Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #23

#23. I’m not my daughter’s biggest fan.

Crazy right? I mean, I thought I was until recently my sister gave me some advice that made me realize I was selling my daughter short.

See, once girls start getting super involved in activities like sports, choir, etc. They have a lot of people telling them whether they’re good or bad. I mean not necessarily in those terms, but depending on how coaches or teachers hand out constructive criticism, it may be interpreted as I’m good or I’m bad.

That’s where I found myself. I found that my daughter who admittedly may have a tough time with constructive criticism was starting to establish her self worth based on the messages from these well intended people.

Well intended meaning I don’t think they were trying to break her down. She actually puts on this tough girl act but she’s really a softy. Also, in general, I think people can find her a little frustrating for a few reasons that are unnecessary to name here. I think you get the point, I realize she’s NOT perfect. And that’s where the problem comes in.

See to get great, I think you have to think you’re great or at least capable of great. So with me recognizing she wasn’t perfect and with coaches and teachers constantly (at least it seemed like it to her) telling her she wasn’t good…what was she supposed to think? That she could be great?

NO. She was feeling beat down and pretty typical for a 12 year old, I started seeing her believing she couldn’t be great.

Then my sister said, you need to act like she hangs the moon. You need to defend her, build her up, tell her she’s great or at least capable of being great and do it publicly. You are her advocate. PERIOD.

I thought I knew that but as a hard working, semi-type A personality, with a knack for coaching and mentoring for professional development, I’m always great at pointing out how to be better, ways to improve, thinking about how to use constructive criticism, or be the bigger person. But my daughter is not my employee, colleague or client. I don’t have to be rational about who she is and who she will become. I should be irrationally passionate about encouraging her to believe in herself and her dreams. I should embarrass her with positivity and support. I should be like a Justin Bieber fan or Taylor Swift or Donald Trump for that matter. Blinded by my own desire to believe in her!

As a grown woman, I know the VOICES in my head are my greatest challenge to believing in myself. For many of us, the voice we hear is not the volleyball coach from 7th grade or our freshman year English teacher. It’s our mom.

So although she may not be perfect and she, like all of us, has room for improvement. I’m not as worried about her performance today as I am about her self esteem for a LIFETIME.

Truth is the reality checks, nit picking and constructive criticism will come. That’s life. But it doesn’t have to come from me.

So yeah, my inconsistent with her serve, turned the wrong way in that dance number, could work a little harder daughter is GREAT. Like many things she believes, I’ve shown her first, that I believe in them. She needs to know I believe in her. BELIEVE that!

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #22

I know most mom’s have heard the phrase, “Then I’m not your friend” from their child. I definitely have heard it more than once. And I will confess my answer was always:

#22. That’s right!  I’m not your friend!

That was my pat answer to my daughter. And I probably yelled it back with as much irritation as she had said it first to me. I was that mom set on making sure my daughters realized we were not friends. I was the authority figure, the one in charge and I needed them to know that, especially as a single mom. I know many of us can fall into that ‘hanging with our kids mode’ because they’re who we engage most with – not having another adult around 24/7, but I just didn’t believe that would be beneficial in the end.

And then came MIDDLE SCHOOL. I’m not going to lie – that is like a bad word to me. I’ve even  considered changing the name of this blog to: Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer and a Middle School Girl!  I knew middle school was probably the worst part of growing up, especially as a girl. For the most part, I was pretty popular, but I vividly remember the day everyone turned against me. I was standing in the library in 6th grade and Mrs. Vinn our librarian was consoling me. For whatever reason – which I totally don’t remember, that day, I was public enemy number one. Friendless and very sad.

Now, when I was growing up, 6th grade was not technically middle school, but nowadays and definitely in Texas, it is. And I don’t know about everyone else, but kids seem to be at least 2 years ahead of us in the growing up category. 8 is the new 10, 10 is the new 12 and 12 is the new 15! So all of the middle school drama comes fast and furious once the girls (at least) enter into the realm of double digits. And with all of that came a realization for me that I wasn’t ready for.

I have to be my daughter’s friend.

This came to me after many situations where my daughter basically was heartbroken by girls she thought were her friends. She wasn’t invited to a birthday party. She wasn’t asked to ride in a certain car after a volleyball game. She wasn’t included in a skit for the end of year show. And every time, I tried to encourage her, pat her on the back, be positive. Then I started getting irritated and rode the line of basically telling her they were all just a bunch of punks anyway that she didn’t need. And finally, I told her the truth – they weren’t her friends and they weren’t good friends.

But they were the only model of ‘friend’ she had. I don’t know what it is about middle school, but there are more mean girls than not – so most girls in some way particularly when it comes to friends and controlling the popularity pyramid are not nice. I could SAY they weren’t good friends all day long, but she had nothing to compare it to.

So I had to be nice to her – like as a friend, not as her mom. I had to show her what people who really love and support you, not just cause you’re family but because you choose to be friends looks like. I had to laugh at her jokes or stories that I really didn’t think were that funny (cause I’m not a middle school girl). I had to watch videos she thought were interesting. I had to listen to her lament over why a boy asked her to change seats with him in class and what it really meant. And even when I wanted to pull my hair out or say WHO CARES!!! I couldn’t. I had to show her that people who choose to love you – listen to you, laugh at the same things you think are funny, and are interested in what happened to you today. She knows as her mom I feel that way, but her mom who was dead set on not being her friend, would have shut down some of that monotony of middle school drama and discussion because it annoyed me, cause I’m an adult. But I now accept that those moments are not about me and I just need to be her friend.

I don’t ever want to go through middle school again. It’s bad enough I have to do it two more times vicariously through my girls. But what I know, that you don’t realize the first time you go through it, is that it’s really a short period of time. A blip on the radar screen of your life. So I suck it up and I laugh at the girls doing that ridiculous dance, or the 500 bottle flip videos. I support her completely when someone upsets her – not making a lesson of every situation (which is REALLY HARD). And I make it clear that I LIKE her.

I told her the other day – I am your best friend, and I meant it.

 

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry # 19

I’ve been thinking a lot about dating lately. I have a strong desire to be in a relationship and truth be told,

19. I want someone to fall madly in love with ME.

I mean the REAL me and all of me.

The me whose garage is totally messy cause sometimes to clean out my messy car, the stuff gets piled on the table in there.

The me who has a semi crazy life cause I have 2 daughters who I love but also drive me crazy and I birthed them so they’ll drive someone  else completely insane some days.

The me that’s bossy cause I’ve always been the boss and in the end I really want what’s best not just what I want and sometimes I can’t see that the two aren’t the same.

The me that has an awesome, big job I love, but secretly wants to be a stay at home mom.

The me that leaves dishes in the sink cause I hate doing the dishes.

The me that hasn’t fully unpacked from the last trip but will before the next.

The me that wants to spend every holiday and vacation with MY family.

The me that wishes I could still eat McDonald’s.

The me that has a dent in her car but doesn’t want to fix it yet cause really…who cares.

The me who has clothes size 4-14 and everything in between.

The me whose kitchen has more than one ‘junk drawer’.

I guess I’ve FINALLY accepted that I’m never going to be perfect. And as much as I knew that, a part of me believed that THAT’S what people fell in love with – people they thought were perfect. And maybe, deep down, I believed it WASN’T happening for me BECAUSE all of these imperfect things and many more.

On top of it all, cancer has created many NEW, physical imperfections. My man made, cancer free boobs will never be perfect. My body will always have surgery scars and port scars and drain scars. Thank God for clothes and the dark 😉

But this isn’t a pity party, like why not me. It’s me finally letting go of the me I imagined was lovable and accepting the me I KNOW is lovable.

It’s me no longer fantasizing about married people and how perfect they seem together.

It’s me focusing more on what I have to offer versus what I’m lacking.

It’s me accepting that two people come together and actually make each other better.

It’s me recognizing that truly being myself is the only way I’ll have a lifetime, loving relationship.

It’s me understanding that the man I fall in love with won’t be perfect either, but hopefully perfect for me.

It’s me taking this new found openness and vulnerability and, although terrified, letting it infiltrate my love life too.

I never realized I was creating this barrier. I believed I thought I was ready and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t dating. But my expectations, not of the guy, but of myself were not realistic.

And maybe the cancer idea of ‘damaged goods’ actually makes it easier for me to accept ALL of my imperfections. It all adds character, right? It also makes for some really great stories, that make for PERFECT date night conversation 😉

 

Confessions of a Single Mom With Cancer Entry #16

I’ve said it before but being diagnosed with cancer makes you very reflective on how you’ve lived and are living your life. When I started looking back, I had to admit:

16. I have some regrets.

It’s hard to say that because it carries such a negative weight with it. But if you’ve lived at all, I’d bet you can say this.

I have some big regrets and some small ones. Some of them are things I wish I would have done, some are things I wish I wouldn’t have done or done differently. All of them come from choices and decisions I made. They are things like:

I wish I hadn’t been so anxious to start working and would have gone to live in California or overseas right after college.

I wish I would have married young and for love.

I wish I would have pursued singing more seriously.

I wish my kids were growing up in a more traditional family structure.

I wish I would have finished my masters.

That’s just a sampling. There are others. But when I start thinking about these things I look back on them and realize the flip side of any of these situations would have had consequences and likely a different set of regrets. I understand that the grass is not greener on the other side. It’s just different. I also know that many of the choices I did make had wonderful results that I may have missed out on if I had done things differently.

Some of my regrets were really just flat out mistakes – bad choices or decisions. But everyone agrees we can learn a lot from our mistakes. As I’ve become more willingly to be vulnerable, I think I’m learning a lot from my regrets too. But if we focus on them too much, they can create sorrow. They can also create envy. This state of reflection has sometimes created more envy in me than I had before cancer. Not wondering why I got cancer instead of someone else, but wanting to have some things in my life that I haven’t yet, before it’s too late. So I have to work on not coveting now, more than before. I have to work on being faithful that those things will come.

I can’t aspire to the idea of living life without regrets. I have them. But, I’ve decided what I can do is try to live going FORWARD not creating new regrets.

This means facing some of my old choices and trying to be sure I don’t repeat them. It means really acknowledging what I want and not accepting anything short of that. It means taking counsel with people I know love me, even when I’m afraid they won’t agree with me. It means taking more risks. It means following through. It means believing in myself and a great plan for my life….without the burden of NEW regrets.

So, yeh, I have some regrets, and I think that’s ok.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #5

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it’s not really nice. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I’ve always thought my daughter had a sort of annoying personality. She’s really excitable and over the top about everything. She has to be the center of attention. Loud. Goofy. Unfocused. And I’m not going to lie – I can get easily annoyed with that personality. And rightfully so, if she was 25, 30, 35. But she’s 10! What was wrong with me? The truth is, I think it was more about me.

5. I’m projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter.

I’ve been using this adult gauge to judge and measure my daughter. She’s SUPPOSED to be all those things – loud, easily excited, goofy. It may not even really be her personality. Some of it may just be attributed to BEING A KID! She’s still searching for who she is and what she will be like. Of course she is. So am I! But I’ve been acting like she should have already arrived. How unfair. And it took me 10 years and cancer to realize it.

I now recognize that I actually get uncomfortable sometimes thinking about how she appears to others. Does she seem well parented, well disciplined, smart, polite, dressed well, clean? That’s all about me. I’m really thinking about what others think about me as a person and a parent, not her as a child.

I think about what she wears and how it looks – not if she’s comfortable and how it makes her feel about herself.

I worry about if other kids like her or not or if she’s difficult to be friends with. And some of that could be valid, but it’s still not about how she feels. It’s about how I feel cause she’s never once come home saying she doesn’t have any friends and nobody likes her.

My daughter is not insecure and somehow hasn’t been programmed to even care that much about what people think about her, which is a gift. So why am I practically teaching her to burden herself with these thoughts and concerns?

Today as I watched her on the volleyball court, I saw an excited, sort of uncoordinated, overly dramatic, loud 10 year old flailing around the court. For the first time, I didn’t wish she’d act differently. For the first time, when she looked back at me, instead of giving her the look to settle down and chill out, I smiled at her and encouraged her excitement.

Despite me, my daughter wants to enjoy her childhood, which she deserves. She wants to not be perfect and worried about how people perceive her. She wants to be loud and snort occasionally. I’m not sure when I stopped celebrating who she was as an individual or enjoying her childhood with her, but I’m happy to say I started again today.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #2

Growing up, I was a nerd. That’s not my confession cause a lot of people already know that about me 🙂 But I really loved school. I don’t remember a lot about homework. I definitely don’t remember my mom doing homework with me every night. Frankly, I don’t even think we had homework until the 4th grade, which is totally different now. Our kids start getting homework in pre-school! Maybe it’s the way we believe we’re going to keep up in this constantly changing, information overloaded world, but it’s overwhelming for my kids and for me.

Because of that, homework and school for that matter are just another item on my checklist. The truth is, I’ve made it just one more thing they have to do too. I haven’t made it about learning or their education. My 4th grader can’t rattle off the last 5 books she read. The one science project we’ve done started with a Google search of ‘science fair project in 24 hours’. I am definitely not getting an ‘A’ in this category!

This is another really important thing that because I’m a super busy, single mom I’ve let be ‘ok’, but I’ve realized – it’s not ok. So here’s number 2:

2. I haven’t made learning an integral part of my kids’ childhood.

~School is not their job. I confess, I’ve called it that more than once. The problem here is that they don’t have a choice. They have to go to school and get served what they’re being taught. Also, if they don’t like school, what am I teaching them about the future of their lives? Work in a child’s mind is not, by its very nature, something that sounds like fun. School is not their job because they’re not little adults. They shouldn’t have it on their ‘to do list’. School is for them. It’s not the place that takes care of them so I can go to work. It’s a place that should excite them and open their minds. I’m not saying that kids are going to love school. I know for a lot of kids it feels like a chore some years, but I should help them understand the value of it.

~I have a lot of evening events for work. I thought it was ok for my kids to do their homework with the babysitter, but when I sat down recently with my 4th grader, I realized I was missing opportunities to show her things that make math cool, fun and easier to understand. Plus its valuable together time for us. (More on time coming soon!) Our nights are short but homework is not just something to check off the list each night. It’s a time for me to show them the value of school through what they’re being taught. It’s a time for me to better understand where they need help and where they’re excelling. It’s a time for me to praise them. It’s a time for me to teach them a few things too.

~Learning doesn’t just happen at school. It should be a part of our regular lives. But I like my weekends. I like to relax on the weekends because I’m tired from the week. I like to hang out with our friends cause that makes me happy. But I should take my kids to places they can naturally learn. I’m blessed to live in a city with great museums, botanical gardens, and history. I rarely take them to those places cause it gets in the way of the things I like to do. Maybe that’s a little harsh on myself, but maybe I also should be looking for a compromise. Maybe we should dedicate our summer adventures to things like that. I believe these experiences are important because I think the natural learning environment is often where kids really find the things they’re interested in and it sparks their desire to learn more and begins that thirst for knowledge. That should excite me.

This all sounds hard, like a lot of work. But I’m facing these confessions, realizations because I feel like I have another chance to do things right. I also have an obligation because things could have gone very differently. My prognosis could be worse. Would I have felt like I had done my best? I don’t know. But now I know I want to try harder to be the best mom I can be. I’m accepting the examination of myself as a gift and I’m giving that gift to my kids.

So, I’m looking forward to a fun, educational, healthy summer with my kids. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Advice for Single Mom Sheryl Sandberg – You are not alone!

I started this blog a couple of years ago, on Father’s Day. This was part of my first post:

“The Single Mom’s Guide to Leaning In was inspired in part by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead…..

But something struck me in Sandberg’s book, something I’d heard before and we’ve all heard before. That thank you statement to her husband, Dave. The one that says, ‘for making everything possible’. Hmmmm….really? Was everything not possible without Dave? Could Sheryl Sandberg really not have become the COO of Facebook and a satisfied mother of 2 children without Dave?

Now this is not a criticism – I bet Dave is a great guy and an outstanding partner. It definitely seemed that way from the stories Sandberg shared in her book. But what does this mean to me a hardworking single mom trying to get the most out of her education, career, passion and commitment too? Does it mean that it’s not possible for me or any other single mom because I don’t have a Dave?”

Last Friday, I couldn’t believe when I heard the news about the tragic loss of Dave Goldberg, Sandberg’s husband. I immediately thought of this post and I immediately thought about Sheryl Sandberg and what she must be feeling without her partner, and it definitely seems that they were truly partners. I mourned for her and I prayed for her and her children who are about the same age as my two daughters.

Then, I thought about what I wanted to say to her and what I wanted to do.

First, I want Sheryl to know that it is all still possible. It won’t feel like it for a while. But time will help. What will also help is those who have come before her. Just as she did in her own book, by sharing her own experiences, she will find support, inspiration, motivation, ideas and hope from single moms everywhere. No matter how we’ve come about being single, we share similar challenges. And even though many will point to the staff and assistance she will be surrounded by, we know that at the end of the day, she is mom. She is now all things to her 2 children and what I want most for her is to not feel alone in that.

That’s what I want for every single mom to know. So I’m going to start this blog back up again. Because the purpose of it is too great to abandon it. You are not alone and yes, everything is possible for you.

RIP Dave Goldberg

I Could Care Less!

Really, I could. Care LESS! I’ve realized recently that at times, I over think things to the point of stressing myself out. I’m writing about this cause I know I’m not alone.

We worry about what people think when we come in late or leave a little early.
We worry about what the stay at home moms will think if we don’t volunteer at school.
We worry about what our kid’s teacher will think if we don’t sell cookie dough for the fundraiser.

But really, who cares?!?!

Are you leaning in at work, doing your very best and getting results?
Are you stepping up and carrying your weight when possible to make your school better?
Are you making sure your kids are prepared to be lifetime learners and contributing members of society?

Then stop worrying about it. Stand strong in recognizing the value you are bringing and start caring less about what others might be thinking.

The truth is, you aren’t that important. Most people are not sitting around thinking about what you’re doing. Even if it feels like people are looking at you funny when you sneak out occasionally at 4.

They could care less. They’re too busy worrying about what others are thinking about them!

Caring less! Now that’s how single mom’s lean in!

Take Off for No Reason!

I’m not working today. There’s no reason. No doctor appointments. Not traveling. No where to be.

Yes, it was planned to give me and the girls a little wind down time before school starts on Monday but how much time will we really need at Target and Wal-Mart!

As a leaning in single mom, we rarely just take off to do nothing. I think people call them mental health days and that’s so true! It’s nice just not having to worry about anything or any schedule.

Now I know many of you will say you can’t afford to waste a vacation day like this. Especially knowing school’s starting, kids will get sick etcetera. But I’m starting to think we can’t afford not to.

Time off for vacation or managing your household is not relaxing. If you’re feeling burnt out at all at work, you’re just going to transfer that to being burnt out at home or even worse fried when you get back to the office. We can’t afford this at work or home. We need to find creative ways to rejuvenate in the midst of our crazy lives.

What should you do on days like this?
• sleep late
• get a massage
• enjoy lunch on a patio
• have a midday cocktail
• get your nails done
• take a nap
• exercise
• go on a walk
• wander the mall
• see a rated R movie

The possibilities are endless. Right now, I’m sitting on my back patio with a cup of coffee, enjoying this strange but pleasant cool Texas August. The day is very young.

Now my only regret is I’m starting to think I should have saved one of these days for next week. The girls would already be heading to school and I’d probably be crawling back in bed!

Enjoy your day! I’m definitely going to enjoy mine! That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Do It Your Way!

Randomly, this post is related to Bruno Mars. I saw him in concert the other night and I have to say, he was great. Even better, he was authentic and frankly, that was refreshing. You can say he reminds you of Michael Jackson or anyone else, but you get the feeling he was inspired by them, not that he was trying to be them.

So, that’s the tip today for us single mom’s trying to lean in. Do it your way! You may have been inspired by managers or leaders you’ve worked with, but when you find your right rhythm that’s perfect for you, that’s when you’ll be able to accomplish more and be happier doing it.

What does this mean at work? I’ve mentored a few women in my career and eventually, I usually hear the comment, “but I’m not you.” And that is true. What I do works for me because it’s authentic and true to who I am. But I find so many women who are afraid to be themselves at work. They believe their real personality isn’t professional enough, doesn’t seem powerful enough, isn’t manly enough. I once had a woman who worked for me who was very quiet in meetings. She rarely shared her opinion and people tagged her as an introvert. However, when I had the chance to go to lunch with her, I found a very outgoing, opinionated, funny person. I of course brought this contrast up to her and she told me she didn’t want to seem overbearing or threatening to people. And I understand that, but her choice to hide the real her didn’t result in anything better. When I left that job for a new opportunity, my advice I left her with was to find a way to blend her true personality into her work personality. I hope she has because people like people who are authentic and consistent.

At home, this translates into ‘not keeping up with the Joneses’! Comparing yourself to another mom, single or married is a futile exercise. What we all know is that no one’s life is perfect. But the good news is your kids were made perfectly for you. They were built to stand up to your crazy schedule, traveling, late night projects, and multi-tasking. You may eat out a few more times than you should and they may miss their bedtime more often than you like, but if you accept your way of life, they will too. If you show them that your way is okay too, even if it’s different from their friends, you will teach them one of the most valuable lessons they can learn…to love themselves and be grateful for the life they’ve been given.

Now that’s how single mom’s lean in!