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10 Steps for Transitioning to Single Motherhood

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“Sit down and breathe deeply” is what I told myself six years ago, after I heard the voicemail between my ex and her business partner that clearly was not business. All I could hear were the birds chirping outside my window as my body started to go numb. I heard enough to know this was bad news for me, for us.

Relationships end for so many different reasons. Often you can’t control how life will play out, even if you try your best. I knew this was the beginning of the end for my relationship. Infidelity causes some couple to break up immediately. But, In our situation, we chose to try to rebuild. After a year and a half of trying to make it work, we decided to amicably part ways. Now the real work needed to begin, rebuilding myself as a single parent.

It was my time to take action for the next chapter in my life. This meant separating, moving out and all that comes with a break up. Except this time I had kids. I won’t go into too much detail about the fact that we were not married. In California, it was not legal for same-sex marriage. We kept our money separate, so that was easy to split up. We chose to handle the children’s custody schedule without a lawyer. We felt we could do this calmly, the trick was to keep the kids' best interest in mind when making decisions.

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My first thoughts were of panic: how do I not see my kids everyday? How would I raise these kids and be the sole provider of the family? When would I see my kids? How would that schedule work? Could I handle being left to pay for my mortgage, my nanny and my expenses? Would I be a good parent on my own? So much insecurity and fear rushed through my body. I didn’t sign up to raise three kids on my own. This was the hardest part to digest. But anger kicked in, and I was able to use it to my advantage. The rush from my fight or flight response also helped me plow forward. I didn’t have time to address these insecurities. My depression, which wanted me to visit my bed and eat gallons of chocolate ice cream, could wait. First I had to get my life in order. I had to be an adult, a cool adult. It was time to act rationally and not emotionally.

My 10 “Now What” guidelines to becoming a single parent.

1. You are not alone.

Lean on your friends and family. Especially a friend that makes you laugh the most. Talk it out. Life is now more complicated, we have kids, we have bills or, even worse, we still love that person and want to try and forgive them. Don't call anyone who will make you feel like you deserved this type of treatment. It is not your fault.

2. Is it really over? Or are you willing to try and make it work?

Don’t judge yourself or your decision or failed relationship. Life is more complicated when you have children involved.

3. Make a budget.

See what you are going to need to survive. Include any extra help, a new job or making that call to your parents to get you through the first few months. I was lucky enough to be in real estate, and the properties I owned at the time helped float me until my sales picked up. This might not be the case for most, you might have to figure out finances with your ex. The best way to do this is with a level head.

4. Go spend some time on you.

Example: go to spinning class, go see a movie alone, touch base with old friends, go sit under that beautiful tree you always stare at and read a book.

When I look back now I realize this wasn’t how I pictured my life turning out.

5. Don't stay angry (the entire time)!

When you are angry, you can’t see clearly. When you are blinded by anger, you may make the wrong choices that, at the time, are not in your best interest. Use anger to your advantage by allowing it to motivate you. Channel it wisely.

6. Tell your kids when you feel the time is right.

Be honest, but not too honest.

7. Don’t share the details with your kids.

Our children are not our best friends, even though they feel like they are. Depending on age, they may not be able to process what is happening to their family.

[W]e all have someone else out there who is waiting to love us.

8. Play nice with your ex.

Try to keep any negative comments to yourself and your therapist. The temptation will be there to throw them under the bus in front of the kids. But fight it. Your kids don’t need to be conflicted about their parents. It was not their fault this happened. This is not the time to teach them the word “as#@ole.”

9. It takes time to heal.

Yes, probably years. Be kind to yourself. Be a rock star moving forward. Make choices out of love. This will be the best way to accept and live with all the new changes in your life.

10. There are other fish in the sea.

Maybe not right now, but we all have someone else out there who is waiting to love us.

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As for me, it's six years later, and my life took a while to settle down. But it has been wonderful. This life-altering event did not define me, but it has molded me into the person I am today. Since then, I am in a five-year relationship with an amazing woman who loves my children. My ex and I (and with the help of our partners) have raised three loving, caring and funny kids. We all get along, for the most part, and this is my new reality. I could have chosen to let this experience ruin me, don’t get me wrong. Bitterness shows its ugly head at times, but it never stays very long. When I look back now I realize this wasn’t how I pictured my life turning out. But I can finally say I am OK with that.

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