Single parenting is not for the faint of heart.
We get all the late nights, early mornings, sick days and constant worrying that comes with parenting. We also get so much love and so much time, and I never take that for granted.
But it’s tough.
Parenting was never meant to be done alone, yet so many of us rise to the challenge like a boss. And you know what? We’re amazing parents because of it. No, it’s not easy, but it’s worth every moment to choose a life that puts our children first.
Recently, I took my two small children on a cruise. They are two and four years old, and I took them by myself. On a cruise. For a week.
It was interesting to watch the other passengers take in my situation. There were two main categories: those who pitied me, and those who admired the courage it took to take a big trip on my own, obviously outnumbered.
I was afraid of doing it. Franky, I was terrified.
The idea of traveling so far away with two children and no help intimidated me. But I was equally afraid of not doing it—of limiting our lives by my own fears.
Had we stayed home or gone on a “safe” vacation, I would have cheated us out of the experience. We had wonderful days on the beach and thoroughly enjoyed our time on the ship. It was a grand adventure, and one that required courage to face.
When we choose to live despite our fears, we learn so much about ourselves. On this family vacation, I learned that I am stronger, more capable and certainly braver than I ever knew. I found a core of strength in myself and a determination to live out my life facing every fear.
I have been practicing leaning into my life—into my feelings, experiences, and the present moment. When I lean into my fears, I often find that I break them down.
When we run from our fear, we only learn how to adapt our lives to accommodate it. We don’t learn to get beyond them and grow.
Single parenting was a choice I made the moment I filed for divorce. I didn’t come to the decision easily, and I didn’t take it lightly. Even as I made the choice, I was already considering the issues my children would face with divorced parents—issues that I never had to deal with myself.
I was raised by high school sweethearts who are still married. I didn’t have to deal with parents dating or sharing time or navigating separate residences. I felt the weight of that decision then, and I feel it now. But I also decided to commit to choosing the life I want to lead despite my fears.
Fear holds us back. We listen to the whispers of how difficult this decision or that decision will be and how much easier it would be just to let the moment pass. We feel the social pressure to follow certain timelines and stick to particular plans.
But if we listen beyond all of that noise—if we truly connect to our own hearts—we can hear other whispers.
We can hear the steady cadence of a voice that speaks to us of our dreams. This voice tells a story of challenges, yes, but also of the treasures we can find when we follow our bliss. It asks us to trust that the more difficult path will take us where we need to go.
It’s hard to hear the soft voice of our own intuition through all the fear and expectation surrounding us. But our dreams are insistent. They don’t give up easily. We find them creeping into our dreams and showing up as signs in our daily lives. They beckon to us even as we dismiss them out of hand. We walk side by side with the fear, but we feel the presence of all of those dreams we could be living if only we were strong enough or brave enough.
When I booked my cruise, I faced one fear. But then I found myself on board a ship surrounded by many fears:
My fear of the water. Of the dark. Of being somewhere unknown. Of being alone and maybe always being alone. Of handling two children by myself in an unfamiliar environment. Of being judged. Of being unable to cope.
I found myself leaning into each fear as it came. Instead of running away or trying to deny them, I let myself feel them. I let myself be in that moment of fear, and then it went away. At the end of the week, I didn’t fear the ocean, the dark, the unknown, being alone, or any of it.
I found instead a sense of peace.
I will not live a life wrapped up safe against all the things I fear. I won’t choose to worry and torment myself with all the thoughts of what might happen if I take a chance.
Instead, I will choose to live despite those fears. I’ll continue to take my children on adventures and build a life we love. And when fears rise inside me, I’ll lean in and remember that I am always stronger, braver and more capable than I ever realized.
And so are you.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Mia Nolting/Flickr
Editor: Toby Israel