A few years ago, I picked my daughter up from work. I’d been crying for hours and was still trying to get ahold of myself. She’d had a great night at work, had gotten a really big tip, and couldn’t wait to talk to me about it.
I’d just had (another) disagreement with the man I was seeing about his drinking habits and was beside myself with anxiety and worry. I realized on our drive home that I was barely present for my daughter when she wanted to share something important with me.
I’m determined to prioritize my teens more than my relationships with others.
We sat in the garage, and I forced myself to clear what was going on with me out of my mind and focus on her. Then, I apologized to her for being distracted because even though she didn’t ask me what was wrong, I knew she knew my head was somewhere else.
That night while lying in bed, I had to look hard at myself and my relationship — a relationship that had taken up a lot of my time and energy. That wasn’t the first time I’d struggled to be present with my kids because of him, and I felt tremendous shame.
While my kids really liked the man I was seeing, it hit me that I was letting someone into my life which was taking from me. And because I was allowing that, my kids were seeing me upset, anxious, and unhappy, which was taking from them.
Being divorced with teenagers has been one of the loneliest feelings I’ve ever had. My kids are involved in their own social and work lives. They also spend a few nights a week with their father, so I have more time than ever. I had to admit that the loneliness clouded my judgment regarding who I spent my time with. It wasn’t fair to me, and it wasn’t fair to my kids.
The night I picked up my daughter and was so upset I could barely concentrate on what she was saying was when I stopped allowing anyone into my life. I knew I needed to end the relationship and be more protective of my time and who I let into my life. Because even if my kids never meet everyone I come in contact with, whether it’s a friend, lover, or work colleague, if these relationships are having a negative impact on me, they are going to have a negative impact on my kids, too.
Of course, there are certain people we have to deal with in life, and I’m not saying to shut everyone out that makes you upset. That’s not always realistic. We are all responsible for how we react to certain people and if we let it affect the rest of our lives.
I am saying that single mothers have children who are watching them and are often directly affected by their moods. I knew in that relationship I wasn’t my best self. I didn’t feel as safe or comfortable as I should have. And I was letting it bring me down, knowing there was no way for me to detach myself from the emotions and feelings I was having by staying with him.
I’m now so conscious about who and what I let into my life. When my kids are with me, I need (and want) to be my highest and best self. My priority is to enjoy the last few years they will be living with me. Dealing with extra drama or angst isn’t something I will put up with.
My love for my teens is unconditional. There are conditions when it comes to friends, partners, and even family members I spend time with. You have to enhance my life, not make it more difficult. It needs to be an equal partnership. And these days, if I sense someone is wasting my time or they will make me upset, I have no problem creating space or cutting them off completely.
Life can be difficult. And life as a single mother can be extremely difficult. I refuse to get distracted or consumed with anything or anyone that causes more turmoil. It directly affects my kids, and that’s not something I’m willing to do ever again.
If you are a single mom, feeling like people or situations in your life are bringing you down, don’t be afraid to eliminate them. Don’t worry if people tell you you are being too harsh or you need to let things go.
You know what’s best for you and what’s best for your kids better than anyone else.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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How to Help Your Teen Step Away from a Toxic Friendship
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