The Backstory: Last August, after Theresa Robbins's children—Jon-Luc, 15; Nicholas, 12; and Liam, 7—returned from a summer at their father's house, Jon-Luc announced that he wanted to live with his dad. Theresa hadn't seen this coming—for four years she'd been taking care of the boys as a single mom. But she couldn't ignore the fact that her work schedule was hectic; in addition to her full-time job, she was starting her own children's book–publishing company. Finally, Theresa and her ex compromised: He'd take all three children for a year so she could get her work life under control. For Theresa, the custody concerns have been all-consuming, but in the third installment of our series, Iyanla urges her to set aside parenting questions and take time to focus on her own needs.

To read part 1 of Theresa Robbin's account: How Iyanla Vanzant Helped a Divorced Mom Confront Her Guilt

To read part 2 of Theresa Robbin's account: How Iyanla Vanzant Got a Divorced Mom to Face a Harsh Truth

Iyanla Vanzant: Welcome back! Last time we spoke, I advised you to see this parenting swap as a real opportunity. Your sons get valuable time with their father; you get to devote more energy to your business. This is truly a win-win. Does it feel like that to you?

Theresa Robbins: It does feel like that, but after talking with you, I see that I won't have the best relationship with my boys or be successful in my business unless I open my heart. But how do I do that?

IV: Well, first, you have to get clear on what you want. What is it that you want to accomplish? What is it that you want to experience? What is it that you want to feel? Do you want a new relationship? What would it look like? Or are you now just going to bury yourself in work? You're freer than you've ever been. You don't have to cook every night. You don't have to do much laundry. Your toilet paper lasts longer. This is a blessing!

TR: I guess I've been living a get-through-the-day kind of existence.

IV: How's that working for you?

TR: Not so well. I know where I want to take my business, but I still have no idea if I'm doing right by my boys. I want to feel like I'm making the right choices.

IV: I think you need to create your vision and be able to articulate it and see it. Your vision for yourself as a woman first—that's number one. Then you can create a vision for yourself as a mother and an entrepreneur.

TR: [Takes a deep breath]

IV: You're breathing! What a lovely thing to hear.

TR: I was just thinking about my vision for myself. It's interesting to think about because part of being a single mom is trying to be both the mom and the dad, and that never left much time for me. I try to take care of myself and exercise, but I'm not used to seeing myself as a woman outside my role as a mother or my role in the business. Who am I?

IV: Let's break it down. Tell me what three things you need for yourself right now.

TR: I need the confidence that I can—

IV: Just confidence. Keep it to one word. No need to say more quite yet. What else?

TR: I need love. I need to love myself. I need to feel loved by my boys.

IV: Don't put love from the boys on this list because they love you already. Confidence, love, and...?

TR: The third thing that comes to mind is success. I need to feel successful.

IV: That means you have to do something. Try again. What do you need?

TR: I feel like I need a partner.

IV: As in, a lover?

TR: I don't know. Most of us have a partner to go through these big issues with....

IV: You need support.

TR: Yes, that's it.

IV: What kind of support? Are you looking for support for your work? Your place in the world? Are we talking about a companion in your home? You know what you really need? Clarity! You need to get clear about a few things. Let's put that on the list, okay?

TR: Yes.

IV: Okay, good. So we've settled on confidence, love, and clarity. I'm going to give you some assignments to complete before we speak again. The first thing I want you to do is title your life in five words or fewer. Think about what you want your life to feel like. Maybe the goal is Moving in a New Direction, or maybe it's Giving and Receiving. I name my life every year. Right now it's called In Full Bloom. Does all of this make sense?

TR: It does.

IV: Then I'm going to ask you to pick a theme song for your life. Is your song "I Will Survive" or "A House Is Not a Home" or "I Am Woman"? Pick a song and learn the words to it. Then I want you to write down your intentions—what do you intend to do, what do you intend to feel, what do you intend to participate in? Finally, write down your vision for your future. I haven't been able to hear it—you're too overwhelmed by fear. What do you see for yourself as a woman? What do you see for your business? What do you see for your relationship with your sons? And while you're working through all this, I want you to take three moments each day for the next 40 days to do something for yourself: a healthy moment, a wealthy moment, a joyful moment. This could mean drinking more water, saving $10, or eating a piece of chocolate. And—if you're open to it—I want you to join a dating site. You don't have to go out with anyone; just join and look. I want you to experience—once your heart begins to open—what it's like to be out there as a woman again.

TR: I can tell this is going to be an interesting 40 days.

IV: It will be! My beloved, I'll talk to you soon.

Next month, Theresa checks in with Iyanla after completing her 40 days of homework. We'll find out what she's learned about herself in the process.

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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