Never having been a parent, I’m naturally fascinated by those who have and the experiences they have encountered. As a result, I’m delighted to welcome Nina Farr, author of I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone to Linda’s Book Bag today.
Published by Practical Inspiration, I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone is available for purchase here.
I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone
Being The parent who stayed can be more beautiful than you ever imagined. It’s hard to be left taking care of your family all by yourself. Parenting alone in the wake of domestic violence, intense conflict or traumatic, unexpected events, makes being The parent who stayed even more difficult.
Are you standing in the ruins of your family wondering what the hell you have to do to get back to being ok again?
Has the amount of conflict, aggression and shame that came with separation/divorce floored your and your kids?
You deserve to be happy, no matter how awful this has been.
Parenting alone after traumatic family breakdown is relentless, lonely, scary and hard. The nights you sit on the stairs crying after the kids finally fall asleep. The days you can barely get out of bed but push on through because no-one else is going to pick up the pieces. The times you watch your children crumple into anger, despair and frustration and you simply don’t know what to do. If you feel that you’re stuck in the trenches, this book is for you.
It’s for you, if even lifting your eyes to the path ahead feels like putting yourself in the firing line.
It is for you if you’re just about getting through the day you’re in.
It’s for you if you know that life cannot change when you have no perspective, no vision, and no plan. You can figure out how to pick up all the broken pieces of your life and put them back together again. Discover how to parent on your own with skill, courage and artistry. Rebuild your family from the shattered mess of grief and anger Create a life more beautiful and more rewarding than you ever thought possible, for both you and your children Be truly proud of what you have achieved as a single parent, no matter how you arrived in this place I promise that if you show up and work your way through this book with commitment you will also experience a new way of living together as a family. You’ll discover a beautiful life waiting for you, where your family is whole and complete just as you are. You will learn how to put down all your resentments, how to let go of your need to control or manipulate people, places or things, and in the journey, rediscover your joy and connection to being a parent again
A Guest Post by Nina Farr
Becoming a lone parent can quite literally turn your life upside down. At the start of my lone parenting journey I felt completely overwhelmed by the changes that heaped one on top of the other. I didn’t simply end my relationship. I became the sole carer for a toddler and had a baby on the way. I couldn’t continue to live in the home I’d shared with my ex-husband so had to relocate.
Because I relocated I had to leave my job. Because I left my job, I had no stable income and couldn’t seek work due to my pregnancy, so was unable to rent somewhere new in my own name. Because my extended family could house us in their spare room, I was ineligible for social housing. So, I found myself stuck, searching for an opportunity to put down new roots and start my life again. Knowing it would look absolutely nothing like the one I’d had before.
Luckily, I had the blessing of a family who were able to provide a home for my children and me in the interim period. I am well aware that many other lone parents will not have this luxury, at one extreme finding themselves in temporary or emergency housing, at the other forced to stay in an unhappy house they would rather be able to leave. I can certainly admit that, from my own experience, it was not easy to let go of everything that created the edges of my world. Stepping into a new, undefined version of reality where I had no idea what to expect or who I should be.
Today I call this ‘the still and silent place’. It’s like a waiting room between one life and the next. It can feel crushingly empty, oppressively lonely, frighteningly dark. However, in this waiting room, this silent place, there is an astonishing opportunity for change.
When all the edges of your world disappear, you can build a completely new one. If you find that leaving your relationship has also stripped away your professional identity, severed friendships, changed your living arrangements or triggered relocation, take a moment to be still. It is in stillness that we can feel the space that has opened up in this place.
Being relentlessly busy helps many parents in transition, at least at first. The busyness masks the fear we have of wide open spaces. It is natural for a mother not to feel safe with her children if she finds herself in a place without shelter, boundaries or safety. I know that asking you to welcome this space may feel like going against your very nature, possibly evoking strong feelings of fear and the urge to run and hide. If you do not feel safe here yet, you are not alone. In embarking on this journey, you have already taken your first step toward discovering places where you may feel secure again. For this new world has safe places too. We simply have to slow down long enough to see them clearly.
Any one of the changes I described above, from separation to relocation, involves setting down part of the identity you once called your own. You may no longer be so-and-so’s partner, who lives at X and does Y. Perhaps your social circle suddenly feels upsettingly small. Each of the people who are no longer sharing your life leave a space. A space that can feel intensely painful. Yet from another angle, a space is full of possibility too.
If you are able to, consider the vacancies that have opened up. In time, for each person you say goodbye to, you’ll find a space appears where you may make new choices about where, how and with whom to rebuild your life. In each of the ‘no’s’ you hear from others or find you have to say yourself, spaces are opening up ready to receive your new ‘yes’.
Even if you have lost only one of the pillars that held up your life, you have entered a new land. You may be living in the same home, sleeping in the same bed, moving in the same circles and yet know that some essential part of yourself will never be the same again. The edges of your world may look the same from the outside, but inside the whole universe you inhabit has tilted on its axis — perhaps leaving you feeling motion sick and unsteady on your feet.
You too are in a still and silent place. For each of us moving into new worlds, releasing old paradigms and unwillingly accepting the new — this space must be allowed to settle. It is hard and scary stuff to take a deep breath when you feel vulnerable or exposed. Take your time and be gentle with yourself while you feel your way back to creating firm foundations and edges for your world in this new era.
It takes time to pick out new hats to replace the ones we’ve taken off. I didn’t become a Leadership Coach immediately after I became a single parent. It took me two years to arrive in the city I now call home. Cementing new friendships also took a lot of time, courage and commitment. It’s important to remember, when we make any investment in ourselves, that there is no point giving up on a goal just because it will take time to achieve it. The time is going to pass anyway, of that we can be certain.
Allow yourself to enjoy the space you are in right now. Emptiness and stillness after a big storm can be a truly creative place. When we accept what is, and stop fighting against the inevitable changes in our day-to-day lives or clinging on to a life that no longer serves us or our children’s happiness, the space that opens up will cease to frighten us.
Instead of a cavern of loneliness, we begin to see a canvas waiting to receive all the colour of our new life. Think back to five years ago. Where were you then? Now cast your mind back another five years. What about then? Keep going.
Remind yourself often that where you are now is no more permanent than where you were yesterday. If you feel desperate or pessimistic about the way life looks this morning, cast your mind back five years. Make a mental note of the enormous leaps forward each five-year period represents. You will certainly not be where you are today in five years’ time.
Nothing is permanent. Not the good, not the bad.
(Wise words for all of us Nina, parents or otherwise. Thanks so much.)
About Nina Farr
Nina Farr is a Leadership and Parenting Coach who works with parents who are raising their families alone. She is a TEDx speaker and author of I am the parent who stayed – joyfully parenting alone.
You can find out more on Nina’s website. You can also follow Nina on Twitter @LoneParentCoach.