i've been doing it right all along, and not because of some tips from a book or an article i've read, but from my own decisions about my priorities and experiences.... i really shouldn't bash my self too much when things get out of control.... i am actually doing things right and well enough, given the constraints i have to live with....
Single Parent Tips
|Tuesday, April 11, 2006|
Question of the Week: I have recently become a single mother. The father of my five-year-old is no longer around, and I am having an extremely difficult time adjusting to being the only parent in the family. Financially, I am struggling, but more so I am worried that I am shortchanging my daughter because I don’t have a lot of time with her anymore. But it seems like I just don’t have any other choice because I have to work all the time and take care of other family matters. I am really at a loss of how to balance my job as a mom and as a provider. How do other single parents do it?
“In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit.” Marge Kennedy and Janet Spencer
Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, so what can make it even more difficult? Try being a single parent. It is reported that approximately one-third of all American families are headed by a single parent family, either because of divorce, parents who never married, widowhood or intentional single parenthood. Raising children without the help of a second parent poses an entirely new set of challenges, but nevertheless, it is still possible to maintain a loving and constructive family home in the face of single parenting.
Accept the Facts
A single parent has no other choice but to take the responsibility that comes along with their double-duty role, regardless of the circumstances that surrounded becoming a single parent (besides, you don’t have time to live in denial land). Taking responsibility in single parenting means:
- Getting rid of the bitterness you have for your circumstances and the blame you have for yourself or the other parent.
- Not allowing yourself to feel guilty for things that are out of your control but only for those things that you know you can and should change.
- Accepting that there will be more difficulties you’ll encounter being a single parent, like having the pressure to be the sole provider or the limited amount of time you’ll have left over for a social life or for focusing on yourself. You have to always be solution-oriented rather than dwelling on the problems or whining about them.
- Losing the self-pity and replacing it with a feeling of empowerment for what you are capable of doing as just one person.
The majority of your time must be given to your children. It’s simply unfair to a child who already lacks a second parent to have other priorities that come first. A single parent’s biggest struggle is typically financially, which means juggling a job, sometimes two or three, while still spending a lot of quality time with the children. You have to stay organized, live and breathe by a schedule and always be prepared for anything.
Don’t Try to be Both Parents
If you’re a single mother of a boy, you understand the nuances of trying to teach your male child how to become a man. If you’re a single father of a girl, you know how frustrating it is to discuss menstruation or to talk to her about boys. While you may feel like you have to be both mother and father to your children, it is, in theory, pretty impossible. There are certain innate things that mothers and fathers can offer their children individually, a lot of it simply due to the nature of the sexes.
Rather than thinking in terms of replacing whichever parent is missing, you have to do two things. First, focus on what skills and wisdom you can individually offer your child. Second, find someone in your life or your child’s life of the opposite sex who can serve as a sort of proxy for the missing adult (and not necessarily a boyfriend or girlfriend).
Maybe it’s your child’s grandfather who can give your son good examples of what it means to be a man, or your daughter’s female basketball coach who can serve as a mentor. Make sure you have a strong support network in your child’s life which may fill the void of a missing parent. Even move in with your parents if possible. The more quality people your child has in your life beside you, the better they will fare.
Be Realistic about the Other Parent
Depending on how you came to be a single parent and how involved the other parent may or may not be, you always have to be realistic about the situation, especially with the children. Parents who are simply distant figures in the child’s life don’t matter at all if they’re not involved. A primary single parent can’t force the other parent to be an active parent and shouldn’t force a child to be in their estranged parent’s life if the parent doesn’t want to be involved. As a single parent, you should always do what you need to do to protect your child first.