Finding the Positive in Being a Single Mom
By Melissa Chapman
“You can let life live you, or you can live your life,” says Dr. Jennifer Guttman, a psychotherapist in private practice in Connecticut specializing in cognitive behavioral strategies and the challenges faced by fractured families. “What I tell my patients is that everything in life is a choice; you can make anything in your life happen as long as you make the choice to do so.” There is nothing wrong with being a single mom by choice.
Whether they are aware of it or not, by choosing to leave a relationship that was not working for them most single Moms are one step ahead of the curve. In that respect, they’ve made the conscious choice to live their lives on their own terms. Therefore they need to channel that sense of strength and self-reliance into other aspects of their lives particularly if they’re mired in negative thinking.
“Guilt is an unproductive emotion; there is nothing to gain from feeling guilty about the life you’re giving your kids,” says Dr. Guttman. “All guilt will do is render you useless and in some ways it can often be an excuse for malaise.”
Unfortunately women still believe, in the dark recesses of their minds, that they’re going to be taken care of by Daddy and then by their husband. When they get a divorce they need to reframe their way of thinking and realize that there is nothing that precludes them from being able to take care of themselves. They need to find the positives of parenting solo; like the fact that it affords them the opportunity to be the master of their own happiness which can ultimately be far more satisfying than feeling dependent on another person to fulfill their needs.
When guilt tries to rear its ugly head—which it will often do- you can remind yourself that your decision to get divorced, makes you a pretty darn good role model for your kids.
“If you’re feeling guilt y that can’t give your kids a two parent family you need to turn that guilt on it heels, “ says Dr. Guttman. “Remind yourself that you got divorced for a reason, and that living in an unhappy marriage, was not the type of family you wanted for your kids. So in reality, you haven’t deprived your kids of anything.”
According to Dr. Guttman, being a single Mom, you’re showing your kids that you acted in a responsible way, took charge of a situation and made a difficult decision. In modeling this type of behavior for your kids, you’re teaching them about resilience. You need to remember; your job as a Mother and role model is not to make your kids life painless. In fact kids need to learn that they too can face a challenge and master it. There’s an enormous power in kids learning how to master their discomfort and it is a tool they can use for the rest of their lives.
As a cognitive behaviorist Dr. Guttman recommends these concrete ways for women, to conquer the guilty feelings.Try this thought stopping technique; put a rubber band on your wrist and every time you begin to feel guilty, snap the rubber band (not too hard just enough to remind yourself that it is not productive thought). Then tell yourself to cut it out and immediately replace the thought with a distracting, peaceful thought. And each time your mind drifts back to guilt, snap that rubber band again and repeat the process. If you continue to do this the mal-adaptive guilty thoughts will come less often.
“By regularly exposing yourself to your negative thoughts will help desensitize you to those fears,” says Dr. Guttman. “That’s an important message you’re sending to your brain. And you’re also proving to yourself that you are in charge of your life, you’re powerful and you can master anything, even things you thought you couldn’t.”
Dr. Jennifer Guttman can be reached at: (203) 227-4572
For more great guilt busters and ways to find the positives in parenting solo check out the SMW blog at: http://blogs.singlemindedwomen.com/
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