To be honest I am still trying to figure out how to be a good single mom. I can only tell you what has worked for me and let you know that there is a sadly large number of women out there that are in the same boat as you. It’s hard, really really hard. We try our best, it sometimes doesn’t seem real, it sometimes seems too real. You question every decision, every discipline.
You have to be so much more than a mom for your children. You have to be a provider, a nurturer, a support, an example, a nurse, a friend, a disciplinarian, a teacher, a voice of calm within their personal storm, and you have to do it all 24-7 with no one to lean on yourself. You are the foundation, walls, and roof of this house. You are strong and you will raise even stronger men and women if you lead with purpose.
As hard as co-parenting is, it gives you a lot of freedom in a weird, lonely way. Whatever your arrangement with your ex, make the most of your time with and without your children. When you are with them, be present with them. Love on them, teach them things. Show them how to be more independent because as you grow in this role, you will have to let them do things on their own. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. Teach them how to fish and you will allow them to feed themselves, giving them confidence and the ability to grow into productive and caring adults.
When you are not with your children, work! Work hard! Get a job or a side gig with which you have some flexibility and get as much accomplished as possible. This will give you some financial freedom and extra time when you are able to spend quality time with them. My ex and I split one week on and one week off, this meant every Saturday I would work a half day, get groceries, come home and clean the house and then go back to work on my side hustle that night. I would generally take a few hours after work to go out with friends or just unwind my mind to give me some “relaxing” time just to myself. Like a date night with myself before my week on with my children began. I could solely focus on them for the whole week except minimal hours I put in my real job.
When it’s Just You
When it is just you, it is so much harder to find the ability to work your butt off to support your children financially, not to mention trying to provide for them emotionally, mentally, spiritually. It is exhausting and you keep going. You are the strongest person in this whole world. But how do you find the balance?
I am no expert. I am an IMperfect mom just like you. Own that. Let your children know that you are not perfect. You sometimes get overwhelmed too, you sometimes need help, a break, ideas, love. If you are vocal and vulnerable to them they will see that mom is stronger than they thought. They will be more understanding and attempt to support you any way they can in their sweet child-ways. Sometimes all you need is a hug from them when you are feeling down to give you the strength to keep going.
Talk with Them
Talk to them (age appropriate obviously) if you are having a problem or feeling overwhelmed. Here is a list of some parenting books. Don’t dump your problems on them! But if you say “mommy is having a rough day today because I didn’t sleep much and I am a little sad and cranky” they will understand your emotions more and more and be able to express their emotions better also. Next time they may just let you sleep longer.
Let them know when you mess up. Admit when you are wrong and when your actions were wrong too. I have yelled over nothing because of sleep deprivation more times than I would like to admit. I always come back to my children and have a discussion with them about my actions and that I should not have yelled. I tell them that I am cranky and I am sorry, I was not yelling at them, I was frustrated at the situation. I have gotten better because admitting your mistakes is hard and you don’t really want to do it again, so you learn, and so do your children. I have learned to warn them before I yell (or when I feel myself about to yell), “I am cranky and I don’t want to yell so listen to mommy.”
Give them Responsibilities
It is really hard at first to give your children responsibilities that you feel like they can not handle, but if you teach them, they will be able to handle it. It takes time but if you put in that time it will pay off, giving you more free time and your children more confidence to handle more.
Each of my children have their own chores that work in conjunction with everyone else’s chores in the family. If the dishes don’t get put away at the beginning of the day, I can not do them properly throughout the day and run the dishwasher at bed time. If I don’t get the laundry in the night before, my 13 year old won’t be able to switch the loads when she gets up and my 11 year old won’t have dry clothes to separate which means no one will be able to put away their clothes and before you know it no one has any clean underwear.
By everyone having their own part, it will be more likely they will do their chore in a timely manner and it will keep you on track to get these things done as well. You come together as a family when you do things together
Compartmentalize and Let Go
Prioritizing doesn’t mean you will get everything done. Let the children know that they really do need to do their part to help you. They want your happiness. They want to please you and want your approval. Don’t forget this part. Give them approval. It is because they are helping that you have more time to love and appreciate them.
When you are with your children, be present with them. When you are cleaning, just get it done and move on (5 minutes right??). When you are working be productive and accomplish a few things you have set up on your accomplishment board. When you are doing a task, compartmentalize that task and let all others go. You will feel more overwhelmed and less accomplished if you are trying to have quality time with your children and you keep thinking about work, or the next thing you have to clean or do. It’s not fair to your children or yourself if you are not all there for them in that moment.
You are in this together
Love on them often
Read my posts about finding a support system for single moms and giving the children responsibilities according to their age.
Peace and Balance,