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Divorced Moms: When Fear Says You’re Not Enough

The first core belief I ever uncovered is one that seems particularly applicable to divorced moms. It’s the one that that says:

You’re not enough. You don’t have enough. You’re not good enough.”

It’s a nearly universal belief in Western culture from what I’ve heard from other divorced moms and from what I hear from folks in the coaching and mental health professions. And it’s subtle. It can find its way in to almost any situation, especially post-divorce when there’s often more to do than there are hours in the day to do it, and we divorced moms face frequent reminders of where we could be doing better.

I’ve had a couple of strong reminders of this “not enough” message lately in several key areas of my life after divorce: finances, work, AND parenting. If you think you might find these examples helpful, read on!

Finances: I’ve been working with an accountability partner around some changes I’d like to make in how I approach my finances. In our conversation this week, I became aware of a pattern I’ve developed since divorce where I am afraid to spend the cash I have, so I charge many expenses just in case I need that money for something more important. This pattern means that I have large credit card bills, and it creates a lot of stress around whether or not there will be enough money to pay those bills when they come due. Our conversation showed me that it’s not a practice I need to continue. I can choose trust instead of fear and pay for what I need with the funds I have while working to increase my emergency fund for those real emergencies.

Work: The notion of “not enough” was also operating in my work life. An old client asked if I could help them with a crunch later this month, and I already had a full schedule. But I agreed to a what seemed a manageable amount of work during our conversation. Then I started thinking ahead and planning all the things I would need to get done this weekend so I would be ready. Fortunately I quickly recognized that this idea that I could get everything else done in advance so there would be enough time for the work is the same pattern I had seen with money. Once I recognized that it was just another form of fear, I ceased my frenzied thoughts and made a more reasonable plan for how I would use my time.

Parenting: My son was sick several days last week, and on Friday I received an email from one of his teachers expressing her frustration and concern and outlining all the assignments he had missed. My initial reaction was to jump in to “fix” the problem and get my son to get on the ball with his schoolwork. Fortunately he wasn’t home at the time, and I had an opportunity to reconsider. The initial response was based on fear – I’m not a good enough mom. My calmer response was to ask my son if he needed any help to complete his assignments and to let the teacher know that my son would be in touch regarding his status. This son is a senior in high school, and this is his responsibility, not mine, and it doesn’t have to reflect on me as a parent.

The sense of desperation behind the fear of not enough is something like: “I’d better grab this now – this may be my only chance.”

The antidote is to base our responses on what is right for today, rather than on what we fear, especially what we think we might lose in the future. When we do so, we find we’re not perfect divorced moms, but we are good enough.

Take that, fear!

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