Maggie went from shelter to shelter with her children, always encouraging them to do their best, finding any kind of job to support them, encouraging her son to pursue his artistic talents, finding a big sister for her daughter and finally a mentor who could help her daughter obtain a scholarship to school. This mom never made the children her confidantes.
Sally suffered from a mental illness with rapid onset of symptoms. She was a wonderful mother who conveyed to her former husband her need to call on him if he needed to get the children when she began to feel ill.
Elizabeth drove her former partner to chemotherapy every week and when her children's father was hospitalized, she drove the children to see him. She did this despite her former husband making embarrassing, false comments about her in their community.
Their strength and courage are examples of loving their children more than retaliating against their co-parent, attributing positive qualities to someone who continued to try to hurt them, accepting their own challenges and counting on the children's co-parent to help them.
On a large scale, we know that women still earn less income than men on average, often have to go back to school post separation in order to succeed in the working world after being a stay-at-home mom. There are losses that moms (and dads) experience that are rekindled at times that were celebrations in the past, such as Mother's Day. They may not wake up on Mother's Day to their children bringing them breakfast in bed. In contrast perhaps to past celebrations where cards and gifts were a given, there may be nothing, retriggering that loss and tapping this mom on the shoulder with "What makes you think I am going to be nice to you now?"
The women we pay tribute to share important factors in common:
• They take responsibility for their lives-for moving forward and at their pace, reestablishing themselves in relationships, with family and careers in ways they never dreamt they could do
• They love their children and demonstrate through their behaviors their love and commitment by working all day, driving their children to music, sports and school activities, shopping at consignment stores so that their children can have some new change of seasons clothes
• They stop to laugh and do a silly activity together
• They understand their role in their adult relationship and work to make changes to improve their self esteem
• They remember that their children's co-parent is an integral part of their children's lives
You may not be at the point that the women described above are, and that is alright. You can get there. It takes time, support and hard work. What can help you get there and begin a healthier path of healing and growing?
Grieve. Allow yourself to mourn the losses of the relationship you once had and wanted it to be. Losses involve a lot of different emotions that need to be expressed in a healthy way so that people don't get stuck in anger or depression.
Seek connections with others who understand how you feel, accept you where you are and support the steps you want to take to grow and help you get there.
Take a break from the stresses in life; give your children a break, too, and do something fun with them. You don't have to spend a fortune of money on having fun -- it could be sleeping in a tent in your backyard and making s'mores. It could be a barbeque with friends. Put aside all the distractions in your life, the electronics, the mounds of paperwork and just find time to just "be" with your children.
Make a conscious decision to work on yourself rather than continuing to criticize and destroy your former partner who is still your child's parent.
Always, always give yourself credit for all that you do, all that you are, including your children's loving mom.
With best wishes for a Happy Mother's Day!