When becoming a Solo Mom wasn’t your first choice
Many of us become Solo Moms not by our own choice but as the result of someone else’s decision or sometimes, sadly, due to an unforeseen tragedy. Divorce, abandonment, or death can leave us surprised and alone to raise our children in a situation we did not plan, bargain for, and definitely did not hope for.
If we are honest, most of us would admit that being a Solo Mom is not a title we ever aspired to attain. If having a happy two-parent household is “plan A,” becoming a Solo Mom thrust many of us unwillingly into “plan B.”
Although we didn’t plan for or anticipate life as a Solo Mom, does plan B have to be all bad? Not necessarily. There are many ways to make the best of your plan B and maybe even make it better than the plan A we originally dreamed for ourselves.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (Knopf, 2017), is all about how to give your life meaning after loss. In her poignant Facebook post at the end of her sheloshim (a period of intense religious mourning in Judaism) for her husband, she explains that “when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.” That meaning is the way you make plan B “better.”
Before you can find the “better” in plan B, you must let go of plan A. Take the time to mourn the life you thought you would have and then let it go. Let go of the expectations, the dreams, and the hopes you once had for yourself in order to be open to the new blessings and new beginnings that await you in your plan B.
It is not easy or natural to let go; you have to be intentional about it. In his article, “Learning to Let Go of Past Hurts,” Dr. John M. Grohol explains that the first step to letting go is the decision to do so. Once you have made the decision, Grohol suggests that the next step is expressing the pain.
Hiding the reality of the hurt of what happened will not help you move forward. Grohol provides some options for this expression, including writing a letter (that you never send) to the person who hurt you, journaling about your feelings, or even venting to a trusted friend. No matter how you do it, the important thing is to release the feelings about the past so they do not fester and infect your future.
As you allow the feelings of hurt and disappointment to surface, it is important to not wallow in the emotion. Feel it, let it out, then move on. Do not fall prey to playing the victim or blaming others, Grohol says. That kind of toxic thinking can certainly keep you stuck mourning plan A.
Once you have made your decision to let go, experienced and expressed the pain, you must focus on the now. One of the best ways to do this is through mindfulness and meditation. There are plenty of mindfulness practices available. (There are even apps for that, such as Headspace and Calm.) But sometimes the idea of time alone to meditate seems like a luxury for Solo Moms. In Kathleen Laccinole’s article, “Beauty from the Inside Out,” Solo Mom and spiritual practitioner Erin Haskell suggests it is as simple as taking 10 minutes in the morning and in the evening to create a sacred space for yourself.
Grohol’s final step in letting go is forgiving yourself and others. Sometimes part of the hurt we feel about our past is anger at ourselves. We can blame ourselves for getting into the situation in the first place, not recognizing certain signs earlier, or not doing more sooner to get out of the situation. It is crucial to be gentle with ourselves and understand that we did the best that we could with what we had and knew at the time. You deserve forgiveness.
Forgiving others can be a little more challenging because we can sometimes feel that we are letting them “off the hook”—this is simply not true. In her book Forgiveness, Iyanla Vanzant states that “forgiveness frees the forgiver.”
Forgiving others releases us and allows us to move forward. It is a gift we give to ourselves.
Once you are free from plan A, then you can start to recognize the blessings in plan B. Those blessings may not be easily apparent, but they are certainly present. Haskell says it’s about attitude and outlook. “If you got divorced, the blessing is you aren’t still with the jerk. Without your divorce, you would not have learned the lessons you did.”
Maybe you have a newfound sense of self and independence since living in your plan B. Perhaps your circumstances have uncovered a skill or talent you didn’t know you had. It could be that you have developed a deeper, richer bond with your children as a result of becoming a Solo Mom. You may find new meaning in your relationships with family and friends, or maybe you have embarked on a deeper relationship with yourself.
If you let go of plan A and change your perspective about plan B, you will hopefully come to a place of peace and purpose as you move forward as a Solo Mom.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.