The transition from married mom to single mom is choppy. One of the biggest surprises for me was the unexpected role reversal when my kids would occasionally step in to parent me.
I picture that hard transition time like a wobbly bridge over a roaring river, with some missteps sending rubble falling into the water below. Lots of mistakes. Lots of missed moments. Lots of tears. Lots of gaps.
And it’s probably in those gaps where our kids feel the emptiness, the missing link, the parent that is supposed to be there but isn’t. And perhaps, in their trying to pull around them a sense of normalcy, they feel they must step in.
Mom’s dropping the ball so I’ll just put in my two cents…
I recall a time when one of my children told me that having the fireplace running and the windows open at the same time (granted, a total quirk of mine) was a waste of money.
That’s nice, I said. And walked out of the room, fuming at this child’s similar-to-my-ex’s criticism of me.
Or hearing about an acquaintance whose teenage son told his dad to “man up and move out” because it’s what the mom wanted. Inappropriate to the nth degree.
So what do we do with this, when a child feels they have the authority to tell us what to do?
Remind your child that he isn’t the parent. Lovingly tell your child that you are the mom, that God put you in charge, that you are an adult, and that you have the authority to make the decisions for the family as head of the household. No further explanation is needed, because remember: you are the parent.
Take back your authority, gently. Perhaps in your pain, things have fallen through the cracks a bit. It’s time to start making some decisions again. And then sticking with them. Be consistent. If you’re parenting, your child won’t feel he has to.
Let it go. This is a coping mechanism and a phase. It will not last. This is an annoyance but not the end of the world. If it does continue, you may want to speak with a counselor or have a male authority figure in your child’s life talk to him on your behalf. He may hear from someone other than you a bit more easily during this season.
God made you the parent. God made your son or daughter the child. Those roles can get a bit mixed up in the mess and mire of divorce, but they can and will right themselves in time.
Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaker and a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. She led a women’s ministry in her church for ten years. She currently leads small groups, writes, and speaks to women surrounding faith, difficult marriage, domestic abuse, divorce and single parenting issues. She lives with her two teenage children in Illinois. Visit her online at www.elisabethklein.com.
The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM) is a 501c3 nonprofit that exists to serve single parents and those who work with single parents. We are fully accredited through a variety of organizations that include high levels of financial accountability and awards for our premiere financial stewardship, including GuideStar, Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, Great Nonprofits, Chamber of Commerce, LANO, and others.