The backstory: It's been nearly a year since Theresa Robbins's three sons—Jon-Luc, 15; Nicholas, 12; and Liam, 7—moved in with their father. The parenting swap came about when the boys returned from a visit to their dad's house last summer and Jon-Luc said he wanted to live there. The request blindsided Theresa, who'd been raising the boys as a single mom for four years. She knew her sons would benefit from more time with their father, who lived two and a half hours away, but she wasn't prepared for a long-distance arrangement. In the end, she and her ex agreed he'd take all three kids for a year, which would let her devote herself to the company she was starting while still working full-time. But Theresa worried: Had she made the right choice? Would the boys grow distant? Would she ever get over her guilt? Finally, she reached out to Iyanla, who urged her to develop a new bond not only with her sons, but also with herself. Now, after 40 days of soul-searching assignments, Iyanla helps Theresa assess how far she's come.

To read part 1 and 2 of Theresa Robbin's account: How Iyanla Vanzant Helped a Divorced Mom Confront Her Guilt and How Iyanla Vanzant Got a Divorced Mom to Face a Harsh Truth.

Iyanla Vanzant: Welcome back! Have you completed your assignments?

Theresa Robbins: I have! I'm excited to tell you what's been going on.

IV: Let's dive right in, then. I want you to start by sharing with me what you know now that you didn't know when we had our first conversation.

TR: So much! I had been feeling the need to control my life, but now I'm realizing that's not necessarily in my best interest. It's freeing to just see what happens. When we last spoke, you told me to come up with one healthy habit, one happy habit, and one wealthy habit. I'm still working on the wealthy part, but I've developed two new habits in the other categories.

IV: Good. What's your healthy habit?

TR: Flossing. Every dentist I've ever seen has told me to floss, but I only did it the week before an appointment. Now I'm doing it every day.

IV: And your happy habit?

TR: I'm playing the guitar again—almost every day. I got my first guitar for my 13th birthday and took lessons until I was 19, but then life happened, and I stopped.

IV: What does that do for your heart?

TR: I've had lonely moments, and when I pick up the guitar, I feel peace.

IV: That's good. Now let's go back to my first question: What have you discovered about yourself?

TR: I have more in me than I believed possible. I don't know what the future holds, but I have a voice I want to share.

IV: That's huge. And what did you learn about mothering? That was our original intention—to help you identify how to be a part-time mom now that you're no longer a full-time mom.

TR: I took your advice and asked my boys whether they wanted me to visit. The first time, they told me they had plans. Initially I was a little taken aback, but it was a good lesson. I'd been trying to control their activities and schedule everything, and I needed that aha moment. Since then, I've had a number of conversations with them about what they want, and it's been eye-opening.

IV: How so?

TR: I'm listening to them more and really hearing their opinions. We're having more discussions about feelings. The conversations have gone deeper.

IV: What else have you learned?

TR: As a parent, your children are a reflection of you, and I had an image in my mind of perfect children doing perfectly wonderful things—even though I myself rejected the life that my parents spent 18 years preparing me to live! I moved out at 19 and took a different path, and I couldn't have become the person I am today if I hadn't. Whatever my boys become, I have to love them first and not force my agenda on them.

IV: So you learned that you were forcing your agenda on them?

TR: I did. Now my intention is to let them go through their own process of self-exploration.

IV: Excellent. What I'm hearing is that even as a part-time mom, you can engage in a deeper dialogue with your children that not only expands the conversation, but also allows you to support them in having their own feelings and discovering their own interests.

TR: That's right.

IV: And how does that feel?

TR: It feels like I'm a better mom.

IV: Does it help alleviate your guilt?

TR: It does. I've been giving myself permission to have fun. I keep reminding myself that I don't have to work 24/7 when they're not here.

IV: Well, tell me about this fun. Have you met any men?

TR: I've had two bad dates.

IV: Bad how?

TR: They just talked about themselves incessantly. So boring! I'm discovering that I don't necessarily need a man in my life right now. I'm enjoying my friendships—being around people I know feels comfortable, whereas online dating feels very unnatural. And I don't want a relationship to change my priorities.

IV: I'm glad you said you don't necessarily need to have a man "right now." Maybe you're not fully settled into who you're becoming, and those men reflect who you were. But you did it. You gave yourself permission to date. That's where the learning happens, so that's something to celebrate. Did you get an opportunity to look at the life plan worksheet I sent you?

TR: I did! You said to give my life a name, so as of today I will call my life She Finishes.

IV: That's a powerful affirmation! But take the She and make it I. I Finish.

TR: I Finish.

IV: Good. Okay, what else?

TR: The theme song for my life is "Unwritten," by Natasha Bedingfield.

IV: Tell me why.

TR: The lyrics are open-ended, and that's where I am right now. I'm transforming my life.

IV: Very good! What else did you do during the 40 days?

TR: I identified my top three values: Keep God first, do work that feels like play, and be active.

IV: Work that feels like play! I love that.

TR: Over the next three months, it's also my intention to make money as an entrepreneur—to sell something, write something that people will actually read, and make videos that people will actually watch.

IV: Let's reframe that. You want to write things that people actually read—that's a form of control. What if you said that you want to write things that make you feel something and offer them to the world? Because you don't have any control over whether people will read them. You have to trust that your feeling will draw them in. And what can you tell me now about being a part-time mom?

TR: It's not as bad as I thought. I feel like I've given my children the gift of time with their father and given my ex the chance to be a full-time dad again. Good is going to come from this. I'm hopeful.

IV: That's a feeling!

TR: Yes! There's a feeling of excitement about what's to come—and I'm proud that the boys are thriving. I'm also proud of my ex for taking on this role. And I followed your advice and sent his girlfriend flowers. She'd gone to a school dance with Liam, and I wanted to thank her for taking such good care of my boys. She wrote back, "You did a great job raising them. They're really good boys."

IV: Stay right there. I'm not going to let you escape that. She said, "You did a great job raising them." How does that make you feel?

TR: Proud.

IV: How about appreciated?

TR: Definitely.

IV: Does it make you feel happy?

TR: Not yet....

IV: Not yet?

TR: I still wish I could be there for every activity, every special moment. I did a good job raising them, but that sounds a bit like my work is done, and I don't feel that way.

IV: Let's reframe that. Let's say you're building a shed in the backyard. If you don't lay a solid foundation, that shed is not going to stand. I don't care what kind of roof you put on it. Another possibility here is that these boys have two parents, you and their dad. You laid the foundation, and he's just putting the windows in and the roof on, so that you will have a useful shed. You don't have to be there to see the windows go in. You don't have to hold the nail to put the roof on. You built the foundation. Of course, as a mom, you want to be there for the dance, but you're still a part of it—you're being kept in the loop. You're still being informed of the progress of the shed.

TR: I know....

IV: Theresa, you've done good. You've done good, and you're not done. You're just doing it differently now. In our first talk, you wanted to know how to be a part-time mom and not lose the connection with your children. And based on what you've said today, you communicate with them on a deeper level, you give them an opportunity to explore their own interests, you've grown as a woman, and you have your own accomplishments that you can share with them, so now there's some give-and-take. You're a better mom, you support their dad, you ask questions instead of making assumptions, and you connect at the heart level, not just the physical or mind level. Theresa, you're doing all of that now. This is a good thing. And you're speaking at the feeling level: "I gave my children the gift of their dad. I gave their father an opportunity to do more. I feel there's a lot more coming. I'm hopeful." Those are feelings. Wow! Sounds to me like your heart is opening. I have one last thing for you to think about. When I asked about being a part-time mom, you said, "It's not as bad as I thought." I want to encourage you to reframe that to "It's better than I thought it would be."

TR: That's helpful.

IV: And now I want to recap everything you told me you've learned in these 40 days: "There's nothing to fear. I finish what I start. Good is coming. The future is unwritten, but I am confident. My children are safe and thriving. I am Theresa—mom, woman, entrepreneur—and I give myself permission to play and live." You've come a long way.

TR: Thank you!

IV: Thank you, my darling. Keep living your vision. Keep singing your song.

Could you use some coaching from Iyanla? Share your story!

Iyanla Vanzant is the host of OWN's Iyanla: Fix My Life and the author of Trust: Mastering the Four Essential Trusts (SmileyBooks).


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