Single Mom Salute – and a Personalized Happiness Action Plan

OK, so this is my fourth day working and taking care of my bonus daughters alone while my hubby is on a trip. You might already know that a few months ago, I married the most supportive, thoughtful, generous man who is an amazing dad – and let me tell you, Jeff’s entire family is the icing on the cake of our marriage.  I don’t call them my “in-laws,” but my “in-loves.” I have always felt like a mom at heart, so I am especially blessed by the bonus of his two energetic little girls – who are in first and third grades.

With Jeff out of town this week, I am gaining a new (albeit brief) perspective on parenting alone.  Let me just say, I always respected single parents, but I’ve gained a whole new level of empathy and respect. It is going great, but whew, it is nonstop! Squeezing in all my work between 8:30 – 2:15, homework, dinner, extracurricular activities, bath time, all those darn papers they send home to read and sign, bedtime stories, getting them successfully off to school – well fed, lunches packed, backpacks in tow, appropriately clothed with shoes (how did you lose your shoes again? :) … I love it, but I’m in awe of anyone who successfully does it with a full-time, non-flexible job. So, if you are a single parent:  I salute you. I’m praying for you. You are amazing!

In my latest book Happy Women Live Better, I cite a study that explains married women without children report the highest levels of happiness, followed by single women with no kids, married women with children and last, but certainly not least, single mothers.  Having all the household responsibilities and those young lives on your shoulders surely contributes to the stress and overload that many single moms feel.  I’d like to just share from the Personalized Action Plans in the resource section of Happy Women Live Better.  Some of these tips are helpful for everyone, but they are especially relevant to single moms to help boost your joy.  One of my favorite quotes from the book of Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” and indeed research supports that.  Positive emotion actually expands your ability to deal with adversity and stress. So in the midst of taking care of everyone else, don’t forget to take care of you by embracing joy along your very busy journey.  Here you go, from page 213 of the book:

  • If at all possible, live near family or close friends. Place a high value on your support system. This means think twice before moving somewhere you don’t have a network.
  • Accept and tell the truth to your children.  Don’t belittle your ex, but also don’t make excuses for him if he is not involved. Speak the truth in love and support your children as they learn to handle the truth.
  • Do your best, and accept that you can only be a mom, not mom and dad. Seek trusted male role models to provide a fatherly influence if the father is not involved.
  • Take regular breaks. If you can afford a sitter, get one and give yourself a weekly rest. Or trade with another mom or family member.
  • When others offer to help, accept their offer! And if they don’t ask and you need help, ask.
  • Have a “play date” with your kids once a week. Let them pick the activity. Lighten up, laugh and have a ball!
  • When you tuck your children in to bed, start a gratitude conversation with them: What were the three best things about today?

If you’re not a single parent, pass this on to the single parents and guardians in your life.

Discover your personal happiness triggers for FREE at www.happywomantest.com. Join the happiness movement and talk more about this topic with other women using my FREE girlfriends’ gab guide at www.valorieburton.com/girlfriends.

 

 

 

It’s Just an Experiment…Go Ahead, Try It!

A few years ago, I had a challenging idea: Try a vegetarian diet for one weekend. I have always admired people who are able to be disciplined in their eating habits and intrigued by the idea of trying something even more healthy than my regular diet. I tried a similar experiment when I was 13 – by going an entire weekend without any soft drinks or lemonade, my beverages of choice at the time. The experiment turned into a permanent change that has lasted until this day. It was a change that seemed dramatic, but after just a couple of days, I realized that I actually preferred the refreshing taste of pure water and juice.

My experiment with a vegetarian diet felt like a much bigger deal, though. I am the kind of woman who doesn’t just order pepperoni pizza – I order meat lovers. My southern family roots dictate that a meal is not meal if there is no meat in it. So to make the experiment more palatable, I opted for a pesco-vegetarian diet – one that would include fish. To my delight, my weekend meals were fabulous, and I didn’t feel at all deprived. In fact, after the weekend, I continued my experiment effortlessly for five weeks. I learned that I could do it.  I felt lighter and more energized. Yet, I did not feel compelled to make it a permanent lifestyle change. Instead, it challenged me to expand my thinking, and inspired me to eat leaner meats and do so in moderation. It felt good to try something new simply for the sake of exploring what I really want.

 

This week, I invite you to create an experiment that will expose you to a different way of doing things, but with no commitment to making a permanent change. So often, we feel that decisions about changes we need to make in our lives are set in stone. Not so. Experimenting allows you to experience something, evaluate how well it works for you, and then make adjustments and decisions based on what you learn.

What do you need to experiment with? Here are a few experiments to consider:

- ADJUST YOUR WORK HOURS.
If you are someone who regularly works later than you have to, proving your value to the company with the quantity of hours you are in the office.  Make a decision to leave the office at 5:00. You may find yourself more productive and focused than ever.

- CREATE “ME” TIME.
Get up 30 minutes earlier. Use the time for thought gathering, praying and spiritual reading.

- ELIMINATE ONE UNHEALTHY ITEM FROM YOUR EATING HABITS.
Rather than telling yourself you must make 10 major changes in your diet all at once, experiment with one change that will make an impact.

- BITE YOUR TONGUE.
When you feel the urge to say something negative or argue this week, experiment with being quiet and kind. See what happens and notice how you feel. You may be pleasantly surprised. Meekness (strength under control) is a virtue.

- GO ON A MEDIA FAST.
Television, radio and the internet can sometimes serve as distractions that keep you from quality time with people you care about, connecting with yourself and God. Fasting from media will often help you gain more clarity and focus. What you feed your mind ultimately impacts how you think, feel and relate to the world around to you.

- MAKE A VISIT TO A PLACE YOU’D LIKE TO CALL HOME.
Have you been daydreaming about moving to a new place – whether on the other side of town or the other side of the country? Experiment with what that place will feel like by visiting the area and experiencing various aspects of life there. A weekend trip to a new city you are considering or a few hours visiting model homes in a neighborhood you like are a form of “experimenting.” It’s not a commitment, just a visit to explore your options.

- TODAY, CREATE AN EXPERIMENT OF YOUR OWN.
What “experiment” could you create that will help you make an intentional decision about something you are currently pondering?

 

My challenge to you this week: Before you move on from this page, identify an experiment you’d like to try in the next week. Do it purely to learn and explore, with no commitment to a permanent change. At the end of your experiment, ask yourself, “What did I learn here?” and “Is there an adjustment or change I’d like to make on an ongoing basis based upon what I’ve learned?”

Journaling questions:  In what area of my life am I resisting change? What experiments could I create to explore the best options and move forward with the right change or adjustment for me? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!