Yes, Even Single Moms Can Achieve Their Goals

Mom thinking about her future

 

Moms seem to feel obliged to “do it all”. We have a hard time letting things go and get caught up with how things “should” be. You want to make sure your girls’ hair is nicely styled, you stress to prepare healthy home cooked meals, the kids need their extracurricular activities, and of course, you should volunteer at the school.

 

When you’re a single mom, it might seem like your obligations have multiplied rather than just doubled with the loss of your spouse. And that may be true because now your kids have extra emotional needs, now you have counseling or court appointments, and now an affordable home means a longer commute to work.

 

Moms tend to feel responsible for their kids, jobs, and others, but usually not their own needs. You have a hard time saying no or asking for help. Maybe you got negative responses from your partner or kids. Maybe, you set standards too high and don’t like how your kids do things, so you’d rather do it yourself.

 

And then, overwhelmed, you get lost in procrastination or activities that don’t matter. You get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses because there’s just so much pressure to look or act a certain way. You spend time shopping for things you don’t need, watching TV shows and internet videos you don’t have time for, or volunteering at school with resentment for the intrusion on your time.

 

It’s a crazy train with no exit in sight. So, you cry about having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. And then you pick yourself up again, committed to getting it together because people are depending on you. Determined, you search for some new planner or app to better organize your life. You try a new system to be more efficient. You set new goals and reprioritize. But still, you struggle with getting it all done and wonder if things will ever change.

 

You can’t create more time. You can only be responsible for yourself and your choices. You have the power to decide what you want to spend your time on. Sure, you have to work to pay the bills. And certainly, things come up beyond our control. Kids need to be fed and have clean clothes. But there’s so much in your day that you get to choose what you’ll spend your time on.

 

If this is a struggle for you, you can take back control. It will involve time for some soul searching and planning. Preferably, you want to find several uninterrupted hours. Choose a time when the kids are away for the weekend, in school on your day off, or ask someone to watch the kids. If it’s impossible to get a block of time away, schedule an hour a day for the next few days when the kids are asleep.

 

Next, find someplace to go that’s inspiring, but allows you to work without distractions. If the piles of laundry at home distract you, head out to the library, a lovely park, free museum, or a coffee shop. Bring a notebook, laptop computer, or your mobile device. I like working with paper and pen because it is simple to get started, but choose what works best for you.

 

Now, take some time to think about what your priorities and values are. What to you want most in life? Accept that there are seasons to life. Young children demand much time, but it won’t be forever. Finances dictate what you do today, but you can improve your situation. You get to decide what you want your life to look like and in what direction you want to head.

 

Do you want to go back to school? You might not have the funds to pay for a college degree, but with abundant free online college courses, there’s nothing to stop you from learning on your own. Do you wish you could work from home and not have to put your children in daycare? The internet allows you a multitude of opportunities that weren’t available 5 or 10 years ago. Do you dream of owning a home? Maybe you can alter the vision of a custom 2,500 square foot house to a cozy 2-bedroom condo that will cost you half as much.

 

Now, take that dream list and analyze it. What is really the most important to you? What are you willing to give up in order to have what you want? If soccer is not that important to your son, but it uses up all your free time together, why are you doing it? If you hate your job, how long are you willing to stay at it? What can you do today to get started in a new field?

 

Decide that no matter what has happened in the past, today can be different. Your past does not dictate your future. Choose to be grateful for your life and what you have been given. You may have gone through some really terrible times, but thank God for the gifts you’ve been given – your beautiful children, a place of your own to live, a boss who supports you, or a mom or friend who helps whenever she can. Then, commit to doing things differently.

 

Don’t start with overhauling your whole life, but pick 3-5 areas for change, so you don’t get overwhelmed, but can have some traction fast. Limit your list to simple goals you can achieve over the next 90 days. You want to see success at something sooner rather than a year from now. Set SMARTER goals. SMARTER is an acronym for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound, exciting, and relevant. Instead of saying you’ll “Learn a new skill”, a SMARTER goal would be “Sign up for the online writing course at Udemy and complete it by December 31”.

 

Once you have a few goals in place, decide what steps you can take this week. Accomplishing that big hairy goal can be overwhelming. You don’t have to see the end of the road to take the first step. Do you want to lose 30 pounds? Then maybe the first step is an appointment with your doctor for a physical and advice on losing weight. Or you could clean the junk food out of your house. Or you could decide you will start walking for 10-15 minutes every day. Take a step that is doable for you and don’t be embarrassed it’s too simple. This way, you’re more likely to stick to it.

 

Next, you have to decide what you’ll cut from your life that is getting in the way of your goals and living the life you want. Do you and the kids have too much stuff that overwhelms you? Clean out the closets and cupboards and sell it or give it away. Are you volunteering too much? Choose 1 or 2 things that mean the most to you and fit in this time of life, like working in the Sunday School class your child attends.

 

Finally, share your dreams and goals with a few close friends or family members who can support you and hold you accountable. You might find they need the same help from you in their life. Achieving just 1 or 2 goals or developing new habits that move you towards achieving your goals will huge impact your satisfaction with life. Decide today to do something different. Then, you’ll find much more meaning and satisfaction with your life.

How to Stop Being Angry at Your Rebellious Kid

Upset teen and mother outside of house

My girls are teens in their last years of high school. Most of the time, I love watching them mature into young adults. But sometimes we’re dealing with rebellion while they test my limits and boundaries. I feel so angry and resentful and know they’re frustrated as well. When it gets crazy like that, I don’t like being around them much.

 

Maybe you have the same struggles with your kids. They tell you no at every opportunity. They refuse to come home on time. Maybe they’re using drugs or alcohol or are in an inappropriate relationship. If you have littles, every day can be a battle to get them to eat their food, pick up their toys strewn about the house and get out the door on time. You feel like parenting is all work and no fun anymore.

 

If your family needs intervention, then get it right away. Find a counselor, pastor, or school support staff who can assist you through these rough times. In the meantime, here are a few tips I learned that can help when you’re going through rough times and to keep things in perspective.

 

  1. Engage you child in meaningful conversation. Talk to them about what’s important to them, and listen to what they have to say without judgment. Take advantage of car time, after school snack time, dinner time, and bedtime to talk together. Many years ago, when a friend’s son was going through a difficult time, she made sure she was home whenever he got home from school because that’s when he was most likely to talk. If she was out running errands and arrived home 10 minutes after him, she lost her opportunity.
  2. Remember the stupid stuff you did at their age. This is especially appropriate if you have teens. In truth, I probably did crazier things. Especially that time some friends picked me after work. It involved a few six-packs and trying to outrun the cops who tried to pull us over. We were doing just fine until the road went either left or right but we kept going straight. Fortunately, no injuries were incurred – except the car.
  3. Enforce boundaries. It’s not okay for our kids to continually disrespect us. I have always tried to tell my girls I will listen to them when then can speak to me in a respectful tone, just like the tone using to speak to them. Inform your son you’ll give him rides to school or practice when he shows a pattern of respect and see if that doesn’t turn things around.
  4. Recognize your child may be lost or hurting. Maybe you moved and your kids had to start at a new school, leaving their friends and everything important behind. You could be in the midst of a divorce or illness, or your child is struggling in school. Empathy will go a long way in helping your child to feel understood and validated
  5. Accept you can’t make your child change. Sure, you can and should put consequences in place for your child’s poor choices. But if you’re raising an especially strong-willed child, you may have limited impact. When one of my girls was in grade school, we could take every fun thing away and completely restrict her. It didn’t matter to her and she would still not submit to us
  6. Remove the expectations for them to perform better. Sometimes kids rebel because they perceive pressure from parents to get better grades, make different friends, or excel at sports. We send subtle (or overt) messages that we expect more from them or tell them they can do better. If your child is especially sensitive, this can backfire and cause them to go in the opposite direction
  7. Quit criticizing. This is similar to #6 but requires intentionality on our part. It’s really hard for me to keep my mouth shut when I see their messy rooms, dirty dishes on the counter, or outfits that I disapprove of. Most of the time, these things are unimportant, but when we constantly criticize we’re sending a message that our kids are incompetent and not good enough. Mark Gregston, author of Tough Guys and Drama Queens Parent’s Guide: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years suggests that parents criticize only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and let it go the rest of the time
  8. Stop lecturing or nagging. Everyone hates to be lectured and it creates resentment. It’s better to state a request in as few words as possible. If you ask your son,  “Please put the lawnmower away in the garage as soon as you’re done mowing so it doesn’t get rained on.” you’re making a request and providing a simple explanation why. Instead, we often when to go on about why it’s so bad to leave the lawnmower out and provide 37 examples why.
  9. Allow your child freedom to make more decisions and expect she will make mistakes. A friend of mine wasn’t allowed to date until she was 18, so didn’t have much of an opportunity to practice while she was under the guidance of her parents. Instead, she went off to college where she experienced complete freedom for the first time in her life. Subsequently, she made some poor choices, which she now regrets. We must expect our kids to mess up. But better under our guidance at home where the mistakes may have less consequence than when they are adults out on their own
  10. Take them to do something fun. Really? I know, they’re no fun to be around, so why spend more time with them? Well, because it could just turn things around. Just two weeks ago on a beautiful early Autumn Sunday afternoon, I sensed a restlessness in our home. We were all too busy, tired and cranky. It seemed crazy, but I told everyone to get in the car, including the new dog and we headed out for a drive. Sure, there was complaining, but there also were open windows with the wind in our hair, lots of bad singing to classic rock, ridiculous selfies, the dog getting carsick, a snake that slithered between the dog’s legs after stopping for a potty break, and some really bad hamburgers. That bonding time and memory making would never have happened if we didn’t just go
  11. Spend time in prayer for your rebellious one every day. We know prayer makes a difference. Our kids need the protection that comes from prayer. Decide you will pray for them every morning before they head out to school and every night. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
  12. Repent of your anger. Our anger is as much rebellion as theirs.

    The first part of James 5:16 is “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Ask a friend to keep you in check or let your spouse do the disciplining for a while if you can’t without blowing up. Commit to being kinder to your child.

 

Choosing to not be angry at your child will take a conscious decision. It will involve lots of prayer and changing bad habits. It’s a choice we must make in order for our children to feel fully loved and accepted. Know that your feelings are completely reasonable and give yourself grace along the way. But I guarantee if you stay the course and heap loads of love of your child instead of angry harsh words, you will both come out of this with a stronger relationship and a more resilient child.

Do Children Really Need Families?

 

Half of families with children experience a divorce and of parents that remarry, half of those marriages end in another divorce. One-third of kids lives apart from their biological father. Sometimes these children suffer by becoming latchkey kids, shuffled between homes, spending significant time in daycare or after school programs, and the absent is parent emotionally and/or physically checked out.

 

There are over 400,000 kids in foster care in the U.S. due to neglect or abuse. Only 28% are placed with a relative, the rest are in foster homes, group homes, or institutionalized. More than half of foster children were out of their home for a year or more. Over 100,000 kids are currently available and waiting to be adopted. Sadly, each year 20,000 kids age out of the foster care system without having been adopted. This means they effectively have no home, no family, and no support system.

 

Many more kids live in severely dysfunctional homes with parents struggling with poverty, addictions, or serious mental health problems. Some people think kids raised in dysfunctional homes or by welfare moms should be removed and their parents don’t deserve to raise their children.

 

Parents are perpetrators of 80% of abuse cases. Those who are abused as children experience dramatically higher rates of mental illness, imprisonment, addiction, and teen pregnancy. It’s estimated one-third of abused kids grow up to abuse their own children, continuing the cycle.

 

It begs the question, do children really need a family? Aren’t kids at a greater risk of abuse and neglect within their family of origin? Would we as a society be better off raising children with professional caregivers who have been trained, licensed, and appropriately vetted? Children could be virtually guaranteed to grow up in a system in which they are protected from abuse, abandonment, poverty. Instead, we could ensure children are well educated, fed nutritious foods and not indoctrinated with too fundamentalist ideals. Could this result in less mental illness, lower crime rates, and fewer unplanned pregnancies?

 

 

 

I believe God created the family as the primary means in which to raise children. Children benefit in numerous ways, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, when raised in a family. Assuming the family of origin is reasonably nurturing, safe, and healthy, here are six reasons a child belongs in a family.

 

  1. To develop an emotional attachment 

A baby learns to bond with their mother (or primary caregiver) through skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, communication with voice, and attention and care. The baby experiences love and learns to reciprocate love. If young children do not receive this kind of attention, they’re at risk of developing an attachment disorder. As the mother responds to the baby’s cues, he learns his needs will be met with diaper changes, feedings when hungry, and soothing when lonely or afraid. A healthy attachment ensures a child feels safe both emotionally and physically. Without it a healthy attachment, a child’s brain development is gravely impacted.

 

2. To protect them from harm

The primary concern of any parent is keeping their children safe from harm. We naturally want to protect our children. So, a reasonable parent sets boundaries: where a child goes, who they play with and that they’re not left alone. While other adults may share concern for the safety of kids, no one else will be similarly invested or knowledgeable about the child’s needs or know when something is not right with them. A healthy family models appropriate boundaries. They teach their children to evaluate the consequences of risky and dangerous behaviors and to respect themselves.

 

3. To learn responsibility

In most families, children have chores they are expected to do. When they’re done, they may earn a reward such as an allowance, TV time, or an outing. When they don’t complete the chores, consequences result.

Children learn about the importance of showing up and working hard at a job, making sure healthy food is bought and prepared, and bills are paid on time by watching their parents consistently model this. When parents tie an allowance to completion of chores, use of computers and phones to responsible choices, and teach them how to use a checkbook, credit card, and make a budget, kids learn to become responsible and reliable adults.

 

4. To develop a sense of morality and spiritual self

As children grow, they learn to value what their parents value. Character is defined by watching parents who exhibit honesty, integrity, respect for their spouse or boss, and persevering through difficult times. As children become adults, they become capable of abstract thinking and reasoning. Thus, they’re able to decide what they believe based on what they’ve first learned at home. When parents make positive values routine, children will adopt the same attitude of virtue.

Children also develop a sense of their spiritual self by how it is modeled at home. A child who has had an abusive or absent father may not reflect a positive view of Father God without some conflict. If parents reflect their own spiritual relationship in a healthy mature way, it will be viewed by children who see their mom reading her Bible early in the morning, or their dad who leads prayers before dinner. Parents who give to others in need – tithes to their church, financial support to charities or missionaries, serving at an animal shelter, packaging care bags for the homeless, building homes in Mexico, and visiting the elderly in nursing homes are modeling the importance of giving and sacrifice.

 

5. To know they are valuable

Children learn they are treasured and important by their parents spending time with them and caring for their needs. Their silly quirks are tolerated, and their physical or intellectual disabilities are cared for. No one else will be up at 3 am with a sick child or inspect a half-dozen schools to see which one is right for their special needs child. No one else will spend hours researching ADHD or autism to get their daughter assistance.

There will be a village of teachers, counselors, or friends who will also come alongside and help. But at the end of the day, they go home to their own families and houses. Mom and dad are the ones consistently there loving and meeting their little boy’s needs.

 

6. To create a sense of identity and belonging

A child’s identity begins in infancy. Parents notice a child’s inclinations and can reinforce their love of reading, artistic bent, or tenderness towards other children or animals. When dad enrolls his roughhousing son in football or constantly twirling daughter in ballet, when mom feeds a love of adventure by reading bedtime stories, or we enroll the curious in the robotics club, we recognize our children’s identities and help them to become who they are created to be.

As much as children need to differentiate from their parents, they will always need to belong. Each of us, no matter how old we are, long for home and a sense of family. Kids need the welcoming sight of mom cooking dinner in the kitchen or dad when he walks in from work with hugs for all.

Family traditions also play a big part in belonging to a family. It could be Nana’s tamales you make every Christmas, Thanksgiving every year at Aunt Nancy’s house, or taking a picture of all the kids on the doorstep on the first day of school every year. When the kids become adults, the family traditions and legacy continue, taking their own kids to the lake house they visited every summer, making Saturday morning pancakes, or bundling up the kids to see Christmas lights with a hot mug of cocoa.

 

 

 

Family is not perfect and never will be. There has to be room for kids to learn from their parents’ mistakes. Our experiences make us who we are and help us to become our best selves. It starts at home within the walls of a loving and nurturing family home. There will never be another institution that will do a better job of shaping children into the unique individuals God created them to be. No one else will be more invested in, or more tolerant of, or more responsible for children than the mom and dad who loves and teaches them well.