The Best Damn Dad – Me

          You don’t have to have followed me for long to realize that I’m passionate about empowering people–especially women. If you’ve followed a little bit longer, you might have even picked up on the fact that I’m a single mom. While I often direct my support and attention towards women, there’s something I want to say that involves men. There’s been a lot on social media these days about men and masculinity, and it seems even that there’s been a blanket attack on them/it. It’s a hard day and age to be raising boys in. As a single mom of two teenage boys (and one teenage daughter), I have had to play the role of both mother and father. My football playing daughter will proudly tell anyone that it was not her absent father that taught her how to throw a football or has driven her home from countless practices and games and cheered her on at every game I could attend between my two jobs. That’s been one of the cool things about being “dad.” The less glamorous side is needing to be dad to boys in all the ways that young men need too.
          Men. Your precious little boys are going to be men, and we need to train them to be good men. It is important that they get good life lessons and examples, even if their fathers are absent. My oldest child is almost an adult. I have had to be the one to talk to my boys about sex (safe sex, not pressuring women, consent), shaving, hygiene, etc. Today, as I stood in the kitchen complaining of cramps while my almost 18 year old son cooked breakfast, I realized it was a good teaching moment.
          I talked to him about when he has a wife, he needs to be understanding about her period and period pain. I told him to offer to go buy her preferred products. Take a picture of the packaging to ensure getting the right ones. Pick her up some chocolate, or ice cream, or something else she likes. I told him not to make a big deal about blood. It happens. Sometimes it gets on surfaces in the bathroom. Sometimes leaks happen on the sheets. I told him to be loving about it. Let her know that it’s no big deal. I took the opportunity to add in some other life lessons as well. Buy her flowers once in a while, for no reason. Women are emotional creatures and we need loving reminders that we are cared about outside of the bedroom.
          As I talked, my son continued to cook, but I knew he was hearing me. Not just hearing, but listening with his heart. I told him that life isn’t guaranteed and I can’t promise I’ll be here forever to teach him about life, so I need to have those moments with him when the opportunity arises.
          “Yes, Mama,” he said. He understood.
          Life has not been easy on us, and it has not been easy for me to parent by myself. I know that I am giving my boys the best start that I’m capable of giving though. They know that it’s okay to cry, but they also know that it’s okay to be strong and all the things that make them set apart and special as men. My ex-husband has provided the example of what NOT to be as a husband and father, but I have tried my damnedest to be the mama that puts on my boots and teaches them what a man IS. I’ve worked hard, I’ve given them life lessons, I’ve taught them how to throw a football and how to shoot a gun, I’ve taught them about shaving their faces, taking care of themselves, driving–both an automatic AND a stick shift, and have been the one to teach them how to put on cologne. I want them to be well-adjusted, loving, strong, sensitive, God fearing, caring, independent, compassionate men. I may be their mama, but I’m the best damn dad they’ve ever had.
th*I don’t completely agree with this photo, because my boys are going to be more than husbands, but you can see my point here.*
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We Are The Village

I didn’t start to truly understand the importance of friendship between women until I was in my 30’s. When I was younger, I always said it was easier being friends with guys, citing reasons like drama and backstabbing. As I have gotten older though, I have realized the incredible power in women supporting women. There are going to be people who aren’t genuine and don’t have your back in life, male or female, and the relationships between women are powerful. This is especially true for mom friends.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for months. A few months back, in a moment of anger and frustration, I made a personal post on social media expressing frustration over women that have much support and even a partner that is currently out of town/state complaining about being single mothers. I said their feelings weren’t valid. I said they weren’t single moms and didn’t deserve to put themselves in the same category as moms like me who are without any support from a partner or my children’s father, financially or otherwise. In that moment of frustration over my personal life, and even jealousy, I did exactly the opposite of what I preach about women supporting women. I was tearing women down. As you can imagine, the post blew up with comments from all sides. I eventually had to delete it, but even once deleted, I couldn’t take back the negativity I had put out into the world. I couldn’t take back where I had taken frustration from my own struggles and used it as a way to put down other women. This behavior is normally out of character for me, but that night, I put ugliness out into the world. I was incredibly embarrassed, and I deeply regretted putting anyone down.

I talk often about women lifting up other women because it is incredibly important to me. As I’ve gone through hard moments in life, I’ve had the most uplifting words, advice, and acts of service from other women. This is often true of women that are older, more wise, and more experienced. They have been there. They have struggled. They have felt alone. So they know the best ways to help and reach out to younger women.

I recently sat at the dining room table with my very best friend, and as we were surrounded by rowdy kids, a naked toddler, and a fussy nursing baby, we discussed being moms and the support we really need. We are in very different seasons of motherhood and have very different lives. I am a single working mother, and my kids are now teenagers. She has 5 little ones ages 10 and under, is a (wonderful) stay at home mother that homeschools, and does whatever she can to help support her hardworking husband. I had children much younger than she did, and we discussed the ways that mothers need help regardless of age, number of children, and marital/relationship status. We talked about the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, and how much truth that holds.

While some mamas have mothers and sisters that provide loving support, there are many mamas out there without that support. There is a lot of pressure on us in today’s society to be super women…to be able to handle parenting, have well-behaved, clean, happy children, work, survive on sleep deprivation, keep clean houses, take care of ourselves, keep in shape, please our men, be desirable, and still be social–all without support from anyone else. Well, you know what? I’m telling you that’s a load of crap. For one, it’s impossible to do and be all of those things all the time. For two, we weren’t meant to have so much on our plates without help from others. In American culture, there’s become an intense pressure surrounding being mothers and stretching ourselves thin and the more on our plates the better, like it’s the fashionable thing to do. Women post on social media about all that they are accomplishing or all that they have to do and take care of, and then other women compare themselves and see all of their flaws and ways that they are falling short. Stop this! When you are comparing yourself to the mom that seems to have it so much more together than you, you forget that you are comparing that mom’s highlight reel to your lowest moments. The mom speaking on social media about where she is doing great in one area isn’t talking about where she is falling short in another area. We are ALL struggling in one way or another, but most of us aren’t willing to post about it. We talk about long hours at work or the amazing dinner we are cooking, but we don’t talk about how there’s been dishes sitting dirty on the counter for 3 days, or the same load of laundry in the washer that’s been washed who knows how many times because we keep forgetting to throw it in the dryer, or how we can’t remember the last time we’ve had sex with our life partner because exhaustion makes sleep more important than intimacy for weeks and even months at a time.

Now, I am not saying we should all post all of our ugly mommy moments on social media, or that we should not talk about our good and strong moments either. What I am saying is that moms need to stick together. Be real with your good girlfriends. Talk openly and honestly about your struggles because chances are, they can relate and have their own struggles they want to talk to you about. We all need loving support. We all need good friends we can tell about how we had a moment where we were so angry with our children, we wanted to physically hurt them, or how we lost it and screamed so loud that we fear the neighbor might question our parenting skills, or how we have worn the same pajamas and unbrushed messy bun for 2 days in a row and skipped a shower in favor of 15 more minutes of sleep and bathed with a baby wipe. Have you let your preschooler watch some obnoxious kids’ TV show for far too long just to have some peace for a while? Have you fed your kids McDonald’s for dinner 3 nights this week because you’re worn out? Have you let your 5 year old go to bed in his favorite new rubber boots because you just didn’t have the fight in you to battle making him take them off? Have you thrown out Tupperware that sat too long in the fridge because it’s just easier to buy more than to wash out last week’s molded spaghetti? This and so much more… guess what? We have all been there. There’s so much mommy shaming though that we don’t feel safe to acknowledge these hard moments.

So this is what I would like for you to do:

  1. Be real and honest with your friends. Be the example they need. You just might inspire that for them, which then inspires it for others, and so on. Let’s put an end to the judgmental mommy shaming. Also, ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in that.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others on social media. Remember that you are only seeing a tiny snippet of what others are saying and then comparing your worst moments to these great moments that make it online. Allow yourself to be real on social media as well. Don’t pretend life is perfect when it is not. It is okay to say you’re stretched thin, tired, and overwhelmed.
  3. Be there in practical ways for other moms that need it. Do you have a mom friend that just had a new baby or is just struggling in general? Show up with dinner for the whole family, and maybe even a bottle of wine. Go over and do the dishes or fold the mountain of clean laundry that’s become a living room couch decoration. Pick up the kids and take them to the park to give mama some time to just breathe. Offer to babysit for a date night, or better yet, if you can afford the splurge, offer to babysit AND buy a gift card for your favorite restaurant for the couple. Just be there in the ways you would like someone to be there for yourself.
  4. When you find yourself getting ready to mommy shame others, stop yourself and try to put yourself in the other mom’s shoes. We all fail at times, and we all make mistakes. Spread love and kindness instead.
  5. Share this blog with your mom friends. We all need a reminder that our real, messy, true lives are normal and understood.

I know this one was on the long side, but I’ve been holding it all in for so long that I had to share it all. To the moms that I offended and hurt that night with my angry rant, I am sorry. I pride myself on being the kind of person that will freely admit when I’m wrong, and I was really wrong that night. I hope you can forgive me.

Stick together, mamas. We are each other’s village.

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A New Path

My life lately has been rapidly changing, and I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but that’s because of how incredible all of this change has been. One hurt started it all in motion, and with the snowball effect, there’s suddenly rapid change in all areas. Not only have I realized that I need to be focused solely on my kids, God, and my health–mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but I’ve had many realizations and change in my behavior and choices.

I’m not looking to date and realize that I need to be alone right now. I need to clean up my life first so that I’m able to truly bless my future partner in the ways I’m wanting him to bless me. I know that I’m a prize, but I’m not ready to be the wife I know I can and should be yet, and until I know I can, I’m determined to keep focusing on me and reaching out to God in my loneliness instead of casual relationships that only make the void feel bigger. I’m not just not looking to seriously date, but I am intentionally living a celibate life. This is necessary to keep my focus where it should be.

I’m going to church every Sunday and bible study every Thursday because I need to grow out of the baby Christian stage I’ve been in my entire life. I’m wanting to grow in my knowledge of the word and grow in my spiritual gifts. I’m watching what I’m allowing into my heart with television and music because of this too. One day, I was leaving work in a great mood and got into my car to drive home. I turned on music and a sad, angry song came on. I suddenly was filled with sadness and anger at the people that have recently hurt me. It made me want to lash out. I realized though that it was the song that made me feel that way, so I kept my behavior in check and decided not to allow those emotions to bog me down. Soon after, I had thought about how I had my church class that night and was suddenly filled with love and hope. Man, how powerful it is to realize that outside influences had that much control over me and that I could control what I allowed those influences to be! This reaffirmed for me that I need to be mindful of what I allow into me.

In all of this, I’m also learning better life coping habits too. I’m reading my bible more. I’m praying over and over every day. I’m writing more and setting new goals with that. I’ve cut out the connections to others that I would previously reach out to in my need for attention and am reaching out to God and other Christians instead. I’m unwilling to waste time talking with others in a way that is not only meaningless but also those that can take me down the wrong path. I’m focusing on my self-care physically right now just as much as spiritually. I’m being loving with myself, making sure to get my water consumption in, tracking my physical activity and making new goals, and watching what I eat and drink. On top of all of this, I’ve stopped drinking alcohol.

I have gotten into the habit of using alcohol to cope with stress and pain. As life has been harder lately though, I had realized that I was drinking more and I didn’t really like the person I was becoming with it. While I’m trying to take much better care of myself than ever before, I don’t want to add the poison of alcohol to my body. I’m not saying I’m never going to have another drink again, but I need to reset. I need to go back to healthy coping mechanisms and not drink out of habit. My body deserves to be treated better than I’ve treated it before, and naturally, with all of these other changes, it just makes sense to commit to zero alcohol.

I am headed to great places. I’m learning so many life lessons. I want to become strong in my faith and knowledge and want to live a life that allows for me to be a good role model to my children and to others. My ultimate goal is to become an author of books meant to speak hope into others’ lives. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and how I don’t have to stop there. I can figure out a way to reach out and minister and speak to others. The possibilities are endless, and in order to reach those goals, I have to keep up with all that I’m doing now.

I am inspired! I am happy and full of hope. I know that I’m on the right path now, and while I wish I could have pulled it all together before, I take comfort in knowing it’s never too late. I’m so very thankful to be on this new journey because I know it’s going to change my entire life.

My new favorite song. If God can reach me in the middle of a life filled with ugliness, casual sex, booze and bar hopping, and various other ways I was rebelling and running, He can reach you too. ❤