Being a single mom was never on my radar until I actually decided to divorce my ex-husband. It was only then that I realized I was going to be taking on the full duties of parenthood entirely alone — and it was a terrifying thought.
After all, my soon-to-be ex-husband wasn’t the greatest dad in the world — he barely did anything at all with my son — but he was a warm body. He was someone who, in a pinch, I could turn to and say, “You will do this because I need it done, so go fucking do it!” and expect him to go do it. Having to demand he be a parent wasn’t pleasant, but it was a safety net I had come to rely on.
What would I do once I was parenting alone? Who would I turn to when I needed help? How would I stay on top of all the big and small things that come with parenting? Could I even do this all alone?
There were so many questions and so few answers. But as the divorce progressed and I began to parent alone, including giving birth to my second son, I began to figure some things out.
And these are the three biggest secrets I figured out and really needed to know.
Build your village
You’ve heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child and this is true. You CAN do it all alone but it’s a lot easier if you have some help. Keep in mind that even those who think they’re doing it entirely solo often have at least one other person who helps out in one way or another. It might be a babysitter (or daycare), the child’s teacher, or the parents of one of their child’s friends who supervises occasional playdates. True, it may not make a huge difference, but even the smallest bit of assistance can change things.
So look to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others that you trust to help you be the best single parent you can be. Look to the parents of your children’s friends, coaches, scout troop leaders, and others who obviously love children to help you find your way.
While my ex-husband’s family chose to abandon my children when he did, don’t discount your own ex’s family — even if your ex has walked away. Most people love their grandchildren, nieces and nephews. If the ex’s family hasn’t given you reason to mistrust them, include them in your village. Not only will it lift a huge weight off your shoulders, but it also gives your children the family they deserve.
You may have to pay some of your “village” in the form of nannies, daycare providers, or babysitters and perhaps even therapists or counselors. The main point is to make sure that you, and your kids, have the support you all need to get through each day.
Choose your battles
There are lots of things we’re supposed to do as parents: make sure our kids eat healthy, go to bed on time, bathe regularly, do their homework, socialize, etc. But your time and resources are limited, so choose your battles. Some things are worth the energy to make happen, while others just aren’t significant enough to matter.
If you need to grab a fast food dinner instead of a homecooked feast to make sure the kids eat, do it. If you skip showers now and then or forget their homework once in a while, oh well, no one’s gonna die. Keep in mind, as well, that priorities may change from day to day. While you might need to do a quick drive-thru dinner one night to make sure everyone gets their homework done, the next night you might put a homecooked meal and a fun family dinner ahead of homework.
Your sanity is more important than trying to keep up with every “should” society throws at you. Skip the guilt because it’s not going to change anything.
Own your choices
Just like choosing your battles, you need to own your choices. There’s always going to be someone who disagrees with your parenting choices. It might be your ex, your own mother, your best friend, the nosy neighbor or that total stranger who tsks and shakes her head at you in the grocery store.
Everyone has their own parenting style and their own opinions of the choices others make. You can’t let those opinions and styles influence you. Even if your ex is the one disagreeing with you, you don’t need to reconsider your choices.
One of the (small) pleasures of being a single parent is that you get to make your choices without consulting others. You don’t need the approval or permission of anyone else.
As long as you know you’re making the best choices you can and the best choices for your kids, let others judge you. Own those choices. Make them with confidence. They are your choices to make until or unless a judge tells you otherwise.
If you’re just getting started on your single parenting journey and have felt like you’re lost, I hope these will help you find your path. If all else fails, close your eyes, feel your heart, and trust that you’ll find your way.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. She helps moms use mindfulness and meditation to create the life they really want. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can also sign up for her newsletter where she offers more insights, tips, tricks, advice, and information to help single moms find purpose, creativity, passion, and peace.
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