We live in a society where single parenting is becoming more and more common. While some parents choose to parent solo, others have been thrust into the situation, whether by separation, divorce, or a spouse’s death. For me, single parenthood became my reality very suddenly when my husband unexpectedly died at 36 years old.
Single parenthood was never a lifestyle I expected to face, but here I am. While I am not an expert in this field, considering it is a way of life for me, I can say some things through my own experience have helped me do my best to navigate this strange new world.
5 Single Parenting Tips
1. Build a Community
Back in the good old days, families lived close to one another. Friends became like family, and church was a place that felt like home. Your town was where everyone knew who you were and what your life was like (whether you liked it or not). Unfortunately, in my opinion, this is no longer the case. Families live scattered all over the globe, making friends can be challenging, church is no more than a quick blip on a Sunday morning (maybe), and towns are large, loud, and filled with strangers. No wonder it’s so hard for a single parent to build a community of support! Despite all of this, being a single parent requires the help of a community, and it’s up to us to put in the effort to create one.
- Reach out to trusted family members who live close by.
- Join a mommy group or a single mommy group (even if it’s just a Facebook group for now).
- Join a church and participate in small group activities.
- Get to know some neighbors.
I know it’s hard to want to put yourself out there and start fostering healthy relationships, but it is necessary. Being a single parent is hard enough; doing it alone makes it more challenging. But you don’t have to do it alone if you carefully build that community around you and your kiddos.
2. Practice Self Care
This one has been difficult for me, even before I was a single mom. Self-care felt very selfish to me, not to mention a waste of time. Take a bath? There’s laundry to be done! Get a pedicure? I could use that money on something useful! Have quiet time in the morning? Pfft, I’d rather sleep in! I get it. But self-care is much more important than you may think.
Having just a tiny bit of time in your day that you can be You: The Individual instead of You: The Mom or You: The Employee or You: The Doer of ALL THE THINGS can make a huge difference in your attitude about life and your attitude toward your children. When I’m not feeding Me: The Individual, I get frustrated and short-tempered with my kids much more quickly.
I try to have at least 15 minutes of “me time” in the morning before my kids come downstairs. I use this time to read, relax, get caught up on things around the house, and sip my coffee while it’s still hot. You may use 15 minutes in the morning to do something entirely different. Whatever it is that will satisfy you is what you should focus on in those first 15 minutes. Then maybe sneak a bath into your evening if you get lucky!
3. Know Your Limits
There’s only so much one person can do in a day. There’s only so much one parent can take by herself, too. I get overwhelmed if I think about everything I must do alone now that my husband is gone. It’s all just too much! I have had to discover and set my limits so I don’t go crazy worrying about all the things.
For me, that means I can only do one activity per kid. My daughter does ballet and my son does soccer. It also means I order food more often instead of making homemade meals every night of the week. I ask people for help more than I ever did when my husband was alive. It also means there are some weeks when I will hire the kid down the street to mow my lawn so I can take just one thing off my to-do list. You are a strong, amazing, capable parent, and I know you CAN do all the things, but that doesn’t mean you have to or should. There is something to be said for knowing your limits and not pushing yourself past those boundaries.
Remember, It’s okay to ask for and take help when you need it. It’s okay to say no when you can’t take anymore. It’s okay to take a break sometimes. You and your kids will be much better off knowing and honoring your limits.
4. Give Yourself Grace
Giving yourself grace goes hand in hand with knowing your limits. When you decide that you can’t handle making dinner tonight, order pizza instead. Then don’t beat yourself up about it. When you yell at your kid for the millionth time that day because you’ve lost all patience, understand that we’ve all been there and that you are not ruining your child. I can’t tell you how often I’ve cried myself to sleep because I feel like I’m failing my children.
But I have to remember to give myself grace. To forgive myself for “failing” again and again. I must remember to make a choice every morning to do my best. Then, to be gentle with myself when I come up short.
Parenting is hard work. I would argue that it’s the most challenging job you will ever have. You will not be perfect at it, so stop giving yourself a hard time when you’re not. Just love your kids and do your best. That’s truly all it takes if we would just remember that.
5. Open Communication
Practicing open communication with your kids and with your support system is key to successful single parenting. As much as it is my instinct to hide my grief from my kids after losing their dad, I quickly realized that letting them see my grief was a good thing. It helped them understand their grief and understand that my sadness was so big because my love for their daddy was so big. Instead of pretending that everything is okay, I will let myself cry and explain to the kids that I’m just feeling sad about Daddy. They come over and hug me and reassure me that everything will be okay.
Sometimes, they will join me, and we will all have a good, healing cry together. And then we dry our eyes and get up and keep going. Communication is also key with your support system. You must consistently express what you need and your expectations: “I need you to watch my son from 10-2 today, and he needs to nap after lunch.” No one can read your mind, and no one but you knows exactly what you need. There are people out there who want to help you, but if you don’t communicate your needs (and swallow your pride and ask for help), they can’t do much for you. Be open, honest, and clearly communicate with your kids and community. So you can all work together to get your family what it needs.
Single Parenting Is a Tough Job
I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface of all the challenges it will bring (I don’t even want to think about my kids being teenagers!). But this is the hand that I’ve been dealt, and I am determined to do right by my kids without sacrificing my sanity. I’m hopeful these tips (and praying a lot!) will help you navigate this journey you’re on, too. Just remember, mamas, you are doing a good job and are ENOUGH for your kids. You are exactly what they need. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!