I was 39 years old when I became a single mom to my 11, 10, and 6-year-old children. Though my husband and I had been living apart due to a job relocation that took him 8,000 miles from our New Jersey home, we somehow maintained the appearance of a rock solid marriage. When my husband abruptly announced he was leaving me and would reside overseas permanently, that facade disappeared almost immediately. In a matter of months, I officially assumed full physical custody of our kids and began reconciling how to face the emotional and logistical challenges of being a single mom. Feelings of self-doubt consumed me. Now five years into the future and today a self-described kickass single mom, here is what I would have told myself then if I knew what I do now.
Being a single mom is, at times, overwhelming. Between working and caring for your children, you will find yourself multitasking like you never had to before. It may become frustrating, even embarrassing, when people ask for favors or want you to go out but you cannot because you are already on overload. Even so, you may feel obligated to say yes or want to, so you will anyway only to discover that you have to cancel later. Remind yourself that it’s okay to say no. You can only do so much. Equally as important, if you need a break, take it. No guilt.
If you think positively and make the best of your situation, eventually things will work out.
As a single mom, there can be a lot of pressure to get everything done perfectly. Balancing school pick ups and drop offs, doctor appointments, work, household chores, and self-care can be challenging. Remind yourself that you are still human and nobody, including you, is infallible. You can only do your best. Instead of worrying about everything you wish you could do, focus instead on what you already do and do well. Successfully getting through each day is an accomplishment in itself, especially when you are raising your kids without a partner.
Single moms often try to do all of the same things they did for their children while they were married. That can be stressful as well as unrealistic. It’s okay to set limits based on what you can handle while parenting alone. For example, you can cut back the number of activities in which your kids participate. Talk to them and then pick the ones that are most relevant to their interests and that they enjoy the best. You can also reduce the amount of money you spend; your kids don’t need to fill up an entire shopping bag with clothes every time they walk into a store. Spend money on only the items you and your kids need. By adopting a less is more mentality, you will free up time in your already tight schedule and money in your budget, not to mention, teach your children values you and they may not have fully embraced in the past.
Children are adaptable and are capable of doing and understanding much more than you may have traditionally believed. If you are new to being a single mom, consider that you are not alone, only unpartnered. Think of you and your kids as a team. Kids are more resilient than you know. More often than not they will rise to the occasion if you let them. Show them how strong you are and allow them to learn from it.
You may not believe it now, but over time you will adjust to being a single mom. Who knows, you may even come to like it given the independence it can engender in both you and your family. Similar to your kids, you, too, are capable of rebounding. Just keep an open mind. If you think positively and make the best of your situation, eventually things will work out. With enough love and attention, they usually do.
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