Advice for when you can’t just sit on the couch and cry
If you’ve been a single mom for longer than three years, chances are you are a dating single mom. And if you are a dating single mom, chances are you will have your heart broken . . . more than once.
As a single woman, heartbreak is grueling. As a Solo Mom, with a 24-7 appendage and infinite lack of privacy, it’s unbearable. And when your children are old enough to notice your suffering, a difficult situation jumps to entirely new levels. You don’t have the luxury of wallowing in your sorrow. You can’t sob for hours on end while watching tragic love stories on TV. You can’t stay in your pj’s for days, stop eating, drink too much, or Facebook stalk.
You are a Solo Mom. Your child comes first. Just like always.
Heartbreaks come in all shapes and sizes. And whether it’s the end of long-term relationship, a perceived Mr. Right gone wrong, or just some guy you really like who blows you off after three dates—heartbreaks suck. Like parenting, grief is all-consuming. It can cause depression, fatigue, body aches, lack of focus, moodiness, and insomnia, among other things. Meanwhile, single parenting requires nonstop giving and patience. We must nurture self-obsessed little pixies at a time when we need nurturing the most. But how do we make room for healing our hearts with self-care while caring for our children?
Some moms adhere to the philosophy of hiding their grief and will say “Everything is fine,” but unless you are Meryl Streep giving an Academy Award–winning performance, your children will know something is up. They can sense when we are sad. There is no way to completely camouflage the swollen red eyes or the sound of tears.
Experts assert that unless you tell your children why you are upset, it can be confusing. Worse, they may think they are the cause. In addition, if you are always “in control” and happy, your child might very well feel pressured to live up to this standard of perfection.
So the question remains: How do we parent through our pain and experience our grief while still giving our children a sense of security and optimism?
The following are 10 steps a Solo Mom can take to make it to the other side of heartbreak.
1. Don’t pretend you aren’t hurting. Discuss your pain with your children—in a language they can understand, appropriate to their age and maturity. If your child is attached to the departed, reassure him that it wasn’t his fault. Save room for your child’s grief as well as your own . . . and be prepared to take some blame. It’s just what kids do.
(Note: This is where I could go into a diatribe about introducing your children to a man too soon. But if you are a heartbroken single mom, you already know to never do this again.)
2. Be ready to answer questions. But without the gruesome details. And plan on follow-up conversations as new questions pop up in that percolating little brain.
“Why are you sad, Mommy?”
“Mommy is sad because she and her friend Jason aren’t going to be friends anymore.”
“Because Jason hurt Mommy’s feelings and that doesn’t make me feel good.”
“But what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Can we get ice cream?”
You get my drift. Onward . . .
3. Avoid the negative. This is a tough one. Still, no matter how bad he screwed up, trash-talking isn’t the best way to handle disappointment. But if something does happen to slip out, don’t beat yourself up. Let’s face it—we are single moms. We aren’t perfect (though close). Just try to pay attention to what’s coming out of your mouth, how often, and how it might sound to your kids.
4. Go ahead and cry. When you’re alone, allow yourself a good cry—or 10. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of your children, but don’t be Claire Danes, either. It’s OK to send your kids the message that even though you are hurting, you will still be able to care for them and be a good parent: “Mom is sad and needs to cry. But I’ll feel better soon.”
5. Have some fun. Enjoy time with your children. Go get that ice cream.
6. Put yourself in a time-out. Take a break from men, and get used to being in the company of you. It’s pretty nice to not have to put on makeup, watch whatever you want on TV, sleep with your dog, and burp whenever you want. Clean your closets, go to the gym, take salsa lessons, paint your bathroom. Get a mani-pedi, take a bubble bath, and drink some champagne. Live a little . . . as a bachelorette.
7. Go to therapy! If things get to be too much and the grief becomes overwhelming, seek professional help or a support group. You are disappointed, sad, angry, and most likely lonely. There are certain voids your children can’t fill, and an objective adult ear might be just what you need.
8. Don’t jump into bed with the next one. It never works. It only delays the inevitable. The heartache will eventually hit, and you’ll have an entirely new can of worms to deal with as well.
9. Do start dating again . . . after a reasonable amount of time. Once you are comfortable in your own company, go ahead and find some new company. There’s nothing like a date and a little masculine attention to make you feel pretty and part of the world. Plus, your children will see that life goes on and does get better.
Most important, and bottom line:
10. Get through it, and move on with your life! You will survive. The tears will dry. You will be happy again. You will probably have sex again . . . and your children will see that it’s possible to survive a broken heart—even if you are a Solo Mom.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.