In an ideal world, no child would have to know the anguish of missing mommy or daddy. The vows of marriage would be unbreakable, never resulting in divorce or separation, and diseases like cancer would know better than to claim the life of a loving parent. However, in the real world things often times do not go as planned and losing a parent, whether through that parent’s choice or unfortunate circumstances, can be devastating to the children as well as the parent left behind to pick up the pieces. While the task of being a single mother is undoubtedly challenging, it is not impossible. The following tips may just help ease some of the pain of taking on the world’s toughest job without a wingman.
Be positive… No matter what circumstances led to your situation, you will never get through it without a positive attitude. When things get tough you will certainly need a shoulder to cry on, but try to not let that shoulder be one of your children’s. Be positive when speaking to your children, reassuring them that things will get better, and focus on the future instead of dwelling in the past. Keep your opinions about private events to a minimum, and even when it seems impossible, try to refrain from speaking poorly about your children’s father. Remember, regardless of the situation, most children will continue to have some attachment to their father. If there are negative things to discover about him, allow your children to recognize those things in their own time. Keep your negativity on hold and try to instead focus on the beautiful, new life on the horizon.
Develop a routine… Having a routine schedule for both yourself and your children will not only bring some normalcy and stability back into everyone’s life, it will also make the day-to-day tasks easier to manage. Have a set time for dinner and homework. Make a calendar of upcoming events like school projects or sports. If you have children who are older, assign certain chores and responsibilities to them and hold them accountable. Make it clear that you are still a family and as a family everyone must work together. Taking the guesswork out of your days will eliminate a great deal of unnecessary stress for everyone.
Make your environment a nurturing one… When taking on the job of being a single mother, the worst mistake you can make is to become so wrapped up in your responsibilities that you forget to take time for your children. Yes, going to work and providing the basic needs are important aspects of parenting, but so is providing a loving environment. Take time to hear about your children’s day at school or upcoming events and share your successes and news with them as well. Schedule times like “family movie night” or make Sundays the day you go to the park. Make sure that regardless of the events that lead to this situation, love and understanding continue to trump any other emotions in the house.
Look for flexible child care… Being the sole parent often times takes away from your personal flexibility, so make other things in your life work for you. While most daycares are strict on their pickup times, some are sensitive to special situations. Discuss your situation with your daycare provider or research the cost of a private babysitter. The more flexibility you create for yourself, the less stress you will have to endure on a daily basis.
Accept help when it’s offered… Perhaps in the past you preferred not to have your parents or friends help shuffle your children from school to sporting events, and maybe it made you proud to never accept a dinner invitation unless you could pay for everyone at the table, but this is a different situation and you will need all of the help you can get. While taking advantage of people’s kindness is never a good idea, allowing others to help out when they offer is. If you are lucky enough to have a strong support system on your side, use it. There is no reason why you have to do everything on your own if there is someone else willing and able to take over from time to time. Even if it is as simple as allowing someone to watch your children for a few hours while you take some personal time, everyone needs help at some point. Do yourself a favor, check your pride at the door and just say, “yes” sometimes. You may be a single mother, but you’re not all alone. Remember that.
Remember, your child is not your peer… Many single moms make the mistake of allowing their guilt to overpower their rights as a parent. Yes, your children may be angry or hurt because you are there and their father is not. Yes, they may argue, fight and go out of their way to hurt your feelings, especially when they are too young to truly understand the situation, but you must remember they are still children and you are the parent. Do not allow your child to dictate rules or circumstances. It is always good to hear their opinions on things, but at the end of the day you are still the parent and should be the one making the final decisions. Remember, children rarely know what is best for them at a young age, they only know what they want at that moment. It is your job to filter the possibilities and stand by the decisions that truly benefit them and your family as a whole. It may take time but with age comes wisdom. Eventually they will understand.
Do the best you can… The fact of the matter is you will make mistakes. You will say things you’ll wish you wouldn’t have said and do things you’ll wish you hadn’t done. But at the end of the day, if you can take a deep breath and know that you really did the best that you could with what you had to work with, that’s truly all that matters. Being a single mother is tough. You will be the sole barer of everything from financial woes to doctor’s appointments to temper tantrums to nightmares. You will no longer be able to just be mommy, the caretaker; you will have to be stronger than that now. You will now have to be the one who wipes the tears and sets the rules, the one who inspires and disciplines, and the one who listens and teaches. You get no say about taking on the dreaded role of the “bad guy”. That’s a role you must now own, and you will learn to compensate for those times by still being the one who helps them believe in dreams and find sunshine through the rain in life. There are no books or tips that can give step by step instructions on what to do because every family is different. Let love and understanding be your guides of choice and never forget, deep inside of you lies a woman with incomparable strength and determination, embrace her. This may not have been your role of choice but it is now your reality, all you can do is make the best of it.