Starting a new year holds such promise. And this one kicks off a whole new decade. The last decade was a hard one for me. How could I have predicted that a few years into it, I’d become a sudden widow and single mom to seven? Thank goodness we don’t know the hard stuff in advance.
I want to move into this new decade well. After the shock of loss and the pain of grief, I feel good and have so much to look forward to. But I still fight looking back at what was. I still fight wishing for what could be. I still fight to live fully in life as it is now and to relish all the good in it. Maybe you do, too. Let’s look at 5 ways we can focus on letting go and moving on.
1. Let go of single mom guilt.
Most moms struggle with guilt, but single moms can be plagued with it. I’ve felt guilty for not having the energy to keep up with the demands of single parenting. I’ve felt guilty for always being the bad cop, for the time work takes me away from my kids, and for not being able to give my kids everything two-parent families have.
This guilt stems from unrealistic expectations. A different life doesn’t mean a less-than life. Even negatives can work as positives for us and our children. If guilt stems from regret over wrong actions, ask forgiveness and let God’s forgiveness give you the freedom to move forward.
2. Let go of single mom fear.
When life falls apart, fear rushes in. Fear paralyzes us when we have to make decisions. It keeps us from taking risks, making a new bucket list, and checking things off of it. Taking one brave step makes it easier to take another brave step. Staying where we are won’t eliminate the fear. It will only keep us from the fullness that life has for us. Let go of the fear holding you back and take your kids on that cross-country trip. Go to the party alone. Apply for that new position. Doing it is never as scary as we imagined it.
3. Let go of an entitled life.
A few months ago, I watched my son walk up the beach with his dad’s surfboard. It was an idyllic day by all accounts—a warm sun, easy waves, and an uncrowded stretch of beach. “His dad should be here,” I thought. “His dad should be teaching him to surf and helping him become a man.”
Even as those words formed, I realized buried beneath were expectations of an entitled life. My kids ought to have that. Life should be this way. And then I got a complete perspective shift. When I posted the picture on Facebook, a friend’s response blew me away. He wrote that my son would look back and think, “I remember that day. I had so much fun. I felt so loved when I walked up the beach toward you, Mom. The look on your face just made that moment more special. I think she’s proud of me. This is a good day.”
Imperfect lives hold incredible beauty. Let’s let go of an entitled life and take hold of the extraordinary lives we actually have.
4. Let go of bitterness.
Unfulfilled expectations, pain, and betrayal can leave us bitter. Bitterness is a low-smoldering anger that spills out in words and responses while eating away at joy and contentment. Bitterness always chains us to the past and keeps us from embracing hope for the future.
The key to overcoming bitterness is forgiveness. We have to forgive those who’ve hurt us and those we should have been able to trust. We can’t change what someone does to us but we can change our response to it and choose the freedom that comes in forgiveness.
5. Let go of secondary status.
Ever feel the need to explain your single mom status? Ever cringe when you’re filling out a form and you have to check a box marked single or divorced? That label still carries assumptions and sometimes a stigma.
Your singleness doesn’t make you less. We need to say that louder for the people in the back. Your singleness, no matter how you got here, does not make you a second-rate mom, a second-rate employee, or a second-rate friend. We live in a world made for couples and single parenting is tough. But we single moms can have strong families. Our children can flourish. And we can live well in the year and decade ahead of us.
Your singleness, no matter how you got here, does not make you a second-rate mom, a second-rate employee, or a second-rate friend.
What is the hardest thing for you to let go of?