Single parenting is not for the faint of heart.
No wonder there is a National Single Parent’s Day. While I am currently in the midst of blending my family and hanging up my single parent status, the lessons learned are ever present. As with parenting in any situation, parenting solo comes with the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s face it, single parenting can pretty sucky! But every experience is a growth opportunity and here are 5 of the many things I learned as a single parent.
1. It takes a village.
I am very fortunate to have the support of family and friends who have our best interests at heart and who willing offer it. My kids and I all benefited from those around us who formed our very loving community. I will admit, I can be prideful and taking people up on their offers to help did not come easily for me. Pride fell away pretty quickly when the reality of raising kids on my own set in. What I had to come to realize is that:
Accepting or Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
Everyone needs help at times. Someone wants to take the kids for the weekend, “yes please”. Someone wants to bring you food while your entire family recoups from the plague, let them. Likewise, ask for what you need. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “no.” I now know what I can handle and where I absolutely need help. I am no longer too ashamed to ask.
2. I am resilient. My kids are resilient, and all of us will be okay.
When things didn’t always go our way, when I wasn’t sure if I could afford something the kids needed, when we had to navigate moving and new schools and new friends and I had to navigate child care and trusting others and working multiple jobs to make ends meet – we not only survived, we learned and thrived. Moments of loneliness that I thought would break me did not. My anxiety over my decision to be a single mom eventually came to rest. The kids missing family or friends or not having the latest, greatest everything hasn’t broken them either. We keep moving forward, being flexible and taking on the next thing to come along one step at a time.
3. The importance of ME time.
I was very fortunate to get the better part of a weekend to myself every other week. This was essential to my sanity. Being on 24/7 without another adult to share the load is completely exhausting. I have heard some of my married friends exclaim that after they’ve had to spend some time with their kids without their spouse for a few days that they don’t know how I did it. I don’t know that I could’ve done it without the relief of being able to spend some time with just myself. Self-care is important for any mom. It is especially so for single moms. I took myself on dates, let others take me on dates, luxuriated in the tub, hung out with other adults, binge-watched Downton Abbey. Anything I could do to remember myself on occasion.
4. Patience and gratitude.
I am still working on having patience with my children. Especially in the mornings when it’s time to get out the door! I am also still working on having patience with myself in general. Yet, I do feel that being a single parent has helped me to cultivate patience with my own expectations placed on outcomes. Not everything is going to happen on my timeline or the way I want them to. Pushing through circumstances and having gratitude for every little blessing was a road map to accepting our situation and then growing from it. My experience has also made me ever so grateful for now having the support of a wonderful partner. I know now that I am strong enough to do this on my own. I am grateful that I no longer have to.
5. How to entertain my kids for free.
Ok, so not all of these lessons are profound. This one is just practical. Raising two growing kids on a single income (a teacher’s salary at that) doesn’t leave much room for frivolities. For any parent, keeping a budget and the kids entertained is like performing a juggling tight rope act. As the children of a single mom, my kids may not have the latest gadgets, but they are seriously cultured. My decision to move to Richmond was largely based on the abundance of things to do here. A lot of it for FREE. Festivals, parks, museums, libraries. You name it! This blog site is a great resource for that. Use it. Use it well.
There is of course more. Much more. Even as I write this, it occurs to me that there is one more very important lesson that I’ve learned. 6. I AM NOT A FAILURE. My relationship with my kids’ dad failed. My first marriage failed. But I am not a failure. For a long time, I felt a lot of shame wrapped up in the fact that I was a single parent. If number two has proven anything, it is that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have taken on the duties of two parents to my kids for a long time and they are turning out to be pretty incredible people; nothing to that speaks of failure.
Happy National Single Parents Day! If you know of one, do something nice for them. If you are one, do something nice for you! It is definitely well deserved.