I'm a Divorced Working Mom of 5: Here Are My Parenting Musts

As a mom, author, and Human Rights Campaign Foundation chair, my days are pretty packed. But here are five ways I power through it all.

Jodie Patterson portrait author Human Rights Campaign Foundation
Photo: Yumi Matsuo

As a divorced mom of five, an author, and Human Rights Campaign Foundation chair, I'm well versed in the juggling act that is mom life. Despite everything on my plate, I have found balance and freedom. Here's how I got there.

1. Carve Out Quiet Time

"In March of last year, I was doing it all—running every day, stretching, making all the beds—and then I got sick with COVID-19. It voided all my rituals and forced me to reevaluate how I keep myself healthy and happy. Now my alarm goes off at 7, and I start every day with one hour of quiet time when I read or lie still. I don't talk. I don't jolt out of bed. I don't check email. Slow mornings are my time for self-healing."

2. Make a Family Contract

"Adults are used to contracts with their business partners or spouses, or with other adults. I've created one with my kids, who range in age from 11 to 28. Sometimes it's a written letter, but usually it's a conversation where we figure out what each individual needs. For me, it's that hour of silence in the morning and at 9:30 every night, when I shut off from the millions of questions and the referee moments and begin winding down before bed. For my kids, it might be time to play video games or space to be alone."

Jodie Patterson quote from "Her Own Great Expectations" Parents May 2021

3. Channel Role Models

"When I have a problem, I think about my idols—bold, self-determined women who fought against the status quo, such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Billie Jean King, or my grandmother, who was a civil rights activist. All of them were imaginative in how they approached life. If they can, I can."

4. Set Your Own Rules

"My shared parenting arrangement is set up so that I get the kids for a month and then their father has them the next month. The first month without them, I cried and felt as if I were spiraling. But for me, discomfort and fear are entangled with opportunity. I sat with those feelings, and soon the boredom provoked creativity. The 'alone time' has become a powerful tool to recharge: I don't cook every night, I might do some half-hearted Downward Dogs. So much of mothering is finishing a list of tasks, and when you break out of your rut—even for a minute or a day—you can discover new sides to yourself. Now I'm tapped into my creativity, and my career has skyrocketed. I've since written two books."

5. Show Skin the Love

"I love my bathroom time. I used to have a short and sweet skin-care routine, but now it's intentionally long. And I make sure to use brands that share my values."

Jodie's Picks

01 of 04
Kat Burki Micro Firming Wand
Courtesy of Kat Burki Skincare Inc.

"The Kat Burki Micro-Firming Wand is like a yoga session for my face. The next day, when I wake up, I look at myself in the mirror and think, 'You look good, Mama!' " $100

02 of 04
Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope book cover by Jodie Patterson
Courtesy of Random House Children's Books

Patterson's first children's book, Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope, is about her transgender son. $18

03 of 04
On Writing by Eudora Welty book cover
Courtesy of Modern Library

"A quote I live by is from On Writing, by Eudora Welty. She says that all serious daring starts from within. I read the book right out of college and return to it often." $35

04 of 04
State Of Relief Arnica Hand and Joint Cream
Courtesy of State Of Menopause

"State Of products smell phenomenal and feel really light on the skin. The Arnica Hand & Joint Cream is helping with my post-COVID arthritis." $18

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's May 2021 issue as "Her Own Great Expectations." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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