Single Mothers: Survival Guide (cont.)

Moderator: Why is it so important to be happy about being a single mother?

Karst: Because it is what it is. Your other choice is misery. Then, of course, I have some other reasons. You'll be able to say," I did it all by myself." It will bring you good karma. You don't have to deal with the pain-in-the-butt husband in the house telling you what to do.

Moderator: In your book, you mention ways to nurture yourself. Why is this so important, and can you give us a few tips on how to nurture yourself?

Karst: Sure. Whenever I read tips on how to nurture yourself, because, as you know, every woman's article these days covers this issue, I always kind of found it a little annoying, because it seemed sometimes impossible to do. Which is why I started my list of ways to nurture yourself by saying, I promise NOT to tell you to take a hot bath (but actually, it's not such a bad idea.) And there are certain things that do just seem to work, and I'll mention a couple: Nature. There is something about getting out in nature that destresses us. And something about being where you see all of God's handiwork helps you to see the bigger picture. I give you permission to put yourself first. Sometimes. Occasionally. And that martyrdom is pass?, anyway. And of course, exercise. We hear this a lot , but it's true. Whatever it is, there's something about at the end of the day when you climb into bed having had some exercise, you just somehow feel a little bit better. I would end with, to keep a journal. When you can write down your hopes, your fears, your angst, your sadness, and all of the rest, something about knowing it's in writing, and it's been covered, released it, it just somehow -- For me, to write it down means that there is a record somewhere, and now I can move on. I can move on. The document is of what hell I've been through.

Moderator: What are some key survival strategies?

Karst: Get my book, No. 1. I'd say No. 2 would be "Be easy on yourself; stop trying to or to even think that you can be the best at every single thing you're trying to do. Get your priorities in order. Those priorities are to take care of you and your children, first. And everything else, second. No. 3, you need a support system: Friends. You need to know there's people you can call on in an emergency, or just talk you through a bad day. And to stop worrying about being politically correct. I'll explain what I mean. You don't have to obsess if the kids aren't having the perfect amount of fruits and veggies everyday. If it's McDonalds three nights a week, it's okay. If they're not going to four different school activities, trying to keep up with the Joneses, it's okay. If you really find that taking an antidepressant is helping you to be a better mother for a few years, it's okay. You do what you have to do to keep you and your children as happy, and peaceful as you can. Lastly, look for the light. No matter how dark the tunnel may often appear, the light is there. Find it. Watch for those mean, yucky little gremlins that hang out in your mind sometimes. Just tell them to get lost.

Moderator: What are some dating rules for the single mother?

Karst: Like I know? But, having said that, No. 1, if he doesn't love your kids, don't love him. Your kids come first, period. Of course, you have your own needs, but when push comes to shove, your kids will always be yours. He, on the other hand, may not. If he will add to your life, and help make things easier, then he's a keeper. Conversely, if he's going to create more work or stress in your already overworked frantic life, lose him. You can start this new homework assignment: To smile and talk to five new men a week. Hopefully out of sweatpants (as I am sitting here in my sweatpants). To tell you how to do it, doesn't mean I'm doing it. It's a good reminder for me, though. It also helps to not give men the evil eye every time you look at them. It doesn't lend to men approaching you, if you're looking at them like you want to chop them up. Don't take me too literally.

Moderator: Why is it so important that single mothers extend themselves into their communities?

Karst: Because isolation and loneliness are the No. 1 reported painful aspects of being a single mother. I just recently came back from Bali. I took myself after 10 years on a major adventure, and I saw how the people lived there, where it's ten or 15 people in one home, and the women are taking care of the children together, while they're plowing the fields, cleaning the home, and they're happy and joyful. And though they don't have a lot of material possessions, they could never relate to the kind of loneliness that we as mothers in America feel. As most of us live alone in our own houses or apartments. With that in mind, we need to create, however we can do that, the feeling of tribe again. For some, it's meeting other mothers at the park. Unfortunately, for most single mothers, they're working during the day. Maybe the park can happen on Saturday. But many single mothers work all day and then come home to just the children, and it's extremely lonely. I think the solution to so many of the problems facing single mothers are for them to live together. But, unfortunately, our society just doesn't do that very much but it would solve the financial aspects, the loneliness. The moms can trade different nights taking care of kids, so the other ones can get out. It could also provide a sense of family and of siblings, that children may be alone sometimes.

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