Before you can rid yourself of the guilt and other burdensome feelings you don’t deserve and before you blame anyone else, you need to take an honest look at the circumstances surrounding your becoming a mother. Many women realize that their mates’ reactions were not entirely a surprise. Our society still stigmatizes single mothers – you may feel you will receive more sympathy and support if you become one by chance instead of by choice. But if your relationship with the father of your child is not working, give yourself permission to walk away. You can be a great mother.
Getting rid of blame, guilt, and shame. Sometimes, we wonder if we secretly pushed the other person out of our lives. At other times, if we were abandoned or weren’t deeply involved, we believe it was our fault because if we had been more lovable, we would be with somebody right now. Even if we removed ourselves from intolerable circumstances or left for reasons others plainly understood, we can feel guilty for having made any choice at all.
You’re not a victim. Being a victim often seems to be the easiest choice to make. Truthfully, few of us are really victims. We have choices. Facing your feelings is essential, just as it would be if your feelings were associated with any other major life-changing event. The events surrounding single motherhood (divorce, death, giving birth, etc) already rank high on the list of life’s most stressful events. This makes single motherhood particularly challenging.
Take a look at yourself. Be honest about your feelings so that you can separate the negative emotions (guilt, shame, blame, etc) from those feelings that are affirming and sustaining. Taking an honest look at your feelings and emotions requires personal courage and sustained effort. The goal is to become more accepting of yourself and to get rid of the victim mentality to which so many single mothers succumb.
Face the guilt and erase it. Guilt must be given a name. Whatever you feel guilty about – dig it up, isolate it, and expose it to the light of day. To name it, you have to be as specific as possible. We are not talking about blanket statements about inadequacy or failing but about identifying as clearly as possible exactly what you feel guilty about. Guilt must be faced. It must be spoken of out loud and looked in the eye. Guilt makes us feel ashamed, or it makes us blame others for our circumstances.
Because there is so much baggage each of us will discover along our way, we must identify the personal life dramas that have caused us to feel vulnerable in the past before we can reconcile our feelings about our guilt. Your feelings can’t hurt you. In fact, by listening to them you can learn from them and uncover the joy of single mothering. What can hurt is allowing your feelings to aggravate, causing you to act out of confusion and make poor decisions. The reward for facing your feelings about your entry into single motherhood is peaceful acceptance of the choices you have made. This acceptance is the first important step to living joyfully and fully in the present.