This is Jen from Grace for Single Parents where your parenting and God’s grace collide. Today on the podcast I have Summerlin Connor and she is the author of a book called the “Three of Us”, which is a “brutally honest, often hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking memoir of one mom’s adventures in single parenting”. So hello Summerlin, I’m happy to have you on today.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.
So I read your book and I really enjoyed it being a single parent myself. I really could relate to a lot of the book, so I’m sure others will as well. One question I had for you is what made you want to write about your single parenting experience?
Well, you know, honestly the truth is I never set out to write a book. I’ve been my entire life, I’ve been a big reader. I love reading. And so anytime I’m going through something or you know, want to learn about something or having trouble with something I’ve always looked for books the past couple of years, I also turn to podcasts as well. But I definitely love reading. And so, you know, the whole experience of being a single parent is just, it feels isolating. And so I would try to find books and, and there’s definitely a few books out there, but I could never find a book that I felt came across as, you know, exactly what I was feeling. And I figured there’s no way I’m all alone in this feeling, you know, so completely honest, so isolated. So I just kind of, I don’t even know where it came from.
I sat down and started writing. I’ve on and off through the years, been a person that sometimes writes in journals. So that was kind of normal to me, but I started writing and I just felt good when I wrote it. And I thought that maybe if somebody else read this, they would feel a little bit less alone, a little bit. Like there’s other people out there that are experiencing the same thing. And so that was my entire hope with publishing. It was that, you know, maybe there’s some other mom or even a dad that, you know, feels alone and like they’re going through a hard time. But you know, my hope would be that they would get a kick out of the book or feel a little bit inspired to, you know, that know that they can get through it. That it’s, you know, just something that they would not be the only one going through it.
And it definitely does that because whether I think whether you’re a newly single parent or just, you know, getting ready to get divorced or separated or whether, like me, I’ve been a single parent seven or eight years and I felt that as well because while I was reading through it, there were a few places where I was like, yeah, I really, I’ve never had anyone put that in that way before. And I felt that exactly what you were saying. Like I think there was a place in there where you’re like, you know how singleness sneaks up on you in places you least expect. And you were talking about how when you’re having to write down an emergency contact, and that was someplace where you didn’t feel as though you never really thought about that when you’re getting a divorce or anything that I’m not going to have anyone to write down as emergency contact. Now who do I write down? And suddenly you have those forms in front of you.
Absolutely. And you know, there’s definitely, it sneaks up on you in little ways and those are things that you never think about before you become a single parent. And you know, I would imagine that people that have never been, I’ve been a single parent before that you probably have, you know, an idea of what it would feel like, but really it’s totally different and it’s, there’s just things that you can’t even explain. So part of my thing with the book was when I was writing it, I would write something and at some point, so it would feel so honest and embarrassing and shameful and I thought, I would think about deleting it. And then I would think, no, this is exactly what I need to say because this might be what someone needs to hear. So I tried my hardest to be as honest and even when it felt embarrassing or you know, like I was crazy for writing it or something that I just really tried to be as honest as possible about the whole experience of being a single parent.
There’s a portion there where you talk about when you first become a single parent and then your kids start going to their dad’s on the weekends. And I very clearly remember that the first few weekends when the house is suddenly silent and you know when before you’re a single parent, you’re like, if I could just get a break and you get a break and it’s like, this is a break I never wanted. I mean, it’s just complete silence. And you talk about, you know, that time when you have nothing to do on your weekends and then you even start taking like, I think you said three hour walks.
I did. I did. Yeah. you know, it would be my kids was leave and I would be, so looking forward to it all week and I would be thinking and daydreaming of all the wonderful things I was going to do and and then they would leave and the first five minutes would be great and then I would just, just become overwhelmed with missing them and feeling lonely and, and kind of disoriented with not having them around. I was so used to them being there. It just felt a little like disorienting. But yeah, that, that was a hard, a hard part of it for sure.
What did you finally do to get over that hump? I mean, how long did it take you, or what kind of hobbies did you do to finally get to a place where that’s not so devastating every weekend?
You know, honestly, I, I don’t know. I think it’s just a time thing. I think it’s just a matter of, you know, living through it and going through it and doing it weekend after weekend that they go with their dad. Eventually I just got used to it. At first I would fill the weekends with any and every activity or work. I picked up a bunch of extra shifts at work and you know, exercised a lot and tried to, I was out shopping or whatever, just trying to, you know, stay busy, busy, busy. And over time I think it also helped, I started trying putting in a real effort to kind of just relax and just feel that I was lonely or just feel that, you know, I miss them and and but yeah, over time, that’s the only way I can say that I got over it, you know,
And I think this is when I had one of those, another one of those me too moments when you said that you miss them and then for you it was shortly after they got home, you were ready for them to leave again, I think. But for me, and this still happens for me, I’m ready for them to come home. But then like about 30 minutes before it’s time for them to come home, I’m thinking, Oh there, Oh no, they’re going to come home in 30 minutes. What haven’t I done or do I have time to take a bath? Do I have time that I start thinking of all these things, you know, these self care items that I wish I would have done.
Exactly. Yeah, I can probably say that definitely some of the time it was like that for me too. Or you know I’d be in carpool line waiting to pick them up like on a Monday afternoon after they had spent the weekend with their dad. And I would be thinking of like, why did I take that for granted? I could have done so many things and that’s it. And then I would kind of go into the week already exhausted from the work and from all the things when I did it and relax, you know, and and just enjoy the time. But definitely I would say practicing self care and you know, just going through the emotions definitely is probably a better way to do it than what I was doing at first.
And the way your book is set up and I liked was you have different chapters on different parts of your life, a single parent, and then you kind of have like some bullet things at the end of things you’ve learned and talking about that same subject of your kids being gone. If they other parents, one thing you learned is when your kids do come back, you learned that the reentry period, how hard that is on their, on the kids. And I’ve always noticed that too. But I guess I never really took time to give my kids that grace about how difficult that really is. Because yeah, as soon as they come back from the other parents, they are, they’re fighting, they’re looking for, you know, anything to really fight with me about. And I’m, I’m always just like, what is going on? But when you put that in there, I was like, you know, that is a really good point. How difficult that is for them, whether they realize it or not. And that’s just like a really good time for me to give them grace during that time.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, that took me a long time to figure out. I did not get that right off. My kids would go to stay with their dad for the weekend and come home and I mean they would be exhausted in fighting and demanding and whining, you know, just everything. And I kept thinking what on earth? Like I don’t get it and it would make me angry and I would be, you know, yelling or I would be just already, you know, ready to send them back to their dad’s house and I didn’t figure it out. But then finally I, maybe I read a book or maybe somebody told me something, I don’t remember even when it clicked, but at some point I realized I need to take a minute and just think about what if I had to go back and forth between two houses and two sets of rules and two ways of living and two ways of eating and drinking and bedtimes and all that.
And that would be very hard for me as an adult, as much less, I can’t imagine for a child and they can’t, you know, express that. They probably didn’t even realize that themselves, that that’s what was going on, that you know, it’s stressful on them. So I think once I realized that I kind of lowered my expectations of how it should be when they come home and I gave them the space they needed to kind of, you know, just be wild and crazy and bad for a little bit. And I knew like within 24 hours that would kind of calm down.
Yeah, that was a really great point because when I thought about it more, I thought, you know, in a two parent household, the kids will try to play the parents off on each other. Right. And they can’t do that when there’s just one parent. And I felt like a lot of times maybe they’re saving that up for when they get home, you know, to you, yes, absolutely. And we don’t know what’s going on. And all of a sudden they’re like, well, you take me here, will you take me here? And it’s like you just got home. And when you wrote that, I like, well maybe that’s the leftover of all of that, you know? That was real helpful. Then was one other story I wanted to touch on because I thought it was pretty crazy in your book when you talk about how you fix your own car.
That still sounds so funny, but it’s true.
So you want to tell us a little bit about that? Cause I think that’s a great story.
Sure, absolutely. There was a point in time this was probably a couple of years after getting divorced and I was financially strapped. It was a rough time. I was still, I think, you know, getting adjusted to the whole single mom thing. I was working a lot. I wasn’t probably taking as good a care of myself. I was not exercising as much. I just, it was a rough time. And but overall, or most importantly, I guess I should say was for this story. I was pretty close to broke at the time, so I did not have any savings. I was living paycheck to paycheck and you know, just, just getting by doing the best I could. And so at one point my car broke down and I’ve always kind of been a do it myself person. You know, if something breaks, not necessarily on my car, but you know, in the house, you know, I don’t know.
Well, I don’t know, just a little fix it things. I’ve always tried to do those myself and on my car. I’ve never really attempted did anything. I’ve changed a couple of light bulbs on my car before. But that was about it. So the car broke and I really was in a position where I absolutely could not get financing for a new car. There was no way, and I did not have enough money saved up that I could buy a new car. And it just, I just couldn’t figure out what else to do. So I decided the only thing is I have to fix this cover myself. So, and at one point I did take the car to the shop just to see, you know, get an estimate on it and they came back with some crazy estimate of thousands of dollars. So I went home and I was determined I have to fix my car as with everyone else, I guess, you know, I need my car for my job.
So it was just not an option to not have a, a car. So I spent probably a good solid six to eight hours one day Googling how to fix my car or what was wrong with my car. It was making this horrible screaming noise. So anyway, I spent all this time Googling, I figure it out, a couple of things that were probably wrong with it and I took a big chance and I ordered the parts online and when they came in, I spent an entire Saturday afternoon watching YouTube videos of how to fix the car part and replace this car part. And and, and I did it by myself, covered in grease on a Saturday afternoon in the driveway. I actually tried twice to fix my car the first time it worked. And I installed a new part and the car worked and I was super proud of myself. But then several weeks or a month or two went by and it broke again and I tried again to fix it and this time it wouldn’t work.
But yeah, that was, you know, I realized about myself like, and I’m sure I, I am a big believer that single parents, single moms, single dads, whatever, are when they need to be hustlers and kind of, you know, get the job done because there’s no one else to count on, you know? You don’t have another person in the house that can do things with you or for you or drive you to the, you know, mechanic or whatever. So you, sometimes the only option is to do it yourself. That’s one of the hard parts about being a single parent. But you know, when you, when you’ve got to do it, you gotta do.
So I really don’t think, I would have done that.
Maybe it’s just me, it’s probably just me.
Well, I really enjoyed your book. Was there anything else you’d want to say?
I say to single parents, if you’re going through a really hard time or you know, feeling alone that you are absolutely not alone at all. You know, the feelings you’re feeling are probably the same feelings that other single parents feel. And there is light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually the loneliness subsides and you know, eventually in my case, eventually the kids get older and my kids are teenagers now and self sufficient and you know, I think they’ve gotten adjusted to their dad and I being divorced and they take care of themselves for the most part in I’m not any more in that stage of just feeling like, how can I, you know, get through this with these little kids and you know, so I don’t know. I would just say, hang in there, hang in there. It’s hard. Is that it’s, you know, I also have great relationships with my kids and I think, you know, that’s a special thing for single parents. I believe that single parents have a special kind of bond with their kids.
I totally agree. So the name of your book is The Three of Us and where listeners find your book and find out more about you?