I find myself unexpectedly navigating through a new season of life. After almost eight years of marriage, at the ripe old age of 33, I'm suddenly a single mom starting over. Looking out the door at my overgrown lawn, sifting through a mountain of unpaid bills, pondering trash pickup, oil changes and broken ceiling fans, I'm left wondering How did I get here? almost every second of every day. I find myself asking, Am I a failure?
The Psyche of Divorce
Beneath the layers of grief, I reflect on my professional life and my new role as a single mother to my three children. Drowning in the wake of my self-perceived incapacities as a wife, I wonder if my professional success as a female entrepreneur and commitment to my children as a mother are a facade. Are those two things mutually exclusive? Have I been missing the big picture? Am I failing there as well?
Embracing my responsibility in the demise of my marriage, I realize that my greatest shortcoming was not being fully present in my home and in my relationships. I'm not a failure, but I do acknowledge that I made mistakes and spread myself thin. So here I am, thoughtfully considering my future as a working single mom so I don't make those same mistakes again.
The New Normal
As I rebuild our new normal, I'm redefining success one step at a time, both professionally and personally. I've discovered that my work and home lives are not mutually exclusive or impossible. They are intertwined, tightly knit, and in fact, each compliments the other. My ambitions, dreams and professional goals are merely an extension of the life I'm committing to providing for my children.
My Professional Success is the Keystone to Achieving my Personal Success.
Upward mobility in my career, long work hours, hefty paychecks, power positions and professional prowess are no longer my markers for achievement. I'm letting go of the societal notion that my career fortitude is measured by my ego, bank account and stress level, and wish to embrace a new ideal. My new professional success is working in a stable environment, investing my time and creative energy in my community and in service of others, and striving to work for and be a company that values family above all else.
Championing new priorities in my professional arena has given me renewed motivation for my real life goal...A well-balanced home that provides for my children, stimulates my soul and keeps me emotionally and physically engaged with my family in focus at all times.
The New Me
Admittedly, this new me is a work in progress. Especially as a single mom, those moments of anxiety about finances and wanting to gather every single penny loom in my nightmares and in my budget. I fight to move through each moment of panic with a rock-solid determination that my greatest success is my children, and they need me now more than ever. A lack of luxury is a far cry from a missing mom.
Here are some of the ways I am surviving my newly single life and redefining my success as a working mom:
1. Rest. The temptation to work all hours of every day is there. I've learned to set boundaries and keep my mental and physical health a top priority.
2. Be present. When I come home at night, the phone goes away. Work is limited to business hours and home is where I have promised my children that they get all of me.
3. All hands on deck. Coping with this new normal is a family affair. I've made our routine a series of family activities. Everyone helps to cook dinner, cleaning sessions come with dance parties and meals happen at the table with the television off.
4. Embrace chaos. My children are going through a grieving period as well. I willingly drop everything to meet their needs. Cuddle time trumps laundry, late night chats beat out a hot shower and the dishes can wait until after the playground.
5. Seek companionship. Fight the urge to curl up in the dark. Force companionship. I've made a point to reach out to friends, invite people over and get more involved in my church. I got a dog. I am not allowing myself to adjust to these changes alone. Grief needs support and comfort.
6. Forgive Yourself If I've learned anything so far, it's that I need to forgive myself. Having professional aspirations and career goals was not the defining factor in the demise of my marriage. I need to make sure I don't make it so in my head. My desire to work hard and have a fulfilling career was and is a valid aspiration.
This is hands down the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Some days are better than others. On those bad days, I forgive myself. I celebrate that I made a choice to live for my family and to define success with love. And when 5 p.m. rolls around, I walk out the door ready to pick up the best kids in the world and bask in their awesome. I've achieved the ultimate goal. I am their mom.