I am a single mom of a nine-year-old son, and my life is complicated but exactly as I chose it to be!
In Israel, you talked about ‘inverting the paradigm‘ about the way you love your child and the way you love your spouse. The message seemed to be that we love our spouses the way we are meant to love our children and that we love our children the way we are meant to love our spouses! With no spouse to invert that paradigm with, I am pretty much ‘all about the kid’. Is there a problem with that?
You are wise to ask this question! While single parenting has its pleasures and potential pitfalls just like any other dynamic relationship it is up to each of us to have the foresight (and sometimes hindsight ) to ask the right questions for our situations.
Nothing changes here for you; your child is not your partner! What makes it harder is that you will have to be careful to build an emotional support system around you so that your child does not inadvertently become that system!
In some ways, the inevitable pain of one’s child separating from them will be magnified by your interdependency (based on the constant proximity). EVERY child does and MUST separate to realize their autonomy. If a child feels that his or her parent ‘needs’ them too much, they can feel conflicted about that desire to separate. In their immaturity, they may separate in ways that feel hurtful, and suddenly you might feel like your beloved has ‘broken up with you’ or ‘rejected you.’ You may feel bereft at the loss of closeness that once defined your loving bond. Or they may feel resentful and conflicted and ‘stay close’ to ‘protect’ you!
That is not doing either of you any developmental favors either! But I assure you that every mother feels that rupture regardless of her ‘marital status.’
In your case, I would work hard to ensure you have close emotional/social and intellectual bonds outside of your child. Make certain you develop interests outside of parenting and make time for them every week ensuring that your child sees your passions and purposes beyond being their mother.
Make your home a place to gather for adult pursuits such as book clubs, Torah classes, volunteer meetings and the like! This is good for your kids and good for you while sending the message that Mommy may be ‘Mommy First’ but that is not the sum of her entirely. Let them see that you are always growing and reaching out to the world so that you model outwardly focused behaviors and that your home is open and inviting to others.
Our job as parents is to raise good citizens who are filled with Jewish core values to raise the next generation! The above advice is not just for single moms but applies to every single mother reading this! Just as your child is a beloved soul entrusted to you to kindle; so YOU TOO are a beautiful soul with work to do on yourself and on the broken world we live in!
May you take joy and pleasure in your child without ever forgetting to parent yourself too!
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