Single Parenting: The Struggle Is Real
Updated August 27, 2020
When you think “parenting definition,” you don’t think of one parent doing all the work. But this is, in fact, a sad reality. Any parent can tell you that it’s hard enough to raise a kid when you have a partner around to help you, let alone taking on that burden of doing everything yourself.
People become parents for some different reasons, though those reasons are mainly the result of a) divorce or b) death. And sometimes, after a divorce, your ex-partner can be so distant or uninvolved that it makes co-parenting nearly impossible. How many times can you disappoint a child by telling him or her that the absentee parent didn’t show up for yet another visitation appointment?
Tips For The Newly Single Parent
There are several types of parenting styles out there, and it can be infinitely more difficult to know which one you want to go with when you don’t have a partner to bounce ideas off of. One thing you should not do is try to go it alone. If you don’t have any family members that are dependable, reach out to some of your friends.
Ask For Help
It is stressful being a parent on a good day, let alone a bad one. You need to have time to yourself, whether it’s to blow off some steam with a good movie and a glass of wine, or get some housework done, so you stop looking at the same messes day in and day out. While it can be tempting to be SuperMom and get all the glory of doing everything on your own, the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” didn’t come from nowhere. When you need help, ask.
Keep A Routine
One of the things single parents tend to worry about the most is being able to provide their children with a sense of security. The best way to establish this is to create a routine and stick to it. When the child knows what to expect around the same time every day (when they brush their teeth, when they have their meals, etc.), it takes away the stress that comes from not knowing what to expect and when.
Do Not “Parentize” Your Children
Many single parents tend to rely too heavily on their children, treating them almost as equals. They share their financial burdens with their children, as well as the struggles they go through both as a single parent and, if applicable, with their former spouses.
Do. Not. Do. This. Let your children be children. Childhood is so precious and fleeting. Don’t force your kids to grow up before they have to. And don’t put them in the middle of adult situations that they have no control over, like your relationship with your ex. This puts an unfair burden on your child that he feels he will have to be the one to make you feel better all the time. Adulthood is long enough. Don’t rush it.
Add to this the fact that children do not have the life experience nor the emotional capacity to be able to help you in a situation like this. The only person benefitting from your emotional release is yourself. So if you find yourself relying too much on your children for a shoulder to lean on, reach out to your adult family members and friends for support. If none are there, consider speaking to a professional counselor. Your children are not your therapist.
Spend Time With Your Kids
Remember in the previous point the part about childhood being fleeting? You’re truly going to regret it if you don’t take some time out each day to enjoy your kids while they’re still kids. Single parents tend to either work more than one job or long hours at their one job because they have to to pay the bills and keep a roof over the family’s head. So their time is limited as it is.
But when you get that five spare minutes when you could be doing the dishes that are spilling out of the sink, or the laundry that is piling up in the corner, spend some of that time with your kids instead. Get down on the floor and play with their dolls or cars with them. Take them outside for a walk and some conversation. Sit down and read a book together, or listen to music.
Let your kids know you’re there for them, else you risk them resenting you for working so much, and you regret not spending time with them while they were still young.
Try To Stay Positive
It is so. Hard. For a parent to stay positive sometimes, especially a single parent. You may be grieving the death of your spouse, or the death of your relationship. You may be struggling to keep your anger at your ex under control most of the time. But it is so important for your kids’ sake that you keep a positive attitude.
For one thing, if you’re cranky all the time, they’re going to eventually feel like it’s their fault or, at the very least, that what they do isn’t good enough to help you feel better. And they’ll learn by watching you how they should react and respond in certain situations. And watch you they do.
You don’t have to be Suzie Sunshine all the time, but you should also take care not to become a Debbie Downer. Everyone is entitled to have bad days, but as long as you are positive most of the time, this is infinitely more healthy for your children and sets them up with their emotional stability as they grow older.
Ask For A More Flexible Schedule
Being a parent sometimes requires us to ask for things we’d never ask for, and do things we’d never have done. One of these things is to ask our bosses for a modified schedule so that we can spend more time with our kids.
It can be terrifying to ask for this, but if you don’t, you’ll never know, and you could be getting more time back with your kids that you’re instead spending at the office – chances are, staring at a computer screen, counting down the hours to go home, rather than being productive. Wouldn’t you rather be spending that time with your kids?
In today’s modern age, many bosses are willing to work with their employees to transition to a partially remote position, or to adjust their hours to be more flexible so they can be home with their children. If you think you can swing it, you can also cut back hours on your full-time job and take on some freelance work that you can do at night while your child is in bed. This way, you’re still making the bills, but you have more hours to spend with your child each day, which is simply invaluable.
Don’t Stress Over Your Ex
Maybe he’s got a new family now and has forgotten about the child he left behind. Maybe she’s too busy getting pedicures and hairdos every week to care that her child was waiting for her, yet again, for a visit to which she never showed up.
Yes, these things are both heartbreaking and horrible, and it sucks to have to be the parent to clean up the messes all the time. But the one thing you should not do is stress over the time your ex is missing.
Bottom line: it’s your ex’s loss. These are precious years that s/he can’t get back, and s/he may one day wake up and realize what a mistake they made. And if they don’t, well, that’s on them. All you can do is enjoy all the more all the time they’ve given up, rather than stress over the things you can’t control.
Fight For The Good In People
A child who doesn’t have one of his parents around may develop resentment towards, say, all men if he doesn’t have a father, or all women if he doesn’t have a mother. To combat this, you can point out the good qualities in the opposite sex whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For example, if you’re a woman, and a man helps you shovel your driveway after a snowstorm, point out to your daughter how nice and helpful that man was. If you’re a man, and a female cashier is particularly nice at the grocery store, praise her to your son. Your child needs to know that you’re not bitter towards every member of the opposite sex simply because mom/dad left, and that your child shouldn’t feel that way either.
Are you a single parent who is looking for more advice on how to make it through the day? Consider reaching out to our counselors here at BetterHelp for more information.