Single Mom Survival Guide: Embracing Your Do Over

When it comes to New Year's Resolutions, I am the prime example of high hopes paired with next to no follow through. Every New Year, I come up with an asinine mental list of things to live by for the next 12 months, which are typically fraught with disappointment long before I even get started. Here are a few of my classic dead-end resolutions from years past: - Exercise every morning. This was doomed from the start. A) I hate exercise, and B) I hate getting up any earlier than I already have to. image

- Read two novels each month. I'm not even sure where this brain child came from. It probably stemmed from guilt - everyone else had already read the "50 Shades of Gray" trilogy, and I couldn't even name the author. That year, I instead reread the first 2 chapters of the same novel a couple of times each month, which in my mind was practically the same thing as achieving my reading goal. image

- And my favorite: switch to an entirely organic, green, clean diet. I bought this book about how skinny girls stay skinny and how I, the stereotypical chubby girl, could benefit from this ridiculous diet. No processed foods, no red meats, no artificial sweeteners, no (GASP!) caffeine, and once every few months you fast and drink only water for a few days until you near complete fatigue. I failed at this diet by breakfast on January 2nd.

Following my divorce, I started seeing a therapist, who I still see regularly more than a year later. Never having seen a therapist before, I am now the biggest advocate of therapy out there - there is nothing more liberating than freeing your thoughts, fears and ambitions in a judgement-free zone. My therapist recommended in light of my new start-on-life following my divorce, that I make a list of goals I wanted to accomplish. They didn't need to be accomplished today or next month or next year - just goals to work toward and hopefully achieve down the road and (more importantly) on my own.

So, following her advice, I made my list. Some of my goals were lofty, some just for fun, and some requiring years of effort. In a way, it was a list of things I doubted I could accomplish on my own. With my list, I was hoping to reinvent my purpose in life, both for my own self-growth and as an inspiration for my children. Upon review of my final draft, I realized that although completing the list would be tough, it was far from impossible. And having recently survived one of the toughest experiences of my life, I felt like anything could be accomplished with the right level of persistence. I reread the list once every few weeks, to give myself some perspective on where I've been and where I'm headed.

In 2013, I only completed one of my goals: going on a crazy girls weekend to Las Vegas. It was the greatest weekend of my life, and everything we did there was straight off of a list of things that my uptight, married self thought she would never enjoy. It wasn't finding a cure for cancer or achieving world peace, but in my world, it was huge. It was an opportunity for me to realize that life is worth living and I that I could find joy again. image

My personal goal for 2014 is embracing my independence...shaking off what's left of my old co-dependent self and not being afraid to explore the world on my own. First on my list is planning a vacation for myself. I'm not sure where I will go, or for how long, but I'm looking forward to an opportunity to be a little brave, explore a new place, and mentally recharge.

I wish you health and happiness in the new year and the best of luck with achieving your goals.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2014?

Single Mom Survival Guide: Surviving the Holidays

This time last year, I was a newly single parent. Every day felt like a mechanical struggle to get from beginning to end. My primary concern was waking up on time after being up all night with an infant in order to get bookbags packed, my oldest son on the bus, and getting to my new job on time so that my boss wouldn't perceive me to be the exhausted, scattered mess I was. The majority of my quiet time to myself was spent on the hour commute to work, listening to depressing songs about love and heartbreak and wondering where the hell I went wrong. As the holidays approached, I certainly wasn't feeling the holiday spirit. My mind was flooded with memories of Christmases past -- our first Christmas after getting married, cutting down Christmas trees as a family, staying up late on Christmas Eve night to put toys together. I love Christmas, but Christmas felt so bleak and alone. Knowing my kids wouldn't be with me at the Thanksgiving table killed me. Not spending Christmas Eve with my kids devastated me.

I should have known these feelings were coming. I had several divorced friends give me the "holidays are going to be a little rough this year" speech, while crushing up tranquilizers in my coffee.  Ok, well maybe not that extreme, but you know where I'm going with this. In my stubborn head, I thought I would be the exception to the rule. I went overboard buying gifts for the kids to attempt to fill the void in their hearts with crap they didn't need. If I could have crammed a Christmas tree the size of the one the Obamas had in the White House to make our lives more festive, I would have blown out one of the walls in our tiny house to do it. I played holiday music on constant repeat. I ate my weight in Christmas cookies. And none of it brought me the yuletide cheer I so desperately wanted.

I managed to survive a full 12 months of holidays on a shared custody schedule, and for me it has been an enormous test of futility. I've learned that dwelling on my time apart from my kids only fueled my own sadness. And I've learned the most important things to focus on is creating my own new traditions with my kids and to take advantage of our time apart.

I've been reflecting a lot on how I feel going into the holidays this year. I feel like much of my joy and excitement is returning. I'm eager to enjoy Thanksgiving with my extended family. I'm looking forward to cutting down a Christmas tree with my kids (although I can only ever decorate the top 1/3 of it to deter curious toddlers). And my greatest joy comes with watching my children open their gifts from Santa.Christmas

I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad about going into another holiday season alone, but I am looking forward to making the best of it. I must admit it's nice having every other weekend to myself to shop for and wrap gifts, a luxury I never had before. I don't miss wrapping gifts at 2am to avoid roaming children. And I'm looking forward to baking on my own. I hope to include my kids someday because I love it so much, but they are too young to enjoy it now. So in the meantime, I will enjoy blaring corny Christmas music and baking cookies with a glass of wine in hand. And I will make sure to keep my social calendar booked beyond that to avoid feeling lonely - spending time with my friends and family is my constant reminder that I have a great life, even when my kids aren't with me.