Whether widowed, divorced or never married, being a single mom can be daunting and intimidating, to say the least. This is regardless of whether your kids are babies, toddlers, tweens or teens, it doesn't seem to get any easier.
There are challenges specific to single moms that other families do not experience. These are real challenges that others might not see or know that we keep under wraps and try and work out on our own. These challenges can often times lead to depression, unhappiness and low-esteem and fear.
As a single mom for the past 18 years, here are some fears and challenges that I have gone through and still struggle with. I am sure that many of us single moms do too.
The Fear Of Not Doing Enough
I am often saddled with the question of whether I'm doing enough for my child. Am I giving him enough outdoor experience? Did I travel with him enough? Have I been supportive enough? Did I spend enough time with him? Did we have enough fun times? Did we play enough? Did I instil enough qualities in him for him to thrive as an adult?
Did I do enough for him to look back at his childhood and think it was a happy and fulfilling childhood? So many questions...even now that my son is 18, I still question myself and I'm still trying to do what is considered enough.
The fear of not doing enough is even more so when there isn't a father figure and you're a single mom to a boy. You rope in a grandfather, uncles or even close male friends as male role models, but at the end of it, you wonder if you've done enough for your son to have had the chance to learn enough.
Now that my son is 18, we can talk about it and he shares parts of his childhood that have stuck with him, and I know that maybe I didn't do enough, but I did what I could the best I could under the circumstances at that time.
As a single mom, we are often overwhelmed by all the things that we have to do on a daily basis. We are constantly juggling. Juggling work, home and raising our kids. They are all interrelated and sometimes hard to compromise on.
Looking back, I know in my heart and at the back of my mind, I wish I did more FOR my son, WITH my son.
The Fear Of Not Having Enough Time With Your Child
Time is an enemy for single moms. From the time we wake up till the time we lay in those beds again, there never seem to be enough hours in a day to do everything.
I remember the days that I literally spent, only 2 hours a day with my son, between me coming home from work and putting him to bed. And those 2 short hours were filled with homework, dinner and a quick storytime before I had to go back to work.
Remembering the guilt that I had all those years, still makes me tear up to this day. It still haunts me.
When my son was really young and my office was moving to a different location, I knew I had to move too. I didn't want to spend hours commuting to and from work so I had to re-adjust. I rented an apartment which was a mere 3 minutes' drive from work and started scouting for daycare and schools in the area.
It was definitely one of the better decisions that I have made. When he eventually started school, I was able to send him and pick him up from school without comprising too much on the hours lost at the office. It also gave me peace of mind knowing that if anything were to happen, like emergencies at school or when he was at home, I was only a few minutes away. It also allowed me to attend all his events at school!
The best thing was since I didn't have to spend so much time commuting, I could spend more time with him!
The time you have with your child, no matter how much or how little is precious to them. Make it count by being present. You'll be amazed at what can come out from even a short drive to school when you're truly present.
I only wished I had really realised way back then that children are little for an extremely short amount of time and it's time that I will never get back!
The Fear Of Not Being Able To Make Ends Meet
If I'm honest, my son's needs and wants trump everything else. Regardless of the cost, I will always find a way even if it means foregoing a lot of my own needs. I have invested a lot in my child's education. But to do this I have had to sacrifice a lot too. I have always wanted to be able to give him everything he wants and I still do.
Art classes, trumpet lessons, football camps, football training - personal and academies, a gym personal trainer, excursions overseas, extra tuition classes academically and now Muay Thai lessons! Not forgetting saving for a college fund and my own retirement, which are two very important aspects in life!
Whatever it is, I try and fulfil his wants - some of which are definite needs.
Younger children are easier to entertain with trips to the park, a long walk, a long drive, watching a movie, reading a book and arts and crafts at home, but as they grow older it's not as easy.
Ultimately, we all want our children to have every opportunity possible to succeed in life and oftentimes, these opportunities cost money.
Living paycheck to paycheck is never easy. For me, budgeting helps most times and saving whenever I can. It might steer off-course certain months and I might have to sacrifice my needs or wants most times but it certainly helps in providing for my child.
The Fear Of A Health Scare
What if I'm sick? What happens if I'm hospitalised? Or even worse.
These questions have always put fear in me and I'm not talking about getting your ordinary cold or the flu.
I know sometimes things just happen. It happens for no reason and can't be avoided. But what would happen to my child if something did?
I am so very grateful that I have a supportive family. They have always been there for my son and me. They have always been able and willing to step in whenever needed and I am rest assured that if something were to happen to me, I know my son will be well taken care of.
I'm also thankful that throughout my life with my son, I have never had a major health scare (touch wood!). Because of the fear that surrounds it, I have been always been very aware that taking care of myself means I can take care of my son.
Being a mom, I want to be around and healthy for as long as I can. I want to be able to be present throughout my son's life, to see him live the life that he creates for himself. I want to see that. I keep jokingly telling my son I want to live a healthy life until I'm 120 years old!
I'm not sure if anyone feels the same but I also want to live as long as I can so I can just be there for him when he needs me. To be his comfort, when and if he needs it. I'm embarrassed to say it because I know in 20 years' time, he'll have his own family and he'll find comfort in his own family. But just in case, I want to be around.
The Fear Of Not Being There When Your Child Needs You The Most
As a single working mom, there are times (plenty of times!) when I had to leave my son for weeks on end with my parents. I am thankful that my family was always willing to step in whenever I had to go away for work especially when my son was much younger.
Though I had mom guilt constantly eating away at me, I never stopped to think about what my son was actually feeling. He was always so accepting and happy whenever I had to leave him with his grandparents. He never threw a tantrum, he just understood. He had gone through it so many times so I just thought he was fine.
Before leaving for a long trip, I'd always prepare him a few weeks prior, explaining to him what was going to happen, how long I'd be gone, who'd be staying with him, who'd be sending and picking him up from school and that we'd talk every day. He seemed okay with it - sad for a bit, but okay.
Never crossed my mind how he really felt, until - it was a few days after I had come home after being away for 3 weeks. I was cleaning his room and there, hidden behind a new artwork that he had put up, scribbled in pencil on the wall, he had written, "I miss my mummy". It broke me.
It made me realise that at that moment when he was writing that message, he needed me, but I was nowhere near.
All the times we talked on the phone, there was never an inkling that he was sad and I never realised that he had the 'time' to miss me because I always made sure that his days were full and he was always surrounded by people who loved and adored him.
After finding that scribble on the wall, I cut back on travelling whenever I could. I'd even decline meetings if they encroached on my time with my son, especially when it meant after-office and weekend meetings. Luckily enough, I worked for a supportive boss who understood, but it took time, it took many many years of working and many many times of leaving my son with someone else, for me to prove my worth and gain the trust to be able to have that kind of freedom.
The Fear Of Not Making The Right Decisions
It's a dreadful feeling to know that the decisions you make when your child is young might and can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Be it, how you interact with them, what you say, how you support them, the school you enrol them with, or the relationships you choose to have with other adults. Every single thing you do is a decision you make that your child will grow up with.
I've been very conscious of this and I might not have made the right decisions all the time, but I have tried to, knowing that my son will carry it with him.
True enough, now when I talk to him about his memories of when he was a child and what sticks with him are sometimes the negatives that I now wish I never said, did or had him, witness. He might now understand the circumstances but the fact that he remembers and associates it with a negative feeling, just makes me regret these instances.
Being a single mom is undoubtedly hard and comes with its own challenges that are most often specific to their own backgrounds and situations.
Despite all the obstacles, we find ways to figure out how to make the most of our time with our kids, home and work life. We press forward and strive to be the best parents to our kids regardless of the circumstances.
I love being a single mom to my son. Regardless of the fears, challenges and struggles, I know that we have had more than our fair share of fun too!
Are you a single mom? What fears and challenges do you struggle with?