single mom

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: My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa, I am writing to request that you send some holiday cheer (i.e., kindness and pity) to a tired, overworked single mom this year. I have been very good all year long! (Ok, ok...I really haven't been that great, but based on the behavior of my children and co-workers alone, I think I'm still in the running.)

If you would be so kind, please bring me the following (wrapped and topped with a big red bow is optional, but would be a nice touch):

A big delicious bottle of Bailey's (i.e., Mommy's "chocolate milk"). You know, the one with a handle that requires a shopping cart at the liquor store. I promise to only use it medicinally.

72 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The only physical and mental recuperation appropriate for me at this time needs to mimic hibernation. During this time, I plan to wear my most hideous sweatsuit with legs unshaven and face void of makeup, curled in the fetal position on my sofa under a heavy blanket spooning my TV remote. I know babysitting my children for the weekend is a lot to ask, but I am not opposed to you assigning them to hard, manual "elf" labor. Trust me, they deserve it.

A man. A handsome, single, attractive man who loves me, my children and my creepy collection of Christmas nutcrackers. A man who finds my small, filthy, toy-ridden home "charming." A man who's sensitive but strong, and enjoys me bossing him around from time to time. A man whose hobbies include vacuuming, small home improvement projects, cleaning toilets and car-pooling. A man with the libido of a twenty year old, despite roaming the hallways all night tending to crying babies, requests for water, and middle of the night bathroom runs. (Please note: I will gladly substitute a maid and a one-night stand for the gentleman referenced above. Come to think of it, I think I would prefer the maid and the one-night stand. I don't have the strength to be witty and full of enthralling conversation most days.)

Thanks so much for your abundance of goodwill and joy. You're the man. Seriously, I mean it.

Sincerely, Missy xoxo

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.

Single Mom Survival Guide: Creating An Organization Battlestation

One of funniest comments I repeatedly get, being a working single mom to three small kids, is "I don't know how you do it." Or "I couldn't do it."  

To the first point, do I have a choice?  Because if so, I would like to reread the fine print I clearly missed. There was a moment Sunday morning while wrestling three children through a crowded grocery store in a car-shaped cart (my toddler pulling glass jars of olives off a shelf, my 3-year old laying in the aisle screaming for a donut) that I would have gladly signed any "opt out" clause you would have presented me. I’d give my John Hancock and then would have left that full cart, and those three psychotic children, in the dust as I sprinted through the parking lot to freedom.


To those that say they "couldn't do it,” yes you could… you would if you had to. I hope that day doesn't ever come for any of you, but should you find yourself in this same place as myself and millions of others, please be confident that after the dust settles and you find your bearings, your Mama (or Papa) Bear instincts will go into hyperdrive and you will find your way.

The secret to my success, and honestly my survival, is sticking to a routine and scheduling my life around it.  I look forward to my kids being a little bit older so we can go out to a last minute dinner on a school night without invoking tantrums.  But until then, I am enjoying them being little and planning our lives to avoid any unnecessary chaos.

I am a very visual person, so I find myself always writing notes and lists to keep from forgetting anything.  I've called on this habit to basically organize my entire life, and have done the following to keep it all in check.

1.  I've created a centralized command station in my home - I use blank space on my pantry door, but you could use any empty wall space, a bulletin board, or the fridge - to organize schedules, appointments, etc.

I purchased a magnetic white board calendar that I use to keep track of all important events at a glance (doctor appointments, soccer practices, work meetings, anything that is important and requires preparation.)  I keep invitations to parties, school cafeteria menus, and forms that need to be returned to school attached so that everything can be viewed quickly.  Over the years, my calendar wall has expanded to 2 calendars and a white board for the kids to doodle on (primarily to keep them away from my important stuff), but it's a staple at our house.  Many friends that made fun of my calendars have since bought them for their own house, I might add! Calendar 2.  I still carry around an old-fashioned datebook in my purse.  This is basically where I keep my entire life on file a week at a time. This is where I keep the dates that I track on the white board calendars, as well my “To Do Lists,” shopping lists, menus for the week, and reminders of things to plan/schedule/review.  If you were to look at the notes in my datebook, you would probably think it was the ramblings of a madman (which it very well may be), but I would be completely lost without it.  I track expenses, bills, when library books are due, our custody schedule, everything...  From the moment my day starts until I go to sleep, I feel like I am moving.  My datebook forces me to keep on task, and I always feel a sense of accomplishment crossing something off the list…who doesn’t like to feel accomplished!?!?

3.  In addition to my monster datebook, I also keep a small notepad on me as a place to store important and fun stuff that doesn't have a deadline.  I use it to write down funny things my kids say, inspirational quotes to keep me moving, restaurants I want to try, notes on travel destinations that would be fun for me and the kids to explore, holiday gift lists...basically anything that brings joy to my busy day.  This is the less organized, happy-go-lucky cousin to my anal datebook that reminds me to live a little and not be so annoyingly organized. Planners

If you can manage your life using apps on a smart phone, I give you kudos.  I've tried and my OCD need to color coordinate everything has ruined my ability to use modern technology to my own advantage.  And despite my best efforts, my plan is certainly not foolproof - I was reminded by my oldest son just yesterday that I have forgotten to buy more of his favorite toothpaste not one but TWO weeks in a row.  There is a system to suit each family, but this is worth a try if you’re working toward becoming more organized.

I am always in search of ideas to make my life easier, so if you have any suggestions on how you keep your house running, I would love to hear them in the comment section below!