I spent eleven years a single mother and learned through the eyes of others just how strong I was at that time. Those outside observations and my reflections have shown how my inner strength as a single mother shaped my children into who they are today. From those observations that I had been told, I am able to encourage clients about to become single parents. I have listed seven of those observations to help you become a stronger single parent.
Know what kind of life that you want to provide for your children and achieve them. Friends would tell me that they admired my focus and drive. Back then, I did not fully understand what they were seeing. I had visions for myself and my children. I knew where I wanted to raise my children and what beliefs I wanted to instill in them. This was my focus and I did whatever it took, including swallowing my pride, to achieve them. It was not easy, but the visions would motivate me to keep moving forward and to not allow the financial struggles or daily setbacks to halt the progress forward. Today, I watch my adult children set their own personal and family goals that are focused on building a better life for their children.
Schedules and planners were my best friends as single parent. I allowed my children to follow what their passions were and that meant that I would have to coordinate five different schedules. Our days were planned from the moment that we woke up to the moment we went to bed. I had established time frames for doing homework, having dinner, getting ready for bed, when to put away toys and belongings for the night, and quiet times in the house. For some of the children, the schedule helped them thrive and for others, it allowed them to know what was expected.
Having four children to raise on my own meant that somethings would not go as planned. Sometimes, the bus would be late to drop off a child from an out-of-town game. This would mean finding ways to communicate when the bus was back in town with enough time to minimize wait time in a car with siblings that were tired and needed to go to bed. Appointments would go longer than expected. Life would just happen, and I had to be willing to adjust and pivot quickly.
While my children played sports or participated in other extracurricular activities, I was always involved with them. Sometimes, I would volunteer to coach a team, which minimized the financial costs. Other times, I made a point to be at every game that I could attend and cheer for my child. There were times my children did not appreciate my sideline encouragements and requests were made that I not be so loud, but I was present in their lives. But I watched them grow and develop their own independence and confidence. Now I watch my own adult children learn that boundary of the sideline parent and what is acceptable to yell and what is not.
I learned how to repair my car, re-caulk a tub, and many other tasks that typically reserved for husbands on a “honey do” list. I did not allow my gender to be a reason for why I could not do something. However, I knew when something needed the right person to do the job. When my son’s baseball bat catapult (not his best invention) went through a window, I was able to reach out to friends who knew how to replace the glass in an older wood-framed window and where to obtain the glass. I would exchange babysitting with other single mothers to be able to run errands or do my Christmas shopping.
There will be many times that doubt will creep in and try to convince you that you are ruining your children’s childhood. But if you act with their best interests in mind, they will know it even if you make a bad decision. While you are one parent in a child’s life, know that it is enough. You are not perfect, and you will make mistakes. But from those mistakes, you will learn how to be a better parent. Keep a journal and document your journey. Your children might need to learn from your lessons when they have their own children. You will amaze yourself on how much you can accomplish whether out of necessity or because you want to.
This will be difficult on days you are exhausted or when money is tight. But find small ways to give back to others. Do not be afraid to let your children see your generosity. Let your children observe what a charitable heart looks like and why it is important to lift others up in their times of struggle. I remember spending a few dollars we really did not have to purchase food for those asking for help on the street corners. I explained to my children why we were sharing what little we had to help others in need. We received help during our struggles, they learned how to be grateful for the generosity of others, even strangers.
Being a single parent is not something to be ashamed of. It is just a stage of your life. Embrace the life lessons that you will learn and the personal growth that you will realize. If you need help finding resources in your community for a plumber, mechanic, home repair, or even childcare, call our office for a referral to a member of our Team 100. We are happy to recommend local non-attorney professionals and technicians in the area that we know, like, and trust.