Are you celebrating or stressed out?
Summer is a season of celebrations—graduations, weddings, family reunions, and many social gatherings fill our calendars. These special events and once-in-a-lifetime moments should fill us with great joy, but, for the Solo Mom, these landmark occasions can also bring stress, trepidation, loneliness, or even fear, especially if you’ve been through a difficult divorce or bad breakup.
Despite our best efforts to be the ideal coparent or an evolved stepparent, these events can be emotionally taxing. The idea of seeing our ex’s family for the first time after divorce can feel daunting. Navigating family photos being taken at an event can be awkward even when everyone is trying his or her best.
No matter how much work you have done on your emotional well-being or how confident you are as a single person, it can still be hard being the only single parent in what seems like a sea of couples at your child’s graduation. Going to a family wedding without a date can stir up insecurities. Feeling the loss of not having an intact family can be profound.
Children of Solo Moms also can find these would-be joyful moments full of strife. Trying to integrate a stepparent or stepsiblings into a milestone event can stir up mixed feelings. Some may feel deep sadness about not having what they perceive to be a “normal” family, while others may want to withdraw and not enjoy their special day.
How do you take care of your children and yourself while ensuring the celebration remains memorable for everyone?
1. Remember who the party is for. Whether it be a wedding or graduation or prom send-off—the focus of the celebration should be on the kid(s). It is his special day, not yours. Remember him and do whatever you can to make the day special for him. He did not ask for the situation he finds himself in, so do your best to not let any personal issues or challenges you may have with your former partner sour the event for the honoree.
2. Zip it. In these moments, less is definitely more. Think before you speak: Is what you are about to say kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? If not, keep your mouth shut. Save your comments for later. Table disagreements for another day.
3. Talk to your child. Let her share whatever feelings are coming up. Assure her you are focused on her achievement and the wonderful moment. Remind her she never has to choose between you and your ex. Emphasize that you will not do or say anything to take away from the moment (and mean it).
4. Make the day your own. Don’t be a passive participant. Keeping the first two tips in mind, decide how you want the day to unfold and follow your own plan.
5. Celebrate yourself. In most cases, any milestone event involving your child will, on some level, be a celebration of you and the awesome mom you are. You helped your child reach this milestone moment. Don’t forget that.
6. Feel your feelings. These events can be difficult and can stir up all sorts of emotions. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel a little melancholy. Let the emotions come and then let them pass. Don’t wallow in your feelings, but don’t “stifle” them, either, and definitely don’t rely on an alternate substance to manage them. This is not the time to drink too much, eat to avoid your feelings, or engage in some other unhealthy activity. Don’t get caught up in “what might have been.” Instead, find something to be grateful for and focus on that.
7. Be kind to yourself. It is vitally important to practice self-care in the days/weeks leading up to these special events and on the day itself. Don’t force yourself to do anything you absolutely don’t have the emotional capacity to do. It’s OK to leave early. Sit by yourself. Keep your distance if you need to. You are no good to your kids if you aren’t being good to yourself. Taking care of yourself emotionally in these moments while honoring the occasion will have lasting effects beyond the special day.
8. Be patient. It gets better or, at least, easier. When my ex-husband first remarried, every family, sporting, or school event, no matter how small, was painful for me. Although I had wrapped my mind and heart around the reality of the divorce, I wasn’t ready to share these moments with anyone new just yet. However, as time went on, it got easier—much easier. Now, I hardly think anything of it. Adjusting to a new family system and new people takes time for everyone, so just be patient because it will get better.
9. Have fun. In the midst of everything, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. These things are supposed to be fun after all.
How have you handled one of these challenging events? What advice would you add?
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.