Monday, December 29, 2008

Grace for the New Year

Why is it that every year about this time I start feeling as if I failed…didn’t get enough done...didn’t help enough people…didn’t make enough money…didn’t parent my children perfectly…didn’t write enough blog entries…

As 2009 approaches I am trying to figure out what is realistic…how should I measure my success as a single mom, daughter, sister, friend, employee/business owner…what should my New Year’s resolutions be?

What’s realistic for a single mom to expect of herself? Is it enough to get up in the morning, get showered and dressed; get the kids ready for school, make their lunch, feed them breakfast, and feed the animals; take the kids to school; run home to find the forgotten homework and drop it back at school; go to work and try and get something accomplished; take one child to the doctor, one child to the orthodontist, and one dog to the vet; run to the grocery store before heading to the day’s sports events to cheer on the kids; race home to make dinner, start a load of laundry and help with the homework; tuck the kids into bed, do the dishes, take out the garbage, clean the toilet and pay the bills…

Is the everyday enough? How can we add the car maintenance, home/yard maintenance, keeping up with friends and family, volunteer work, exercise, and quiet time with God? If we take a break, who picks up the slack? How do I add another resolution to what is already a 25-hour day?

I have been doing the single mom thing for 14 years…and I still haven’t figured out how to get it all done. It is easier now that my kids are 17 and 14…but it is still tough. Time that I gained from the kids helping out around the house is now spent trying to figure them out…life has gone from a physical stretch to a mental stretch. Case in point…

My daughter’s room is a pig sty. It is horrible. We signed a contract that said if I let her get a cat she would keep her room clean. We signed the contract because I didn’t want to fight about her room. Any idea what court of law enforces the broken “clean room” contract? I am in the dog house…I told her she couldn’t go to the movies until her room was cleaned up…she missed the movie. So guess what she is doing right now? Ignoring her room and giving me the evil eye!! I am wishing I had a spouse to back me up…to be the bad guy…to lay down the law…to enforce the contract.

So here I am, pondering New Year’s resolutions when my daughter’s room is a mess, when I can’t manage to enforce “the contract”, and when I am behind on laundry, bills, housecleaning, etc. Can I really expect more of myself? Can I really make another resolution that I won’t keep?

Instead of asking more of myself…I am going to practice a little grace…I am going to give myself permission to do the best I can. My 2009 New Year’s resolution is to show myself grace when everything is piling up. I commit to blog about the little moments of grace that I find in 2009. Some may be short and sweet, and some may be longer lessons…but I promise to look for them while living the life of a single mom…want to join me?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wistmastime is Here

I always get a little wistful/weepy/whelmed at this time of year. Part of it is how I'm wired, and part of it is that it's just too much: too much to do, see, eat, buy, wrap, spend, plan. What should be repeatedly bumps up against what is. While I've made my peace with the fact that life is not like a Hallmark commercial, I do often long for the calm that is depicted (or manufactured, as the case may be)--happy kids, toasty fire, darling retriever.

Single moms can feel stretched even thinner than usual this time of year, not to mention stressed over commitments, finances, their kids' well-being, etc. For many years, I fell into a bad pattern of trying to really whip things into a froth for my daughter, so as to mitigate the fact that her parents were divorced. While I couldn't pull it off financially speaking (simply because we didn't have it), I did try really hard to "make some Christmas magic" on numerous occasions and, frankly, burned myself out: My wild activity added little to my daughter's well-being, and her lack of appreciation for my holiday gymnastics left me a tinge--how shall we say??--resentful.

I've learned to scale back--to lay out my mind's plans (usually terribly unrealistic) and cut them by about two-thirds. I push myself to call friends, especially other single moms, when I'm feeling lonely and loser-like for not pulling off the Traditional American Holidays (As Seen On TV). I ask myself regularly (like I did my daughter when she was young) Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? and then--what a concept!!--I try to take care of those basic needs. It's astounding how much more doable life becomes with a little protein and a 20-minute nap.

There's much we can do to make the season easier...the bulk of which happens inside us. How have you learned to de-stress the holidays?