, promote better sleep, and it keeps your body functioning for you instead of against you.  Exercise is a great way to expend a lot of anger and frustration.  It needs to be something to which we look forward because it is our chance to vent & air our stress.  We all need a soul-mate workout program.  Make it a priority for yourself to workout daily.  You don't even have to leave your home.  You simply need that one hour of uninterrupted time.

Feel free to comment below or email me for options on home fitness programs.  I'm happy to help.