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Solo Parenting

Solo Parenting
(From our October 2017 Issue)

Taking Back Control

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Complicated emotions swamp single parents, drowning us in anger or depression. Too busy to take a breather from life lived at Fed-Ex speed, how can we identify emotional triggers and take charge of our feelings?

Take Your Emotional Temperature: Each October a hollow, frigid void possessed me. Not recognizing what provoked this pattern, I plunged toward a dark abyss until New Year’s Day. No one told me the ominous October overdose of mourning family memories of bygone holidays collided with the reality of the approaching festivities. Once I recognized the trigger, I created new traditions for our family to cherish.

Listen to the Language of Emotions: For years, my husband disqualified legitimate feelings. Unable to trust what my emotions communicated, I questioned and blamed myself. I shut down, becoming depressed and numb—to joy, to hope, but not to anger. I listened for the message behind my feelings. My counselor validated legitimate feelings, then offered suggestions on how to respond. Once I learned to trust myself again, I experienced not only the depths of grief and pain, but also the heights of pure joy and laughter.

Figure Out What Triggers your Emotions. I self-appraised my emotional triggers and stressors. Under duress, anxiety kept me from envisaging options. To release emotional fog, I journaled, allowing a buffer to step back before responding. I sought input from wise mentors and then slept on my options before taking action. My worst PMS days taught me harsh lessons to never make any financial or relational decisions during the attack of the "warmones".

Quit wasting your emotional energy on arguments with negative outcomes. Every attempt to communicate my feelings or viewpoints with the X ended in an argument, leaving me emotionally distraught and exhausted for days. Quarrelling became so commonplace, I failed to realize the emotional toll I paid, until my boss called me into her office and said, “I can tell every time you talk with your X, it devastates you.” My counselor pointed out how my X baited me during conversations. I yearned to eliminate toxicity and nourish peace. I didn’t want to continue the family war. With determined effort, I stopped swallowing his verbal bait, triggering my anger that released his guilt and left me emotionally ravaged. While I couldn’t control him, I controlled my end of the conversation by offering clear, constructive feedback, “If you can’t speak in a respectful way, I’m hanging up.” At first, requesting respect sent him into another rage, but I maintained the boundary I set.

Stop blaming yourself and others. Blaming others makes us blind to our shortcomings and to the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness we all long to receive. As long as you blame others, they control you. To best manage your emotions today and tomorrow, end the blame game and begin with forgiving yourself. Not an emotion or one-time decision, forgiveness is an intentional choice to free yourself from a past that can’t be changed. The greatest revenge is forgiving yourself and others who hurt you.

Propelled into single parenthood with a four-year-old son and a nine-month-old son, Scoti Springfield Domeij helps solo parents courageously face their fears to embrace new life. A proud Gold Star mom, she’s published in The New York Times and Southwest Art. She also writes and edits for Havok © 2017 Scoti Springfield Domeij. All rights reserved.