How do you cope with the challenges of raising two boys as a single parent after your divorce? By getting a dog, of course! And while you’re at it (with all that extra time on your hands) by detailing your calamitous new life in a graphic novel.

That’s what Thorina Rose did in her recent book, Heartbreak Diet: A Story of Family, Fidelity, and Starting Over (Chronicle Books, Jan 2012)


Three years ago, at the cosmic height of my marriage’s end, I started highlighting my hair, wearing skinny jeans, and painting my nails black.

“What, you think you’re Ke$ha all of a sudden?” my ex asked while he watched me zip up my high-heel hooker boots – the ones with the gun metal grey studs on the sides.

I pretended to be indignant. But as visions of brushing my teeth with a bottle of Jack flitted through my mind, I was actually thrilled.

It actually sounded good to me: A little dangerous, a little chaotic… why not? (Never mind that you won’t catch me dead in a halter top) There is part of me that wants to wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy and fight until she sees the sunlight.

(Oh oh oh oh! Oh oh oh oh!)

Look, I’ll break it down for you: I got old before my time. I used to be the girl who careened barefoot down the road less traveled, stopping only to bury her face in the lavendar growing wild by the side of the road. I used to be the girl who wanted to touch and taste everything, who wanted to live life out loud — stereo, with the bass cranked up — and unafraid.

“Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving,” I used to say after I saw the movie Auntie Mame at a late screening at the Nuart. And once upon a time, I lived by that rule. Within reason, of course: I went to class, I wrote an honors thesis, I worked. But I also liked skydiving. And walking barefoot on the beach in the middle of January.

But bit by bit, life ate away at that part of me.

My mom died, and the world felt a lot less safe.

Life became a series of “what ifs,” and instead of savoring the good times and breathing through the challenges, I could only think about what could possibly go wrong next. And then one morning it dawned on me: this was no way to live. So I put on mascara, grabbed the black nail polish, and said, “Fuck it. I will not live like this anymore.”

I get one shot at life. One. Shot. And my kids only get one shot. And a life spent measuring out each moment in teaspoons just to get to the next step is not a life worth living. Sure, while kids — and grownups — need boundaries, fear is the ultimate straitjacket. And even though right now life is a big scary “what if,” even though there are moments when I want to scream with rage and frustration because I feel so damn powerless worrying about child support and sick days and being in three places at the same time, I’m living out loud.


Actually, it’s easier to do that in Israel — where I’m living now —  than it was in LA — maybe it’s the fact that I’m still new here and there are so many empty spaces in my life that I need to saturate. Or maybe it’s the fact that I up and moved to a new country a a little over 4 years ago, and shed the comfortable trappings of my old life driving a mile away to Coffee Bean and watching Friends reruns for a big unknown. Or maybe it’s the fact that this country (basically) has it’s priorities straight: Life is scary. And sometimes, way too short. And living in the moment — really living, not paying lip service to the concept — is essential if you’re going to survive here.

Have another drink.

Blow off work once in a while and go to the beach.

Talk to a stranger on the bus and find out that your great grandparents came from the same village in the Ukraine a million years ago.

Stay out another hour and watch the dawn because there may not be one tomorrow.

And I am teaching my kids these lessons, because this former helicopter mama would rather go skydiving than hover over her kids waiting for the next accident. Sure, our days are not without our moments vegging in front of the TV. But most of the time, I encourage them to do all the things I was afraid to do for the last several years: to touch and taste and smell and listen to the world around them, to be in the moment with perfect trust in themselves.

Within limits. When the sun shines, we roll down hills and get covered in grass stains and mud.

We dig our fingers deep into the earth and look for worms. We stop and smell the jasmine blooming all over the village where we live. They pet dogs and look for snails. On rainy days, we bake chocolate cake and crank up the stereo and dance like sea-monkeys on speed. Yeah, it’s gangsta rap and ’90s grunge and not something more “child appropriate,” but hey, my kids are learning rhythm. And when they are exposed to this music later on – and believe you me, they will be – it won’t be something forbidden and taboo. “Oh, Tupac? Yeah, my mom and I used to dance to him when I was 3.”

We eat dinner together at the kitchen table, and if they finish all their veggies, they paint their faces with chocolate frosting. They wobble on their bikes. They fall and scrape their legs. When they cry, they know that I – or someone they love and trust – is close by to scoop them up and give them a hug and a kiss

And before bed every night, they brush their teeth. With toothpaste. Not Jack.

And even though we aren’t a conventional family any more –even though this is never in a million years what I imagined my life would be like – we’re rocking the life we have.


Photo by  Steven Van Loy on Unsplash

Earlier this year, I got to enjoy one of those great moments parents have – the first day my daughter was able to ride a bike on her own. Yes, we took the training wheels off. And we both learned something in the process. After a relentlessly cold and gray winter, we had a beautiful day (finally), so the evening presented us an opportunity to break out the bikes. I wasn’t sure my 6-year-old, Lulu, would be ready to try without the training wheels, especially since her chances to ride have been few and far between over her brief life, but I had a hunch. And she did it. We experienced all of the usual stuff: the holding on, the fear, the negotiating, the letting go, the trust (both ways), the laughter. And the beautiful moment when I got to let her go on her own and watch.

Coparenting kismet: A chance to share our child’s milestone

There were a couple of surprises, though. As luck would have it, my ex got to see the moment, because it came at exchange time. That was nice. She also was able to catch the moment on video with her phone. Great again. But there was a twist in that as this was going on, my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, 10, was, as she usually is of late, buried in her iPad, and not showing much interest in what was going on. We all kept urging her to watch but she did it only in spurts. Two-second spurts. Quick glances up from Minecraft. So in the definitive video of Lulu leaving my hold, taking off on her own, and biking up the driveway, you can hear me say, or maybe shout, “Elizabeth!”

A great moment, missed: Is my parenting to blame?

I didn’t think much of it the time but when I watched the video I realized all of the colors and tone in my voice when I said that one word. It was part excitement,  and part attention-grabbing: “Look up! This is it – finally.” But it was also part admonishment: “Come on, you’re missing it. Pay attention.”  Part joy and part disappointment. And later I was disappointed with myself. Was there too much anger and frustration in my tone? Why? Am I a bad parent? How have I let it come to this that my daughter is so addicted to her iPad that she can’t focus on a wonderful moment like this? What other parent/child/sibling dynamics are going on here? Such is life and such is parenting. It remains the most challenging, beautiful, frustrating and special thing I do. So I want to know, when will I be able to take the training wheels off?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimball Crossley is a professional baseball scout, a high school basketball coach, and a father to two young girls. He also the author of a children’s picture book, When I Am With Dad, which has a shared-custody theme. When I Am With Dad will be published Spring 2016. (Available for preorder now, let’s support a positive single-dad story! More preorders=more promotion by bookstores.) From the publisher: “Elizabeth is a girl who likes things just so. When she spends the day with Dad, sometimes things are a little bit different. She and her little sister, Lulu, take us through a day with Dad; and while everything may not be to Elizabeth’s taste, it’s about being with the person who loves you more than anything in the world. Learning to accept each other’s differences is all part of being in a family!”

A version of this post appeared previously on Kimball’s blog, When I Am With Dad. 

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Photo by  Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

You know your kids have a sweet tooth. But could you be overindulging it without realizing, just because you’re single?

Most parents have a standard list of kid concerns: grades, friends, growth curves, along with who the hell are Zach and Cody? Single parents have pretty much the same list, but it does occasionally get torqued up by The Situation: Does not being in a traditional nuclear family have any long-term downside? And what can you do about it?

You might as well surrender to the Disney Channel now, but you should consider keeping an eye on sweetened beverages. A new study from San Francisco State University finds that kids from  recently separated or divorced families are more likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages than kids in families where the parents are married.  And this raises their risk for obesity and heart disease as they grow older (not to mention tooth decay!).

The connection between family breakups and obesity

The link between divorce and obesity isn’t a new one. For a couple of decades now, scientists have noticed that, after controlling for socioeconomic and physical activity, the children of divorce are more likely to have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) and thus more likely to be obese as adults.

Does overweight necessarily mean unhealthy? That can be a gray area: There is tension between body image and our understanding of how BMI influences health. But with 1 million kids experiencing divorce every year, and 34 percent of U.S. 6- to 11-year-olds considered overweight, instead of obsessing over a scale you might just take a look at what you’re serving for dinner – and how often your family’s eating meals together.

Divorce shouldn’t mean the end of the family dinner

E. Mavis Heatherington, the ground-breaking author of For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, was the one of the first academics to make a career of studying single parents. While she is best known for noting the resilience of most children who experience divorce, she also observed a decline in family mealtimes.

Jeff Cookston, professor and chair of psychology at SF State, wanted to take a closer look at how this decline in eating meals together might affect dietary habits in separated or recently divorced families. His team looked at four behaviors closely tied to BMI in adults: produce consumption, how often you eat meals out, whether you eat breakfast at all, and the consumption of sugary beverages.

Do you use sugar as a post-separation stress-reliever?

While divorcing families tended to eat less produce, the real difference was in the juice. Kids in intact families drank a sugary beverage one out of every three days, while those in the study drank 1.3 sugary beverages a day. Four times as much!

“That was a pretty big difference,” says Cookston. And it was easy to understand: Amid the stress of divorce, the sugar buzz is an easy fix. The brain experiences pleasure, the meal goes a little more smoothly. Often enough, the parent doesn’t even notice the beverage choice.

Connecting with your kids may cut their sugar intake

One encouraging finding in Cookston’s study was that difference in sugar consumption between children of divorce and children whose parents were still married goes away when you account for family routines—activities that connect parents and children. In other words, the more engaged single parents were with their kids, the less sugary drinks those kids consumed.

The study was meant to be preliminary, but the findings were strong enough to encourage Cookston to proceed directly to devising an intervention. And while that work is not yet finished, he’s still free to advocate for the shared mealtime as a healthy family foundation.

Turn the chore of meal-making into a whole-family ritual

As a single parent, you may not have extra time to spend bonding, when you’re busy doing all the other things your kids need. But including your kids in meal prep and eating together can be a big part of the solution. “All of these bits and pieces of family life can get wrapped up into mealtime,” he says. Planning meals, shopping, preparing, eating, and cleaning – together – is a tremendous opportunity to teach about nutrition and to solidify family routines.

Your presence is the best stress-reliever of all

That means being present with your kids, physically and emotionally, but also being “present” in the mindfulness sense – living in the moment. “When you are cooking you are very much in the moment,” Cookston says. “You don’t want to cut your finger, you want to make sure you browned everything right. That’s family time together, and it’s very present. We don’t have to think about the fact that mom’s not here with us. We don’t have to think about a number of things that might be distracting and stressful for families.”

“And quite frankly, cooking is a life skill children need,” Cookston adds. “It’s much easier for me to just make dinner for my family than to enlist the kids’ involvement and engagement, but the kids don’t learn the life skills in that way, and ultimately I can’t delegate that work to them later.”

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Photo by  Kishore Ragav Ganesh Kumar on Unsplash

There has been a ton of debate around “who has it worse” in the mommy wars battle between single moms and married moms who feel like single moms because their spouses are often not around.

I’ve been in both situations and my vote, if I have one, goes to the bona-fide single mom. Here’s why:

When I was single, I wished and hoped I would someday meet a nice boy, fall in love, and we would have beautiful children. When I was single, I did everything by myself and since that’s all I’d ever known, there was no comparison. I worked, dated, paid my bills, did my own cleaning and waited. Then…

I became a Navy wife and felt like a single mom

I got married. It was fun to have a partner to do things with, someone to discuss problems, come up with solutions, share the responsibilities and the perks … when he was home. My first husband was in the Navy, stationed on board ships that were gone as long as six months at a time. Enter a baby …

Ten days after our daughter was born, the baby daddy went to sea on a six-month deployment. I was an official “married single mom.” This was in ancient times when I’d receive a letter a week (that’s right, folks, snail mail), sent two or more weeks earlier.  Sending an email meant waiting two full days for a response, and phone calls were incredibly few and far between because it cost $4 a minute. We were stationed in Hawaii, far away from family, which meant I was going it alone … but I had the benefit of those emails, letters and calls, not to mention that twice-monthly deposit of his paycheck. Just knowing “daddy was out there” and he wanted to be home was mental peace of mind. But….

Then I became a divorced mom, doing it all alone

I moved to another state with my daughter, with no friends or family to speak of. I had upgraded to “single mom” with no support in sight. Was there a difference? You bet. Not having another adult living in the house meant all chores and responsibilities were 100 percent mine. There were some fantastic aspects to that, and I’ll be writing about that in a future post. But for now, suffice it to say in the “married single mom” vs. “single mom” conversation, single moms have it tougher. They just do. Not having a spouse, significant other, supportive baby daddy and his love, support and income makes a huge difference.I spent six and a half years fully 100% a single mom.

Then I became a married mom with a helpmate husband

I’ve been with my current husband for 7 years. He doesn’t have to travel much. I’m a grateful married mom, with support and love and extra hands most of the time. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars.

Bottom line: Not having help is difficult, period

It’s hard to say that married single moms don’t feel as isolated, alone, overwhelmed, and frustrated as bona-fide single moms. It’s like asking two people, each who have broken their leg, who has more pain. They will both say, “Me.” It’s all relative … someone’s personal experience is their personal experience, and when you’re having a tough time, it doesn’t matter that someone else could be having a tougher time. The tough time you’re having is the tough time you’re having, thank you very much.

I can say it’s different and harder to be a “real” single mom, because I’ve experienced both and I know the difference for realz. But I will say this:

I think it’s time to everyone to come together, stop judging and start collaborating and cooperating, for the good of all moms and kids everywhere.

About the author: Honorée Corder blogs at The Successful Single Mom and has written many books you should check out, especially the ones about single parenting. Click the titles below for more info. 

The Successful Single Mom

The Successful Single Dad

Plus: The Successful Single Mom Cooks!The Successful Single Mom Gets Rich!The Successful Single Mom Finds LoveThe Successful Single Mom Gets FitThe Successful Single Mom Gets an Education

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Photo by  Analise Benevides on Unsplash


My partner Jane and I planned to have a baby together, and she carried our son, who is her biological child. When James was 9 months old, Jane – who never really took to being a mom – told me she couldn’t deal with parenting anymore and she abandoned us. I think she may have been suffering from depression. James is now 17 months and I’m the only mom he can remember. It seems pretty clear Jane is not coming back, at least not anytime soon. How should I talk about this with my son as he grows up?

Linda answers:

First, please know that although it’s more common for fathers to leave their children, mothers do it, too. This choice – child abandonment – is about the individual parent and their mental health and coping skills, not about you or, of course, your child. There are many single dads out there who have been left to bring up their kids, who have the same questions your son will likely have.

It is very important that your child hears a cohesive, consistent, and honest story from the beginning. Secrets and lies can be very damaging. Don’t wait to have a big conversation in grade school – incorporate parts of the true story from the beginning. This means that you, your family and friends need to be on the same wavelength, because he will ask everyone as he grows older.

Reassure him: ‘I will never, ever, ever leave’

It might go something like this, and will evolve in stages as your son gets older and asks more questions: “Both of your mommies wanted you very, very much. When you where born Mommy Jane didn’t feel well. She went away to get better. She didn’t explain why she needed to go away, so Mommy Emma doesn’t really understand it. All I know for sure is that I will never, ever, ever leave you for any reason. However, I do know that Mommy Jane loved you. For some people, it is really hard to be part of a family. Yes, it also makes me sad and I also miss her. Let me show you this story book that I made of us before you were born and tell you some of my favorite stories about her.”

You may feel very hurt by and angry about Jane’s actions, and understandably so, but it’s important, as in any parental breakup, to keep the child’s needs in mind. In this case, even though James may not remember Jane, she did provide 50 percent of his DNA and she was a presence in his early life. It may be tempting to downplay her role in order to protect him, but Jane was not an egg donor or a surrogate. She had planned to be and was a mother, and then she abandoned that role. That’s not a truth you’ll be able to hide forever. This was a loss for James and must be handled honestly. Also, if James learns negative things about Jane, since she is is biological mother, he may feel that part of him is “bad.” So that’s why it’s crucial that he hear positive stories about Mommy Jane.

Help him feel a positive connection to that side of his family

It’s also important that he have contact with Jane’s relatives, if they agree to it. Sometimes in these cases, the extended family will distance themselves from the child, out of embarrassment or denial. If that happens, make it clear to them that the door is always open, by sending holiday cards or emailing photos periodically.

As your son gets older he may ask if Mommy Jane is going to come back. You might think about answering something like the following, “I really don’t know, but if she does ever come back that will be something we all can work on together.”

He may very well want to search for Mommy Jane when he is older. If he does, help him set expectations of both the positive and negative situations which might arise. Help him find support groups that help children who are searching for missing parents and attend with him. Empathize and join him in his journey as much as you can. Help him see the part of him that is his Mommy Jane, by consciously mirroring her positive behaviors and characteristics and sharing as much of her story and history as possible with him.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR LINDA? Sent it to info [at] singlewith.com, and put ASK LINDA in the subject heading. She may use your question for an upcoming post!

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!
child abandonment


I share custody of my 11-year-old daughter with my ex-wife. I recently introduced my daughter to my girlfriend, who is going to be moving in with me in about a month. Now my daughter refuses to see me.  What should I do?

Linda answers:

First of all, how long has this been going on? It is very important not to allow this to become ingrained. Your daughter is allowed to be angry, upset or have any emotions that she may have about your girlfriend. She is allowed to constructively express her emotions to you. She is allowed to discuss them and she is allowed to have choices around spending time with the two of you. She is even allowed to stop talking to you. What she is not allowed to do is to control or dictate to you who or who you do not bring into your life in a serious relationship.

So, just as you would do if you were living together full-time and she was angry with you, maintain your routines. See her when you normally see her. Do homework with her. Have dinner with her. Talk with her. Play games with her. Try to do these things even if she’s freezing you out. Remember those two-year-old tantrums? Your 11-year-old is regressing to that state. So, same advice: Stay calm and be there for her. Sooner or later life will normalize.

It is important to make sure that when you introduce a potential partner into your daughter’s life that she is both given a chance to get used to her and that she is kept safe. It’s not a good idea to have secrets or to have a surprise meeting between your child and a new partner. Make sure that you take it slowly. Over time, start talking about your partner as a new friend. Perhaps even introduce her as a friend before you introduce her as your romantic partner.

If you just introduced your daughter and girlfriend, and your girlfriend’s moving in soon, it sounds like you may have skipped some of these steps. Is there a way you can slow down the process a little bit? It may not seem sudden to you, since you’ve had time to get to know your girlfriend before making this big decision. But for your daughter, it’s all brand new.

Parenting after divorce can be complex. Your daughter may still be mourning the breakup of her parents, and in her eyes, your girlfriend is  “replacing” her mother. She will need time to accept that the relationship is really over between Mommy and Daddy and that there’s truly no going back.

So, slow down if you can, and either way, try to do fun activities together, allowing the relationship to normalize through active fun. Ride a rollercoaster, go to a trampoline park or a bowling alley, or watch funny movies together. New experiences, exercise and laughter all prompt our bodies to release “feel-good” hormones like oxytocin and adrenaline. Your child will associate feeling good with both you and your partner – the people she has shared those experiences with – and this will help with the bonding process.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR LINDA? Sent it to info [at] singlewith.com, and put ASK LINDA in the subject heading. She may use your question for an upcoming post!

DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!
Photo by  Marcel Strauß on Unsplash


After I split with my son’s mother two years ago, we “theoretically” agreed to co-parenting. However, my son, who is now nine years old, hasn’t wanted to spend the night at my house. This has been going on for approximately two years. I have just changed my job to one that requires less business travel, and I want complete co-custody of my son. But how do I deal with his wanting to stay with his mom?

Linda answers:

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn more about your son. When you and your partner first separated and your child did not want to spend the night at your house, why did he not want to do so? Why didn’t you insist? Perhaps it was easier at the time to not deal with tantrums or your child being upset, so you let it slip? Over the past two years staying at Mom’s house has become ingrained, a habit. His resistance is probably not about you. I imagine it has something to do with your son feeling protective towards his mother.

Try asking him some questions. “Son, why don’t you want to spend the night with Daddy?” He might answer, “Mom needs me, she is afraid to be alone and I don’t want Mommy to be afraid.” A common parental response might be, “Oh honey, don’t worry, Mommy’s gonna be all right.” You might think this is a good answer. However, it misses the point: Your son needs his emotions to be acknowledged, not dismissed.

So let’s try it again: “Son, so if Mommy and I understand, you want to make sure that Mommy is not scared to be alone when you’re not with her, is that right? Mommy what can we do to make sure you’re not scared when ‘son’ is with Daddy?” A telephone call? A Skype or FaceTime session?” This answer reflects his fear and helps him master it with action.

Please try to explore and understand your child’s thoughts and emotions. Help him name them, understand them and accept them.

Ideally, you and your coparent would sit down and agree to a new coparenting schedule. You would then all sit together and lay out the new schedule. Think about offering your child choices, perhaps which night or how the split of the week might work. However, the choice of whether or not he will stay with the other parent is not one of them! There is a balance between giving your child choices and allowing them to make decisions that are not theirs to make.

If your child is absolutely opposed to trying the new schedule, I would suggest a short course of professional work to help you and your child navigate this rough patch.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR LINDA? Sent it to info [at] singlewith.com, and put ASK LINDA in the subject heading. She may use your question for an upcoming post!
DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!
Photo by  Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

I took my son’s passport, slid it into a plastic pouch and slung it around his neck. We were at the airport check-in and I felt like the worst mother in the world. What I really wanted to do was take a marker and write my name and phone number on his forehead.

In a few minutes, I would watch my 10-year-old walk off.  This day, the one I dreaded for so many years, had arrived and I was determined not to cry.

I am the mom of an unaccompanied minor – a kid with more stamps in his passport than are in mine. The travelling came as a result of his father relocating from our home in Montreal, Canada to the Midwestern U.S. soon after our separation. Long-distance relocation and coparenting meant two long visits to his dad, one in the summer and another at Christmas. But I balked at the notion of putting my son alone on a plane.

Anthony was only four at the time. I researched airline policies regarding UMs (airline lingo for unaccompanied minors), and I discovered children under five are not allowed to travel alone. Which was great, because as far as I was concerned, the only place my son went unaccompanied was the bathroom and I wanted to keep it that way.

In the beginning, his father would pick him up and drop him off in the same way he had for his weekend visits before he moved away. The only difference was they would take two planes and return five weeks later in the summer and a week later at Christmas. By the time he was eight, Anthony had accumulated enough miles for a free trip and qualified as a frequent flier. He also met the airline’s age requirement for UMs on connecting flights. His father thought he was ready to fly alone.  Guess who disagreed?

The questions consumed me as I tried to imagine his first flight alone. This flight involved a stopover and a change of aircraft. An onslaught of ‘what-ifs’ poured into my head. What if he got scared? What if a stranger approached him? What if he got lost? If airlines could lose luggage, could they lose track of a child?

When I called the airline to inquire about my son’s itinerary, the agent explained their policy and answered all of my questions. Finally, I asked the one question that was nagging me: “Would you let your child travel alone?” She replied with split-second clarity, Not me.” I realized my issue wasn’t about understanding their policy and knowing that UM travel was not uncommon. It was simpler. I just wasn’t ready.

The reality was that Anthony was familiar with security checks, customs line-ups and other procedures that come with travelling by plane. But when I broached the subject with him over breakfast one day, his face turned as white as the milk in his cereal bowl. He said, “Mom, there’s a plane in my heart and it goes back and forth, back and forth and I don’t know how to get off.” My heart ached for him and for me as I realized there was something else going on. As much as I tried to avoid it, I knew his father had been dropping hints about him moving there. Anthony was torn and there was no way I was going to add unaccompanied travel to his plate.

A few years later, his father approached me again about the idea of Anthony travelling as a UM. He had just turned 10. Was he ready to go alone now? Was I ready? I remembered the first time he wanted to go to the corner store with his friends. From the feeling in the pit of my stomach, he might as well have asked to take the car. This time when I asked him about flying alone, he said he was ready. He also said he needed a new video game to keep him occupied during the flight.

To avoid any issues with flight cancellations or delays during the stopover, his father agreed to meet him in Dallas, the connecting city.  After I filled in the necessary forms at the check-in, he practised reciting our address and phone number backwards, forwards and in three languages. I had hoped to take him to the gate but it was against security regulations. I pleaded with the agent to make an exception until I heard, “Mom, I can do it. Let me go.” For just an instant, I caught a glimpse of the young man he would be one day. I hugged him and watched until he and the agent disappeared past the security gate.

After that, I finally found some peace with the idea of Anthony flying solo until his father announced he was relocating – to Dubai, two flights and 24 hours away. Anthony did not visit his father that Christmas. It was just too far to travel without a grownup. Dubai was not only on another continent, it was a foreign country and I needed time to prepare him and myself for this trip.

But a year later, there we were at the airport check-in, waiting for Anthony to take off for Dubai, via Atlanta. I was listening to a woman grill the agent about UM procedure and quizzing her daughter on what to answer if a stranger approached her. I felt an instant bond with this mother as we watched our children walk away together. When she discovered Anthony was connecting to Dubai, she asked if I was on Valium. I felt myself smile at her comment. I was thankful for meeting her because in that moment, I knew I had come a long way. I was proud of myself for not feeling so vulnerable anymore.

I wish I could say I found a way to separate the love in my heart from the fear in my head. I haven’t. I still worry when he travels. But I’ve learned that growth can happen for both of us when we’re asked – or forced – to step outside our comfort zones.

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What I learned when my husband and I separated is that going through a divorce is kind of like a death in the family or being diagnosed with cancer: Everyone wants to say the right thing, but very few people actually do. Most of the time what comes out of people’s mouths is clumsy at best and hurtful at worst.

Here are 10 things I heard over and over again (and wish I hadn’t). I bet you’ve heard them too.

1. “I never really liked your spouse anyway.”

Really? We were married for 9 years and you never liked him? What about all those dinner parties you invited us to? That vacation we took together? 

Yes, apparently my friends and family thought he was a complete jerk the whole time—and never told me. But once we separated, they felt compelled to list every negative quality they ever noticed about him. (His friends and family must’ve done the same for him.) They probably thought this would make me feel better—as in “good riddance” and “how lucky for you.” But you know, even if they never did like him, I did. Besides, he and I are well aware of each other’s negative qualities. That’s why we’re not together anymore.

2. “You won’t have any trouble finding someone new.”

For some reason everyone seemed to think my #1 concern was how quickly I could meet another man. What I was actually focused on was my legal situation, my financial situation, my housing situation, and most of all, my son. Getting divorced is not like trading in a used car.

3. “I know someone I can fix you up with.”

Everyone has someone they’d like to fix a single parent up with. Once in a while the fix-up works. The vast majority of the time it doesn’t. So…thanks, but no thanks.

4. “Wow, you’re really trying, aren’t you?”

New haircut? New clothes? Dropped 10 pounds? It didn’t matter what I did…once I was suddenly single, every effort to look good was interpreted as a ploy to land a new partner. Actually, maybe it was just an attempt to look and feel better than I’d felt in a long time. A much nicer thing to say would’ve been: “Wow, you look amazing.”

5. “It must be so hard being on your own.”

This sounds like sympathy, but in my experience it’s anything but. What it means is: “I feel so sorry for you that you don’t have a partner like I do.” And it’s usually sexist, in reference to the poor single mother who has to take out her garbage all by herself or the poor single father who has to change the baby’s diaper all by himself. But women have been taking out garbage and men have been changing diapers for quite some time now. On the other hand, I appreciated the friends who genuinely were concerned about my “being on my own”—and showed it by inviting me over for dinner or out for drinks.

6. “It must be so hard for your kid, being so different from everyone else.”

Like point #5, this is not a kind or helpful thing to say. The people saying this invariably have “typical” families—and by that I mean mother, father, and kids living under the same roof—and what they mean is “It’s too bad your kid is not like my kid.” Maybe these people haven’t noticed that there are many ways to configure a family and that their way is only one of them—or that what matters much more than the marital status of the parents is that the children are deeply loved.

7. “I don’t know how you do it.”

This exudes fake admiration. What’s really meant is: “It’s too bad you have to do it—unlike me, who has help from my husband/wife.” The truth is that not having an extra pair of hands or a backup system is tough sometimes—and most single parents are amazing at juggling everything solo. On the most difficult days, it would’ve been great to hear this: “I just want you to know I think you’re doing a fantastic job.”

8. “It must be nice having so much free time.”

This is the corollary to “I don’t know how you do it.” If I’m not overwhelmed by the demands of being a single parent, I must be jumping for joy over the endless hours of free time I have when my son is with his dad two nights a week and on alternating weekends. Well, it’s true that my son does spend time with his dad, and at those times I’m generally free to do what I please. But it’s also true that at those times I’m usually working extra hours to make up for the times I stop working at 5:30 to do the evening routine by myself. And even when my son is with his dad, I’m still overseeing activities, homework and carpools. I’m still attending his baseball games. So let’s lay to rest the myth of the carefree single- parent lifestyle. Most single parents don’t have a lot of free time. Single parents without custody arrangements have zero.

9. “Have you considered getting back together?”

Yes, of course we’ve considered it. We considered it for years before we separated, just like every other couple who tried their absolute best to make their marriage work before determining they couldn’t.

10. “Sometimes I wish I were divorced.”

I heard this a few times and never had the right response. Looking back, here’s what I should’ve said: “No, you don’t. You really, really don’t. Because then you’d have to listen to comments like these from everyone around you—instead of the only thing anyone really needs to say, which is: ‘Gee, I’m really sorry.’”


DID YOU LIKE THIS POST? Please go to the Singlewith Home Page for much more, and sign up for our weekly newsletter in the box (above, right)! You’ll get great new essays, advice and ideas by and for single parents, coming to your email inbox. Also, register for our Singlewith Forums, to become part of our community and start connecting and getting support from fellow single moms and dads. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). In short, JOIN US!

Photo by  Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash