My perception of myself was preventing me from doing the most important thing a parent needs to do - love without condition.
I've been contemplating the concept of perception this week; that is, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. I've always perceived myself as a strong, passionate woman, but until I met Mr Kind, I never had the opportunity to view myself as someone who could open up into vulnerability or be someone who could be loved by a man.
I have always perceived myself as someone who...
"Our kids are with us for only a short time, but if we want to raise strong, independent young people on our own we need to be able to look after ourselves as well."
Being a parent is not easy. It's the hardest job in the world.
But being a single parent is even harder. Doing absolutely everything without having someone to take in turns with is exhausting.
I know. I was a single parent to three daughters, now aged 20, 18 and 14 up until my youngest was 12 when I met my partner, Kind Man.
If you are a single parent and are having a bad day, this is what I wish I had known.
1. Make time for yourself.
You need to have balance in your life and that might be a sport or hobby or working or just having one night a week to binge on your favourite show. That time you have for yourself is just as important as looking after your kids. If you have a shared custody arrangement, appreciate your child-free time. I did NOT have a second parent to raise them with. He was unwilling, so I had them 24/7, 365 days a year for 18+ years. There are times when I desperately wished that he would have them so I could have some time for me, just to remember who I was. I'm now at the other end and in the midst of an identity crisis because I've forgotten who I am without my children. Don't let that happen to you. Nurture you, your interests, your friends, your spiritual self, remember who you were before children so that when they spread their wings, you can just roll back into your life.
2. Surround yourself with a tribe
The biggest mistake I made in parenting, was taking them away from their family support network for too long. We went on an around Australia adventure (see point 10), but we never went home. I never had my family's support as they started entering adolescence and that was when I needed their support the most. I needed to have that support around me, but instead I was doing it all on my own and it exhausted me and to be honest, the problems I had during Miss 20s adolescence broke me. I'm not the same person I was because it was so hard to parent her.
3. Stop focusing on being single, enjoy the ride of being a parent, it'll be over before you know it.
Dating can wait. While it would be lovely for your child/children to have a step-parent or other siblings, my experience of dating was a nightmare. I always thought I wanted a partner, but when I look back on the realities of introducing them and the attention required for a new partner in the early stages I realise that I really was being selfish to waste all my time on that, What I should have focused on were all the amazing and beautiful FRIENDS and role models in my girls' lives instead of trying to hurry a relationship that I, and they, weren't ready for. Of course, if you feel you can do it, go for it. My experience was that like all relationships, they take work, and when you are a parent, 99 out of 100 times you will choose your child. Wait. There will be time after for making love on the couch in the middle of the day without being interrupted. Sometimes we get what we need, not what we want.
When you have a 4 or 14 year old in the middle of some existential crisis about bananas or yoghurt or something else, focus on your breath. You are no good to your child in teaching them calm and rational conversations if you lose your shit. Take a breath, ask if it's worth a battle and then move on. If they are not in any danger, or putting others in danger, it really just is a battle of the egos and children's egos are always bigger than yours. Breathe. Inhale love, exhale compassion.
5. Pace yourself, life is a marathon, not a sprint.
You don't need to get your career sorted or do all the things you've ever wanted to do while they are little. We only get them for about 13 years before they start making their peers more important than you. It's not long. There will be time after they've gone to get the promotion, or study, or travel or have a career change. Of course, you can start the process of these things while they are younger so you are ready when they leave.
6. Ask for help.
My biggest regret in parenting was pushing away help. I never accepted offers of help and always felt like I had to do it all because they were my responsibility. If someone offers to help, accept that help. Nobody offers unless they mean it. I have had suicidal thoughts at various points in the parenting journey - mostly during their adolescence - psychological and familial support is so important. Your kids might be little bitches or bastards right now, but they will still need you. Look after your mental health and ask for help.
7. Remember not to say bad things about their other parent or his/her family, it will come back and bite you.
This goes without saying. Whether you like them and their family or not, the children have a right to know where they came from. This is an important part of their identity. I wish I hadn't said bad things about him in-front of them, but it's hard when you are hurting yourself. They will either seek out their other parent or choose to live with them later. You need to be ready for that because ultimately they have a right to know their parents, regardless of what you think of him/her.
8. Keep the lines of communication with your kids open, you will need them to communicate with you when they are teenagers.
When they become teenagers, they stop talking to you in the way that they used to. To be honest, I don't know how I have lived through the past 5 or 6 years, it's been hell. I was just about to give up when Kind Man came along. I was fortunate though that the girls and I had open lines of communication and the they continued to talk to me, even if it was just grunting sometimes!
9. You are allowed to make mistakes, you are human. Don't be so hard on yourself.
I have made a lot of mistakes - not put the nappy on backwards sort of mistakes - but disciplining mistakes, bossy parent at school mistakes, not making boundaries strong enough mistakes and losing all rational control with them mistakes. We all make mistakes and even if they don't forgive us now, they will later. Being a single parent is hard, you have nobody to bounce ideas off, nobody to be the good cop-bad cop and nobody to hold you when you cry curled up in a ball at night. As long as you did your very best as a parent at the time, that's all you can expect of yourself. Besides, when you become a grandparent, you can hopefully get it right!
10. Create adventures with your children.
Create memories, because one day you'll wake up and they have moved on and those memories will be your heart's treasures. My greatest memories are the ones we made when we were camping, travelling around Australia, or trying new things together. Some days, when I sit alone in this big, empty house, those are the things that keep me smiling. Money is just money, but memories are priceless.
Our kids are with us for only a short time, but if we want to raise strong, independent young people on our own we need to be able to look after ourselves as well.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
Please let us know if you have any more tips to add in the comments below.
"I didn't feel like I had permission to be here, to be seen, to dress up, to look nice or to feel empowered. I felt like I didn't have the right to ...well, exist - anywhere outside of my house, my family or my workplace. I felt like an imposter, not just in the restaurant, but in the WORLD."
Since the great yoga-teacher-training-ego-death debarcle lessons of 2016, I've not been well. I've been floating in this space of uncertainty and grief looking for a part of me that I have lost. This is a poem I wrote recently that captures that feeling...
My ego death about my yoga identity, the empty-nest hollowness I feel about my children growing up and the loss of my home have all converged in this massive ball of grief that I feel almost all of the time these days.
What my children leaving has done, however is to remind me who I was BEFORE I became a mother.
Last night, my partner took myself and my youngest daughter out to dinner at the casino. I looked around at all of the women who were dressed immaculately and I could feel a mass of anxiety rising in the pit of my stomach, the realisation that I was an imposter; like I shouldn't have been there, because I had no right. Just like I did as a teenager and a young adult at university.
In both situations, I didn't feel like I had permission to be here, to be seen, to dress up, to look nice or to feel empowered. I felt like I didn't have the right to ...well, exist - anywhere outside of my house, my family or my workplace. I felt like an imposter, not just in the restaurant, but in the WORLD.
I am afraid of being seen and to be honest, my greatest fears (apart from tsunamis - and who isn't scared of them?!), is to be the bride in a wedding because that would make me the centre of attention. All of these fears were hidden while I was a mother, but now, it's come back in a full-frontal assault on my consciousness. There's this real sense of a feeling that I don't have permission to be happy, to have fun, or be successful outside my comfort zone of my introverted protective bubble that I created while my kids were around.
Recently I signed up for the Femme-preneur training with Marnie Le Fevre and the moment I signed up I realised that this was a woman who wouldn't allow any of this inner crap stay inside me, the training will break down these walls that I have put up to protect myself from rejection and hurt by others because in truth, I'm afraid to shine. I'm afraid to shine my own light and to just be fully in myself as Alyssa Curtayne. The moment I signed up, it was as if I actually started the training with her on an energetic level and I'm scared, I'm excited but mostly I'm tired of pretending that I'm okay with how things are because I'm not.
So, today, I'm asking myself what the most extraordinary thing I could imagine for my life. I'm breaking down the walls and giving myself permission to live an extraordinary life where I am comfortable in being the very best me I can be, the most beautiful me I could be and the most happy me I could be and in August I experience the training with Marnie, I know I'll just be ready to shine and let my vulnerable brilliant self be.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
" I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence."
When you raise your children you have hopes and dreams for them; that they will be kind, successful and happy. But what I never counted on was the influence of violence in our society on the way my three young women interact with each other and the world. There are times in our household where it feels like World War III has broken out. Vitriol surges out of them.
In 2005 I wrote a winning letter to The Weekend Australian in response to an article entitled “The Triumph of the Airhead”; at the time my biggest concern was making sure that my three little girls grew up to know they were more than their beautiful faces and bodies. I wanted them to think critically and challenge the societal norms about beauty. I think I have been successful in that, but I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence.
I’m not talking about physical violence (statistics show violence is decreasing form of assault.), but the violence with which humans now speak to each other, not only on social media, but in the community. Road rage has escalated; Australia now ranks ninth for road rage worldwide. The winning song by Kendrick Lamar of the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2016 included lyric references to women as “bitches” and tomurder: “If I kill a nigga, it won’t be the alcohol, ayy” and people lap it up without any question.
Finally, the disdainful way that humans talk about each other in politics, media and entertainment, including social media has hit new lows, with the norm being the vilification of people on mediums such as Facebook and Twitter for their opinions and appearance.
American author Arthur Brooks suggests we are speaking to each other with contempt. I would go further: we have lost our regard for our fellow humans and society is teaching our children that violence through words is acceptable. We are told the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is untrue. But words do hurt. Contempt hurts. Disdain hurts. And it’s time we talked about it.
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4906.0~2016~Media%20Release~ABS%20survey%20shows%20decline%20in%20rates%20of%20violence%20(Media%20Release)~3 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-news/australia-ranks-9th-global-road-rage-league/ accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://genius.com/11593217 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/ accessed 18 Feb. 18