Becoming a single mum has been one of the most defining moments of my life to date. I was 32 with two children under 5 when I left a toxic marriage. The day it happened was like rebirth. It was as if my life was mine to start all over again…
It’s been a 5 year journey for me so far and so much has happened in that time. Milestones for the kids, plenty of firsts, huge personal mindset shifts and most of all LOTS of learning and adapting. Over the years I've had so many wins, so many struggles and so many critical life turning points. But throughout all that there's one thing that remained consistent... I've never lost sight of hope.
Hope saves lives.
It reminds us that when we hold on and push forward after adversity, ANYTHING is possible. When we do the work to heal and to grow we are handed life's greatest reward. Peace. True, lasting peace. Freedom from toxicity, shame, overwhelm, hopelessness, fear and self doubt. When we are open to learning life's lessons we truly do make breakthroughs. Ever heard the quote "Trauma repeats itself until it is resolved"? It's true. When we learn, we grow and when we grow we evolve.
With that in mind, here are 10 things I've learnt as a single mum. Enjoy!
How to set boundaries
This lesson was a huge one for me. I’ve always been a giver. I’ve always put the needs of others before my own. Part of this came from growing up in a family where domestic violence was ever present in all its forms. I learnt to anticipate the needs of others in order to survive my environment. I wasn’t a people pleaser or a ‘door mat’ as some might say, I was a hyper-vigilant young girl who played the role of peacekeeper. Sometimes happily but otherwise unwillingly.
So… as I grew into a young woman this narrative continued. I put others before myself, constantly. I was assertive but probably not assertive enough and I gave too many people too many chances. It took me until I was 32 (after plenty of heartbreak) to actually say enough is enough! I’ve since learnt that boundaries are ESSENTIAL in all relationships. They protect us from others but also from ourselves at times. They teach others what we expect and they give people a choice… step up or step out.
How to make what I have enough
When I became a single mum nearly 5 years ago I walked away from financial security. My ex-husband and I had run a successful business together and life was fairly comfortable on the financial front. We had everything we needed and some of what we wanted. We worked hard for it. So, when I decided to end the marriage I knew that finances would look very different for me going forward.
I accepted that prospect as part of my personal quest for freedom. For me, freedom had a cost. Many costs in fact. But this was one I knew I had to embrace straight up in order to avoid feelings of hopelessness and financial failure. So, enough became enough. This lesson basically went hand in hand with my ‘attitude of gratitude’. If I had hot water for my bed time shower, food on the table and clothes on my back I was doing ok. Anything more was an absolute bonus. In adopting these thoughts my new financial position became enough. It was something I had all the power in the world to influence, when the time was right.
How to embrace my personal power
Becoming a single mum was so damn empowering for me. I’d always been extremely independent. As a child it was a case of ‘have to’ and as an adult, a case of ‘choose to’. As part of making the decision to walk away from a toxic marriage I answered all my own ‘what if’s’ and fully embraced them, trusting in my ability to handle anything that came my way. I knew, and wholeheartedly believed that my skills, personal resources and DETERMINATION alone, would see me through. I took a deep breath and honoured my sense of agency. As single mums it's very easy for us to feel powerless, as if our life has been taken out of our control purely by circumstances. But I can assure you, this is just not the case. You are powerful. You have control over EVERY aspect of your life and its trajectory. Don't let your thoughts manipulate you into thinking anything else!
How to get creative in EVERY situation
When you’re a single mum you just have to be creative! There is no other option. You are constantly reimagining things from your new single mum perspective. Constantly looking for ways over or around hurdles. This has been so liberating for me… I’ve learnt so many skills purely because I’ve had to. When you don’t have another adult around you just have to make things happen so stepping up and thinking outside the box is essential. I’m talking cleaning hacks, repair jobs, time management strategies, multitasking and more! Reflecting on my single mum journey thus far I can easily say that being creative and finding ways to just get things done has been one of my most valuable lessons. Google has been my saviour on many occasions! How did we ever parent without Google?!
How to let go of expectations
Early on in my single mum journey someone once said to me “Erica, you have to learn to have no expectations. When you have no expectations you can’t get hurt”. I didn’t realise the weight of this statement for years until finally, the penny dropped. Our expectations are purely about us, they are based on our beliefs and our values. Ultimately if we try and project these values onto others and just assume that they too will share these and act as we would, we’ll be disappointed. Every. Single. Time. When we let go of our expectations of these people we surrender and we move on. No, it doesn’t mean we won’t be shocked or surprised by their behaviour in the future it just means we won’t be emotionally affected by it.
How to live from the heart but take the brain along for the ride
I am a heart centered person... that means I think with my heart, feel with my heart and act from my heart. ALL THE TIME. Does this always work for me? Uh NO! On many occasions it’s seen me make really bad decisions, accept terrible behaviour from others and settle for less than I deserve. In life and in love. If there’s one GIGANTIC lesson single mum life has taught me, this is it.
It’s ok to be a heart centered woman. It’s ok to feel and to love deeply.
In my eyes, a warm heart always wins. But now, after so much life trauma I’ve learnt to bring my brain along for the ride too. Yes, I continue to lead a heart centered life but my brain now plays its part when it comes to decision making and life choices. I've learnt that both are as important as each other!
How to let go of self-limiting stories
As a single mum we can be our own best friend or worst enemy. Our beliefs either shake us or break us, it’s really as simple as that. If we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough or believe that we are stuck and limited in life as a single mum then we will eventually default to this self sabotaging narrative.
For me personally, my self-limiting beliefs as a single mum were around business. I used to tell myself “It’s only me”… “I’m just a small business”. In thinking this way, I acted this way! I acted small and I stayed in my comfort zone, not reaching out for opportunities. I held a great big STOP sign in front of my own business. Until one day I didn’t… and then EVERYTHING changed! So, what have I learnt….? Get out of your own way girlfriend!
How to better enjoy the simpler things in life
This lesson is vital to life as a single mum. In fact, it’s vital for anyone wanting better mental health. Unfortunately we live in a society where enough is no longer enough. Marketing tells us this. Instagram tells us this. EVERYONE tells us this. Everywhere we look there are messages telling us to do more, have more, buy more, give more, like more, get more and BE MORE. This stuff just feeds consumerism. It keeps companies turning over profit and it keeps many people mentally unwell.
So. For me? The journey to enjoying the simpler things in life started when I knew my separation was coming. Amidst the chaos I always made time to read with the kids. Watch my favourite TV show. Have a vanilla soy chai latte with my girls (yes, I’m 'that' customer!). I made sure I stopped to appreciate the sunshine or the rain. For me, it’s all these little things that make me the healthy woman I am today. Because I consciously choose to get lost in the moment and value dearly all the small things that make my life so beautiful, I am able to stay balanced and grateful.
How to dig deeper than ever before
There’s so much truth in the saying “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option”. Becoming a single mum has totally taken me to levels I never thought possible. Physical. Emotional. Financial. Practical. All levels. Several times I’ve drawn on every last ounce of resilience, persistence and hope to get me through something. And each time ‘something’, whatever it is, comes up… I dig deeper. I find new ways. Or better ways. I overcome more than I thought possible. I achieve more than I would ever have expected of myself pre single mum life. In fact now, nearly 5 years into my journey I am actually grateful for what I’m making of my life. I’m proud of how deep I can dig when the odds are stacked against me. You know what I say now? “BRING. IT. ON.”
How to own who I am!
One thing that kept me stuck for years was focusing too much on my life story. Every day I would identify more deeply with my story. My past. It became this huge grey cloud that was above me everywhere I went. It was ugly and it was all consuming. I was effectively hosting a pity party for one. There were no guests. Just me. Did I have a right to feel sorry that my life had gone down this path? ABSOUTELY! But… did I want to allow it to continue to be filled with negativity? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!
Through the process of healing I’ve realigned with the woman I was born to be. Instead of holding myself back I’ve learnt to tune into all that is great about ME! I tell myself daily that I’m doing a great job as a single mum. I own my wins (and my losses!). But more importantly through setting boundaries and DEMANDING better treatment from those in my life I have learnt to be PROUD of all I have become. Strong, capable, assertive, confident and WORTHY!
If you’re a single mum I hope this honest account of my experience really gives you some hope and a big dose of inspiration. On your journey, it’s really important to remember that everyone’s single mum story is different. In order to move forward we need to live in alignment with our hearts and minds. We need to tune into us and do life our way, at our own pace.
If you’ve liked this article you may also like my articles Surviving Life As A New Single Mum and 7 Must Do's To Survive Your Divorce. Remember… I’m here for you. I support women AUSTRALIA WIDE via in office sessions, phone and video calls. x
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!