There are a number of single parent challenges that you may have already encountered, and there are some which you have yet to overcome. Being a single mother or single father will not be easy, but it needn’t be hard either, as there are a number of ways in which you can handle the challenges that come your way on a daily basis.
Dealing with the Emotional Roller Coaster
As a single parent you will be expected to do everything alone. There will be no other caregiver available to give you the emotional support that you need on a regular basis. This means that you will have a lot of emotions to deal with and no way to let those emotions out. The most important thing that you need to remember is to not take your frustrations out on your child or children; it is not their fault, nor is it yours.
Sometimes they may purposefully push you beyond your limits, but you need to remember at all times that they are the vulnerable ones in the situation and they need you to be strong and to protect them from further emotional trauma following the possible divorce from, or the death of, their father. Controlling your emotions in this way is not something that usually comes naturally for most women, making it one of the biggest single mother challenges.
There are a few things that you can do to help you control your emotions:
- Create or join a support group.
- Make sure that you have at least one other adult in your life whom you trust and can talk to about what you are going through and how you are feeling.
- If necessary, seek professional support. Sometimes speaking to a therapist is the best place to let your emotions go so that your children are not affected, and this is nothing to feel ashamed of.
You should also try to explain to your children how you are feeling and why, as open communication patterns are the backbone of a healthy family.
Scheduling Well and Maintaining a Balance
One of the biggest single parent challenges is reflected in finding a way to make sure that you get everything done that needs to be done. A single mother, on top of all of her other requirements, also needs to be an expert at creating a fool-proof schedule that accounts for as many potential situations as possible. This schedule will also help you to maintain a balance between your work life and your home life. To create a schedule:
- Start off by listing all of your work, home, and other commitments on a piece of paper.
- Prioritize these commitments.
- Have a look at the commitments that are left at the bottom of your list. Decide whether it is possible to give any of them up or to get a friend or hire a professional, such as a nanny, to help you with them in order to make more time for commitments with a higher priority.
- Get a blank calendar and write the commitments in at the specific days where they need to be done. Color coding will help you to keep track of what is going on. Make sure that you schedule time specifically for playing and bonding with your children somewhere on the calendar on a regular basis.
- Do this at the beginning of every month to plan as far ahead as possible.
Once you have created your schedule it is important that you stick to that schedule as far as possible.
Financial Single Parent Challenges
Single parents have a lot of things to pay for, including education for their children, rent or mortgage, food, gas, and many other necessary expenses. A single mother may not have the resources available to pay for these things. Generally speaking single moms earn less than single dads. Even if they are earning well, it is still only one income rather than two to support your family with. Here are some tips about how to avoid getting into deep financial trouble as a single mother:
- Try to stay away from credit cards. Credit cards are convenient and sometimes they are the only way to pay for necessary things, but if you can, avoid them at all costs. It is very easy to get into credit card debt, and this will, in the long run, add to your financial problems rather than alleviating them. If you must have a credit card, monitor your use of it carefully and try to keep ahead of the payments.
- Create a savings account. It is a good idea to have a nest egg of money that is available somewhere safe that you can use in case of an emergency. You do not have to put a lot of money aside each month, but put as much aside as you can. This will serve as a buffer if times get hard, and could eliminate the need for credit or loans in tough situations.
- Get insurance. Insurance premiums may be steep but at least you will have some coverage in case something drastic goes wrong.
- Above all else, plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard by emergencies.
The Cost and Availability of Childcare
Childcare is a big single parent challenge and one that needs to be addressed adequately as you do not want to compromise on the care of your child.
When it comes to affording childcare, most states have childcare subsidies in place to help low income and single mother families afford to place their children in safe and quality care facilities. Look into this if you are planning to use a professional service.
Here are some other childcare tips to help you deal with the situation:
- Choose someone to be the primary caregiver for while you are at work. This can be a family member, such as the child’s grandparent, or a professional nanny. This is to provide a stable routine for you and your child.
- Make sure that you spend quality time with your child each day. If you do not, you run the risk that your child will become more attached to the caregiver than to you.
- Have at least five people that you can call on for emergency childcare situations. These will arise, so be prepared. Emergencies are situations such as when the primary caregiver is unavailable or you have to work late. Make sure there are several people for you to call on in this situation.
- Plan childcare about a month in advance when possible. This will decrease the amount of pressure that you are under substantially and provide some stability to your home life.
- Remember that it is always better for you to care for your child when it is possible.
The Self-Fulfilling Fear of Failure Prophecy
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prophecy that comes true because you believe that it will come true. This is a trap that a number of single mothers fall into, so one of the bigger single parent challenges that you may face going forward is avoiding this fear. This is easier said than done, but if you are working from a starting point of believing that you will fail in your role as a single mother, the chances are high that you actually will fail. You need to have the right approach and attitude to the situation. A little bit of fear is unavoidable, but you need to remember that you are only one person and that you are doing the best that you can; no one expects you to be Supermom. There are a few ways that you can deal with this fear:
- Discuss your fear with other single parents in a similar situation.
- Discuss your fear with other single parents who have already overcome a similar situation, this can help you to put things into perspective a bit, as you may be making a mountain out of a molehill.
- If your child is old enough, discuss your fears with him or her as well. You need to be careful not to overburden them with problems that are not theirs to deal with, but it is healthy for you to be able to discuss this with them. You also need to have this conversation in a positive way that indicates that, although you are a little nervous about the future, you have no doubt that together you will find a way to cope. Your offspring may even enjoy returning the favor in supporting and advising you, as you have been doing for them.
- Avoid being overly critical of others and they will most likely avoid being overly critical of you.
Don’t Forget How to Love
When a relationship falls to pieces it is often easy to start thinking that there is no point in loving anymore, because no one else can do you the same courtesy. Again, for the sake of your children and yourself, you absolutely must avoid this negative frame of mind.
A big problem in this regard comes when you start to project your resentment for your former spouse onto your children. This is something that you simply cannot do if you want a happy, healthy life for you and your family. It is also something that you may be doing right now without even realizing it. The best way to avoid this problem is to deal with the emotions that you have for your ex. Work through them and come to an understanding of how you feel. Then forgive. This is easier said than done, but if you forget your ex and move on from that bad place, you will be able to relate to your children in a far healthier way. You will find that forgiving will allow you to leave the negatives in the past, and move forward in your life. If you and your ex are on bad terms, do not fight in front of your children, and do not speak negatively about him in front of them. The cliché of “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all” is highly applicable here. If your children ask about him, frame your response in an honest but diplomatic way that will not relay any resentment that you may still hold against him.
This resentment may be one of the most challenging obstacles that you will have to overcome. Once you are able to work through these emotions you will be free to love once again unconditionally. Avoid making your children the victims of your resentment and do not hold onto it as it will fester inside you.
Creating a Support Network
As a single mother you have several issues to deal with every day. One way to cop is to create a support network of people that are going through similar situations to you. Some people that could be part of your support network include:
- Your immediate and extended family: it is important that you maintain ties with your family for your child’s well-being in any case, so why not rely on some of them for support, both emotionally and practically?
- Your friends: friends sometimes are less than eager to get involved in your personal life when it involves support with your child, but you will find that your better friends will be more than willing to take on the challenge.
- Other single mothers: there are numerous online and offline places for you to meet other single mothers who are dealing with similar issues. Sharing your burdens can make them easier for both of you and the emotional support that these relationships result in is invaluable.
- People from your church or other organizations that you attend: these are people with similar interests to you and who are part of the same organization as you because you have a similar understanding of life in some regard. Consequently, this may be a good source for finding new friends and support network members to help you get through your time as a single mother, and a fresh outside opinion often opens doors to solutions which you may never have even considered.
There are most likely more single parent challenges that you have heard of or experienced than has been mentioned here, but these are the most commonly faced challenges for single mothers. In many cases, such as remembering to love and not being too hard on yourself, you can apply the same thinking to other challenges that you may face as well. Being a single mother certainly is a challenge, but it is also an extremely rewarding experience if you are able to develop the right attitude towards the situation and get the right skills; one which no one could even begin to understand unless they are in that situation.