Parenting Strategies for a Single Mother
Whether single parenting was the goal all along or you came upon it suddenly, it can be a big adjustment to priorities and take some time to get the hang of it.
Going it alone can often be scary and stressful.
When you’re a single parent life can sometimes feel overwhelming and impossible, but with a few simple strategies, it’s possible to smooth over the bumps and come out on the other side confident that things have gone just as well as they possibly could. Here are five parenting strategies for a successful single mother.
Having a plan for every eventuality can seem impossible, but having a few standard plans for the way most days go is a big help. Knowing what the day will look like is helpful to children who thrive on knowing what to expect. Work within your children’s comfort zones to come up with a morning routine, a dinner routine, and a bedtime routine as much as possible. Getting out the door in the morning is a big stress for any family and having a set order of operations and a place for everything can reduce the drama. Dinner time can be hectic with after-school programming, extracurricular activities, and just plain exhaustion from working and parenting on your own, so making a meal plan that’s easy to stick to is friendly for your mental health and your bank account’s well-being. Bedtime struggles are lessened when everyone is on the same page, so make sure you’re sticking to the plan most days.
All the routines in the world won’t avoid disaster when someone falls ill or when things just don’t work out. Be prepared to have a way to deal with these situations. What will you do when your child is both too sick to go to school and daycare? Do you have a sitter on-call? Does your office allow you to telecommute? Do you have a neighbor or family member that can help out? Don’t wait for everything to fall apart before you start thinking about what to do when it does. Ask early, thank often, and be ready to scramble.
Grace and peace
Nobody is perfect. Most people aren’t even close to approaching perfect on most days. So why are you down on yourself for just doing your best? It’s easy to start to feel like you’re not doing good enough, especially when you are comparing yourself to what you know of others. Remember that nobody puts their dirty laundry in the front yard. If your picture of what is normal is coming from social media, stop. You are doing the best you can in the situation you’ve been presented with and that’s all anyone can ask of you. The best time to assess effectiveness is not during a crisis. If you’re stressed, tired, and need a break don’t get down on yourself about it. You’re only human. Make peace with the idea that good enough is okay and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking it isn’t. An ounce of good enough is worth a pound of perfection.
You can only be as good as you let yourself be. It is easy to try to keep going far beyond your capability and it is a struggle that all mothers face. We get up early when we haven’t had enough sleep, we push through sickness when we should be resting, and we do one more load of laundry even though our bodies gave out 3 loads back. It’s a cultural meme that moms don’t get sick days, and while that is doubly true for a single mother, it is also important to make sure you’re not taking on so much that you’re unable to have times of respite and recovery. Self-care isn’t just a luxury of the rich and well rested, it’s a basic need for everyone. Putting your kids to bed an hour or two before your own bedtime is a winning strategy, but don’t always use that spare time to get caught up on work you couldn’t do when they were awake. Spend some time just refreshing yourself mentally and physically. Make it a priority and check it off like any other task in your planner. A well-rested, mentally enriched mom is a boon for everyone. Your children benefit when you’re at your best, so give them the gift of a balanced mother.
Parenting is rough enough just in itself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It takes a village and you should keep close some people who are willing to step in when you need help and also just to take some of the pressure off in a day to day life. Whether it’s extended family, friends from a parenting group, or even paid help it is worth it to get a support group lined up.
If you feel overwhelmed or like things are slipping too much, step back and assess the situation and see where help is needed. Maybe paying a friend to watch the kids for an afternoon while you get work done, or taking the kids out on an adventure while you wrap presents would be useful.
Network with other single parents and share the load. If you are great at cooking maybe prepare some freezer meals for a friend while they help you get caught up on laundry. Work to your strengths and spread the work around to help each other.
Using technology can be key when it’s time to pick up the slack in various areas, don’t be afraid to use every resource that is available to you, ordering groceries online and picking them up on the way home can be a great way to regain a few hours to play with your kids. Using apps to network with other parents to carpool or set up playdates is a great way to save time and be efficient in doing all the extras that come when you’re the only parent.
Single parenting can be tough, but with a good plan, some flexibility, enough patience with yourself and help from a few of your friends it is definitely a surmountable obstacle.