Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #13

I have been single for what feels like a very long time. I’m actually really good at being single. I have a full life with work and wonderful friends. I don’t feel lonely because my oldest daughter is always with me. But I have to admit,

13. Having cancer single sucks.

Before the cancer, I have to admit I was really quite settled with being single. I don’t date much and I’ve stopped trying to figure out why. I’m comfortable with my life and honestly dating really wasn’t much fun. Dating takes me away from my kids and friends who I already know I enjoy spending my time with.

What I realized during this cancer deal, is that it’s really more about having someone who is there for you without you even having to ask or make arrangements for them to be. That someone who has to drop everything for you and is there to share all of the ups and downs of this experience. I read stories of women whose husbands went to every appointment with them. That’s when I get envious. I remember one time when I had asked a friend to drive me to an appointment because I’d be under light anesthesia and wasn’t supposed to drive home. Everything was set but then an emergency came up at work and my friend couldn’t get away. Did he feel terrible? Yes. Was I able to find another ride? Yes. But that’s when it really hit me. With your husband, the only emergency that matters when you have cancer is YOU having cancer!

I know for some people, even though they are married, their spouse didn’t drop everything for them. I believe that would probably suck more than doing it single. But I’ve been married and divorced. When I say I’d rather not have had to face this single, I’m not implying that I want just any random man by my side. I have made jokes that if you get diagnosed with cancer and you are SINGLE with no sisters, get on Match.com immediately, find someone and get married, but I’m kidding. I do realize it needs to be the right someone.

But that’s just it. Finding the right someone may take a little work. As comfortable as I am being single, I don’t put any energy into NOT being single. I purposely don’t make eye contact sometimes with men in public settings. I don’t seek single girlfriends who may want to go out to places where there might actually be single men. I don’t remind people who say they actually have someone they want to introduce me to to DO IT. I was almost glad I had a full year pass during cancer to not have to try to get a date or do anything to change my single status because I haven’t had much success.

I know now, that I actually want to try, need to try. I want to go out on some dates and I’m willing to accept the fact that many of them will go no where. But it’s time for me to realize that it’s just a part of the process. Is it harder at 42 than 22? Yes. But I should consider it an opportunity. An opportunity to find my someone who has to drop everything.

When I was younger, dating had a different purpose. I was looking for – a good husband, good dad, someone to grow with. I still am looking for those things in a person. But now, I want a best friend – someone who can make me laugh, be there when I cry, talk with me for hours or sit in comfortable silence. He will never replace my girlfriends or my sisters and sometimes I’ll still prefer them in certain situations over him. But he will be there, whether I called him, asked him to or not. That’s what I needed. That’s what I want.

I don’t believe in the Disney fairy tale. I don’t think any of us really do, but a girl can dream, right. I do believe that I have a part in this and that it’s time to do my part. So I’m going to try harder not to be single. I’m going to start making eye contact. Asking friends to set me up. Flirt a little. It definitely can’t hurt. It almost sounds like fun. Almost.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #12

Last year, at the end of the school year, our crossing guard was very emotional. He’d tell any parent that would listen that he remembered his little girl walking to that same elementary school and how she was graduating from high school in just a couple of weeks. He said he never understood those parents who couldn’t wait until their children would be out of the house. But I have to confess,

12. I was looking forward to being an empty nester.

Now let’s be clear. I have a long way to go until that day gets here! But when he said it, I realized I really was one of those people. The kind he couldn’t understand.

I blame a lot of my feeling that way on being single. There’s a part of me that sometimes thinks it would just be easier on everyone for me to wait, until my mid 50’s when the girls are both off to college, to date. Because of that, I kind of make THAT the next phase of my life and it’s one I look forward to.

That was me. I was making plans. Where I would live, what I would do, the kind of car I would drive – all when the girls were gone.

But during this year I recognized that sometimes looking forward to something makes you miss what you’re actually experiencing. Not only was I diminishing the value of the moments I was sharing with my girls. I was postponing my own happiness to a certain degree. Not only in the dating area, but even in things as simple as the kind of car I drive. I believe in putting my kids needs above mine, but I shouldn’t be completely ignoring my own wants or putting them on hold for a decade to accommodate my kids.

And they’ve never asked me to do that – put my life on hold. Maybe they’re too young to even know how. But, they deserve a mom who is living her best life RIGHT now. I don’t want to teach them to put off their own happiness because of made up obstacles or to be a martyr. I want them to dream big and live big. Putting off my own dreams won’t teach them that.

I think if I’m really honest with myself, I was also acting like they were somewhat of an interruption to my life. Not because I didn’t love them or feel blessed to have them, but because I had SO much to do – primarily work.  But also other things like community service, networking, etc. I used to tell people all the time – If you think you’re too selfish to have kids, you’re right! Kids change everything and they take so much of your focus that even when you always wanted them and love them dearly, it can sometimes seem like they’re getting in the way of other things you’d like to do.

My priorities were mixed up. I was sacrificing time with my kids going to events for work or other things because I felt it was important and I needed to. And yes, sometimes I liked all the running around, but nowadays I miss my kids, even when I’m at work and they’re at school. I WANT to lean into their homework and do flash cards for tests with them. I want to SOAK up every minute I can with them, even when they’re driving me crazy. I feel like being with them now is a gift, not a responsibility. So I’m trying to be more deliberate about what I do when I could be with the girls. Things that rejuvenate me and make me better – like time with my girlfriends or maybe even a date that seems to have some potential, I’ll do it. Dinners where no one will even remember who was there or what was talked about, I’ll pass.

My perspective is so different. Not only because of what we went through but because of the real possibility that I may not have as much time with them as I’d always assumed. And if that is the case, I want to make the most of what I do have with them now. NEVER once have I thought about how upset I’d be to never get that 2nd chance at love or the convertible or the penthouse apartment, cause that’s not what I’d miss.

I’m excited that I have a second chance to really enjoy my kids and lean into the short 18 years they’ll live in my home. I know I’ll still be mom after that (living in a penthouse, driving a convertible!), but there’s nothing like THESE years, when you’re the most important person to them. I’m trying to appreciate hearing MOM, MOM, MOM, MOM, MOM – more everyday.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #4

I spend a lot of time telling my kids what to do. It’s second nature. I don’t even notice it. I’m sure it’s what we all do but the more I think about it the more I started worrying that it’s all I do. The truth is:

#4. I’m missing the bigger picture.

Let’s take a look at all the things I nag (discipline, correct, redirect) my kids about during the day.

What they eat

What they don’t eat

How they eat (smacking, too much food, too fast)

Watching too much tv

Not reading

Doing their homework

Cleaning their rooms

Using their manners

Being nice to each other

Sharing

Being respectful to me

Brushing their teeth

Getting to bed on time

Being careful

Covering their mouths when they cough

Washing their hands

Not forgetting their lunch

Being on time

That’s a pretty good list from today! I really am not a nag. That’s just regular parenting, right? We lead them. Teach them. Show them the way. But, I wonder if on their side, it just feels like they can’t do anything right.

Well, I’m sitting here today, the last day of school in the strangest year the girls and I ever could have imagined. Actually, we couldn’t have imagined it. My 10 year old says it’s been ‘this’ way since Thanksgiving. And she’s right. Our world was turned completely upside down when we returned from Houston after Thanksgiving and I got the call – it was cancer. And ‘this’ way is the cancer way, which has been a crazy roller coaster ride. One that as a kid was probably really hard to be on, cause as a mom in a totally new situation, sometimes I didn’t know when or how much information to give them. I didn’t know what they could handle or understand. I didn’t know what they needed to know or deserved to know. How would they trust and feel secure in me when I didn’t have all the answers? The one who guides, directs, tells them what to do constantly.

And I made some mistakes along the way. I gave them premature information about my treatment plan and it then changed drastically. I would come home from doctors appointments and say it went fine, even though every appointment seemed to bring to light a new development and often new concerns. Finally one day, my daughter said, ‘You said your appointment went fine when the doctor told you it was cancer’. She was right.

So I had to learn a new way to guide them. I had to be transparent in ways that seemed beyond their years. I had to be honest with them about what I did know and what I didn’t know. I had to be vulnerable with them. All while still being mom and running down my nag list – make your bed, clean your room, do your homework, be nice to your sister – many times shouted from where I laid in my bed- bald.

And guess what? They survived this school year. This crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy, unpredictable school year. Grades were fine. Behavioral stuff – fine. 2nd and 5th grade- here we come!

But truthfully, they did so much more than survive. They changed the list. The things they do everyday- changed. And in my new situation instead of directing, I watched them:

Have faith

Trust

Believe

Stay positive

Encourage me

Support each other

Love harder

Show appreciation

Develop compassion

Share their story

Grow stronger

Express their feelings

I realize now that so many of our days had been strung together by orders barked by me from the list of things I felt like they needed to do to be, I don’t know – good? And they are important. Many are things that have to get done. But they aren’t the most important. My kids were showing me so much more about who they were as people and I was missing it. Blinded by the nag list. But I’m not anymore.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #3

I’m just going to get right to the point on this confession.

3. I don’t spend enough time with my kids.

I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about this one, cause often times there isn’t a good solution to the problem. But if you don’t face it you’re not even going to try to improve it.

I hadn’t faced it until it was thrown in my face. During this cancer journey, I’ve had the luxury of being home more and spending more time with my kids. And even though there were times I wasn’t feeling so great, I learned Me at less than 100%, 90%,70% vs. No Me – is better for them. For us.

With my busy, full time job, I spend very little time with my kids during the week. Let’s do the math.

Mornings!

They get up at 6 am and we’re out the door at 7:30, so 1.5 hours every morning. And that clearly can’t be considered ‘quality time’. Most of it is spent rushing them around, getting them ready, fixing lunches and breakfast and finding out about things that should have been done the night before. It may just be my house, but the mornings are more like a little hurricane than a trip to the park.

Evenings!

On regular days I get home between 6-6:30 pm. Bedtime’s at 8:30 if we’re lucky, so 9 at the latest. So I get 2-3 hours with them after school.

Daily Total!

Anywhere between 3.5-4.5 hours altogether. Unfortunately my job requires at least 2 evening events a week. On those nights I may be home by 8 pm or 11 pm. Either way, I hardly get any evening time with the girls those days and only a total of 1.5 hours of their 14 hour (minus sleeping) day.

Weekly Total!

At that rate, on an average week, I spend a total of 15 hours a week with them. Sometimes, I spend that much time with my employees in one day. Am I raising employees or my children? Yes, I know I get the weekends, but as a single mom, we don’t even get all of those!

There are a lot of issues with this situation.

~Who are my kids with during the other 10 hours of the day? At school, in the after school program, with the sitter, at activities. Do I believe the messages they’re being sent support the way I’m trying to raise them? Are they being poured into with love and positivity, appropriate discipline, learning and health. Not always. I know that.

~I find the more time I spend with my kids, the better people they are. They are nicer to each other. We share more love, smiles and hugs. It’s not because I’m perfect. It’s because I’m what they need. I’m who fills their spirit up. That’s important to acknowledge and therefore try to impact.

~Some people will argue it’s about ‘quality’ not ‘quantity’. You don’t get quality time when you have NO time. Quality time defines HOW the time is spent, so it has to start with TIME!

As my cancer treatments are coming to an end, I have some choices to make. I already see people trying to pile on the night events and travel. I have to set boundaries for myself and my family. Even something as simple as committing to only one night event a week and max 3 for the month. And sticking to it! I have to take a long hard look at how I can build more flexibility into my work schedule and ask for it if necessary. If it’s not possible, I may need to start thinking about if it’s time for a more drastic change.

We can’t make more time. That’s a fact  – One a cancer diagnosis will throw in your face, even with an outstanding and blessed prognosis. We can be better with our time. We can be more impactful with our time.

And we have to face it and try. Being present is critical. Again, will my kids turn out ‘ok’ with our existing schedule and chaoticness. Yes. But like I said before OK is not good enough for them or me. Anymore.

Toot your own horn!

I believe humility is an important characteristic. I also believe you can over do it and that you must know when you need to be a little less humble.

How do you over do it?
It’s the definition of a martyr. Telling everyone all the time that all the things you do are no big deal, that nothing is a problem.

When do you need to be less humble?
When there’s a risk of people taking advantage of you or under-appreciating you. I know how hard you work and I know you probably make it look easy. This is why you have to learn to toot your own horn.

So, how do you do it and remain likable?
1. Say it jokingly. Example: Your boss says, “I don’t know what we would have done with out you.” You say, “I was just thinking the same thing, just kidding. It really was a team effort.” You probably mean the last part, but you reiterate the first part in your joke.

2. Point out facts of accomplishments that have had a positive impact. Example: I’m glad to see the new communication plan we implemented is working. We’ve received 50% more requests this month, which is a new record.

If you really are doing a good job, people are probably noticing. You may just need to remind them. Hopefully these techniques will work!

That’s how single mom’s lean in!

When Life Gets Harder, Play Harder

So I don’t want anyone to think I support partying or activities that are illegal or harmful. That is not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about is the idea that we work and do life at a high performance level and you should reward yourself at an equal level. 

 
If you’re following my blog, then you know last week went into the record books for hard knock life happenings. 6 days with no air conditioning, including 4 days of no power at all. By the time the electrician left on Friday, I just decided to stop adding up the financial damage caused by this situation. A single mom and two kids, living in Texas in July can’t survive without a/c. So, there was no choice.
 
But then Saturday came. An already planned girls night out became the inspiration for the motto and today’s Single Mom’s Lean In! Tip of the Day!
 
When Life Gets Harder, Play Harder
 
We went to a concert, had dinner and did a little dancing afterwards. We went all out and hung out til our feet hurt, but our worries of life were gone. At least momentarily. I think we all need that escape every once in a while. And I mean escape…take your enjoyment to the next level cause that’s when you really can come back to reality and lean in harder. 
 
I can’t tell you a list of things I think should be included in these moments cause I think the key is doing something that truly makes you feel lighter. So it’s your unique Life is Harder, Play Harder survival list. I’ve shared things that are on that list for me below. Make one of your own. So when life gets harder, you’ll know how you’re going to play harder. Then, you’ll be ready to face the next obstacle with a smile created by great memories and a rejuvenated spirit.
 
Noelle’s Life is Harder, Play Harder Survival List (in no particular order)
1. Staycation
2. Girls trip
3. Girls night out on another level
4. Quality time with my sister 
5. Gut busting laughter with friends or family
6. A bottle of wine, my best friend, laughing and crying all in one night
7. A great date, the kind that gives you butterflies
 
It’s been a long time on that last one, but a girl can dream!
 
As a single, working mom trying hard to lean in, you have to learn to reward yourself. You deserve it!
 
Make your list today. Just thinking about the fun you’ll have next time you’re recovering from a rough patch will likely put a smile on your face.

Never Let Them See You Sweat!

So, here’s your Single Mom’s Lean In! Tip of the Day!

Don’t let on when things are really starting to stress you out!

This goes for home and work. So, last night, we were still struggling with the no air thing! On top of that, there were some very strange half power issues going on and certain lights kept tripping the system. It wasn’t good. Sydney, my 8-year old, was starting to get really worried and concerned and frankly so was I! I made an executive decision to shut down all the power to the house and reset the whole fuse box.

Now, I understand how to reset a tripped fuse. I can even do it in the dark, just by sliding my finger down all of the fuses and feeling the one that’s just slightly out of whack. Then push over to one side and push hard all the way back over. So, why would this be any different for the main power??

I don’t know, but it was. I tried and tried and couldn’t get the power to switch back over. Sydney is now holding my phone with flashlight app glowing as I struggle with the switch. She starts to panic. “It’s going to be just fine. Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.” I lied. I was totally freaking out inside. But there was no way I was going to let her know that. Why?

1. Freaking out when you are the one in charge, could cause a complete meltdown for those that depend on you.

2. It shows you have the ability to be weak. Although it is okay to feel it, showing it can impact future situations when you need to convince others you can handle anything.

3. You cannot think straight when you are having a meltdown. No matter what is going on, you’ve proven that you are the one that has the brain power to get through things. Those around you are depending on you.

So I kept working that main power switch and with our anxiety held somewhat at bay, it finally kicked over! “You did it!” Sydney was overjoyed and relieved, as was I.

So here’s a bonus tip – be perseverant. We had to have power. I wasn’t giving up. I kept trying and trying and trying and eventually – I was able to say, “See. I told you we’d be ok.”