Why it’s misguided for Solo Moms to sacrifice their own joy
As a Solo Mom, your life lends itself to above-average complexities. As a matter of fact, your life may be two, three, or four times more complicated than some people’s (or more, depending on how many children you have). The world is full of people struggling to figure out this game of life and their place in it. You have to do that for yourself and each of your children. To guide the life of another human being and do so in a way that keeps them healthy, safe, and happy is an enormous responsibility—and it’s all on you.
The stakes are high. Screw this up and you screw up your kid. Screw up your kid and you’re a total failure. That’s how the thinking goes. Well, to be more accurate, that’s how fear-based thinking goes. We use this magical gift of imagination we’ve been given to focus on a future gone wrong and act from that place in the present—with the best of intentions, of course. Your love for your children defies description. Everything you do and how you do it is because of your immense love for them. And for fear of screwing up your kids, you’ve convinced yourself (with more than a little help from pervasive public opinion) that being a good mom means making nothing about yourself and your happiness and making sure everything is focused on your kids and their happiness. And when you’ve succeeded as a parent, kept your children healthy, safe from harm, and made them happy, then and only then will you be happy.
Let’s recap: “I expect my fear-based, often emotionally and physically draining, sacrificial thinking and actions to deliver an outcome of love and happiness.” What?
It’s well intentioned. But is it effective? Are you really contributing to your children’s present happiness and their future capacity to create a happy life for themselves when you put your own wants and desires on indefinite hold? Your children are intelligent. Not only that, they are intuitive. Intuition is a powerful force (one to listen to and heed). They feel what you feel. And contrary to what most people believe, what’s going on inside you communicates with greater impact than the words coming out of you.
Growing up, my mom, per ESME’s definition, was a Solo Mom. My father needed to work at least two, sometimes three jobs at a time to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on the table. As a child, I spent the majority of the time with my mother. She was and is an awesome mom, making it very clear we were loved. I knew I was loved and that was a great thing. I also distinctly remember my mother being unhappy much of the time. She didn’t need to tell me that. I felt it, and it didn’t make me feel good inside. I love my mother. How can I feel good when someone I love is unhappy? She always put herself last, which communicated to herself and others her perceived sense of worth. Fast-forward to my first marriage. Guess what I did? Exactly what I learned from her: I put myself and my happiness last. Consequently, the marriage didn’t end well, but the lessons I took away have been priceless. I can’t expect others to make my needs and happiness a priority if I don’t first do it myself.
My mother is now 74 years old, and it’s only been within the last three or four years that she’s learned to pursue what makes her happy. I can’t begin to tell you how much joy it brings me to watch. Yes, her happiness makes me feel good.
It’s simpler than most of us think. The happier you are, the happier your children will be. It’s a love-based rather than fear-based approach. When you make your own happiness a guilt-free and intentional priority, you teach your children to grow up and do the same. Isn’t that what you ultimately want for them—to be happy? I believe giving more love to yourself is a way of giving love to your child. So maybe all you really need is love, especially a little more for yourself.
As I’ve previously written, we are intended for happiness. It is our strongest and healthiest state, and it’s important for us to demonstrate self-respect by aligning our thinking and actions with this in mind.
Will your life as a Solo Mom involve struggle, stress, and sacrifice? Of course. But every now and again, check in with yourself. If an opportunity presents itself to do something that makes you feel good, whether it be a quiet bubble bath or an evening out with good friends, drop the guilt and do it, knowing you’re doing right by your kids by doing right by yourself.
How do you make yourself happy? Our Voices section is dedicated to feelings and opinions of Solo Moms like you. We’d love to hear from you!
Keryl Pesce is an author, inspirational speaker, and happiness expert whose brand and advice have been featured in Redbook, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post, and on Glamour.com and Bloomberg.com. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @KerylPesce.
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