As I watched my marriage crumble and our daddy walk out the door, my first thought was, “How am I going to manage two little ones on my own?” Like so many of you, I was terrified. My entire life was shaking and wobbling. Gone were the days of being a stay-at-home mom; now, I was up early to head into the office. There were no more cookies and milk after school; instead, I picked up my kids after dark from sports activities and daycare. Somehow, I had to grieve the loss of a dream and find the strength to not only parent my kids, but parent them well.
Looking back on those three years as a single mom, there a few truths I clung to that guided me through.
1. Keep Your Chin Up
From the beginning, I always told my kids that we can’t choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude. All of a sudden, here was my opportunity to live that motto out. But it wasn’t easy; in fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As a single parent, it’s a huge challenge to not dwell on the difficulties and mope around feeling sorry for yourself. Every week, I marched myself into my counselor’s office and worked hard to become the mom they needed me to be. Begin each day with a positive attitude and focus on the blessings of single parenting. You get to walk hand in hand with this beautiful child of God. Don’t take this gift for granted.
2. Remember That God Trusts You
Whenever I felt defeated, I tried to remember that God knew from the beginning of time I would be a single mom. He alone entrusted me with these kids. If God believed I was ready and capable for this important task, then who was I to prove him wrong? My relationship in Christ was pivotal in maintaining a healthy perspective. It also helped that I was connected in a church and had a group of women who loved me and prayed with me, who let me sleep on their couch when the tears were endless, and who gave me a firm pat on the back and encouraged me as I discovered my backbone.
3. Ask For Help
I don’t know about you, but I constantly felt overwhelmed by all the responsibilities, to-do lists and emotional drama that came along with raising two munchkins alone. Overwhelmed was a feeling I simply got used to and worked with. Time-management skills became lifesavers. I was also forced to ask for help from my parents and other parents of my kids’ friends. I joined a carpool and encouraged Grandma and Grandpa to take over one afternoon of care a week. They ended up creating a special “Monday Funday” routine that my kids adored, and it helped me control childcare costs. That was a win-win for all of us! When you feel overwhelmed, get creative in finding solutions to problems and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Once my kids got a bit older, I started doling out the chores so I wasn’t up all night. My son took care of the trash, my daughter unloaded the dishwasher and they both cleaned up the dinner dishes and helped with laundry. Don’t think they are too little and you are a good mom because you do it all. That’s thinking like a martyr! My preschooler could fold laundry with the best of them.
The truth is, you can’t do this all on your own, so find a network of people who can assist you with child care, driving, last-minute emergencies and so on. Choose responsible and reliable people who always have your back and care about your kids. Single parents with healthy support systems yell less, enjoy their kids more and teach their kids the importance of community and asking for help.
4. Give Yourself Grace
Even if you were in an ideal two-parent situation, you would still occasionally blow it as a parent. No child leaves home without a few nuggets for a therapist’s couch. Parenting is hard, and no matter how capable and competent you are, you are still one perfectly flawed person performing a job description for two. Try not to let your kid manipulate you and pour on the guilt about the less-than-ideal situation. Remind yourself that overly permissive parenting will only reward you with entitled and difficult teenagers, so don’t fall prey to your kids’ demands for every toy and video game in the universe. You and your kids are a team and have to work together. Create plenty of opportunities to do fun things together and blow off steam. Pizza night and a funny movie can give you a breather when cooking is the last thing you want to do.
Try not to run yourself ragged. Maybe fewer kids’ activity (sports and so forth) means more peace in the home. It’s critical for your children’s sake that you manage your health and well-being. There are times when you will need a time out and some refreshment. Find a single parent support group, swap babysitting or ask a kind neighbor to help you out. Don’t neglect your diet, workouts and sleep. Lean into prayer, find like-minded friends and do life together. Anything you can do to combat stress will also benefit your kids.
5. Make Home A Safe Place
Children crave stability, security and a healthy home environment. It’s our job to foster a loving environment where they can relax and thrive. Don’t forget to affirm, affirm, affirm! Let your children know how much you love them and how proud you are of their efforts and character. Let them watch you pursue your dreams. I worked on my masters as a single mom, and my kids were so proud of me. Create predicable routines of bath time, reading, snuggling and bed-time. Kids crave structure in a chaotic world.
Finally, don’t mix the kids in with your dating life. I didn’t introduce my future husband to the kids until we had registered for pre-marital classes and I had a good idea where the relationship was headed. Your kids don’t need any more disappointment with another failed relationship.
Single parenting is no easy feat. But with these tips (and a little help from others), you’ll be better equipped to handle it all.
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