All parents must choose at some point between doing what is best for their children and doing what is easiest or reactionary. This is often more difficult for single parents, as we want to react to the circumstances and do more, give more, and be more for our children to make up for what is missing.
It is so easy to feel guilt because our failure has taken away the happy home in which our children should be raised. And this guilt can often cause us to make unwise or unhealthy choices. Children often use this guilt (knowingly or unknowingly) to manipulate their parents.
I knew the time would come when Karrie would test the waters of having separate parents. That time came in the middle of K-Bee Toys. Karrie (about age 4) wanted a new doll and I had said “no.” She looked at me and said, “I’ll just ask Daddy when I go to visit him.”
My heart broke and my first inclination was to say, “NO! I’ll buy it for you!” But wisdom held me back. (That and very little cash.) I knelt down beside her in the middle of the aisle and said, “Do you think that Daddy loves you more than Mommy because he will buy you this doll?” My sensitive little girl replied “no” as she flung her arms around my neck. We sat together in the aisle of that store, surrounded by toys, and talked about how much I loved her, about how getting things is not a sign of love, and how sometimes love has to say “no.”
It is important to be honest with your children. It is important to not let overwhelming feelings of failure or guilt keep you from doing what needs to be done – facing the issue at hand, correcting your child’s thinking, and letting her know how much you love her!
Karrie and I talked about money and how mommy didn’t have enough to buy whatever we wanted. We had to be careful with our purchases. We talked about looking for things on sale.
And so, as we walked through the store that day, whenever Karrie saw something she might like, she asked if it was on sale. If it was not, we walked on. If it was, she considered it. I allowed her one purchase that day and although I don’t remember what she decided to buy, I do remember a dad watching us and finally asking me how I got her to only look at things on sale!
Too often we don’t explain things to our kids and that’s why, when we need money, they are quick to say, “Just go to the bank!” (If only that were possible!) When the girls were a little older and they asked for something that was too expensive, I told them how many hours it would take me to work to pay for the item. It was a good exercise for them to decide which they wanted more – a new blouse or mommy home from work.
I didn’t always take the time to explain things to my girls, and more than once, I’m afraid I did use the ‘Because I’m the mommy, that’s why’ answer. But there were many times that we discussed things as a family, we worked through the feelings of guilt and anger, and we learned to do what was best for all of us.