S3E5 - What's it Like to Parent w/ Honesty and Transparency

Episode 5 May 29, 2024 00:31:02
S3E5 - What's it Like to Parent w/ Honesty and Transparency
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S3E5 - What's it Like to Parent w/ Honesty and Transparency

May 29 2024 | 00:31:02

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Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode, Aisha shares her personal reflections and experiences on the challenges and joys of parenting, emphasizing the importance of self-acceptance, seeking support, and embracing vulnerability. From navigating daily struggles to celebrating small victories, Aisha's candid storytelling offers a refreshing perspective on the realities of solo parenting. Tune in for heartfelt insights and relatable anecdotes on resilience, growth, and the unexpected joys of raising independent, spirited children.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Welcome to start to finish motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins, and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. [00:00:26] I'm back with another solo episode. I did say that there would be quite a bit of transparency in this season. I'm just in a real reflective place, and I have some time on my hands, and I really want to delve into myself and do a lot of that self working, just get out into the world, my perspective. And so right now, I'm an open book. So today's episode will focus on what it's like to parent with honesty and transparency. And I can tell you by being open, by allowing myself to be vulnerable at some pivotal moments, it has really opened the door to some much needed dialogue. I think sometimes when you lead in spaces or when people really look up to you and admire you, that sometimes it's a heavy cross to bear because it feels like you're always representing and you can't be vulnerable. And I think at some point, maybe three, four years ago, I decided that I want to lead differently. I want to be a different type of person in the world. And there's a lot of clapbacks, there's a lot of meanness, there's a lot of rudeness. And it just is not for me. I think it takes a lot more energy to be that person than it is to say, hey, I don't know it all. And I think that's okay at times. And so I'm closing one chapter of my life, and I am welcoming the next chapter. I feel I am changing careers. I'm selling a home. It's the first home that I've owned as a grown woman. So it is literally like closing a chapter. I bought it when I got divorced. My baby girl is preparing to go to kindergarten, so we are entering a new phase in our family life. One drop off is amazing. So I feel really alive and invigorated. I am getting a lot of rest, so I feel like my energy is coming back. I'm still not 100% sure what my path is, but I'm open for the journey and to walk through whatever doors open up. And so I'm cleaning out a lot of life's gunk. You know, I walk around the house, and I'm straightening things up, and I go from room to room, just kind of where the flow of the work takes me for what needs to happen. And I feel like I am doing the same thing in my life. And with what is going on with the nonprofit, what's going on with the podcasting space and melanated single mothers by choice. So lots of good things are percolating. All right, so let's get into it. I'm going to get a little bit mushy this season. [00:03:29] I talk about my friends, I talk about my girls. I talk about life in general. So in no particular order, here is my approach that I have fully leaned into with parenting. [00:03:46] It's okay to admit that parenting is hard. Even as we choose single parenthood, solo parenthood, we do this with the knowledge that it will be hard. None of us are going into it thinking, oh, it's going to be gravy. It's going to be easy peasy. [00:04:04] Each one of us who takes this leap, this step, we know that it is going to have challenges. We are raising human beings from scratch and we take our job really seriously. So we know it's going to be hard. The way that I navigate this or the solution is for those of you who are struggling with admitting that parenting is hard, I want you to admit it to yourself. Practice admitting it to yourself in the mirror. When you feel yourself struggling, just stop and say, dang, this is hard. Allow yourself to just stop and pause and take a deep breath and just be in that moment. Practice admitting to your friends and family and other parents. You can laugh about it, but allow yourself to admit it. Don't carry it around with you because it is hard. Kids are legitimate little people who don't know how to stay safe, who don't yet know how to navigate this world. And so they're just full of just being here and being present, and they're like bulls in a china shop. And our job is to keep them alive and fed and out of harm's way. [00:05:32] And that is hard. [00:05:36] Admit that and it's okay. [00:05:41] It's okay to say, I don't know what I'm doing. [00:05:44] We hear the cliche that parenting doesn't come with a manual. Even if parenting did come with a manual, because there are arranged the books about parenting, it still does not address the unique needs of your individual child, that individual sibling, if you have a second, and how you will interact with each child and how you gel as a family, there is no manual for that. It is all the x factor. And when you factor in trying to parent each child to their needs, children are so different and so you don't know what you're doing. You won't know what you get until the kid is here. And then they change. With each developmental stage, they need something different, a little more of you, a little less of you. And so it's okay to say, I don't know what I'm doing. And for me, I have a list of priorities. But most days I'm winging it and my nine year old will be a testament because she will catch me on the phone, mommy, can I do. Yes, you can do this. And then in ten minutes when I get off the phone, why did you ask me if you could do this when you saw me on the phone? And so it is hard. [00:07:09] I don't always know what I'm doing. I am not always consistent. But what I try to do is explain my inconsistencies. If I am on the phone, I am fully immersed in the conversation. I am distracted. Do not talk to me when I am on the phone. Are you bleeding? Are you hurt? [00:07:28] Are you starving? [00:07:30] And so if none of those are happening, then you can wait. And so to that, I am flexible. I give myself grace. I have lowered my standards so far low in terms of what cleanliness looks like in the house, like I step over kids stuff. I have lowered my standards on what the kids can wear. I remember growing up and we would have an iron, and we would iron. Every Sunday mornings will come and I shake the wrinkles out of their clothes. I am not above throwing clothes in the dryer with a damp cloth to get the wrinkles out. I don't think my five year old has seen an iron and the nine year old has seen an iron. Once I moved that iron from one house to the next, and I have never used that iron in this house. And so I have lowered my standards on, on clothes. So when I decide what my next chapter is going to be, it will also come with a new wardrobe. Also on dating. Yeah. Because I haven't. Yeah, don't even ask me. Pre pandemic clothes will not suffice, so. But I've lowered my standards. Tomorrow is always another day to start over. And that's what I had told my nine year old before we started talking with a therapist. She would get so worked up and so wound up and into this emotional spiral that she could not always get herself out of. And so sometimes we would say, can we start over? Do we want to start again? So, knowing that we can start again, knowing that tomorrow is another day for me to have a fresh start. I think that allows me to forgive myself for whatever I lack during this day and then recover the next day. And so one of the things that I try to do is, you know how they say that sometimes as you're parenting, you're also parenting your inner child? And sometimes I look at myself and I try to talk to myself as if I'm talking to my children. And so that allows me to be gentler with myself, more understanding and more patient. And so I speak to myself with that same tender, loving care. It's okay to say I've stretched beyond my financial means. Okay, you are a solo parent. There are couples who complain about the financial demands it takes to raise a family. And so you are not being Hercules. [00:10:08] It's just not realistic. We are going to be challenged in some ways with regards to our finances. It is okay to say I've stretched beyond my financial means. [00:10:19] Me personally, I have worked multiple jobs before becoming a single mother by choice. And then shortly after, because something had to give and some things just got dropped, I tried cutting back on childcare, man, the quarter that I decided I was going to do drop off and pickup for my eldest, it nearly broke me. It chopped my day up into too many pieces and I just could not do that. It was once the kids started going back to school and I thought that I could do it, and I realized that I need childcare. I need a consistent flow to my day. And leaving at 230 to be there at 330 because you don't want to get at the end of the carpool line to wait and try to do work while I'm in the car and then missing when the car is moving and the car is behind you or beeping. It was really stressful. So I did it for one half of the school year, and then I was just like, my sanity is worth me paying for daycare now. I will tell you, during my daycare years, I have gone into the red each month because daycare is required for me to be able to function. I went into the red because I'm also paying off the ivf treatments for my youngest. All of that will eventually balance out. But there are things I had to pull back on. I didn't have the time or the resources for another job, and children just cost money. I mean, I don't know why I'm surprised. Each season they need clothes and then they need shoes. And I have one kid that is really, really rough on shoes. I can put a new pair of shoes on her and she will come back and they look like, they're a month old, two months old. And I just shake my head and I just have to look at them like the soles are intact, blah, blah, blah. It's just a little bit of washing that needs to be done, but this one is so rough on clothes. So I decided to just bite the bullet. I look at my balance sheet. Hopefully at the end of five years, it all balances out. And so that's my approach. The solution that I have is to be honest with yourself, be honest with your friends, and be honest with your village. Also, have conversations in an age appropriate way with your kids. So I have friends that are still younger than me, a lot younger, and they're child free, and so they're able to go on trips together. I gave that up almost. I'm about 1011 years into being an SMC. I gave that up year one. I can't do it. I would love to go to California and go to a winery, but I can't because on top of the cost of the trip, I also have to pay for childcare. And I. And it was too fragmenting to my brain to shatter those fences. I did manage to do one girls trip when my sister was living with me, and that was great. But there were some things that I just had to put aside, and I had to be honest with my friends that I can't do these things, even though I want to do it now. Fast forward four and a half years later. One of my girlfriends got married, and I knew that this was a priority for me to be there. And so I got there by any means necessary. I got there because my friend got married on a Friday. The bachelorette trip started on a Friday, which meant I had to leave on a Thursday. So I had to pull the kids out of school and drop them off with their godmother. And I had to do that probably twice. But I think it equated to, like, four days being out of school on top of the sick days. And so I believe that they have added me to the absenteeism in peril list, because now I'm getting all of these messages every Sunday. Like, tomorrow's a school day. Yay. And then I got this little attendance matters little card in the mail. I was like, oh, man, we on a list? And so. But for me, in terms of how I balance those finances, no, I couldn't do the winery, but I am definitely showing up for the major events for my girlfriends. And that meant I'm going all out for the wedding. It was as much for her as it was for me, as it was for the girls, because they got to see me get dressed up. And so be honest with what your finances are. People who know and love you know that you're not a spendthrift, know that you're not irresponsible. They're not going to judge you that way. And if they do, then they don't need to be a part of your village at this stage in your life, because you might just be a mess. I know I am just coming out of a very messy stage. These last five, six years have been a complete shit show for me. But I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about grace, and I learned a lot about being flexible. I look at my finances as being in seasons. There was a season when I was trying for my kids. There was a season where the youngest was in daycare. I was lucky to never have two in daycare at the same time. So that would have been a season. Now I'm phasing out of one season, and I'm going into another season. So my goal in life, because as a solo parent, I think you have to look at your finances differently. I know what the world tells you and all the rules, but with my intersectional identities of being a black woman and a solo parent, the rules don't always apply. I like to seek wise counsel, but ultimately, at the end of my life, I want my balance sheet to be balanced. And so that means I'm going to have to weather some different seasons in my life. And I think that that has helped to keep me sane. And so. So. So, for me, I take measured and calculated steps. I always have a cushion for a rainy day, and then I'm always thinking of the needs of my family, kind of times two or times three. And so far, I've been okay and been able to manage the risks. And so that's my approach. But I do think, have this conversation with yourself, can I afford that? And then test the folks around you and say, I can't do that. I have other priorities right now. It won't always be that way, but it is that way. For now, it's okay to say I need more support. [00:16:49] So, as solo parents, some of us knew that we would be solo parents. Some of us did not know that we would be solo parents. Some of us did not know the extent that we would have to go through to be solo parents. And it is okay to say, I need more support. What I see a lot in the SNC community is that some people choke that down. And never admit it. And it comes off as envy, jealousy, bitterness, hate, eration to other people who have broader support networks, to other people who have partners. And it's like, that is not your path. And no matter how you go back to try to stuff that baby back into your uterus or to put that baby back into the adoption system, it is not going to work. Your life is what it is now. So focus on what your life is and lend grace to other people who might be struggling at different points with certain aspects of their own life and just focus on you. Say, you know, that's great. Knowing that, I can tell you having a partner is not always the blessing, the lollipop, skipping that. It looks like it's a lot of work. And so I say, just look at your. Look at your situation and just be happy. And it's okay to say I need more support because there are a bunch of people around maybe hoping to give support if you would ask. So I've learned, and it was hard for me to learn to ask for support. The pandemic broke me of that because it was coming at me from all sides. And I was just like, I can't function. And I still believe that I have some trauma related to that. So the US, our country here in the US, does a terrible job of supporting families. They do a better job of supporting mythical beings like Game of Thrones people, little mermaid that don't exist, and it's a crapshoot. So we need to do better. My solution is to put it out there. Admit that you need support. Ask for what you need. You will be surprised who enters your village when you make the call. And I will tell you. When I was bringing home my second child and the dates collided with graduation from preschool for my eldest, I had to put out a call. I had to ask a parent that I was friendly with but did not know that well that I needed help. I have a three day old baby. I am still wobbling from delivery. Can you do pickup and drop off for me so that my oldest doesn't miss out on being prepared for her graduation? And this other parent did it, and all it took was me asking. And I believe that I actually called my daycare. And so I got the staff involved too, and giving my phone number to this mom so that this mom could call me. But that's what it means to have a village who knows your situation and just being honest. And at the point where I'm stretched to the end, I had no choice but to be honest. I physically could not do it. And so I will say some of the most nurturing and caring and loving people have not had the opportunity to parent. [00:20:16] Whether it's by circumstance or by choice, they are still some of the most caring, loving, and nurturing people that I know. And I would trust them with my kids. And I believe that children, in all of their magical innocence, whether they're my children or other people's children, they are little, tiny treasures and gifts to society that help us to stay focused. My village is comprised of parents, aunties, friends, care providers, coworkers. And at any given time, they may be invited to share a meal or come out and play with me and my kids, because either I or my family, we're in need of something that they have to offer. Whether it's a shoulder for me to cry on, whether it is talking about a different culture in a different way, sharing a holiday that we don't traditionally celebrate. They have something to offer my family, and I love that they answer the call, and often without questions. And so it's okay to be vulnerable. I have. I have men in my life that I'm just like, this is so and so. So my kids will ask me about them. My kids will ask me about my other friends. They'll ask about Clinton. They'll ask about Sarah. They ask about CJ. They'll ask about Fallot. They ask about Erica. And so I think when you're vulnerable, you attract something that you need. And so I would encourage you to just, if you need extra support, ask for it. Okay, so now, now that I'm done with the things that I actually have solutions and approaches for, let's get into the things that tickle me as a parent and that they don't tell you until you become a parent. But let me tell you, for the parents who are tricked into believing that life after the terrible twos is peachy, it's a myth. It is a mess. Terrible two is the starting point of your child asserting their independence. And they will wreck everything to create a loose where they can exist and be their tiny little cells. And so here's a fun fact. As kids get older, they don't get easier. The challenges change. So in earlier stages, you're challenged physically, and as they progress, you get challenged emotionally. Because kids are surgical. You get challenged interpersonally. They challenge you in different ways, mentally, cognitively, and so they don't get easier. [00:22:52] Sleep will continue to be elusive. Infants might not sleep through the night, but neither will toddlers. Neither will kids and tweens who also get up in the middle of the night because they're not able to sleep, because they need a snuggle, because they're cold, because their tummies are hurting, because they've just thrown up in their bed. They don't sleep. So I promise you it will be okay. Make sure that your bed is big enough. [00:23:20] Make sure that when you have the opportunity to transition your kid into a big kid bed, that you splurge on a good mattress because you don't know when you'll have to sleep in their bed. So don't skimp on the quality because they're kids, because you may actually have to live that life. Sometimes there are weekends where I just give my bed up to the two kids because I'm sandwiched between two little kids and I have to pee. And then I get up and I go to the bathroom, and I'm not going to climb back over the kids to. I'm just not going to do it. I will just sleep in one of their beds. And now they know to. If they get up and I'm not in there, they will either find me sleeping in somebody else's bed like Goldilocks, or they will find me in the garden. It just is what it is. Get the nice throw blankets for the couch just in case you have to sleep on the couch. So, yeah, I just surrender. Defeat. That's one of the perks of being an SMC in your house. Once the door is closed, anything goes. There is no yours, mine. It's ours. I love that my kids are exposing. I love my kids. I love my kids and exposing them to new things. But once the fees are paid, they are committed for the duration. So we're not going back and forth. We're not going to do something twice. And we have eight other sessions, and then you decide not to go back. No, we're going. We're going. It's a life lesson. You made this investment, you wanna get your return on investment. When it's my money, we're getting the return on investment. You don't have to continue to do it after that session, but we are going to get mommy's return on investment. Okay? Okay. [00:24:56] And so this one is something that I think parents are afraid to admit, but it ends up coming out anyway. You might gel more with one kid or the other, depending on the different age or stage that they're at in their development. [00:25:16] So don't allow that to make you treat your children differently. Just acknowledge it. Sometimes you'll grit your teeth when you or you roll your eyes behind somebody's head, but just lean into it and know that it's okay. There's always something that you can do to connect with each kid, and sometimes you might have to work harder and find different avenues to connect, but do it, because they will look back, and you don't want them to look back and be like, oh, so and so was the favorite. So and so was the favorite when they were five. You were my favorite when you were eight, and that matters when you were three. You were a hellion when you were three. So I look at my kids, and in my head, I'm just like, oh, like, I know one is extremely hard on clothes, and one is not. One wears her emotions on her sleeve. One is more stoic, but explosive. And so just different ages, different stages, and I'm so glad that they are different ages, because there is actually a time where I like them both at the same time, even given their different developmental stages. So. But just own that and be honest when they do something good. Be honest when you're celebrating one and not the other, and why. And I think that that will balance the scales. Okay, so this is for the group of folks that are my people. [00:26:49] And if you. You know, me, some people say that I'm Pollyanna, and I really don't think so, but I do have a particular view. I think the world could use more kindness. So here's to you guys. I think it's okay to apologize to children, period. End of story. No arguments. They're people. [00:27:09] It teaches them how to be better humans, and we could certainly use better humans in the world. And it teaches them that an apology is a verb, that it comes with some kind of change in behavior or some kind of an acknowledgement that I know this will end our friendship. And I do apologize sincerely and deeply and then walk away or change the behavior. But it teaches them how to be better people in the world. There's nothing wrong with a sincere apology. It's okay to say, I'm struggling mentally and I need a break, period. [00:27:45] There's no award for bearing it all in silence. Both the world. Well, all the world life, adulting, and parenting will challenge you in ways that you can't anticipate. You just don't know. Other people are the x factors, and other people exist in the world. Other people exist in your home, and so it's the x factor. And so I would say be real and be open to saying, I need a break. [00:28:17] And in this time, where we are in a post pandemic era. I don't take it lightly when someone says I'm struggling mentally because I went through a phase where I was struggling mentally and I needed to call on all my support systems. I had so many members of my team that was working with me because at the end of the day, I have to take care of myself and I still have to be right for my two kids. And so admitting that it's okay that you're struggling mentally could help prevent a catastrophe in the future if one of your kids are struggling mentally. I had one of my kids say that I would like to sit down and talk to a therapist and talk through some of the emotions that I'm feeling. And she was able to do that because I talk openly about my own experience seeing a therapist. And so I'm trying to teach them how to be and how to utilize the resources that are around them to make sure that they are kept safe, both physically, emotionally, also spiritually. And so if you need a break, take a break. [00:29:32] So this is absolutely what my day to day is like. I parent with honesty. I reflect on the end of my day. I talk to my kids. We're transparent. It is not always easy, but it has made me a better person. I think it has made me a better friend. Hopefully, a better parent definitely has changed the way that I approach leadership and community building. And funny enough, it has both lowered and raised my expectations at the same time. So on that note, thank you. Tell me what you thought of this episode and what are some honest and transparent thoughts that you have learned about yourself and your approach to things as you have been parenting? [00:30:24] Thanks for listening to start to finish motherhood with Aisha if you want to keep the conversation going, follow start to finish motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected] if you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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