Are You A Single Mom Who is Too Close to Your Child?
By Melissa Chapman
The literal definition of a mother’s role is to protect, nurture and care. So as a single mom, how can know when you are crossing that fine line between protecting, versus overbearingly nurturing to the extent that it becomes an unhealthy relationship with your child?
Unfortunately, many single moms feel tremendous guilt about their decision to divorce, presuming that they have essentially robbed their kids of a two-parent family. Goaded on by their guilt, they tend to overcompensate and put all their energy into caring for their children, often to the detriment of their own well being.
In doing so, a single mom may unknowingly cross that fine line from healthfully mothering her kids, to quite literally suffocating them. In many situations, these sacrificial moms create a kind of counter-dependency on their children, and ultimately quash own their chances at creating an identity and life for themselves: one that exists outside of their role as a mom.
According to Dr. John Townsend, psychologist and author of Loving People: How To Love & Be Loved, there are many reasons why single moms often become enmeshed in the lives of their children to the point that they may often lose their own sense of identity.
“Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving, and all single moms struggle with feelings of self-judgment when they consider getting connected to the outside world.” says Dr. Townsend. “They often think, ‘Since my kids don’t have two parents living under the same roof, they are already in deficit. It’s up to me to help them not be cut short, so any time I spend away from them puts them further behind.’”
Dr. Townsend offers these five telltale signs that single moms can use as a litmus test to determine their areas of balance and imbalance in regards to their children:
#1: Your child is not moving toward age-appropriate independence.
Independence comes gradually, and over time. As children receive and take in the love and structure they need from their mothers and begin to grow, they should be more able to spend time away from her with other healthy people and peers.
“If a single mom is too focused on her child, it could regress her kid. He, or she, may be clingy or needy in ways that aren’t developmentally on track,” says Dr. Townsend.
#2: A single mother uses her children as a source of support, and as confidants.
Kids are to be supported by parents, not be a support for them. If her kids are the ones a single mom goes to, in order to find a connection, relationship and empathy, it’s a sign she needs other adults to help her.
#3: She isn’t modeling a healthy, balanced life for her kids.
Kids need to see what a healthy mom looks like. An exhausted mom with no friends or fulfilling activities won¹t help her children realize the need for this in their own lives, and strive for it.
#4: She has a hard time feeling loving and nurturing toward her kids.
In such a case, a single mom may even find that she feels somewhat resentful, or simply drained by the demands of her kids.
#5: The balanced, mature friends in her life have pointed out that she is too enmeshed in her children’s lives.
According to Dr. Townsend, a good way for single moms to start healthfully putting some space between themselves and their children is to get an objective person’s perspective on their family situation.
“Talk to someone you trust, who knows kids well and has lots of experience and expertise: a child therapist, a counselor, a teacher, or even a friend who has a good track record of parenting,” says Dr. Townsend. “Ask them to evaluate how your kids are doing, and if you are becoming far too enmeshed in the lives. Guilt often makes single moms feel that they have no margin whatsoever for a life, but a caring and healthy coach with experience can bring you a more balanced view.”
Dr. Townsend also believes it is essential for both the parent and child to ensure that each has his or her own interests, tasks, hobbies and activities to help them develop their individual talents and abilities. If your kids are on track and display attributes of confidence and responsibility, and are emotionally available to you, feel free to spend more time away to dream and rediscover your passions.
Bottom line: When you get hit by a guilt attack, friends will help you stay sane, so ask a few people around you to talk to you and reassure you! An empty om doesn’t have a lot to offer. Children who have single moms, who are fulfilled and growing, who have healthy relationships and who spend quantity and quality time with their kids, have the best of both worlds.
Dr. John Townsend,www.drjohntownsend.com, is a psychologist, author, co-host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! daily radio program and co-founder of the Cloud-Townsend Clinic in Southern California.
Other Single Minded Women Articles You Might Enjoy: