Finding yourself as a single mom, whether planned or unplanned, can make the task of raising kids exponentially more difficult. The stakes are high. The stress doubles without the presence of a partner to help carry the day-to-day load. You are not alone in this journey! Here are some tips to follow when navigating the new waters of single-parenthood.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one way to reduce the stress on both you and your children is to promote a positive environment. Engaging in positive reinforcement with your child and setting aside time with them daily will help both of you feel loved and supported. Creating consistent routines, setting clear limits, and maintaining household rules can help create and maintain a peaceful household.
Finding Support In Others
Remember that there is no shame in being a single parent. Both you and your children will benefit from the help and support of friends, family members, and the community.
It is okay to ask for help!
Although you are likely processing complex emotions simultaneously as your children, you are an example for them of strength and hope. Reach out to your support network and be clear with your needs. A family member coming over to help clean the house, fix a meal, or care for the kids so that you have some time for self-care is crucial for your well-being.
Remember the Importance of Self-Care
You may have heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” before. The saying is meant to convey that one cannot give something they do not themselves have.
It’s difficult to convince our children to be positive when we don’t feel positive ourselves. As you learn this new normal, try to find a few minutes a day to care for yourself.
Remember that you are important, too. This may take the form of reading a few pages from a book, finding some time to engage in a hobby you enjoy, watching a few minutes of trashy TV, or just a walk. Do not feel guilty about carving out time for yourself.
In turn, your example will show your children that their own self-care routines should be a priority as they process this new situation, too.
Balance the Budget
Take the time to sit down and get control of your financial situation. Use a method that works best for you and helps you stay organized. Between utility bills, medical bills, and unexpected expenses, finances have a way of snowballing if they are not watched closely. Care.com has provided an excellent resource with tips for how to achieve this. Simple tricks like enrolling as many bills as possible in auto-pay will give you peace of mind and prevent a missed bill from incurring late fees.
Find the Right Child Care Provider
Finding a childcare provider can be one of the most stressful experiences as a parent. Certified daycare centers can cost an arm and a leg. Even households with two incomes are often stretching their budget or cannot afford an average full-time facility. In-Home daycares can be an affordable alternative, but many operate without state licenses and can lack accountability.
Look for state and local assistance programs that might be available to you as a single-income parent that will help cover the cost of child care. Some states offer free child care when you meet their qualifications or will allow you to participate in a co-payment program. Additionally, programs such as WIC and SNAP can help provide low-cost nutrition guidance and supplemental food and health care when money is tight.
If you are considering a private in-home provider, be diligent and detailed with your research! Request multiple interviews with the individual and a tour of their home where they care for children. Make sure to follow up on all references they provide. If the person you are interviewing doesn’t provide you with written information, request the information you discuss about payment, pick-up, and drop-off times, days off, and details about care in writing.
When it comes to child care, the most important thing to remember is to follow your gut! Even though you are processing a lot all at once navigating your new reality, trust your instincts! Having a child care safety net is vitally important to your mental well-being, giving you a sense of stability if an unexpected crisis arises.
Learn the Power of ‘No’
Suddenly finding yourself in a situation where you are the only parent can make you feel like you need to be all things to all people. Remember that saying “no” to friends, family, and even your kids when they are asking too much of you is not only acceptable. It’s vital to your sanity, too.
You do not have to bake cupcakes for the soccer team next week. You do not have to let the kids spend the night at Grandma’s, knowing that you may have to spend the next three days getting them back on your schedule. You do not have to feel bad that you didn’t chip in $10 to your boss’ birthday gift card fund this time.
Above all, remember that the first year of single motherhood is all about learning. It won’t always be easy, and it won’t always be a sunny day. Learn from others, ask for help, stay organized. Most importantly, know that you are strong and amazing, and you will get through this!