S1E11 - On How Parenting as a Single Mother by Choice can be a Journey into your Past

Episode 11 April 05, 2023 00:29:26
S1E11 - On How Parenting as a Single Mother by Choice can be a Journey into your Past
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S1E11 - On How Parenting as a Single Mother by Choice can be a Journey into your Past

Apr 05 2023 | 00:29:26


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode Aisha dives into (what she describes as) the most challenging stage of the Single Mother by Choice journey: parenting. She discusses how the parenting stage has been psychologically challenging, given the grey areas and the need to factor in the individuality of each child.


Aisha also talks about her experience parenting two children simultaneously in addition to answering the following questions:

  1.  When you began your SMC journey, what thoughts did you have around how you wanted to parent?
  2. How has your worldview shaped how you parent your child/children, given that we each parent through a lens framed by our own experiences?
  3. How do you hold onto your parenting style in the face of what is culturally acceptable or at least standard practice in your extended family?
  4. Who are your people, and where do you go to share the little things about parenting?
  5. What surprised you about your parenting journey?
  6. What have you learned about the school system now that you are a customer?
  7. How has entering the school system impacted your child?
  8. What traditions are you putting in place for your family?

Join Aisha on this insightful and reflective journey through the parenting stage of the Single Mother by Choice journey. 


Aisha references this episode (from her previous podcast series) Parenting the Child in Front of You


View the video on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/zNQHrEXukw8

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Today we're here to talk about the parenting stage of being a Single Mother by Choice. And I would say psychologically this has been the most challenging stage for me, mostly because. , there are no real rules and your children are an X-factor, so it's not really something that you can prepare for. Parenting kind of sits in that gray area because you are going to parent the child in front of you and not just the child in front of you, but you're going to parent for the dynamics of your household as well. If you [00:01:00] have more than one child, then you're, you're multiplying that by two and I will probably have a whole other conversation on parenting two children simultaneously and trying to parent them each individually to. Their needs while maintaining a loving dynamic within your household. And it is challenging because things look different for each child. Okay? So, I do have my list of my list of questions. So I discussed some of this in the moca Single Mother by Choice podcast episode that I did that was entitled Parenting the Child in Front of You, and that really was. Me paying homage to my parents and how they raised me and the values that they instilled in me. And where as a young child, I didn't fully appreciate what that took and what foundations they were laying for me. Now as an adult, I can [00:02:00] look back with mature eyes and say, okay, yeah, I understand that part. I see them as human beings (Question 1) I have a list of questions for you, Aisha, when you began your Single Mother by Choice journey, what thoughts did you have around how you wanted to parent your child or children? Well, the first thing is, is that I do believe that parenting is a journey and there's nothing that can really prepare you for your unique parenting journey. So you can read all of the books, you can have a methodology in mind for how you want to parent your child, but all of that is just. Focused on you and not necessarily taking into account the child that you have and any needs that that child as a unique being is going to have. So from time to time you will be stumped as a parent and you're going to have to figure your way out of whatever the situation is. For instance, I thought initially when I was pregnant with both pregnancies, I thought [00:03:00] that I would be a boy mom. I grew up in a family of six girls and frankly, I was over. The dealing with girls. So when I was pregnant, you read all the books and it's like, when you're pregnant with a boy, it does certain things to your skin your face and your hair, and I really thought I was glowing. Skin was fresh and shiny. I thought I was having a boy both times around. With my first pregnancy I did iui and so you don't really know ahead of time, you just kind of wing. You throw the sperm up in the uterus and then you cross your fingers, you get a positive pregnancy test. But by 14 weeks, because I had a geriatric pregnancy, you get tested earlier on in the pregnancy. At 14 weeks I found out I was having a girl and I was stumped for a moment. I was really happy that the baby was healthy, but I did not anticipate a girl. I had a boy named, picked out Noel was going to be Wesley. and Little Wesley and mom were gonna be skipping in outdoors [00:04:00] adventures, and I was stumped to find out that I was going to have a girl. I did have to deal with a little bit of gender disappointment and really had to rewire my brain for what it would be like to be a girl mom. And surprisingly with my second pregnancy, I was also shocked to find out that I was having a girl again. I thought I was having a boy. I didn't have a name picked out because that pregnancy was just long and coming and I was just happy to be pregnant, but I really thought it was gonna be a boy. But at that point I was gonna take whatever I got. And so, I was prepared for parenting a boy in my head. Luckily, it was only about 12 or 14 weeks in but I had to deal with some disappointments and then I had to rethink how parenting would look for me. Parenting, not one girl, but two girls. That was my first clue that parenting was gonna be an interesting journey. (Question 2) so realizing that we all parent [00:05:00] through a lens based on our past experience, be they good, bad, traumatic, or other. How has your worldview or your past experiences shaped the way you parent your children? I do go into this in more detail in one of the premium podcast episodes. So if you're a member, you get access to premium podcast episodes and to become a member. Head on over to start to finish motherhood dot com and then click on becoming a member. , in my early formative years, I had both my parents with me. By the time I was 16, both of my parents had already been deceased. So I grew up a little bit in the New York State foster care system. And then I eventually moved on to a long-term foster home with a wonderful foster mom . But there was a good period between the ages of 13 and roughly 16, where things were pretty rocky, and I really leaned a lot on the [00:06:00] tools and the skills and the lessons that my parents instilled in me about being aware of your surroundings, about personal safety. About, just being more observant and that's the type of adult that I grew into. I was reserved . I am an observer. I. Tend to listen more than I speak, I hope or at least that's what I try to do. So, safety is big for me. I realize at some point that these were behaviors or characteristics that I was also building into my children. We have safety drills, when we get in the car, we buckle our seat belts or when we're out in. areas and public spaces. , being aware of your surroundings, making sure that they know their phone number, making sure that they know my government first and last name, making sure that they are able to fend for themselves at least verbally, if need be. I found that when my children [00:07:00] as children do, they lose focus. They wanna play as they're getting in the car. And I would be like, no, hurry up, let's go. Let's go. and I realized that that is a trigger for me feeling. Not safe or feeling as if safety could potentially be at risk for my children. That was a trauma response for me that I had to be aware of. When you're growing up without a safety net and without your parents, there are certain things that you do differently. You navigate the world differently. And my kids didn't have that experience, and so I could probably see. wondering where the, the base came from in mama's voice, or why is Mama so animated and why is she yelling? So I actually. Have to work hard when we are transitioning from place to place, and I feel that it's become bigger than what I can control, like large [00:08:00] spaces, concerts, carnivals, that I have to be in the moment with them. And realize I'm holding their hand, but am I holding their hands too tight? Realizing that they are independent little people so I can kind of let them go roam free just a little bit, but stay within earshot. There are certain things that I do on a day-to-day basis to stay in the moment with them because I know safety is a trigger for me. I've learned to recognize the signs that I am triggered, and that forces me even more so to be in the moment. So, One of the ways that the lens through which I view the world impacts my parenting. Once I became a parent and I knew I wanted to be a good parent and I wanted to be the right parent for my kids, I really had to take a step back and evaluate how I was raised so that I can recognize certain patterns and make an informed decision. On whether these patterns were patterns I wanted to repeat, or if these patterns are patterns I [00:09:00] wanted to end with me and my generation. (Question 3) so there's something to be said about having people witness your parenting style, and by that I mean that they celebrate the successes, the wins, and all of the minutiae with you. Do you have that experience? Is that a thing for you having somebody or craving having somebody witness your parenting style? I didn't think that this was a thing for me until I started talking with moms and my birth cohort, and you realize that it is really a thing. And it's so much so that I look at comedians differently, right? And I think people become infinitely more funny when they have children because you have these stories and children are just funny as hell. Like there's no. Boundaries. There's no filter, there's no limits. They have no shame. These are all things that they just do naturally and children are just naturally funny. (Question XX) Who are those people that you turn to with all the little things, the successes, the minutiae, the ups [00:10:00] and downs of parenting. Now what that looks like for a Single Mother by Choice is that you have a village. You have these people that you call on a regular basis. You have these people that you're Facebook friends with. If you're on social media, you have these people that you get together with who get it. They're invested in your children. Even just a little bit helps. You can send them school photos. When you get school photos, you can't buy just one. So you buy this whole sheet of 120 photos that you then have to give away. So you start giving them away. Little by little, there are certain people that just stay and they ask you about your kids and they're invested in your kids and the little stories and so you feel comfortable sharing. So for me, I have. My sisters who are part of my village, and I do share little tidbits and things and cute photos with my sisters, even though they're off, in Panama, they're in Mexico, they're wherever. But they do take the time to say, oh my gosh, this is so cute, and I share stories with them. I share stories with my [00:11:00] coworkers all the time. Like that's one way that I connect with my managers because we're all kind of in the trenches, parenting and dealing with sick little kids and all the stuff that comes with children. And then I have my Single Mother by Choice family, a large group of people who just get it. And you just shared I'm pretty sure I went to work one one year with like toddler p on my shoe because we were heading out the house and they were potty training. They peed and I had to quickly get them dressed so that we could make it to school on time. I'm pretty sure I went to work with toddler P on my foot, and it is what it is, right? But there are certain people who will laugh with you, who will laugh at you, who will cry with you, because you will just have those moments where these little people, they become their own people. They are some strong-willed, unfiltered little people and you have to respect them as such and sometimes they make you cry. So , so there is definitely something. And then I have my [00:12:00] girlfriends who are, awesome. With my kids. They just allow me to wax poetically about my children and, So it, there's something really special about having people in your life who witness you parenting. (Question 6) Was there anything that really surprised you about the parenting journey? I will say that I am shocked by how surgical children can be with their comments and their responses and reactions to things because it's unfiltered. It is just their truth. So when your seven year old tells you that they. The stuff flounder that you spent hours sweating over because you wanted to give them a variety of food options. Yeah, that kind of hurts, or you know, they have their own sense of style and so when they're like, oh mom, you look beautiful, you know, then it just makes your heart sing and things like that. The thing that surprised me about parenting is that you have these little people and [00:13:00] you get to watch them morph into their own selves and. A pretty cool experience. But then they're also people and they can irritate you to no end. They can irk you. They can push buttons like you never thought you had, and then when they give the stuff that you tell them back to you. It's particularly insulting and hurtful because they are giving you these adult words or these words that you've given them to help them navigate the world. And they're serving it up to you on a silver platter. You're just like, who are you? And I think that that's the most. Surprising thing about parenting. Also, the amount of time it takes to do stuff like mornings are such a thing, and it doesn't matter if I get up two hours early or an hour and a half. It's a ton of emotions. It's a ton of feelings. It's a ton of movement that is just compacted into [00:14:00] a two hour to 90. Timeframe and you need a break just from the mornings and then you have to turn around and go back to work and be a productive adult. And that was one of the things that I actually had to discuss with my therapist. And my therapist said that I need transition points. I need time to transition from my mornings with the kids. Into Aisha, the employee. And so what I've started doing is intentionally carving out time after I dropped the kids off to make coffee, to make myself a quick breakfast to just breathe. And look at the clock and then mentally transition into being an employee, the same thing happens on the back end. Luckily, regardless of working from home or being in the office, I still have to drive to get the girls, so I'll put on my music, I'll listen to a podcast episode just to kind of help ease the transition from when [00:15:00] the girls get in the car and then it's all mommy all the time until nine o'clock. (Question 7) This one's a tricky or a sensitive question. How do you hold onto your parenting style in the face of what is culturally acceptable, or at least what is a standard practice in your extended family? I think at this stage of my life. I am the last of my siblings to have kids, and my parents are deceased. So for me it was really easy to change certain traditions and dynamics in my family my sisters are all grandparents now, and so there's not competing ideas. When my little kids are around pretty much they're so far removed from little kids that they're just doing grown people things and I can just tell them, this is what Camille needs. This is what Noel needs, so for the most part, that's not a problem for me. If you are in a situation where you're, you're still dealing with family dynamics and you're still [00:16:00] being trying to heal your own inner child, I would say have hard conversations and put strong boundaries in place. And if you're uncomfortable having co. Hard conversations. I will start toward the end of the year Releasing conversation workshops that you can register for. It's not free because these are skills that you can use over and over and over again, and muscle has memory. So the more practice you have. With hard conversations and preparing for hard conversations, the better you are going to be in terms of advocating for your parenting style and having the hard conversations that need to be had and being prepared that if you have to put a hard boundary in place. How you mentally and emotionally protect yourself and your kids by putting that boundary in place because it's not about you. It's about you being the caretaker and the sole provider of a child or children, and you've been entrusted with that, that privilege. . [00:17:00] And so they become the priority. So what are some things you can do or what steps is it that you have to take to protect the wellbeing of your children? Sometimes that means putting hard boundaries in place, and sometimes that means physically removing your children from certain situations and family members. But I got your back. . As I said, I am here to partner with you from start to finish. So if that is a skill that you feel that you could use some brushing up on stay tuned . Head over to start to finish motherhood.com and join the mailing list and you'll be informed when those conversation workshops start to get released. (Question 8) I typically say that when your kids enter the school system, it's like going from the frying pan to the fire. Was there anything that surprised you about entering the school systems with your kids? And then is there anything that changed the way you view the education system in this country now that you're a [00:18:00] customer of the education system? First I would say gird, your loins. When kids enter school, it's like the Lord of the Flies, the parents, the adults are no longer the primary figures in that environment, you will send your 6, 7, 8 year old into school and they become the community. So they set the tone and the adults are just kind of patrolling the periphery. And so your kids will take whatever lessons you instill in them and they will interpret it and they will go and act those things out like teachers. How you parent or what goes down in your household because they can tell from your kids and the things that your kids say, and kids, they are sponges. They notice everything. They talk about everything when they're on the playground. It goes down on the playground, I like to say, because even at four, five, and. My child would be coming [00:19:00] home with stories, like they talk about everything on the playground. And so it's so much so that I wait until it's bedtime and I'm snuggling with my oldest because I'll ask her when she gets in the car, like, how was school? And I'll ask her some specific questions. We practice our Spanish but at night when the lights are. and we're not looking at each other. I will ask her. Were there any conversations that happened on the playground with your friends that you have questions about it's dark, so there's no shame. There's no, so she'll tell me, she'll share with me. They talk about what they're doing for the holidays and birthdays. It's just a whole little community. These kids talk. So do be mindful that that happens and you might find out some things just by having casual conversations with the kids. And I do recommend doing that because kids are super funny. (Question 9) When we raise our children, they're home with us. They're in the [00:20:00] protected environments that we set up for them. Is there anything that you've noticed as a change in your child since they've entered the school system? Because all of the environments that we're in tend to impact us in some way So How has entering school impacted your child? Okay, so to set the scene, my daughter is the youngest in her class. She turns the age of her class right before school starts. So I had a decision to make as a parent, do I start her in school? At that point, or do I wait a year for her to mature? My daughter is also, she's got her mama's height, so I did a calculation. She's gonna be tall. I don't want her to be, The tallest and the oldest in a class, so I decided to send her to school knowing that I would probably have to have conversations and hear about behavior because she would be immature for the class. That ended up being the case last year. And we had to have lots of meetings because [00:21:00] her teachers were saying, she was having behavioral issues and we were evaluating her for some behavioral issues, and I knew my child and I said, yeah, no, I don't think that she's having behavioral issues, but here is something that I think is being overlooked. So that started us on this whole journey with the school district and having to advocate for my child because they were trying to label her as a behavior problem when I actually think that it was a processing problem. It turns out that it was not a behavior problem and that it is. Looking like a processing problem. And so now, this year, this is me advocating with the school this year. But I think that there's a lot of things that you encounter as a parent when your kid enters school that you really can't prepare for. And so, I recommend remaining flexible working with the systems at hand and understanding that as a parent of color, as a black mom, I had to [00:22:00] look at what was being told to me with a real critical eye to make sure that I set aside any bias, racial bias that was being Trans transferred onto my child. I had to set that aside. I did have to have hard conversations with administration about that aspect, and then in order for us to get down to the real root of the problem. So it did, it did try me. In a lot of ways and tested all of my communication skills, but I think we arrived at a point where the school now knows the perspective I'm coming from. I know where they're coming from and what their weaknesses are, and to the extent that I need to advocate, I'm going to advocate for my child. , but when your kids enter the school system, they go from being your little darling's at home and big sister, younger sister to just being in with their peers. And so sometimes just the dynamics of the classroom, the extra noise, the extra movement, the extra stuff that goes on.. [00:23:00] On top of having to learn the basic fundamentals of education that can impact your children. I was trying to be really mindful of that as my child was going through her challenges with what she was going through to make sure that her self-esteem remained intact to make sure that she knew what was going on, and that she felt like she had a say in what was going on, and that when she told me things that happened at school, I believed. And I advocated for her. I did that in front of her. I did that behind her back. I did that when she was in the room. When she wasn't in the room. I've had conversations with her that about people learning differently, that people have different needs and that's what she goes into the classroom with. And that's sometimes what she tells me when I'm like, clean up your room. And she's like, mom, people learn differently. People move differently. And I'm like, you're gonna clean up this room. But you know, I say all that to say , School can impact your kids in unexpected ways as well. So just be in tune with what that might [00:24:00] look like for your child. (Question 10) and last, what traditions are you putting in place for your family? As Single Mother by Choice, we get to set the rules in our house. We pretty much get to set the traditions that will hold true for our family. So are there any traditions, are there any customs that you have worked hard to put in place ? I work in An environmental company. I'm trying to be better with protecting the environment and open spaces and equity and things of that nature environmental justice. And so it just so happens that my child is into that as well. So she'll ask me, mommy, do we recycle? She brings her classroom home with her. And so one of the things that I, that the pandemic allowed us to do was to get a house that had a nice size backyard because we needed the space, and I had always wanted a garden. I also wanted an authentic way to connect with the children. The first thing that we did was we put in a garden and I [00:25:00] had to learn a lot about gardening. But what, what it did was it, Both a learning space and an outdoor space and a serene space for me to convene with nature. It allow. My children to see me vulnerable because when the garden is not working, you are just like, why isn't it working? And you're trying all kinds of things and you're having to talk your way through and having to do a lot of research, watch a lot of YouTube. And so the kids, they take it all in. So they're watching with you and they're getting excited and you know, right along with you and. , it offered an opportunity for us to be on the same playing field with something. I wasn't the adult in this situation. We were all on the same level with regards to gardening. It allowed me an opportunity to teach my child about nature, the environment, and the ecosystems that they're a part of, but also it allowed her to share what she knew with me and her younger sister. The ecosystem and the [00:26:00] environments. Like she got to say what they wanted to have in the garden. We had to have milk weeds because the monarch butterfly was going to be a stink, and we wanted to create a space for monarch butterflies, and the kids got their own plots. So anyway. It gave us a way to talk to each other, to, to just be with each other without authority figures. They get to learn about worms and all the birds and the squirrels and salamanders and conservation. And so the garden just gave us a real nice way to enjoy our outdoor space and be one as a family without technology. It also, Taught my girls that they're part of a bigger system. You know, the ecosystem. We talk about climate change as well because it's right in our backyard, so we get to see it all. So gardening and trying to find ways for us to to be as a family were one traditions that I put in place. The other was I wanted my children to have a spirit of giving. I wanted them to [00:27:00] understand the joys of giving as well as receiving. When my daughter turned seven, I started giving her an allowance, and we had a piggy bank that had four spaces. One that was called Spend, save, and invest, donate. Each year in November there's a Giving Tuesday. And so we sit down as a family and we decide what charitable organizations we want to give to. And I top up her money. So this year she decided that she wanted to donate to the y our local Y M C A because they pour into her. And so we did that and I also donate to my nonprofit North Star. PBS is just really killing it and doing a heavy lift for multicultural and diverse stories. So I donate every year to, to pbs and then Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts it, you know, my daughter is just having so many wonderful experiences with Girl Scouts and so I thought that it was really important to. [00:28:00] To, to ground my, my children in being part of the solutions to the things that happen in the world. I want them to, to be agents of change. And so I have the opportunity to, to raise my kids without the noise of my extended family, without the noise of other adults in her life, and to put us in positions where we were. Swimming with the stream and not swimming upstream against a lot of the different societal noise it's a much larger conversation than what I have outlined here, but hopefully it gives you some ideas about what the parenting years will bring and some ways that you can prepare for it. until next time. Bye now.

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