If you are a single mom like me, then you know how hard it is to raise a child as a single mom. You don't know where to start, and you are overwhelmed by the number of things you need to do.
It may be the first time for you as a single mother. It may also be that you have been single for quite some time. It might also be that you have a partner, but you are still a single mother. It is also possible that you are divorced, and you need to be a single mother. Whatever the case may be, you will agree that the decision to be a single mother is not an easy one.
There’s no denying that there are plenty of challenges and issues that are unique to single moms. Being a single mom can be a difficult task to handle. You have to be there for your kids, do the household chores and manage your personal and professional life at the same time. It's not an easy task, and it takes a lot of effort.
It's time to realize that you can make it. You can thrive as a single mom. You can make your children happy. You are not alone. You may not have the perfect family, but it doesn't mean you can't. You can survive a divorce. You can raise happy children. You can have a career and a family. You can give your children a good life. You are a great mom. You are a wonderful woman. You can be a great single mom.
As a single mom, I struggled with the same challenges you are struggling with. I know what it feels like to be a single mom, so I've put forth 8 steps here that might be able to help make the challenges a bit more bearable.
STEP 1 - STOP COMPARING YOURSELF WITH OTHER MOMS
There is no such thing as the perfect mom. In one way or another, we all go through some form of struggle. There are some days we have it all together, and there are some days, it's just simply impossible to get anything right.
We really do not know the struggles that the mom who seems to be perfectly put together with perfectly behaved kids are like. They appear perfect on the outside but are they really?
It is a real waste of your time and brainpower trying to compare between that mom that seems to have everything in place and ourselves. All that comparing leads us to have so much negative emotion of being half the mother we should be that it drains us to the point of absolute exhaustion.
What you need to do is focus on you and your little family.
Instead of comparing yourself and filling yourself with all these judgemental thoughts of all the things you're doing wrong, what you can do is learn. Have a genuine curiosity.
Be truly curious to learn about a decision other moms make that are different from yours.
Learning from other moms would be so much more beneficial in creating a better life for you and your kids instead of just comparing and wallowing in all the things you're doing wrong.
STEP 2 - LET'S DO SOMETHING ABOUT FINANCIAL ANXIETY
Being a single parent and in a one-income household comes with its own challenges, especially when you're struggling financially. It's daunting trying to take control of your spending and planning for the future, but it's not impossible. It is especially prudent to start with a simple but realistic budget.
I did this from the beginning, and I must admit, it was hard to stick to, and most months, I was off here and there, but it allowed me to have a bigger picture of my finances and track my spending. I succeeded in living within my own means, though barely, but I didn't have anything left over for savings. Only over time and little by little did I manage to start a savings fund.
Tracking our expenses would give us a better understanding of which areas we are spending too much on and allows us to fix our spending accordingly.
Monthly bills come around every month, and sometimes, we delay payments, at least I used to, especially when my son was a baby and finances were extremely tight. Delaying doesn't mean it'll go away. It just means it's still there, still on your mind, and you'll get around to it when you get around to it. Why create that headache for yourself when you can set a time and date where you sit down and clear all your bills - one less thing to think about.
I've had times when I've delayed paying my bills, and it rolled over to the next month, and before I knew it, my electricity was cut. Having a baby with no electricity in the house was a bit of a pain. Making sure your bills are paid on time will also avoid the unnecessary hassle that comes with it.
STEP 3 - HAVE A PLAN AND GET ORGANISED
Trying to get ready for school and for a full day at work at the same time, including showering, dressing up, preparing breakfast and a school lunchbox, getting your child to get up, get dressed, fed and his teeth brushed — all in the one hour window you have before having to run out the door is not for the faint of heart.
Even at work, your mind runs through all the things you need to do when you get home - dinner, homework, getting supplies for school, laundry, cleaning. It never seems to end, and just thinking about it exhausts you.
There is no perfect solution to this problem other than figuring out what works for you and your kids. You will probably never achieve the perfect work-life balance, but you can strive to prioritize the most important things in your life and develop a plan that meets your family’s needs.
As a working single mom, planning and organising have saved me time on many occasions. Whether it's meals, school pick-ups and drop-offs, grocery shopping, meal prepping, filling gas, going to the bank, homework, work, meetings, outings, family gatherings, laundry, whatever, having a plan helped me a great deal.
I'm such a pain in the ass about planning that I have a route map in my mind for grocery store visits so I know exactly where I'm getting what at which aisle. I don't waste any more time than I should this way. Maybe that's just going a bit overboard, but hey it has worked for me, especially when I have a kid in tow who just wants to go home!
Bear in mind; plans can and will change and, sometimes, it can throw you off-course, but that's fine - make adjustments as and when you need to!
In addition, having a routine and structure was beneficial during my son's younger years. He learned to expect certain activities at certain times - breakfast, playtime, story-time, bedtime - we were routined to a tee. This helped in reducing stress, anxiety and not forgetting the tantrums.
Most importantly, be realistic in your expectations. High expectations can lead to disappointments which leave us feeling like shitty parents, incapable of anything much when all we're actually trying to do, is our best.
Remember to set up realistic daily routines that you can actually follow and create some space to allow for some modifications if these routines just don't work out for some reason.
STEP 4 - DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
It's okay if you didn't get around to doing the laundry, or if we're so exhausted that we're having breakfast for dinner, or your kid refuses to clean his bedroom, or he's watching a bit too much TV.
Don't beat yourself up - you're not a bad mother.
Choose your battles wisely. If we keep fighting with our children over everything, we'll all be in for an emotionally draining time, not to mention the effect it'll have on our relationship with them. I learnt to ignore the minor misbehaviours and only focus on the more significant ones. As they say, don't sweat the small stuff! It will keep you sane.
STEP 5 - ASK FOR HELP
A single parent is the one that is not getting a day off. Not on Saturday, when ordinary Moms get to spend some alone time at home while Dad is taking the kids outside
As a single parent from the very beginning, let me say this, it's impossible to do it alone. If you have done it, then I salute you!
For me, I asked for help left, right and centre. Whether it was my long work at hours and/or I had to travel for work, I couldn't have done it without help. In some way or another, my whole family has stepped in to help and support me, and I'm grateful to have had them be willing to do so. When the time came when my family could no longer step in, I had to find other alternatives and change how we organised our days.
The fight you have within you, needing to work and be with your child at the same time, is something all working mothers go through. It can't be avoided, but it can be managed. Feeling guilty when asking for help is normal but should be put aside, especially if your choices are limited. Enlisting other people to help out just means you are trying to be a better parent because, with their help, you can at least rest assured that your child will always have someone taking care of them. Nothing slips in between the cracks of your child's childhood.
Yes, I have missed out on certain milestones in my son's life, and I used to beat myself up for it, but then again, my circumstances were such that it was impossible for me to choose to be a stay-at-home mom, and I learnt to accept that. Though I was not there with my son, someone was to celebrate these milestones with him.
STEP 6 - TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
As a single mom, we give so much - to our kids, to our work and to everybody else except ourselves. We don't really think about ourselves all too often. An yet, we feel like we're carrying the burden of the world on our shoulders.
It's important to take care of yourself as a single mom trying to do it all. We have to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others in our care. We are useless to our kids if we are mentally drained, depressed and constantly doubting ourselves and beating ourselves up for reasons only known to us.
Selfcare doesn't have to mean a 3-hour trip to an expensive spa, or a 2-week holiday in an exotic place, though it would be nice. Selfcare is just an act of caring for yourself towards your own mental, physical and emotional well-being.
The beauty of self-care is that it can be a whole host of things that don't have to cost that much or take that much time.
Carving out time for yourself to do what makes you happy will help you in the long run. It was quite surprising how a few minutes of quiet time to myself by myself could go a long way, not only for my well being, but it translated into having a better relationship with my son - a more relaxed and happy one.
Here are some of the many things you can do to inject a bit of self-care into your day;
Talk a walk
Wake up an hour earlier to enjoy that cup of coffee in silence
Watch a movie, in bed
Celebrate the little wins you had that day
Drink lots of water
Be silly with your kids
Call a friend
Take an hour to do absolutely nothing!
Most importantly, remember to focus on the positives every single day. Did you finally get laundry done today after days of it piling it up? Pat yourself on the back. Did you get your kids to eat their dinner without much fuss? Did your son give you an unexpected hug? Did you go grocery shopping with your baby? Give yourself a pat on the back. Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small it seems, instead of focusing on all the stuff that you didn't, couldn't or forgot to do. Don't beat yourself up for a messy house or a pile of laundry still waiting to be put away.
STEP 7 - THROW THE SINGLE MOM STIGMAS OUT THE WINDOW
And while in many ways, we don’t face the same stigma and judgment that single parents may have faced way back when but sometimes, we just do. It really depends on the society that we live in. Some people do still think being a single parent is wrong or a sign of some kind of moral failure in us, like in my society. We are actually shunned upon till today.
What’s worse is that often, this doesn’t come from those who are closest to us but from those who don’t know anything about us or our situation. It initially affected me greatly, but I couldn't let myself be swallowed by all the judgement. I had a child to raise.
The best way to deal with all the stigma and judgement thrown your way? Remember that they don’t know you. Remember that your choices are your own, and you’re doing what’s best for you and your child. Their judgement doesn't contribute to the betterment of your life.
So the best thing to do is to ignore them.
You really don't have the time or space in your life for this bullshit, so my advice, once and for all, let us just dump this kind of negativity. Do not let it consume you. It will not make your life any better if you keep thinking about what others think or are saying about you.
STEP 8 - REMEMBER THAT YOUR KIDS ARE YOUNG JUST FOR A SHORT MOMENT IN LIFE
Hold on to this and remember it, always. Amid the daily stress you're facing, the messy house, financial struggles, feeling that it's never going to end - remember that your kids will grow up right before your eyes and before you even realise it.
The muck on your floors, the rush in the mornings, the constant feeling of drowning will end together with the unexpected hugs, the goodnight kisses, those little tiny hands in yours. Don't let your constant thoughts of not being enough or doing enough get in the way of all the special moments you spend with your children.
Remember that their childhood won't go on forever.
Be aware and present. The awareness alone will make you want to be a better person, a better mom, no matter how hard it gets. They are there with you only for a little time so make that time count.
I know for certain that I'd live through my son's childhood a thousand times over if I could.