When I was a teenager I had a picture of how my family would be. A tall, dark, and handsome husband, 2 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. Really! That was my ideal family. I never planned for things to be quite as interesting as they are today.
Three years ago I found myself a mother of 2, pregnant with twins and alone. After a rough breakup, financial hardship, failures and many disappointments I still chose joy. It was a few weeks after finding out I was having twins that I just decided to get over it. No more pity parties. No more shame and no more excuses. I had decided to own my situation and live my life. I looked at my 2 sons and my growing belly and thought: “How can I make the best of this?” I knew that I had to learn to enjoy the here and now and teach them to do the same. So I began to not focus so much my “issues” and find happiness in the little moments.
I can remember laughing when we all had to use the one bathroom we had in our tiny apartment, because I was just happy we had a safe place to call our own. I found humor in the awkward conversations with my ex because I was just thankful to be happily single, instead of miserably married to one bad decision. I let every late notice and past due bill fuel my faith and increase the hope I had for a better future. That’s what kept me going. Ultimately I decided to look at life from a different perspective. Once I changed my attitude towards my circumstances, the circumstances changed right before me.
Despite parenting alone, I was finally happy. Because I realized that being a single mom was not the totality of who I was. My circumstances did not make me. I was more than what happened to me and I decided to use that to fuel a life of joy. I decided to start doing specific things to be happier with what I had and find the joy in single parenting.
When I evaluated everything I realized good things were happening for me. I needed to start magnifying them. So I decided to start a journaling every little success. I didn’t care how small it seemed, I wrote it down and celebrated it. The baby went potty (ugh finally), I paid rent on time, I made it to the gym, I made it all a big deal.
I will never forget the first time I bought a live Christmas tree. I thought let me do something different and special with my sons. So I went out got the Christmas tree and me, my sons and my belly dragged it upstairs to our little apartment. I unwrapped it, put it up and stood back in admiration of what I had just done. About 60 seconds later I friggin frog jumps out of the tree! I literally lost my mind. My oldest son ran and left me alone with this creature!! It took everything I had to find the courage to wrangle this thing out of my house. Ugh. Needless to say I had 3 triumphs is one day!!
Amidst the not so glamorous moments, I still find triumphs, sometimes they come at unexpected times and I have to fight for them. You will too. But, train yourself to recognize them because in that intentional search you may find exactly what you’re looking for. In all the celebrating I found that I focused less on the drama and more on the things I was getting right. I focused more on the productive situations and less on the counterproductive ones i.e. complaining, worrying, and doubting.
You will see your confidence beginning to increase thus making you happier. Once I realized how content and happy I actually was, I wondered what would happen if I pursued something greater. So I challenged myself to pursue the possibilities. Once things got stable for me I did not want to get complacent. I wanted to keep growing and continue to elevate my life.
I made the choice to be grateful and content but I knew I still wanted more.
I wasn’t sure what I could reasonably do at the moment, given my current situation but I knew I could do something. So even if you have to take baby steps toward your goals you should still be working on them. I decided to think back to my younger self. What dreams did she have? What did she want to accomplish in life? And surprisingly a lot of those things I still wanted. I had just suppressed those desires because I felt I needed to put being a mother before my personal desires. We seem to do that a lot as moms. But, I realized I was letting my younger self down.
So I decided to pursue the possibilities and get back into writing. I already owned several journals that I would write in whenever I had something to say and nobody to say it to. I began writing more often and it was a way for me to express myself and do something I genuinely enjoyed doing.
A few months after starting I was reading Black Enterprise magazine and there was a story highlighting millennial bloggers making a living online. That really intrigued me, so I began researching how to start a blog. I researched for a while before I actually started, probably too long but here I am. It was slow going at first but I am starting to find my groove. But the important thing is I have something of my own, that I can be proud of. That makes me happier and more fulfilled than ever. Having something outside of motherhood that’s yours is beneficial and necessary.
Then after doing those thing I was able to really fall in love with my life. Decide how you can fall in love with yours. Here’s the thing. We all have had a vision for our lives that may not reflect what it looks like now but listen… Life is not perfect. It will never be perfectly orchestrated the way you imagined it. There will be mountaintop moments and valley moments, and then there will be times of perfect contentment.
I had to learn to be happy no matter what state I was in. I finally understood that the things I were going through were just temporary and would eventually change. So when things are going the way I want, I’m grateful and I celebrate that. But when things are not going as planned, I’m still grateful and celebrate the triumphs to come.
It’s about finding a new way to look at the situation.
Can you do something different to make the circumstance better? Can you learn from it? Can you prevent someone else from going through it?
When I decided to fall in love with my life that meant becoming unconditionally grateful for life itself. That meant being grateful for the small things we often take for granted and making a choice to be happy in whatever state I’m in. When you decide to be happy with where you are, what you have and who you’re doing it with, even it’s alone, you’ll find that joy just comes as a byproduct of that contentment.
I decided to get over the shame, stop with the pity parties and own my situation. I knew if I wanted to be happy while single parenting, I had to learn to enjoy the here and now, and teach my kids to do the same. So I started to focus more on enjoying the little moments and less on the little issues I had.
I hope my story inspires you to keep going and know there’s happiness even in doing this alone.
I first shared this personal story of triumph with Diedre Anthony of Are Those Your Kids.Check out her site here