Category Archives: Single Parenting

Single-parenting eBook – Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows

“It was two lifetimes ago when I left my husband, the father of my children.
The next lifetime was spent recovering from the aftermath. But it wasn’t until after that first year – when I woke up into my third lifetime – when I realized I could actually survive being a single mother.”

And so begins the book of stories from our single-parent family, “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows”.

Buy it on Amazon: amzn.to/13imM4s

The book chronicles the beginnings of our adventure – telling tales of moody tween days, healing childhood heartaches, single parent dating, and of course, watching as my child hits a golf ball with impressive accuracy at his grandparents’ dual paned window.

The stories were adapted from the tales I told in this blog. Because of the contract I agreed to with Amazon, you will no longer find those stories here in this blog. But the cost of this eBook is being kept super low so that it’s easy to buy.

And if you wait until Monday, July 29th to buy, you can actually download it for FREE.

It’s my way of saying Thank You for all your love and support in our many transitions in this single mom adventure.

For more on this book, visit my author page at crissilangwell.com.

One more thing, if you download and read the book, be sure to let me know what you think of it in the Amazon reviews. Thank you!

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The fine art of being selfish (excerpt)

I’m currently in the process of taking old posts of mine and putting them together in a book.  Right now I’m working on posts I wrote in 2009 – the days when I was a single mom with two kids and had just met my Mr. Wonderful.  Today I edited one of my favorite inspirational posts, one with advice I have given many times over to lots of moms – whether single or not.

How to regain your sense of self instead of placing your whole identity in your kids.

(P.S. I just wrote an article for the newspaper on a mom, on a journey through fashion, who emphasized this truth as well.  Check it out HERE)

Look for this chapter in my upcoming book on single parenting!

THE FINE ART OF BEING SELFISH (excerpt)

When kids are young, we as moms become totally immersed in motherhood. Suddenly everything is about the kids. It’s our tendency to go from being totally involved in ourselves, our work, our marriage, and our friendships – to being involved solely in our kids. Upon the arrival of these little beings, our whole world suddenly revolves around them.

It’s hard to break away from that.

I was no exception. For most of my married life, I was a stay at home mom. I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool. I carted the kids every single place I needed to go. I gave up going out at night in favor of staying with the kids. I sacrificed my personal interests and dreams one by one as interests and dreams wrapping around them took their place.

I was a mom. That was my name, my identity, and my world.

Most days the kids were the only beings on earth that heard my voice. I’m not saying that this is how it is supposed to be in motherhood, or even that most moms suddenly mutate into this being that resembles more gray than any other color. But that’s what happened to me.

For me, it took a divorce to shake me out of the clutches of “hermitting” into motherhood. It was jarring when my kids spent their first weekend away from me with their dad. I knew that I was aching to have a break, to not have anyone to worry about other than myself. But once that happened, I had no idea what to do with myself. How did I survive before the kids came along? What did I do with myself and my time? Suddenly there were too many hours in the day, and the world was much too quiet. I knew I needed to do something with this gifted time, but what? I didn’t have a lot of friends, having let a lot of friendships go to the wayside as my focus changed. And I really hadn’t done much else but kids’ activities in the past several years.

I needed a plan.

End of excerpt. Read the rest in the eBook “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“.

 

Kid-free week

Right now my kids are a couple days into their visit with their dad. He doesn’t live close by, so their visits are mostly dedicated to longer weekends or vacation times. This means they don’t get to see him very much. Luckily, social alternatives like cell phones and Facebook have allowed for a constant communication between them. The other result of such few and far between visits is that I get pretty used to them being around. So when they aren’t, the house is pretty empty.

This time around, it’s a little different. It used to feel ultra lonely when they’d leave for their dad’s house and I was stuck in an empty apartment. There is only so much cleaning and straightening that can be done. And the quiet that was once so coveted starts to feel louder than the noise. Even taking advantage of being kid-free by going out still meant I was coming home to an empty house. This time, however, I’m not alone – Mr. W and his son are still around while my kids visit the other half of their life. But even with the added company, it’s hard to know what to do with myself when my whole identity is wrapped up in being a mother.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have definitely taken advantage of the reprieve from parenthood so far. I’m not even going to pretend that I’ve been moping around the house, because I haven’t. Even though my kids are older and don’t require a ton of assistance in whatever they are up to, I’ve found a ton more time on my hands to do things like read a book, relax in the sun, and even enjoyed a visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s pool in Geyserville (seriously a must for all you families!) without having to keep an eye on the kids to ensure they weren’t drowning or bugging anyone around them. A delicious Mai Tai even made it to my hand, thus enhancing my relaxed state. 🙂 

Before the kids left I made it a point to spend an even better amount of quality time with them. The night before their departure, I dyed their hair the awful red color they had been begging me to ruin their do’s with (see photo). Actually, I kind of like it – if I can just perfect the application process. The day they were to leave I did every single bit of their laundry, including all the towels that had been dyed red. I had been up all night with stomach yuckiness – no doubt a result of nerves over my kids being gone for so long – and I hung out on the couch with my daughter as we folded laundry and watched chick flicks. And before we made the long drive to their grandfather (who would transport them the rest of the way), I bought us all smoothies at Juice Shack, which we happily slurped the whole way there.

Since they left, the kids haven’t called me once. And I haven’t expected them to. In fact, it’s a good sign they haven’t because it means they are having a good time. Their dad, on the other hand, has been wonderfully keeping me informed of what they are up to. He called me the day they arrived with their grandfather to let me know they were there safe, and to go over the details of Taz’ diet and videogame restrictions, and other such instructions my little mini-mom DQ gave him just to be on the same page. He called on Father’s Day to fill me in on the events of the day and what he had planned for the kids. And he even admitted today that the Taz stayed up all last night (and has been sleeping all day) when the Ex forgot to snag the video game controllers before they went to bed, sending me a photo of the little gamer.

It’s a huge difference from the tumultuous way we used to interact with each other in the first few years of our divorce.

There are a few more days left before the kids come back. It’s funny, when the kids are here I can think of a million things I’d love to do that require kid-free time – most ending up in some sort of beachy scenery with a tropical drink and next to no clothing. However, with the kids gone, I find that my time is pretty much the same as when they’re here – just quieter. I do miss the kids, and can’t wait to see them again. But at the same time I would hate to let this rare opportunity pass me by without taking advantage of the situation a little – thus missing it once it’s gone.

If you could snag a good amount of kid-free time, what would you be doing with it?

Letting go of the reins

The first few weeks of summer vacation are admittedly hard in our family. It’s not because the school year is finished. Quite the contrary, actually. I welcome three whole months (or at least 2 of those months before the kids kill each other in boredom) free from projects, homework, bagged lunches, the daily scramble to find kid clothes that are both clean and rip-free… But at the same time, the change from a school schedule to lack of a structured schedule always throws me for a loop. And when we still have things going on (baseball, dentist appointments, and more), it’s a bit of a learning curve as we get settled into the new way of doing things.

Making things a little more complicated is the fact that we moved out of town, and much of our life (and my job) still exists in Santa Rosa. This week alone I have 4 days of baseball games and practices where I have to juggle running back and forth between towns to get everyone where they need to be. Today is one of those baseball days, and is also a day when I have to be two places at once. When situations like this arise, I have no choice but to ask for help. On this day, my saviors would be my wonderful mom and dad who have graciously offered (read: accepted only after I begged and pleaded repeatedly) to take the Taz for two days and help me out in my predicament.

Let me explain a little something for those of you just tuning in to this blog. When it comes to my kids and their schedule, I am a little OCD.  I have their whole schedule in a calendar on my phone, and check it repeatedly to ensure that I’m not missing anything. I orchestrate every single day so that I know to the minute when I should leave Point A to get to Point B, lists of everything vital that must be taken care of, and which route I need to take if I have multiple stops. And I let this schedule roll around in my brain all day long in an exhausting way of guaranteeing nothing goes wrong. I own the schedule. The schedule is my…baby.

And letting anyone in on the schedule, i.e. helping me out, is very difficult for me.

I hate asking for help. In these past years as a single mom with 98% custody of the kids, I have definitely learned that help is necessary in parenting. But that doesn’t make letting go of the reins any easier. Even worse is when I have to ask for help and it involves a scheduling situation. It’s one thing to ask my parents to watch the kids while they hang out at the house. It’s an entirely different ballpark to ask them to watch the kids, get the Taz to baseball by 5pm, and make sure he has the snacks we bought for the team that must be passed out at the end of the game.

I kid you not, I almost had a panic attack as I dropped the Taz off.

The ridiculous part is that my parents have done this before. My sisters and I were so loaded up with activities that sometimes it seemed my mom’s head was spinning. We had 4-H, ice skating, cheerleading, track, social events, community service, and a need to be at all of them at the same time. At the time, we loudly wondered why my mom was complaining about taking us places when she didn’t even have a job. Later on, I bit my tongue over and over when I had my own stint as a stay-at-home mom and realized it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world.

At any rate, my parents are more than capable of getting the Taz to his game. And I reminded myself of this as I wished my dad luck, giving him a few more instructions about that evening’s game. He insisted they’d be fine, with a chuckle. And I left before I could find another tidbit of advice to give on how to raise a kid – only to turn right back around and race in the house. The Taz was right where I left him, watching TV as I chatted about all his needs and scheduling requirements…where I left him without even saying goodbye even though I wouldn’t see him for two whole days.

Hey, just because I’m all whacko over the schedule doesn’t make me most attentive mom of the year….

The kids leave for their dad’s house next week for 10 whole days and I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself. Think I’m crazy now? You haven’t seen anything yet.

P.S.  Hey all you dads!  Don’t miss out on showing off your genetic good looks.  Enter the Father-Son Look-alike contest and you could win a $300 photo shoot!

Goodbye single mom home.

So Mr. W and I are planning on shacking up in the next couple of weeks.  We’ve been working out the details for several months now.  Mapped out are how the kids will be going to school, how the finances will be split up, who gets to park where in the driveway, and calendars coordinated to include a merged family’s daily schedule.   Each kid has their own room, and they’ve selected colors to paint the walls and make their space more personal (DQ has a lovely shade of brown, the Taz chose a wild shade of bright golden yellow after I put my foot down over “Startling Orange”.  Trust me, it was definitely startling). And Mr. W’s son gets a brand new room that we’ve had built just for him.

Every day I’ve been setting time aside to go through the corners of each room, separating my items into ones I want to keep and ones I want to give away.  It’s not a fast process, placing my hands on things I haven’t seen for years, bringing memories of the past several years flooding back in.  There’s my diary that I kept from the very beginning, chronicling every triumph and mistake I’ve made in my dating life after divorce (oh, the juicy shame in that little book!).  There’s the box of art that contains a Mother’s Day card that turned into an “I’m Sorry” card when the kids spent the morning fighting while I waited for their promised breakfast in bed.  There are the clothes I no longer fit into when I took a stand and decided to lose the weight I’d put on and take pride in my appearance.  There are the blue flowered plates I coveted so long that now sit in my cupboard.  And there are cabinets upon cabinets of kitchen supplies I’ve collected over the years when all I started out with was a drawer full of borrowed silverware, $2 ugly dishes, a few dented baking sheets, and a pan I used for everything.  All of it is now to be divided up, bit by bit.  And while it’s freeing to be rid of some of the clutter and exciting to be moving into a new life, it’s a little melancholy as well.  For in those boxes, I’ve divided different compartments of me – deciding what of myself I’m keeping and what I’ll be saying goodbye to.

I moved in here a scared single mom.  I had never lived on my own, and frankly, I had doubts about what I was capable of.  Could I afford to feed my kids and pay my bills all at the same time?  Would the landlord kick me out once she realized I was just a silly girl playing make-believe house?    Would my mom say “I told you so” when it proved to be too hard and I needed to move back home?  All we had in the house was a kitchen table and our beds.  But it was after a few friends made the house a home by furnishing the rest with donated items that I realized it.  This was home.  And I was determined to succeed.  I became a wizard with my money, making it work each month even when I wasn’t exactly sure how it happened.  I watched every penny, and my landlord never had to worry about when my rent was going to come to her.  I went from a stay-at-home housewife to a full time worker, to where I finally am now in the desk I’ve always wanted to sit in.  We graduated from a timid family just barely scraping by to a seasoned one that knew the ins and outs of being a one parent household…and having that be no big thing. 

Frankly, we made it. 

I think I needed to prove this to myself more than anything, that I really was capable of anything even when I wasn’t coupled in a marriage.  I created my own white picket fence reality.  It may not have been perfect to everyone, but dammit, it was mine.  Being a single mom didn’t diminish who I was, it made me more.  And I take pride in that as I leave my single mom house behind and join into one of a partnership with Mr. W.  Yes, I’m saying goodbye to my complete independence, my very own bed, bills and schedules that are dealt with in my own way, and dinners on my own terms.  But in exchange, I’m gaining space I’ll share with my best friend, another son, a partner in parenting three fantastic kids, waking up to the man I love every morning, someone to help me clean and cook, help with the bills…  I’m gaining a co-conspirator in life.  And knowing that I could do it all on my own, that I did, what I’m gaining now means that much more.

Low-Income Soccer Snacks

I wrote this back in 2007. At that time I was making about $1200 a month. There was no child support. There was no second income. There was just me, supporting two kids all by myself. Could you even imagine making $1200 a month, paying rent, paying utilities and gas, paying daycare costs, and still having enough left over to feed your family? And that is still more than some low-income households are bringing in. I did not receive Cash Aid – I made too much money for that. But I did receive Food Aid from the state, something I was grateful for since we wouldn’t have been able to eat without it.

Thankfully, things are much different for my family now. I no longer have to rely on any kind of aid to make ends meet. But the experience has placed a soft spot in my heart for struggling single mothers and hard-working low-income families. Poor isn’t generally a choice. But for many, especially in this economy, it’s a reality. And I’m including this post due to some flack I’ve received at my blog and read in various different places on the web regarding those who are using aid, and about the recent cuts being proposed for the state and national budget – how we should cut all these programs and force the poor to fend for themselves. A percentage of the population seems to have a vendetta against the poor. But there are real faces behind these statistics. And trust me, many of those holding that yellow Electronic Benefits Card would rather not be.

Soccer Snacks
October 14th, 2007 by Wine Country Mom

I hate the way he is looking at me. Just moments ago he was chatting easily with me. I’ve just gotten off work. My hair is loose, slightly wavy from the rain that is drizzling outside. I am wearing black slacks and a crocheted sweater. My make-up is still neatly applied, according to when I last checked. And I am spending the few moments I have before picking up my son from daycare and my daughter from her grandparents to buy the soccer snacks for his soccer team for a game that may or may not happen due to this sporadic rain. On the grocery belt are bottles of Gatorade, packages of Wheat Thins, and two packages of Halloween cookies with orange and purple frosting to help celebrate the upcoming holiday and the fact that this is their last game of the season. The cashier had been laughing with me, the soccer mom in the heart of the wine country, guessing what the snacks were for, and hoping right alongside me that the rain would cease soon so these snacks wouldn’t be bought in vain. His smile was genuine and kind, and he told me the total. $40. For soccer snacks. And I smiled without flinching as if $40 was a normal amount to spend on snacks for a bunch of kids that would ignore everything but the cookies. And I swiped my yellow card and punched in my pin. And when he looked at the screen to see how to process his payment, his smile wavered and left his eyes completely, and I could see he wasn’t expecting this. The smile nearly disappeared completely when he asked if I was using cash aid or food stamps. And I held my head high though I was mortified, and told him, “Food stamps, please.” He punched a few buttons, processed the payment, then handed me my receipt, thanking me by my name which he mispronounced anyway. I refused the help he offered and picked up my bags of soccer snacks and left the store.

I knew what he was thinking. I knew he couldn’t believe I was spending food stamps on soccer snacks. Believe me, I could think of so many better ways to spend those precious food stamps. Milk. Eggs. Bread. Cereal. Not Gatorade and cookies and little packages of Wheat Thins. It killed me to spend that much of my family’s food money for the month on an entire soccer team. And how would the team feel if they knew that the food their kids would be eating was bought with state money? Would they treat it as if the food were tainted, as if I were poisoning their kids with poor people food?

The thing that the cashier didn’t understand is poor people have their kids in soccer too. And they have the responsibility of being snack mom too. And sometimes being snack mom is an extreme hardship. You have the choice of totally embarrassing yourself among a bunch of well off stay-at-home wine country mothers who are married to successful business men by telling them you cannot afford bringing snacks for a bunch of hungry boys who end up throwing the grapes you bring at each other rather than eating them, or you can buck up and just buy the stupid snacks and smile as they complain about being tired of chilled orange slices. Again. The thing that the cashier didn’t understand is that I didn’t want food stamps, that it was embarrassing to pull that yellow card out even when I tried to do so with a slight of hand so nobody would see. But the only way I could pay rent and the bills was to work. And the only way I could work was to pay for my son to go to daycare. And the only way I could pay for my son to go to daycare on a single income was to have my food paid for by the state.

Just to make it sting a little more, the games ended up being cancelled for the weekend. Saturday came in with the sunshine, a promising glorious day. In fact, it was warmer than it had been for this month of October. But the fields were soggy from rain, and wine country children do not play soccer in the mud. I had spent $40 of my monthly food income on food I would never buy for the household on a game that never happened and would not be made up.

So I did what any single mother would do in this situation.

The kids and I sat around the table playing poker, sipping Gatorade, and ate orange and purple cookies until our tummies ached. And I think our neighbors could hear our laughter as my hand of 4 Kings beat my son’s Full House in the last play of the night. Because single mothers in the wine country don’t let their children win. They teach them to earn those chips that they win, and to lose with a smile.

I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

Single Mom in Control

I need to get up.

This was my primary thought as I lay in bed in the fetal position this past Valentine’s Day, sick to my stomach over a very rich Love Day lunch that my stomach was rejecting in the most painful way possible. I had 30 minutes to pull myself together and pick my son up from school, and I could barely even open my eyes because it hurt so badly. I was dying….or at least it felt like it. But if I didn’t get up and drive myself to my son’s school, he would be left abandoned on the side of the playground, wondering where his mom was while all the other kids disappeared with their parents one by one.

It’s funny how simple thoughts can become full blown panic attacks when you are sick. I had delusional worries rotating through my mind on a rolodex* of stresses I’ve been placing on the backburner to deal with on a different day.

What am I doing, being a single mom? Am I fooling myself into believing I can actually hold down a job, get my kids to school, pay the rent and bills, feed my family, and not have it all blow up and fail as a parent on my own? What happens if I do lose my job? Who will the kids rely on? And what if I were to get sicker than this? How would the kids get to school, eat dinner, and have clean clothes to wear? Could they manage without me? Do I want them to manage without me? And what about when we move in with Mr. W in a few months? Is it ok to expect him to pick up the slack if I’m under the weather? Am I even ready for this next step of living with another human being, relying on him while he relies on me? I’ve spent so long relying on myself, doing for myself, making it all happen on my own step by step….

Was I ready to let go a little and allow someone to walk beside me in this thing called life, to give my kids someone else to rely on if I was under the weather or incapable of fulfilling whatever needed to be done?

*side note: I actually forgot the word for “rolodex” while writing this, and had to ask around about what that thing was that people used to use to record their phone numbers and addresses. I almost got a dictionary** thrown at me by someone who still had a rolodex on their desk.
**dictionary: a large book with words that people used before Google and Dictionary.com

When my sister was visiting from San Diego, she asked if she could pick the kids up from school so she could spend more time with them. As I mapped out the directions of the exact place she needed to be so that the Taz could find her, where to park so that DQ could locate her, and gave her detailed instructions on the best way to drive to get there, my stomach tied all up in knots. As I write this, my stomach is tying up in knots. I am a control freak when it comes to my kids, and it seriously gives me panic attacks to let someone else take over for me when I have perfected their schedule to the tiniest detail. To let someone else do it for me is putting a wrinkle in the system. They might not do it right. They might even get lost. My kids will get that feeling of hopelessness when they aren’t picked up on time, believing they’ve been forgotten. I almost scrapped the whole thing and just told my sister to meet me at a mutual spot after I’d picked up the kids for her.

“This is ridiculous,” my sister told me, refusing my offer and insisting she would be fine. And she was. She picked up each kid and then texted their anal mom to let me know they were safe and sound in her car.

And on Valentine’s Day, as I lay hunched over in bed, I forced myself to dial my father’s phone number to pick my son up from school, knowing full well that I needed help – and there was no other choice but to ask for it. My son was home 30 minutes later, and I lay in bed with a few more delusional stresses before I magically woke up out of it and was alive once again.

If something were to happen to me, I have people around to help. My family, my friends….and Mr. W. In fact, one of the things that drew me to him most was how capable he was in life. If he can handle the daily stresses of daily life as a single father and all that goes with it while also juggling the very same things I’m juggling in my own life, I’m pretty certain he can handle dropping my kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon if I happen to be too sick to do it on my own.

I just need to learn to give up control and ask for help when I need it.