Being a single mom is often associated with images of a super mom wearing a super hero cape, or words that describe someone who is tough and independent. While I can mostly agree with those things, I also know that as a single mom myself, I have had my fair share of moments that I refer to as “weak.”
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and digging into my past, and I have uncovered a lot of hurt that I have bottled up. I’ve learned a lot about myself and am working on being a better me each and every day.
You see, when I was growing up, my mother and I did not always get along. In fact, many would say that we bumped heads often. But as I have grown wiser with age and have also become a mother myself, I have begun to see things more clearly. First, I love my mother unconditionally and I now consider her to be my best friend. Second, I realized that she raised me to be strong — like her, to be independent — like her, and to be tough as nails — like her. I remember never seeing my mother cry in front of the family or me. But I do remember hearing her cry one time in the shower; I guess she thought nobody would hear her.
I learned from moments like that and became just like her, until one day — I was served with divorce papers.
Nothing could hold my tears in, nothing could make me feel better and nothing could make the pain go away. She was there for me. She never once told me to stop crying. In fact, I vividly remember asking her to pick up my daughter one day because I didn’t want my little innocent child to see me crying. And that is why I am sharing this with you. I didn’t want my daughter to see me cry. Something I learned from my mother, and here I was passing it down to my daughter. The vicious cycle of life at work in a way that I didn’t event recognize.
This lightbulb moment didn’t happen immediately; it only came to my attention very recently. When I started to reflect on this, I had a conversation with my mom about how I felt. I didn’t want to continue the cycle and pass on this way of holding in emotions to my daughter. And so …
Married moms, single moms, all moms: It is OK to let your kids see emotion. I’m a big fan of thick skin, but I am also a big fan of letting my daughter see true, raw emotion. And she has. I have let her see me cry, she has asked why, and I have bravely been honest with her. I think this is a new type of strong for me; strong enough to be open and honest with her. Strong enough to let her wipe the tears from my eyes and hold my hand. The way in which she has consoled me has been the best feeling ever. I want her to know that it is OK to cry, to feel, and that heartbreak or hard times are something that inevitably happens to us all. I want her to know that she doesn’t have to be scared, but she can be strong and comfortable in her own emotions and thoughts.
So moms, my advice to you is simple, and has truly helped to heal my broken heart.
- Don’t hide your hard times from your kids. It is better for them to understand and to see you through this journey. Only then can they truly appreciate the shared journey of love, happiness and joy that you will experience together.
- Share the details of your emotions with them in a way that they understand (of course, this depends on their age). You don’t have to get into the dramatic details, but give them some insight into why you may not be yourself.
- Remember that you deserve the best, and so do your kids. When you have off-days, let them know that you are having an off-day. They will appreciate this, and it also helps them understand that life has good days and not-so-good days.
- Share the good word of the Lord with your kids always, but especially during trying times. Let them know that when others might fail us in this world, God’s mercies are new for us every morning, and He will never leave us.
Many of us can agree that even though we don’t enjoy it, heartbreak and hard times make us stronger and smarter. However, it wasn’t until my most recent heartbreak that I learned of a new strength — the kind of strength that comes from breaking a cycle and truly opening up to my child. It is not a sign of weakness, but a moment of clarity and love for our children to see that we are not perfect and that we have emotions too.
Let us redefine strength and teach our children all the faces of life, not just the happy moments.
Stephanie Yuma is a single mother of a beautiful 5-year old daughter. She holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where she also teaches undergraduate communication courses. Stephanie is no stranger to the world of marriage, divorce and being single, but through the good and bad times, she continues to hold on to God’s promises of hope, grace, mercy and love. She is a kid at heart and hopes to encourage other single parents to embrace their “singleness” and enjoy their kids. Stephanie was born and raised in south Texas, where she currently resides in a small, quiet town.