Pushing Buttons

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My oldest son, now 26, was the product of divorce from about the time he was four months old. His father found someone new while I was still pregnant and filed for divorce when he was eight days old. I was 23 at the time. Being young and a first-time mother, I had no idea how to handle a divorce and a newborn. Someone wise once said, “You can’t control everything, only how you react to it.” At that time in my life, I reacted to every single thing! We were in court for any little disagreement or argument. Luckily, my parents were helping me with the legal bills. My ex’s father was a lawyer, so he didn’t have any legal costs and loved to go to court. The entire time my son grew up, we fought over any minute detail.

One time, in a meeting with my lawyer, she said to me, “You do realize that he knows how to push your buttons, and he is doing it every time he can?!” I ignored her thinking she had no idea what she was talking about and who I was having to deal with almost daily. We argued over where to meet for pickups, what my son was wearing, if the new girlfriend could pick him up, what he could take back and forth between homes…literally anything there was to argue over, we argued!

Fast forward to today. I am nearly 50 now, and my son is grown. I haven’t had to deal with his dad in several years. As I look back on the lawyer’s words, I realize that she was exactly right! He did know how to push any of my buttons that he could. He pushed me to the point of me arguing and getting upset every time. I now use those words in my life when dealing with others who might try to get to those hotpoint buttons. I take a deep breath and assess the situation. If I realize they are going that direction, I really try to control my reaction. I realized that at 23, I didn’t know how to do this!

I am writing this blog post in hopes that maybe some of you single moms will read this and take it to heart. You don’t have to react to everything the ex does! And realize that maybe he is trying hard to get a reaction so that he can use it against you, whether it be in court or in the presence of your child(ren).

Take a deep breath, look at the situation, and react or don’t. You are in control, not your ex!

-Julie Burr

Righteous Anger

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Gosh, I love those refrains about single mothers that gush about our unique combination of strength and grace.

“Wow, I admire you.”

“I could never do what you do.”

“Single moms are heroes.”

It is so nice to be recognized, even briefly or superficially, for the back-breaking struggle of parenting children alone. Being a parent is an often-thankless job in itself. So, outside validation is always welcome.

But the other day, I got to thinking and questioning. What is it that motivates me to drive my girls to track meets when all I want to do is face plant into a venti latte?  What makes me keep going? My love for my kids? Yes. But, what else? Is there something special about me? Am I like the X-men of parents, with some genetic mutation that gives me an upper hand that society simultaneously envies and uses as an excuse to ostracize me from the “real family” norm?

As much as I wish I could say that I am understudying Dad while playing the lead role of Mom from a place of love and grace, the truth is that I am deeply and constantly angry.

I am livid that I am nearly 40 years old and still have to ask my mother for help paying for my car insurance because my ex-husband is thousands of dollars behind on child support, and the embarrassing amount he is ordered to pay does not even cover the kids’ food for two weeks.

I am furious that I still feel compelled to respond to his emails offering to help, knowing that he never actually will.

I am vexed that he can sleep at night while I lay awake worrying about how we are going to make everything work this week, this month, this year.

I am irate that he still gets the title “Dad” and they still carry his last name, even though he does not know them at all.

Mostly, I am enraged that these two precious, dynamic, hilarious, brilliant, mind-blowingly incredible little girls may think, even for a second, that his absence is a reflection of their worth.

My X-gene is anger.

It is not a force of will or Christ-like grace. It is full blown, unadulterated, unrelenting anger…and that is fine.

Righteous anger is Biblical. Being angry is not a sin to be prayed away. What we do with anger is what matters. Ephesians 4:26 may be one of the most difficult imperatives in all of the Bible: “Be angry and do not sin.” God commands us to let the sun go down on our anger before we make room for the Devil in our lives. He does not tell us to simply let go of anger.

In his book, Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones tells us that, “True anger properly diagnoses what is an actual sin, it focuses not on personal offense as much as Godward offense, and then it expresses itself in ways consistent with Christian character.” This is the anger that I am striving for in my life. I pray to remain angry about the rupture of the parental covenant and to use that anger as motivation when the demands of parenthood, work, and relationships drain me. I will embrace the righteous anger born of a callous act as an intentional inspiration to be the most loving parent that I can humanly be.

So, next time you see me, it is ok to holler, “Stay angry, momma!”


A. Smith

The Top 10 Single Parent Do's and Don'ts for 2017

Esme and I were just thinking about how we would like to forget most of 2016, but more importantly we are excited for the New Year to come! This is the time of year for resolutions and goal planning. There is no time like the here and now to start being nice to yourself and loving the person you have become.

Here are a few suggestions we have put together for single parents to help start your New Year with a fresh and positive spin!!

1.      Get organized by buying a planner (and actually using it) or there’s no time like now to start using that calendar app on your phone (JLR lives by her calendar app)! This will help you as a single parent get in the habit of checking your calendars and stop forgetting important appointments or even bills to pay.

2.      Start researching wills and power of attorneys. This makes a lot of us uncomfortable to talk about, but it is smart to have this in place because you never know what might happen and you want to make sure your children are taken care of in your absence.

3.      Start a budget/savings plan and put into place for the year. Make sure you budget for that new car you need or those miscellaneous items like teacher gifts and friend’s birthday presents. The more detailed the better.

4.      Set up a plan to work-out (or walk-out as Esme likes to call it). Even if you only walk 15 minutes a day it will change your outlook and increase those endorphin's. Bring your kids along with you; it is nice to have some time away from distractions with them.

5.      Plan at least 5-10 minutes of quiet “you” time at the start or end of the day. While the children are asleep, meditate on the things you’re grateful for and the positive affirmations you are instilling in yourself and family.

What are the best things that happened to you this last year? Try making a “Gratitude” jar this year and every good thing that happens, write it on a small paper and put in it in a jar. When you have low times over the year you can get them out and read to see how many great things have happened.

Lastly, here are some gentle and helpful reminders of what NOT to do as you start the New Year off. Some apply to New Year’s Eve while others can be used all year round. Cheers!

6.      Do NOT start the year off with a new online dating profile because you are lonely. Lonely is not a good enough reason to date someone. Date yourself for a change and learn to love it!

7.      Do NOT text your ex no matter how much you miss them. You know who we're talking about, the one that broke your heart and lied to you. Let’s face it, there was a reason it ended in the first place whether you know the reason or not.

8.      Do NOT start the year off in the bed of a random woman/man. Instead get your butt home…alone! You will thank yourself later for it (and thank us too). ;)

9.      Do NOT continue to talk about last year and play the” woe is me” card. We all know 2016 was hard and terrible, but let’s focus on the here and now and how to make it fantastic!

10.      Do NOT harbor unforgiveness and anger any longer. No matter whom it is towards or what it is about, it only leads to hurting yourself. Reach out for help or counseling if you need to (the only time that number 4 can be broken).

We all make many mistakes over and over again until we learn not to do them. Just as we teach our children to not do the things that will hurt them we must also keep those reasons in mind for ourselves. Just don’t forget about grace; the grace we need to give ourselves to see those changes.

Many blessings to each and every one of you as you start off 2017!

Esme and JLR

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