Here are nine survival strategies for single parents:
It's okay to have friendships where you spend time commiserating with one another. In fact, it's downright necessary and can be a lot of fun. It is not, however, conducive to your growth or happiness to hang out complaining all the time. Nor is it healthy to have totally negative people around sucking your juice.
Please pay attention on this one.
It is vital to create good company in our lives, so be around people who:
I'm not saying you have to associate only with Pollyanna types, but if you find yourself with people not willing or interested in moving out of their depths of whining, complaining, misery, and it's bringing you down, kindly dump them and move on. Your own well-being depends on this!
I wish I had some brilliant, miraculous answers. I don't. Just some thoughts on what has worked well for me.
I think it's a much better mindset to ask yourself how you can create more money coming into your life rather than asking yourself, "How can I scrimp and save just enough to get by?" Having said that, I won't offer you any budgets or lectures on how to become prosperous.
Just one tip, though. Ask for the "single parent discount" wherever you go. If you can get over any embarrassment about this, it's unbelievable how well it works. Not always, but at least 25% of the time, I've gotten breaks on child care, classes, products, services, movies – you name it. It's fun and, darn it, we deserve it!
If you're entitled to child support, make sure you get it. However, peace of mind is priceless – sometimes it's worth getting a little bit less and not battling night and day with your ex. (Please see "Dealing with the Ex," below.)
Consider sharing a house with other single parents. There are many benefits to this beyond the lower rent or mortgage payment: companionship, extended family, fun for both you and the kids, and a wonderful sense of support.
There's nothing like making it on your own, though, for feeling really strong and independent. Keep reaching higher. Go back to school if that's a desire and an option. I know it seems impossible sometimes, but where there's a will, there's a way. Money can't buy love, but it sure does make things easier. Good luck.
You'll need it. Use it. No guilt. Seek out loving people to care for your child. You can find them and it's worth researching. Ask around. Ask lots of questions. Check it out. Be as involved as possible. Look for scholarship help if you need it.
Make the time they spend with you count. This is most precious to children, but they also need outside activities and other kids. Preschools, home day-care facilities, camps, after-school programs, etc. provide opportunities for your children where they can feel safe and affection for other caregivers besides you. They will also learn independence, social skills, and how to obey other people's rules. Besides, where else can they do all that cool art and music stuff with their pals?
I don't know why people have such a negative slant on child care. I think it's a very positive experience. My son has loved it, and, the truth is, most of the kids are much better adjusted than many stay-at-home children.
If your ex is still involved in your children's lives, I have some very definite suggestions that might help.
I know that your situation is very different, but as long as your ex loves them, is not abusive, intoxicated, or drugged, as long as you feel that your children can be safe with him/her, lighten up and be grateful. Kids do need both parents and benefit from your ex's company. I know s/he pisses you off. You think s/he's a slime, a lousy spouse, a pain in the ass –blah, blah, blah. That's why s/he's an "ex." If s/he were great, let's face it, you'd probably still be together. But s/he gave you your children and s/he really is not a totally bad human being. Move on with your life. Stop being at war with your ex. Life is too short and too stressful. You don't want endless battles. And please don't talk badly about him/her in front of your children. It simply isn't fair. S/he is their parent.
Sometimes, just accepting who s/he is will free you up so that you can make positive changes in your own life. When you ease up and stop telling him/her what a shit s/he is, or (just humor me here and give it a try) even try giving in once in a while, you can almost be guaranteed that s/he'll become a much nicer and more workable co-parent. Stop having to be right all the time. Instead, choose happiness for all of you and try to get along. Hard as it is (and I know that it is), ask that s/he be blessed. You share your children together. S/he hurts too. Find common ground: move to a new level of communication. This can be done, even in the worst of situations. However, if you or your children are in any kind of danger, get legal help.
I have seen miracles happen when ex-spouses stop treating each other horribly. Do it for yourself. Do it for the kids. Encourage your ex to be part of their lives. Try to heal. Life can be good again. Believe it or not, you may even become allies. You and this person are connected for life, and that's a long, long, long time. How do you want that life to be?
No matter how busy you are, please, please, please make the time to teach your children the truly important stuff. Reading, writing, history, and math are only a small part of what they need to learn. Here are some guidelines. Teach them:
No matter what you read or hear about the ill effects of children raised by single parents, don't buy into it for a second. It is simply unfounded, prejudiced, fundamentalist rhetoric, where the object is to guilt-trip you. Sure, optimally and in a perfect world, we would have all liked to raise our kids with two wonderful, loving, available parents. And sure, as a result of being single parents, we may not always have as much time, money, or three perfectly balanced hot meals every day as we would have liked.
But you know what? What matters is love. As long as our children are safe, fed, warm, joyful, and grow up knowing we love them unconditionally, they'll be luckier, healthier, and happier than most. Don't be a perfectionist.
Never let your ideals ever undermine your knowing that your children are doing great. Love them. Love them. Love them. Everything else will fall into place.
It's imperative to let your children know that what makes a family a family is love, security, and happiness – not how many people live under one roof. Just because your family may look different from some of their friends', it is still your family.
Make sure to befriend other single parents and their children. Make sure that your children have friends from families like yours. Create rituals and special events that they can cherish always and holidays they will remember.
Do things like other families: go camping, take vacations, and go to gatherings. Get together with your extended groups and spread the love. Get creative. Find books that depict positive single-parent homes or make up your own stories. Have fun. A family is such a special creation; enjoy every moment.
This article has been edited and excerpted from The Single Mother's Survival Guide by Patrice Karst, a single mom, writer, and inspirational speaker. Although it was written for single mothers, single fathers can also dip into this funny and helpful book when looking for advice and encouragement. "Part One: The Basics" contains an assortment of short essays and checklists dealing with the challenges of single parenting; and "Part Two: The Workbook" offers simple ideas and fill-in-the-blanks lists to inspire you.Back To Top