A single mom’s parenting duties are no different than they are for a married one – except that you’re on your own. It doesn’t really matter how or why you might find yourself taking on the role as a single mother, what’s most important is creating the best life possible for both you and your children.
Some single parents make it look easy. They seem to glide through life without any problems or worries. When you’re not that parent, you watch them and wonder what the hell you’re doing wrong. Why do you feel like you’re drowning when they seem to be walking on water?
There are a few simple things you can do that will take you from getting by to thriving and feeling like one of the single parents that make it look so easy.
Tips on How to Thrive as a Single Mother
For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.
1. Remember kids need you, not a lot of stuff.
There are plenty of reasons single parents feel guilty. You feel guilty for breaking up your child’s home and family. You feel guilty for working so much. There’s guilt over missing recitals, plays, games, and other activities.
The problem is some single parents try to eliminate that guilt with things. They buy clothes, toys, video games, and other things to try to make up for where they think they’re failing as a parent.
Your kids don’t need a ton of stuff. Sure, they’ll be thrilled if you get them the latest video game or an expensive car or clothing. But what they really need is you. That’s it.
Kids need a parent who loves them and is there for them. Your presence, even if it’s more limited than you’d like, is what they need most.
2. Become financially independent.
Money is the number one reason couples argue. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change after divorce. In order to truly thrive as a single mom, you need to become financially independent.
Being financially independent takes a ton of stress off your shoulders and gives you freedom in relationships. Start by making a budget. If the numbers don’t line up then you either need to make more, spend less or both.
3. Make peace with the past.
Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.
You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.
4. Join up with other single moms.
When you begin to navigate your new role as a single parent, it is not only scary and uncertain, it can also be very lonely. It’s always better to have someone to talk with, lean on, share your frustrating and joyful moments with when that person is in your same shoes.
There is absolutely no guilt in asking another single mom for help watching your kids now and then because she knows the struggle. She also knows you’ll do the same for her when she needs it.
Seeking out others in your situation can be one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself as you grow into your new role of single parenting. Other single moms will understand your situation more than anyone else could. They will also be a good person to go to for advice when you need it because you won’t need to over explain anything to them.
5. It is normal not to be perfect.
No one is perfect. Yet single parents often feel a pressure to be perfect that other parents might not feel. It might be the stigma that has long been associated with being a single parent (though it is diminishing).
Perfection isn’t your friend. You’re one person doing a job meant for two. That means sometimes things are going to slip through the cracks. You’ll have to make choices and prioritize. And sometimes you’ll do things just barely good enough because that’s all you can manage.
Sometimes you’ll need to let the dishes sit overnight so you can spend time with the kids or go to bed early yourself. Sometimes you’ll miss a kid’s event so you can work. Other times, you’ll leave work early so you can make it to your kid’s recital or game.
You can’t achieve perfection, so you shouldn’t even try. Instead, you should strive to do the best you can and put your effort toward the things that matter most at the moment.
6. Don’t worry about being judged.
When we share any major announcement with the outside world – engagement, new baby, new home, new job, major illness, separation, or divorce – we never know how people will react. When it’s joyful news such as a pregnancy announcement or a job promotion, the commentary and feedback is usually very positive. In the case of a marriage ending, however, it can be a total mixed bag.
There are a lot of negative stereotypes about being a single mom but in order to thrive, you have to reject them. Surprisingly, the vast majority of us do not reflect those misconceptions. We are strong, beautiful, hard-working women just doing our best to make the most out of bad situations.
Studies show that we consistently overestimate how much, and how badly, others think about us and our failings. An unfortunate consequence of this is that we are far more inhibited and far less spontaneous and joyful than we could be.
7. Learn to say NO.
Mama, if you and your kids are going to thrive they need you to be a steady and strong parent. If you’re not, you will just create little monsters and more chaos in your world.
This means we say NO to buying their love or releasing our misplaced guilt by giving in to their every demand. Letting them have that 3rd cookie isn’t going to make the fact that dad abandoned them go away.
They are not in charge. YOU ARE. For a happy home, they need to respect you and you need their respect. We are not the Disneyland parents. We are just parents who happen to be single.
We’re not saying don’t have fun with your kids or to withhold love, affection, and gifts from them. We’re advocating consistently reasonable expectations and discipline.
8. Accept help.
You are doing a job meant for two people. Alone. You are going to need help.
Luckily there are people who love you and your kids and want to help.
Don’t try to go it alone. No doubt, it’s hard to put your pride aside sometimes … but it will save your sanity.
9. Rely on close family members.
Some moms worry that family members will feel taken advantage of, but older family members looking out for the youngest kids is a tradition as old as time. Many of us grew up spending a lot of time with our grandparents, so try to put your own worries aside.
Have an honest conversation with your family members and see if they are willing to help you out. You will probably be surprised at how willing they are to take on some babysitting time, even if it is just an afternoon here and there.
10. Find time for yourself.
Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.
If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.
Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.
Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.
11. Stay organized.
With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.
Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.
12. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak).
Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.
When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.
For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.
Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.
13. Live within your means.
When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.
If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.
Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.
After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.
Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.
14. Spend quality time with your kids.
The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.
Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.
When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.
15. Go easy on yourself and your life.
You’ll never thrive as a single parent if you’re always looking for all the ways you think you’re failing. Instead, be gentle with yourself. Know that you’re doing the best you can with what you have to work with.
The key to thriving is knowing whatever you do is enough. It doesn’t matter if it’s less than you want to do or less than someone else would do. It’s enough because you gave it your best.
That’s all your kids can ask of you.
Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.
Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.
Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.
Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.