Widowhood has multiple challenges.  Being widowed while solo parenting is one of those difficulties.  Parenting teens is super easy… said no parent ever.  Today’s teens face more complexities in their lives than their parents did when they were teenagers.  Parenting comes with unrealistic expectations in modern times.  American parents are expected to plan, fix, shield, and hover.

Parenting culture includes providing a snack for your child’s teammates after every sports practice or game, but make sure it is gluten-free, GMO free, sugar-free and organic.  There is an expectation to stimulate your child’s mind every minute, plan educational and fun activities so they are never bored, and never let them get their feelings hurt.  In reality, kids need to face adversity, learn that they are not always going to win, and that not everyone is going to like them.  However, struggling is not something today’s kids and teens are familiar with.

I was never ‘all in’ with everybody receiving a snack for showing up.  However, I will tell you when you are ‘snack mom’ for the team there is peer pressure.  But I digress, protecting and hovering over our children is the accepted culture.  Sacrificing your own happiness for your child or children’s happiness is also an unspoken expectation of mothers.

One of the television shows that I watch, This is Us, addresses widowhood and solo parenting in a realistic way.  Rebecca, the widowed mother, finds herself suddenly a solo parent with 3 teens all the same age.  It is impossible not to notice the drastic changes that happen to Rebecca after her tragic loss.  Rebecca is often overwhelmed, but considers dating several times after the death of her husband.  She hesitates because she wants her kids to be happy.  Spoiler alert, fast forward 20 years and all 3 of her kids are still struggling to find happiness.

I personally don’t believe that widowed mothers should sacrifice their own happiness until their children are happy.  Finding happiness without feeling like I am making my daughter more unhappy is a challenge in my life.  I have been dating a terrific man named Greg for almost 2 years.  He is wonderful and I want to move forward with my life with him.  My teen daughter does not want to accept that I am with someone else mostly because it makes her sad.  Mothers don’t like when their children are sad.  It makes them feel sad too.  I do want my daughter to be happy and find her way in life after the tragic loss of her father.  Her struggle with unhappiness and my desire to move forward often causes conflict.

I often think about something my late husband said to me.  He said, “I worry about our daughter having a life that is too easy.  She has never had to struggle or overcome anything.”  He said that most people who achieve great things overcome something difficult.  Now, my sweet girl who was always adored and the center of both her parent’s universe is having to overcome her father’s tragic death.  She will likely struggle with this event for the rest of her life.

As a role model for my daughter, I don’t want her to believe that mothers have to sacrifice their own happiness to make their children happy.  I would never want her to live her life in a way that is making her miserable.  I want to teach her to be true to herself and to believe in herself.  Being true to myself, believing in myself, and achieving my own happiness while being a role model for my daughter are my daily struggles.


Northern Virginia has been Jennifer Carstens’ home since she was a teenager. She met John when she was working at the D.E.A. Headquarters in Arlington, VA, during the summer when she was in college. Honestly, it was love at first sight for both of them. He had a way about him that made her feel like everything was going to be okay. They were married 4 years later and lived happily for the next 21 years. While their lives were not
flawless, they were close to perfection. Their daughter had just turned 16 when tragedy struck on March
11, 2017. John was healthy and happy, but suffered a massive brain stem hemorrhagic stroke. Much to
their horror, he slipped into a coma, and would never wake again. He was 49-years young. Their daughter
is now 18 and they are still piecing together their ‘new normal.

Jennifer believes he would be proud of the ways they are moving forward. They continue to seek peace and healing through humor, love, and sometimes tears.