Back to Single Motherhood

My marriage has ended. The Man finally moved out on Monday, and will now need a new nickname, although I am not supposed to write about him anywhere. It was unexpected, and there was no reason given. It made for a hellish summer. And that’s all I’ll say about that. Now it’s over, and we are looking forward to new habits, ways of being, and opportunities.

It is good (and also sad) that I have experience to fall back on and help carry me through. I’m watching The Boy like a hawk, and have also had him in counseling for other issues this summer, and I think it helps him to have another outlet. There has been much upheaval in his world, both at home and at school, and there is more to come. It’s so hard to be a teenager. And then add autism. And then add people leaving you unexpectedly (your stepdad, band director, favorite assistant principal…). Through all this, he’s been handling everything like a pro. LIKE A PRO. He had one major meltdown this summer. ONE. His transition back to school has been smooth as silk. He amazes me every day, and I am so thankful for him. So thankful.

I am getting back into my writing, and it feels amazing. I’m preparing for NaNoWriMo this November, and have been selected as a Municipal Liaison for my region (which means I help coordinate events and support for others participating in NaNoWriMo). I’m also taking a writing course offered to NaNoWriMo participants through Wesleyan University in Connecticut (online), and it has been an awesome experience and quite validating.

As always, my closest friends, and my incredible parents have been my rock and have seen me through to the other side. Thank you all for being so patient. Onward and Upward, or as my favorite Doctor (#10) from Doctor Who says, “Allons-y!”

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The Boy and I at a bowling party hosted by our local Autism Society Chapter this summer

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Headache With a Chance of Migraine

It takes a lot to stop me in my tracks.  And thankfully, migraines don’t affect me on a daily basis.  But they do catch up to me every so often.  I have learned what can lead to a migraine, and I have learned how to cope.  Besides that, there’s not much I can do.  And when one happens, I am so thankful that The Boy is of an age to take care of himself for the most part.  It isn’t an ideal day when mom is dead to the world and incapable of functioning, but he can feed himself and occupy himself, even if his teeth don’t get brushed.

Deutsch: "Kopfschmerzen". Die wohl b...

I had a migraine yesterday, and it started as day four of a tension headache.  But I knew this one was different  because it became centered on my left side, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to ease the pain.  I slept most of the day.

I’ve said it before – being ill and having to provide for others is one of the worst parts about being a single parent.  Migraines are a lot worse than just “bad headaches”.

I know there are lots of others who don’t have it as easy as I do.  If you know someone who gets migraines, make sure to ask them in advance how you can help.  Can you take the kids for a bit, make sure they eat?  Do some laundry?  Come over and make sure the house stays quiet for awhile?  Every little bit helps, and we have to take care of each other!

 

Wedding Day

Well, today is the day.  Today I marry The Man (does that make me “The Woman”?), in a short, simple, civil ceremony under a gazebo, in a park across the street from where his great-grandmother (and grandmother, and mother) lived.  Today I become a wife again, and cease to be a single mom.  Today, we become  family.  Today, it all becomes official.

There was a time when I never thought this would happen again, indeed there was a time I never wanted it to happen again.  But this isn’t “again”.  This is the first and only time with the right man.

We didn’t hire a photographer, so as soon as people at this shindig start sending me pics, I will share.  Until then, it might be a few days.

I’ll get back to you real soon. ❤

Why I Chose to Date as a Single Mom

“Don’t let your struggle be your identity.”

Yes, I actively pursued dating after divorce, as a single mom, as a special needs parent.  Yes, I did.  Some moms in similar situation choose not to, choosing instead to, “wait until their children are grown,” or maybe even give up the idea of ever being with someone again.  “The kids come first,” they often say.  And I don’t disagree.  Not every child, nor even every special needs child is like mine.  Some have more intense needs, and I am not judging anyone who has made this decision for themselves, because I can’t know your personal situation – only you do.

I love being a mom, and that is an integral part of my identity.  I would never give it up, I would never trade that for anything in the world.  But it isn’t all of me.  I am much more complex.  I have my own desires, needs, dreams, foibles, interests, and personality quirks.  I have my own life.  Being a mom to a special needs child is part of it, but it isn’t it.

We only have one life.  I want to live with as little regret as possible, which means doing the best I can, while stretching my personal limits a bit, growing, and learning all the time.  Having a non-existent social life would be a huge source of regret for me.

Also, I want my child to understand that I was put on this planet to be his mom, but also to be a lot of other things, just as he was put on this planet to be my son, and also a lot of other things.  He has autism, but he has a lot of other really cool stuff that make up his identity.

“Don’t let your struggle be your identity.”

That is what I wish for him, and I hope I am modeling that for him by living my life to the fullest.

PS ~ I couldn’t find an attribution for the quote – if anyone knows, please mention in the comments!

You Are Not a Failure

A mom posted on Single mothers who have children with autism’s facebook page about feeling like a failure because her son was being pulled from mainstreamed classes, and placed into a special education classroom.  My heart breaks when I read things like that.

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I think every Special Needs Parent has those moments, hours, days, weeks, or even years, when we feel like we are the biggest failures on the planet, and we feel that pain so much more deeply because we know how much our kids need us not to fail.  But.  We can not allow ourselves to feel that way for too long, for that very same reason – our kids need us to pick ourselves up and keep rolling that rock up the mountain.  It’s OK to fall, to stumble, to crawl into bed and lock the door once in awhile (assuming everyone else is relatively safe).  But we can’t stay there, and we definitely can’t get into the habit of pointing fingers at ourselves too often.

Maybe it would help to remember those naysayers we have all encountered.  The ignorant, mean-spirited people we have come across.  And then in our weakest moments, imagine what kind of a job they would do in our place.  You see, no one is perfect, and none of us were prepared for this job.  And there was certainly no manual.  But we are some of the quickest studies on the planet.  We can read our children’s faces down to the slightest waggle of an eyebrow, and be able to interpret emotion from it.  We can come up with backup plans on the fly, salvage nasty situations, and calm our children when no one else can.  In the eyes of our children, we are MOM (or DAD), the one and only.  Learning from mistakes is part of the game.  It’s not learning from them that is a failure.

Be nice to yourself, parents.  Try not to beat yourself up too bad.  It’s a waste of energy, and you’ve got too much other stuff to do!

Men and Boys

There are things in this world that boys need to learn from adults.  I find that as a single mom, some things slip through the cracks, and I’m surprised when I realize The Boy doesn’t know something (like what the phrase “laughing like a hyena” means).  Since The Man has been in our lives, he has often stepped in to teach The Boy something that boys (and really all growing kids) should know how to do, like ride a bike:

First Time on Two Wheels

Today, we had an up and down day, which ended up being mostly up.  Luckily, we were able to turn around a dramatic morning and spent most of the beautiful day at the park.  When we eventually came home, The Man immediately set The Boy to work, teaching him how to wash Mom’s car:

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The Man even points out to me the times when I am doing something for The Boy that he could be doing himself.  I bristled at this at first, but it didn’t take me long to realize that he wasn’t telling me how to parent The Boy, and that he was usually right.  Now I find his insights invaluable, and these lessons he teaches The Boy are so important.  And even more important is the relationship that comes from these lessons and insight.  This stuff makes me smile. 🙂

Nothing’s Impossible

The Single Mothers who have Children with Autism facebook page recently posted a reminder that taking a break from your routine and taking care of yourself is important.  Yet many commenters responded bitterly that it just wasn’t possible, and people who say that mean well, but that’s the last thing single moms need to hear.

I disagree.

Nothing's Impossible

Nothing’s Impossible

People, if something isn’t going right in your life, you have to make the change happen.  Do you think a respite fairy is going to land on your head and grant you three Friday evenings to yourself?  I have no nuclear family in the area, yet I am able to take an evening off every once in awhile.  Granted, I make a decent wage, and I get that it can be extremely hard financially – money was extremely tight after my divorce, because I was digging myself out of debt.  I know that feeling.  But there are ways, and you have to find them!  Insisting that it’s impossible and defeating yourself before you even start will turn you bitter, and as a result, everyone around you, including your children will suffer.  I know people like this.  Their negativity is like a virus.  And when they don’t take time for themselves, they are more apt to run out of patience and snap at their kids, become exhausted and ill, and it spirals downward from there.

Some ideas:

  • A break from routine is not necessarily a break from your child(ren).  I know routines are the safety zone for kids with autism, but I have written before about how amazing it was to stop and get myself a sweet tea after a meltdown-y morning – it was FANTASTIC, and it had a lasting effect.  Something small like that is a great way to start treating yourself kindly.  Lord knows our kids won’t always show us the same kindness!
  • I am lucky that my child enjoys latchkey – it is relatively inexpensive through the school, and gives me a much needed break from ALL kids after work, because he doesn’t like to be picked up until 5pm.  I don’t pay any extra for keeping him there until 5pm, and it is an excellent opportunity to unwind a bit before the evening routine begins.
  • Groups like The ARC often have respite grants for members, and membership dues are often inexpensive or even free.  This is a GREAT resource that is oftentimes underutilized, which means you have a great chance of getting some money to help defray the cost of even a family member providing some babysitting for you.
  • Have a friend with a special needs child?  Share the babysitting costs, OR offer to watch the kids for an hour, if she’ll take them next time.
  • Feel like your calendar is too full to take a moment for yourself?  Pencil yourself in.  You need to be a priority in your own life.  There’s no excuse for that.
  • Can’t find quality help?  Ask at your school – sometimes the parapros (or aides) need some extra cash, and already have a relationship with your child.  Maybe your local high school has some National Honor Society students interested in becoming special education teachers (and they probably need service hours and would do it for free).
  • Sometimes just having an extra pair of eyes in the house while you do chores (or sleep!) can be a weight off your shoulders.  Again – get a high school student to come in and be your eyes and ears (or entertainment for the kiddos) while you get stuff done.  The more time they spend with your kids, the more they will learn about what to do – special needs babysitters in training!
  • Bartering is getting big.  Is there something you could do for someone in return for them watching your kiddos for a bit?  Bake some banana bread?  Fix a networking glitch?  Give someone swimming lessons?

If none of these ideas will work for you, I feel for you.  I completely understand that some children’s needs are severe, meaning breaks a just going to be harder to come by.  But you can’t stop trying.  You have to find a way.  We special needs parents are in extreme danger of burnout and battle fatigue, and the very reasons many moms and dads say they “just can’t take a break” are the same exact reasons they must.  Our children need us at our best, so we can handle the worst for a long time to come.

Financial Guide for Single Mothers: A Review

Probably because I have posted a few times in the past about finances and divorce and all that seemingly intimidating but important stuff we ladies need to know, I was approached by Amit Eshet.  He has written a short ebook entitled Financial Guide for Single Mothers, and asked me to review it.  So in full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of his book to review.  But I got an extra for one lucky reader, too.  Read on…

Financial Guide For Single MothersAmit’s guide is only 44 pages, and is completely affordable at $2.99 on Amazon.  The book contains nine short chapters on topics ranging from scholarships and grants to how to deal with your bank and credit card companies.  I found his writing style engaging and informative and the information relatively easy to understand and follow.  I encountered some new resources and things I hadn’t considered as I read, which I think anyone who has to learn the hard way about finances as I did will inevitably learn in guides like this.  It is certainly not all encompassing – I don’t think anyone would expect that from a short ebook, but the tone is encouraging, and I think would be especially inspiring to any newly single mom.

I think the chapter on Money and Emotions is particularly relevant.  I can remember being in a gifted class in elementary school where one of our projects entailed watching TV commercials and understanding which type of pitch they were using to get us to buy things we didn’t need.  What valuable information to know as a consumer, and so many people have no clue that they are succumbing to marketing and emotions!

I also enjoyed the tips in the chapter about teaching your children about finances.  They were very specific and tailored to age levels, and included activities to get your kids thinking about how to be smart with money.

I think Mr. Eshet has a concise guide to inspire newly single moms to not be afraid of finances, and to investigate more about how to handle their money so that they can take advantage of what’s out there, and be smart about companies trying to take advantage of them.

And now for the contest!  Leave a comment about money: why it scares you, something you’ve learned about it, anything!  I will pick one commenter at random to win a copy of the Financial Guide for Single Mothers.  Comments must be submitted by Friday, May 3rd at midnight.

Good luck!

Going to the… Gazebo

Exciting news, kids! We’re getting real close to setting a date! Of course it depends on the 4-6 people we’d like to be there, and when officiants and venues are available and such … Planning an albeit tiny wedding in about two months means we have to be a little more flexible, but I’m geeked, especially because I think The Man is or soon will be on board with my modest plans, rather than his idea of a quickie courthouse wedding – nothing wrong with that (and certainly not ruling anything out at this point), but I’m a bit excited to be in the planning stage. A combination of “Whew!” and “Yay!” and “Gulp…”

But mostly “Yay!!!” 😀

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The Worst

Being a single mom and being ill has to be one of the worst things to experience on the planet.  Feeling like crap?  Well too darn bad because your child needs to you to take of him like usual, and a child with autism doesn’t have a whole lot of empathy for your situation.  As The Boy told me a few years ago, “You can’t always get what you want, Mom.  Just like the Rolling Stones said.”

One of the other worst feelings in the world has got to be the panicky feeling you get when you can’t find daycare for your child.  Or in my case, evening care.  When you’ve exhausted your lineup of babysitters, and you don’t have a choice to miss whatever it is that necessitates a babysitter.

Yeah, I’m feeling both of those right now.  It’s pretty far from my happy place.  But I’m hoping to spend the weekend recuperating from this cold, and coming up with some magic solution to my evening-care problem.

Calgon, take me away!