After being a single mom for 17 years, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on it. I’ve gone from the days of babies in diapers to graduating my oldest and seeing him finish welding school and get a great job. As a result, I’ve learned a few things about how to be a single parent.
And there are lots of practical tips to be offered, such as meal prepping, where to find financial assistance, and balancing time between multiple kids. But there are some other tips, ones that aren’t always about practicality that can make your life easier as a single mom.
You can choose how you see your life
Do you see being a single parent as an exciting challenge or a disastrous nightmare? Are you a victim or the hero of your own life? If you think your life is a nightmare or see yourself as a victim, the good news is you don’t have to keep thinking that.
You can choose how you view your life. You can see it as a bad thing, as a struggle, as a problem. Or you can choose to think of it as an adventure, as a challenge that will make you stronger, as an example of strength and hard work for your children.
When you choose to see your situation as a negative thing, you’ll make life harder for yourself — and maybe for your children as well. It can take some effort to change how you view your experience but if you’re willing to do the work, it can make a huge difference.
Don’t hold on to negativity
Resentment toward your ex for not seeing the kids. Hatred because they don’t pay child support. Frustration when you have to choose which bills to pay this month. There are a lot of negative feelings that can come up when you’re a single parent. And it’s important to let them go.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling those negative feelings. But there is a problem when you hold on to those feelings. When you hold on to them, they take up space that could be filled with more positive feelings. Holding on to negative feelings skews your perspective and causes you to see everything in a more negative light.
It also interferes with your relationships, whether with your ex, your kids, or a new partner. Feel the feelings, then let them go so you can move forward instead of staying stuck in negativity.
It’s healthy for your kids to be away from you
One of the biggest struggles many single moms face is the idea of leaving their kids with a babysitter or home alone. They feel guilty, particularly when they have to work more than one job or are working and going to school. It’s understandable to feel that guilt and it’s also understandable that you would miss your kids when you’re not with them.
But it’s also important to remember that your kids benefit from spending time with people other than just you. They learn and grow from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, babysitters, teachers, friends, and so many other people. They also benefit from spending time alone. They’ll learn independence and resilience from doing things for themselves when no one else is around.
Of course, this is not a free pass to leave your kids with others 24/7 until they’re grown. But if you’re feeling guilty and like a failure as a parent because you need to rely on babysitters or teachers or others to help you with your kids, this is your free pass to let go of that guilt. And that also applies if you spend that time dating or hanging out with friends.
Get familiar with your financial information
Whether you’re a broke single mom struggling to survive paycheck to paycheck or one that’s rolling in dough and doesn’t even have to think about working, being familiar with your money is critical. Knowing how much money you have, where it is, how much you spend, and whether you’re prepared for retirement or to help your kids pay for college are all aspects of your money that you need to know.
But you should also know where your money is invested, if you invest. Even if you rely on someone else to handle your money in one aspect or another, you should still know how to do it yourself and regularly check on it to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.
And if money is tight, you need to be familiar with your current situation so you can evaluate how to improve it. You need to know where you’re starting in order to figure out the next steps.
Always accept offered help
While it may be possible for you to raise your children without any external help whatsoever, it might not be best for your kids if you do. And it certainly won’t be best for you, as you’ll exhaust yourself in the effort. So if someone offers you help, accept it.
When your mom or grandma offers to babysit, or your brother or father offers to pick up some groceries for you, or a friend offers to give you a ride to work when your car is in the shop, say yes. Ignore guilt, shame, or any other negative feelings and let those who love you help you.
The more help you have, the lighter your load will be. And that will allow you more time for fun and relaxation, which will in turn make you a better parent. Take the help.
Figure out how to meet your needs
As a single parent, you are responsible for meeting your kids’ needs. But you’re also responsible for meeting your own needs. Without a partner to help out, it can feel like a heavy burden. But it doesn’t have to be.
First, identify what you need. If you feel lonely, do you need to make more friends or find more time for the ones you do have? If you need money, do you need a steady source of income or just a little extra at the moment?
Once you identify the need, then you can figure out how to meet it. And once you figure out how to meet that need, you can figure out the steps to get from unmet need to met need. And the more you meet your own needs, the more confident you’ll be in every aspect of your life.
Take “I can’t” out of your vocabulary
There are very few things we truly can’t do. Most of the things we think we can’t do are really just things we don’t want to do — and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is power in admitting it.
When you say “I can’t,” you lose a little power. Saying you can’t do something is admitting defeat. It’s feeling like a victim. It’s chipping away at your confidence. But if you admit that you can do it and you just don’t want to, you’re acknowledging that you’re making a choice.
And for the rare time you truly can’t do something? If you’re choosier about when you say you can’t do things, you’ll have more confidence to tackle the things you really can’t do. You’ll be up for the challenge of figuring out how to handle that thing you can’t do and turning it into something you can do.
Don’t worry about what others think of you
The stigma associated with being a single mom isn’t quite what it used to be but it still exists. And we often think we know what other people think of us for being a single mom — and it’s usually not good. But the truth is, we actually have no idea what anyone else thinks of us and we don’t need to.
You need to be happy with your life, whatever that looks like. If someone else doesn’t like it, who cares? They don’t have to live with the results of your decisions. You do. Do what makes you happy, what you believe is best for you and your kids, and don’t worry about the opinions of others.
And if someone is thinking about you? It’s probably not as bad as you think. And even if it is, it still doesn’t matter.
Wendy Miller is a Post-Divorce Coach & writer. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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