This ex-single mom shares 5 hard lessons she’s learned: being the better person is the way to go and eventually pays off in the long run
For many single mothers, the nuclear family setup is nothing but a pipedream. Try as we might, sometimes it just doesn’t pan out the way we planned, or perhaps it wasn’t even on the table to begin with. Regardless of how your situation as a solo parent came to be, it’s more than likely that you are bearing the overwhelming brunt of parenthood alone, and it’s a challenge not to harbor any ill feelings towards the other parent.
Let me be clear— that is absolutely normal, and you cannot be blamed for your frustration. While some are happily co-parenting in harmony, there’s a huge chunk of us where even the thought of being civil can make our eyes roll all the way to the back of our heads. But all feelings aside, our top priority will always be our kids. So, we have to stop and think— how is my behavior towards this “relationship” going to affect my child in the long run?
Nobody said it would be easy
After 13 years of playing the role as both mom and dad, I was exhausted. I had my intentions and parenting style questioned repeatedly over the years, which in my opinion was ridiculous, because… I was, after all, doing the whole parenting gig on my own. It would be a different story if this so-called dad was actively participating in raising our child, but that wasn’t the case.
I maintained a civil relationship up until my child was nine years old, and it got messy after that, because that was all the grace I could afford. I held out for as long as I could until all my buttons were aggressively pushed, and I’d had it. We haven’t been on speaking terms since then, but I’ve continued to grant him the courtesy of no disrespect, solely for the sake of our child.
Seventeen years into motherhood, I see how much of an impact my actions have had on my son, and I’m sharing with you why I believe that taking the high road, though difficult as it may be, pays off in the long run.
Our behavior is a reflection of who we are as a person
We can’t let our ideas of what we think is fair affect what might be right for our kids. We live in a competitive culture, and it’s not unusual to keep tabs on how much we do compared to those of the other party.
I remember when my son was a baby, I started a tally on everything that I did, and all the things my ex-partner did not do. Obviously, over time it became a landslide as he faded into the background, showing up for his child less and less every year. This guy never seemed fazed by his lack of effort (or financial support), and this only made me angrier.
I eventually realized that my anger didn’t affect him at all, and that only fueled my resentment. Nevertheless, I was determined to shield my son from this brewing hatred, because the way his father (and I use this term loosely) behaved was not a burden for him to carry. On the flipside, I did not want to be the bitter mother who complained about these shortcomings, especially not to my son. I was confident in my dedication and what I brought to the table as his mother, and that was more than enough for me.
Our children are more perceptive than we give them credit for
Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling a certain way, your child picks up on it almost immediately? They join in when we celebrate a win, or offer comfort when they feel we are sad. Well, imagine the emotions they have to sit with when we air out our grievances and voice out hostility aimed at a person they are supposed to feel love towards.
If the other parent is being unreasonable or disrespectful, our kids will eventually be able to figure that out on their own. I don’t believe it’s our place to fill their heads with opinions that may have irreversible effects later on. That person is still their parent. They are related by blood and that connection is not easily severed, no matter how badly you want that to happen.
If we mind our own side of the fence, and do the best we can to support our children, then we are doing exactly what needs to be done. Shining a bad light on the other parent does nobody any good, even if you feel validated in doing so.
Healing is fundamental in moving forward
For whatever reason we may have for that relationship to go sour, whether it be disrespect, abandonment, stupidity, or neglect— it’s a painful ordeal. But instead of wading in a pool of blame and discontent, we have to face the music and properly heal in order to move on.
I’m not saying you need to be the best of friends to make things work, but rather, you need to be okay with your situation and accept that that’s probably as good as it gets— make the necessary adjustments you need to move forward. Their behavior goes under the list of things you cannot control, so why bother exerting energy that could be better directed at something that serves you well.
Single moms are always leading by example
It’s difficult to see the gravity of a situation until a certain amount of time has passed. We may not realize it at the time, but our little ones soak up every little thing we do as they are growing up— and that includes how we handle stress and hardships.
This is a good opportunity to discuss why some relationships work better than others, and how certain things that were simply not meant for us are no longer part of our lives. Hardships can always be used as a learning experience, and it doesn’t have to come from a cynical perspective.
It’s the right thing to do
I know this is much easier to say than to actually put into practice, but two wrongs don’t necessarily make a right. When a parent is removed from the equation, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are no longer a parent (by title, anyway). Based on experience, I will tell you that by keeping my child out of the conversation regarding my problems with his biological father has put my mind at ease. It allowed my son to reach out and make connections on his own terms, which led him to his own unbiased conclusions.
I did not put any restrictions on contact or forming any kind of relationship between the two of them, and even with my son’s initiative, his biological dad’s actions inevitably spoke for itself. While this still became a hurtful experience, one I still have no control over, I am at peace knowing that I did not pull any weight in drawing that verdict.
It’s a tough situation to be in, there’s no question about that. However, the relationship between your child and their other parent is not something you can easily disregard. You certainly don’t have to make excuses for them, but you also don’t have to take part in playing the villain. Take the high road, and be the bigger person— your child will appreciate that and your future self will thank you.