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About a month ago I started a new job. Beforehand, I was working from home, freelance writing for a living. I was excited to get the new position because it meant making a lot more money and I could escape being a single father on Long Island 24/7 and just be a single guy in Manhattan, at least during the work day.

It’s been a big change. I have to be at work by 7 a.m. From my house in Nassau County that means waking up at 4 a.m., leaving the house by 5 a.m., and being on a 5:30 a.m. train. The good thing is that I get off at 3:30 p.m. I am home in time to help with homework and raise my daughter for a little bit. I can cheer at baseball games for my nephew, who I’m the father figure to. Once in a while I will take the long way home (read: date) and have a little me time. It all sounded great to me. Tiring at first, but we all have that two-to-three weeks of fatigue, adjusting to the schedule that comes along with a new position.
Here’s the catch…

Two jobs, one parent, no sleep

I still write. As soon as I started this new position I seem to have had more and more writing to do. I love to do it and it’s something I am very passionate about. Plus, it pays. I’m a single dad and New York is expensive. My writing workload gives me the opportunity to make the equivalent of two (minimum wage) salaries. So when I get home from my day job, I do everything I previously mentioned and once my daughter is asleep it’s time to write. I get to bed around midnight and I’m up at 4. Sure, I could do some writing on the weekend, but my daughter has soccer at two places on Saturdays, there’s baseball, church, and then getting ready to do it all again for the next week.

So now I’m a single parent working two jobs. This shift has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Like most people, I don’t like change. We say that we do, but most of us don’t attack or attract situations that take us out of whatever routine we’re used to. And if we do, it is often with a reluctant spirit. The peace comes much later, after accepting that the life one we once knew is no more. Those of us who became single parents after a death of our partner or of the relationship can relate to this process. For me, taking on two careers – both for financial reasons and to follow my writing dreams – is another new stretch. But I think of my initial resistance to change as a phobia, not a true fear. I used the word phobia because fear triggers self-preservation in cases of real danger, while phobia is psychological, the threat ultimately unreal. I’m 29. A few late nights aren’t really going to kill me.

I do have some relief. My mother has been amazing. All of us single parents need that person who makes things just a little easier for us and for me my mom is that person. However, she still has needs and a job/life/stress of her own, so with all of this going on I have been forced into a pretty hectic circumstance. Nonetheless, I am happy about it because it seems like the more that I have just tackled all of this things, the more everything seems have been working out.

New motto: Don’t stress about it, just do it

Often these stressful moments are just tests in our lives. I write all of this because ultimately the last sentence of the previous paragraph is just it: When you just meet challenges head-on instead of spending time stressing about them, you’re better able to move through them successfully. Whether the cause of your stress is too much work, crazy scheduling, romance/dating drama, family issues, just know it is for a reason. As a spiritual person, I believe that we aren’t given more than we can handle and the moments in which we are forced into being uncomfortable are usually the moments that are the most worthwhile.

When my daughter’s mother and I were first dating I told her that gold has to go through the fire but it doesn’t fear the flame. It is molded, polished, and only then considered what we deem as valuable. Embrace and enjoy the process.

I will try my best to be back next week! Meanwhile, tell me: Are you a single dad or mom working two jobs or juggling work, school and parenting? Or did you in the past, as a way to reach your financial or career goals? How did you cope?

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ASK LINDA, PSYCHOTHERAPIST, SINGLE MOM:

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.

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  Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This New York winter has been brutal. Mr. Groundhog found his shadow and indicated there will be six more weeks of winter, but he didn’t let us know we’d be in for record lows and everyone getting sick. As February inched into March I too started sniffling and sneezing, and I had a splitting sinus headache the other day. I decided to do something I normally don’t: lie down.

It was a weekday afternoon right before all of the good shows come on ESPN, so I found myself watching Friends. I have seen every episode so many times that within thirty seconds I can tell you which episode it is.  The other day I once again relived the story arc in which Rachel gets pregnant and doesn’t want to tell Ross. Shortly after he finds out, Rachel goes on a date again and Ross freaks out (sounds like every episode from the first four seasons but yeah…). Ross is sitting with Joey and explains how he thought that the next time he became a father, life would be different. I hadn’t seen this episode since becoming a single parent, so it kind of hit home.

Ross goes on and on about how after his first marriage didn’t work out, he had this picture in his head of what he thought his future life would be like. He would be married, they would be a family that was together – not a blended one. That made me think about when there was once a picture in my head…

All while my daughter’s mother was pregnant I told her that within eighteen months of our first child being born she would want to do it all over again. She didn’t believe me. Then September 2011, about seven months after Cydney was born, she’s staying at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, being monitored for a few days while undergoing aggressive treatments for terminal cancer. I had just gotten off work and went straight there. She did me a solid by letting me watch the Yankees game and a commercial came on about children. With just a little bit of hair on her head growing back after her chemo treatments being changed and weighing about eighty-eight pounds she said to me, “I wouldn’t mind having another child now.”

I responded with a laugh and said, “Damn, I gave you eighteen months and you couldn’t even make it eight!” She laughed and externally that was the end of the moment. But that was the day my picture changed. Being that she was undergoing chemo, there would be no more children from her. I knew that. I’d had flashes of what the night she passed away would be like, all while looking at my daughter like, “Hey, it’s just you and me and we’re gonna just make sh*t happen.” At the same time, while I thought it was a long shot, I always had faith that one day she would be all right and she, little Cydney, and I could be a regular family in the end, with an amazing story to tell. Somehow, hearing her express a wish for a second child, for that perfect picture, was my confirmation that one day the woman I loved and the mother of my child would leave us.

Going back to the Friends episode, Joey asks Ross: When he sees that picture, is Rachel the woman?  Ross responds he used to think so, but at this point that person no longer has a face. I play around and pretend that I’m going to be a single dad/bachelor for the rest of my life, but even George Clooney got married so but I don’t that’ll be me forever. I have seen a face before. I have pictures of the three of us together and it kinda looks like we’re a family. Somewhere between being a cynic, realist, not wanting to count all my eggs before they hatch, limbo, and faith I try to see it as nothing more than that, for now.  At twenty-five years old I learned what most don’t until much older in life – that there are no guarantees and tomorrow isn’t promised.  While that family of three is what I see and I want, and I’ll pursue that by all means, I’ll also just enjoy the ride. The picture could change.

All of this is to say that almost no one envisions themselves as a single parent. Whether single parenthood came to us by divorce, artificial insemination, adoption, loss, or whatever; no one thinks about themselves raising a child on their own.  We aren’t wired to have that picture in our heads. It’s a bittersweet dream deferred but you love it, nonetheless. Sometimes you need that picture in your head to be the driving force and the reason you don’t give up…even if it doesn’t turn out the way that you’d like it. We all need something to aspire to.

In the meantime, the ones with us and the child(ren) we love dearly are amazing enough.

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Photo by  Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash

ASK LINDA, PSYCHOTHERAPIST, SINGLE MOM:

Dear Linda,

My husband was the love of my life. Or so I thought. We’re divorcing after 12 years together and I just can’t stop crying. I want to pull it together for the kids, but I often am just overcome with grief. I feel like my best friend – and my life plan – have both died. To make it worse, the kids are reacting to the tension and are acting out. Which just adds to the stress and sadness and makes it harder for me to hold it together. How I can cope?

Linda answers:  

I am so sorry that you are going through this major loss. Your grief, tears and feeling overwhelmed are normal for the trauma you have suffered. These emotions are part of the mourning process, which will eventually lead you forward in your life. The “airplane safety demonstration” provides a key life lesson on the importance of taking care of yourself during a crisis such as this. The flight attendant says, “Put your oxygen mask on before placing an oxygen mask on your child.” Why? If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be here to take care of your children. When you have a major life stressor, you might forget to take care of yourself.

Your kids feel your pain and stress and are having their lives turned upside down, too. Talk with them. Let them know it is OK to feel sad. It is OK to cry. It is OK to be angry. Explain that both your emotions and theirs are real and that it is OK to feel whatever they feel. Here is the tricky part: What you do with your emotions is where you have choices. To help overcome difficult emotions, MOVE: exercise, play physical games, go skating, biking, running, play kickball, or play hide and seek. Move and get those feel-good chemicals activated in your body. Also, make sure you are all eating well and getting enough sleep.

Often when emotions become overwhelming, you might get caught up with repetitive thoughts and get “stuck in your head.” One simple and great technique for moving through these emotions is to start naming all the colors that you see. You can do this by yourself or with the kids. Try this for about 5 minutes, when you or they start to feel overwhelmed. It’s a mindfulness trick, sort of a mini meditation break: When you are concentrating on the colors and their names, you cannot simultaneously stay trapped in your negative thoughts.

Divorce or breakup is a loss, and you will need to mourn. It takes time, but you are a survivor and you and the children will come through this. A qualified family therapist might help guide you through this process together. I recommend that you seek out this kind of support for yourself and your children, since it will help you to “normalize” and move through the mourning 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

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Perez’s children’s book, Celebrity Big Brother, but at Singlewith, he’s a dad we love. That’s because, regardless of what he does in his public persona, he’s clearly a loving, hands-on father and family man. Check out the video he make exclusively for Singlewith, posted below, in which he absolutely gushes about how much he adores being a dad. The celebrity gossip king also exposes himself as a big teddy bear in an Instagram feed full of Daddy-son photos so relentlessly sweet they could induce a sugar coma.

Boy with Pink Hair
Dressing up as the Boy with Pink Hair for the literary Halloween celebration at school.

Perhaps even more important, we love Perez because his charming children’s book, “>Hair,” has been out in the world since 2011, helping kids feel good about being different – and doubtless swaying a bully or two over to more positive behavior, as happens with the bully in the book. (The Boy with Pink Hair saves the day and the Boy with the Bad Attitude becomes the Boy with the Slightly Better Attitude. Yay!)

Shortly after my son dressed up as Perez’s “Boy With Pink Hair” character for his school’s “dress as your favorite book character” Halloween event, we got an invitation to have a “play date” with Perez and his son Mario (who recently turned 2) in their Manhattan apartment. At home, Perez was low-key and friendly, and clearly enamored and hands-on with his little boy. His mom popped in from her apartment in the same building – Perez may have made enemies along the way but he sure keeps his family close.

Here’s the celeb single dad himself, talking about why he loves fatherhood and family:

 

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!

The only time everyone in my school was happy on Valentine’s Day was in 3rd grade, because in 3rd grade Mrs. Chatterton made sure that either everybody got a valentine, or damn well nobody got a valentine. By middle school we’d all matriculated into that fickle world where unconditional love is no longer supervised, and you’re just as likely to get left behind. Candygrams and paper hearts stuffed in shoeboxes and lockers – they make and break our adolescent dreams.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, 2015, and if you’re a single parent like me, you’re ambivalent about the empty shoebox. You love your kids, but you’re not quite sure about being home with them tonight. All those googly-eyed celebrations are getting on your nerves.

You could just write a check to Amnesty International and write off the whole thing as some kind of political protest – after all, chocolate, roses, diamonds and gold are all blood-stained commodities. Or, because this is the Internet, we can make a list. Herewith, ten reasons to celebrate that you’re not on a Valentine’s date:

1. Drink practically as much red wine as you like—at least after the kids go to bed—and lie to yourself about the health benefits. So many lies will be told tonight that yours won’t even move the needle.

2. Rediscover the literal Total Eclipse of the Heart. Enjoy the full measure of sarcasm without suffering a hint of deflating irony.

3. Revel in the fact that you have time to read more Mallory Ortberg. (Good chance she’s way more entertaining than that date would have been.)

4. Think of how much time and grammatical angst you saved by not re-reading those endlessly over-sharing and under-achieving online dating profiles. And you didn’t have to fake your own death to get out of a date. (Though your wrist could be a bit sore after all of those swipe-lefts. Put an ice pack on that.)

5. Do some Taylor Swift karaoke! Perform her entire catalog and really revel in the teen angst. (You too, menfolk. If you have a daughter of any age and haven’t opened yourself to the preening pop power of T-Swizzle, you owe her a family sing-along. She’ll never forget it.) Follow with a goat chaser.

6. Sock away the cash you saved. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, the average Valentine’s celebrant is expected to drop $142.31 this year; 1 in 5 intend to include the family pet in the festivities. With children and no sweetheart, you’re already in the black. Or, hey, splurge a little: get nickel rolls from the bank, one for each family member, and spend V-Day teaching your kids blackjack and poker. If none of them show promise as card counting savants, that still leaves $120 and change for the college fund.

7. Stay safe. Valentine’s Day is the bully of holidays. It has to be true—HBO said so!

8. Watch When Harry Met Sally with your kids and devise, on the fly, an age-appropriate explanation for your child about the deli/orgasm scene. However old they are you’ll be laying a fine foundation for the healthy discussion of human sexuality. And however old you are the mental gymnastics should be enough to forge new pathways in your brain.  (A double feature with Frozen is not recommended; Sally’s special moment would truly melt poor Olaf. )

9. Rejoice that nobody, anywhere, even thought of giving you a 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear.

10. Celebrate with your kids. Make comfort food and heart-shaped sugar cookies and tell them stories about all the best and worst things that love has ever wrought. While you’re at it, tell them that you’re not out there this weekend because never, ever, will you settle.

Bonus: if the next morning you awaken with that hollow, didn’t-have-a-date feeling, you can always send your enemies glitter. Careful — that link is Australian, and we suspect the import tariff on glitter is hefty. Since you’ve got kids you can easily subcontract and save yourself some bank. Which is important, because there is a lot of chocolate on sale today.

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 parents. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@singlewith) and Instagram (singlewithphotos). Join us!

Photo by  Jamie Street on Unsplash