Five Things a Single Parent Needs That Money Can’t Buy
A long time ago (as you can tell by the shoulder pads) when I was a single mother.
Parenting is hard; single parenting can be even more difficult. Whether by divorce, death, or choice, being a single parent is a challenge no matter how you got there. But as Glennon Doyle reminds us, “We can do hard things,” and sometimes through the process, we become stronger and better! These are the five things that helped during my ten years as a single parent.
1. A support system
If you have family close by, you are fortunate. Not only will their help be valuable, but it’s great to have more people to love your children and provide a sense of security. I tried not to depend on my parents too much, but knowing I had a backup plan when one of my kids was sick or I had to work late gave me peace of mind. Besides family, your support may come from unexpected sources. For example, I had a neighbor who would occasionally and unexpectedly mow my lawn. That seems trivial, but to a working mom with young kids, it was a godsend. Church, friends, and neighbors may all be good sources to build your support system.
2. Other Single Parents
Although this could fit under the heading of a support system, this deserves a special category. Only other single parents understand the challenges faced and can commiserate and offer advice. There are formal support groups for single parents, or you can form your own. I was lucky to know three other single moms, and we met once a month while our kids were with their fathers. We even took a mini-vacation together with our children! It helped immensely to know other single moms! There are many Facebook groups for single parents. Although I can’t personally vouch for it, I have heard Surviving Single Parenthood is a beneficial group.
Before my divorce, I was more of a spontaneous parent. Routine is crucial to the survival of a single parent, and it’s also beneficial to the children. When I became unexpectedly single with a one-year-old and a two-year-old, I quickly (and not without pain) learned that a schedule was my new friend. My children quickly adapted to the new routine, and in a time of family change, they seemed to do better with consistent meal and bedtime rituals. Structure provides a sense of security for children, and getting my kids to bed early every evening gave me a little breathing space to hit the refresh button.
4. A listening ear
Everyone occasionally needs a friendly ear to listen and perhaps a shoulder on which to cry. A single parent may require that more than most. If you’re a single parent, I hope you have one friend who you can call after putting the kids to bed. A friend who will show up at your door with a bottle of wine and cookies when she knows it’s the kids’ weekend with their dad is priceless. I had a friend who spent an entire weekend letting me break down, cry, and vent after trying to hold it all together for too long. That listening ear and strong shoulder was the best therapy and the beginning of my healing journey.
Cut yourself some slack. It’s ok if your house isn’t spotless or if you resort to take-out a few too many times. Even homes with two parents don’t always run smoothly, and as a single parent, you’re carrying a heavy load. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
There is no denying that being a single parent is difficult, but it can be done well, and everyone can flourish. Don’t buy into the gloom and doom stigma of the “broken family.” This may not have been your Plan A (is anyone living their Plan A?), but sometimes Plan B or even Plan Z ends up working out surprisingly well. And just in case no one has told you this recently, you’re doing a great job!
Being a single parent was NOT my Plan A, but I’m proud of the smart, strong, kind women I raised!