Do you ever feel pulled in a million directions? Not just from daily logistics but also from the stress of steering the family ship. The infamous discussions about work/life balance and having it all focus on this very phenomena.
With so many options, it’s overwhelming to know what to do and what matters most to us.
My Tale of Woe
I experiences a crisis of confidence when my ex-husband remarried. His new wife had two kids of her own to add to our three. They were very focused on blending their families and building strong relationships between them and the kids.
Which meant a whole lotta Instagram posts of my boys enjoying interesting activities with a “mom” who wasn’t me. Every other week, I would scroll through Instagram to see smiling faces doing all sorts of family activities. Activities I was either not interested in or unable to do because of limited finances and the simple of logistics of being a household with one adult instead of two.
I have to admit, I wallowed in my guilt, shame, and fear for a long time. What if my boys decide they don’t love me as much because I’m not providing a “family” the way their dad is? What if I’m not good enough?
The truth is, I was happy for my ex, and his new wife is wonderful to everyone in our family. They were carving out the life they wanted. And it was time I did the same.
How Values Changed My Story
The thing that really pulled me out of my self-pitying funk was thinking about what I truly valued.
My ex and his wife value a more traditional home life. They enjoy doing crafts and hauling all six kids (they added a baby to the mix last year) to festivals and other events.
Shoot me now.
It’s wonderful that they love those things. But I do not. Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t provide my boys, I thought about what was uniquely “me.” What did I bring to the table of my kids’ lives?
In my case, books and travel were high on this list. And in the last three years, we’ve read a lot of books and had lots of adventures. It’s different than their dad’s house, but it’s also great because they get the best me when we focus on those activities.
Staking Out Your Own Values
The moral of the story is that when you’re a single mom with limited time, energy, and resources, you’ve got to be very clear about what YOUR values are. You can’t drift into other people’s values.
How do you get clear on what’s important to you? If you allow yourself to get quiet and honest with yourself, you’ll probably innately know. However, sometimes the noise in our heads makes it hard to distinguish. That’s where some of my favorite tools come in.
I love this exercise from J.D. Roth. He uses it to craft a mission statement, but it helped me get very clear on what I value. Here’s my version of the exercise:
Get pen, paper, and a timer. You’ll need about an hour to really dive deep into this, so pour some coffee and plop the kiddos in front of the TV if you need to. (No judgement. We’ve all done it.)
- On one sheet of paper write: My Lifetime Dreams. Now, set the timer and spend five minutes writing down everything that comes to mind. Don’t let your inner critic overwhelm you. This is not the time to worry about money or logistics or “reality.” This is the time to focus on the deep inner you who can do anything. When the five minutes is up, spend another five minutes reviewing. Anything you need to add or change? Put a star by the three dreams that are really resonating with you right now.
- On a new sheet of paper write: The Next Five Years. Set the time and spend five minutes writing down everything you’d like to do in the next five years. Your inner “no” might go haywire right now, but try to ignore her. You’re not writing what you should do or even what you expect to do. Write what you’d like to do if you had complete freedom to choose. When your time is up, spend five minutes reviewing. Edit as needed, and star the dreams that really resonate.
- On a new sheet of paper write: How I Would Live If… Imagine you know that you’ll die in six months. There won’t be any pain, no long, drawn out illness. So, you have six months to live as fully as you can. What would you do? What would you regret not having done? Write it all down. After the timer goes off, spend five more minutes reviewing and star the dreams that matter most.
- Now, look back over all of your lists and copy the dreams that you starred on each sheet of paper. Do you see a common thread? Maybe there’s a thirst for travel or homemaking or career ambitions or finding a new partner. From this exercise, you should be able to pull out a few values that you can begin to incorporate more fully into your life.
When I did this exercise the first time, all of my answers seemed to align around three values: alignment, connection, and exploration. I care about being internally at peace and aligned with my greater purpose (and helping others do the same!). I care about connecting with people–especially the people I love most in the world. And I care about adventure and travel.
Getting clear on your values is step one. As you become more used to thinking about decisions through the lens of those values, it will become easier and easier to stay true to them.
What were your values? What tweaks are you going to make to live more fully aligned with them?
Interested in talking more? Sign up for a free 20 minute mini-session, and we’ll dive into your values and how they can affect your life.