By Laura Lifshitz
Remember when you were a kid and every time you’d go trick or treating, you’d evaluate the homes and/or neighborhood you chose to go to? You knew from years past that certain houses had better candy, and certain neighborhoods had more people waiting to serve you candy. You’d also (if you weren’t a totally stubborn child) bring along a layer or two, knowing you’d want to be out as late as possible… but it might get much colder later. Let’s not forget the cool snap and break glow sticks you’d bring to light your way. Plus, you were smart to start candy negotiations early in the day, this way you could swap out stuff you didn’t want with your friends, who also had their own interests in mind.
There were so many little “tricks” you had up your young sleeves in order to make Halloween, the best ever, year after year.
Being a single parent is no different.
In order to have the best possible outcome, (peanut butter cups and Kit-Kats; no lollipops or sugar-free candies, please) you need to arm yourself with the best “tricks” so you can gather the most treats from the life you’ve made as a single parent. Here are a few I recommend keeping in your arsenal so that way you can have the sweetest life possible.
1.The Parent Time-Out
Too many parents, especially moms, think there’s no way they can say no to their kids or disappoint them for a minute. This means we often go and go as parents, without giving ourselves a break. This only serves to make us worse mothers.
Know when you’re feeling ready to snap, meltdown or get sick.
Know when you need to ask for a time-out. Know when you need to tell your kids, “I’m sorry but Mommy can’t do X, Y or Z as she had planned.”
This is the best trick you could ever employ to keeping yourself sane.
Just pull out the time-out card and request a break. You are the one in charge. You get to sit things out when you just don’t have it in you. It doesn’t make you a bad mother; it makes you a smart human for recognizing your needs and also, taking time to replenish them.
2.The Emergency List
It’s great if you have reliable family nearby, but even if you do, you need an emergency list with people offering various duties in order to really have that “village.”
Here is an example of my suggested emergency list:
People who can pick up from school or daycare
People who could come to the house if someone needs to go to the hospital
Someone who can help you with manual repairs or home issues if you’re not good at that already
Someone who is just as good with technology if you’re not already a pro
A person who’s a good resource for schoolwork troubles and extra help
Someone who can see you at your worst and help you through it
Someone you can trust with financial matters
If you had a partner, you’d have someone to fill in those gaps, but you don’t, and the reality is even for married parents, we all need a village. As a single parent, you just need more on-call help. Be wise to make relationships now and to also, offer something of yourself in return in exchange for such help and support. The reality is so many of us simply could benefit from other people offering their time. So, offer your time in exchange for these people being a part of your village.
As a single parent, you just need more on-call help. Be wise to make relationships now and to also, offer something of yourself in return in exchange for such help and support.
3.The Strategic Work Approach
Being a single parent makes the work life a bit harder. You need more flexibility and also, need to bring in the income of two people, not just one.
If you don’t have a job with decent flexibility, keep hunting and searching for something that will provide that.
Also, if you can move to a place that offers more growth potential in your income, that’s great. However, to me, flexibility is even more key.
What can you do to make up that income gap?
Consider using your secondary skills doing contract work from home or on the weekends
Babysit in your community for extra cash
Sell your old engagement and wedding rings/jewelry as there’s no need to hang onto those items when you could be putting that money away for a nest egg
Try out a market networking role, like Rodan+Fields or some other small business you can do amongst people you know for extra money
Any service you could offer on the weekends or the side like, dog-walking, house-cleaning, accounting services, marketing services or what have you is worth trying out to help you financially
4.The Pressure Valve
Stop pressuring yourself to do things in a set timeline. I am completely guilty of doing this to myself in terms of pressuring myself to be two people.
Don’t pressure yourself to be two parents, or meet the one and remarry in any shape or form.
This is the best advice I can give you.
You are one person and that’s ok. You’ll never be able to be two people at once, unless you have multiple personality disorder, in which case you’d be many people at once. And damn, wouldn’t that be tiring!
You’ll meet another person when the time is right. You don’t need to take on any substitute parents unless they’re really worth both your time and your children’s time. It is not a race and there is no set timeline as to when you could meet the right person.
5.The “Time Alone” Management
Whether you have your kids every day or half of the time, decide how you want any of your alone time to be filled.
Don’t sit there and allow yourself to be consumed with grief, worry or pain because you can’t envision being without your kids. Yes, it stinks. Yes, I still miss my daughter when she is gone, despite being used to divorce for many years.
However, I always have a game plan of how to take advantage of the very little free time that I have, and so should you.
Make plans with friends ahead of time
Work on being alone and doing things by yourself that you enjoy, whether it’s walking or reading a book
Make a list of hobbies you’ve been meaning to try, and then make set dates and plans in writing with real deadlines to test out these hobbies
Join social groups or, if you are nervous to try alone, try to find a buddy to bring
Embrace the time alone in order to recharge…so few of us single parents ever get a minute to ourselves, so own the time you have
If you don’t invest in yourself and your mental and emotional health, you are doing a disservice to you and your whole family. It is not selfish to be a complete and whole human being with interests who needs personal time.
No matter what, do not consider yourself a victim or a failure. These are your current circumstances and they can change in the blink of an eye. We all have journeys and life paths to follow, so enjoy your trip, appreciate the scenery, and grow from whatever pitfalls come your way.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.