10 single mom secrets
Seek out role models
Single parents and their kids can flourish, and there are plenty of examples to prove it. Make a list of single parents—or children raised by a single parent—who inspire you, and refer to it when you’re having a rough day. Some of the people on my list include President Obama, who was raised by his single mom and grandparents; President Clinton, who was brought up primarily by his mom; and actress Bridget Moynahan, who went through her pregnancy alone after splitting from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. I’m not just inspired by celebrities though; my real life friend Matt who blogs at mattlogelin.com about unexpected single fatherhood is another confidence booster for me. Seeing all of these success stories and many more unfold before my eyes is proof that single parenthood is not only manageable, but an incredible gift that allows me to shape my son into a wonderful human being.
Video: Most annoying parenting advice
If you need more inspiration, check out the book Holding Her Head High: 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History by Janine Turner. It’s full of amazing single moms dating back to the Middle Ages.
Find a work schedule that suits your family
As a freelance writer, I’m lucky to work from home, but it wasn’t always this way. I used to be on staff at a magazine where I worked long hours that didn’t really match up well with JD’s daycare pickup. So, I took a deep breath and asked my boss if I could work a slightly different schedule where I came in earlier but left in time to get my son from daycare. My boss was understanding and allowed me to work a more convenient shift. Don’t be afraid to express your needs to your employer, or reveal you’re a single parent, because most bosses want to work with you, not against you. You can also check out the best companies for working mothers to target your job search to companies with family-friendly benefits.
Schedule kid-free time
I’m not saying you have to go on a date, or even out for girls night. But I am saying there is no harm in getting a babysitter so you can enjoy a pedicure or trip to the bookstore when you don’t go near the children’s section. You have to remember that married couples have their date nights, or at least times where they hand the kids off to each other.
Single motherhood is hard work and you deserve time off every once in a while. Can’t spring for a sitter? Arrange a childcare swap with a mom friend you trust.
Don’t obsess about things you can’t control
No one can force your child’s other parent to visit. You can’t help it if he promises to show up for your child’s big game and doesn’t. These are the other parent’s issues—not yours, so don’t lose sleep over it. Instead, focus on what you can control, and that is what kind of parent you are.
Count to 10
It’s easy to lose your cool when you have to be “on” all the time. Single parents have no one to trade off with when they’re about to lose their marbles over yet another bowl of peas thrown on the floor.
Don’t yell, because it’s not healthy for the child and you’ll regret it afterward. Instead, walk away and count to 10, or just laugh it off. You’ll feel better in a minute, and ready to face the peas.
Don’t have a competition with yourself
On days when I have to get out of the house to bring JD to school so I can work, I often try to do it all—make beds, do breakfast dishes, play and clean up toys. But it occurred to me one particularly chaotic morning (think Cheerios on the floor, a missing sneaker and an empty mascara tube), the only thing I have to do by 8am is feed JD breakfast, shower, get both of us dressed, and out the door. No one was keeping score of the unmade beds but me. Now I ditch morning chores and play blocks or color with JD instead of rushing to clean before we leave. This laidback approach takes a lot of pressure off me, and I know my son enjoys the extra quality time.
Point out good qualities in men
No dad in the picture? This means it’s up to you to show your child that there are good men all around him. So when my older brother put our new kitchen table together, I made a big deal about how awesome and helpful he was being in front of JD. When my dad shows up to JD’s soccer practices and games, I tell him how much Poppy loves him and that he used to coach his uncles’ teams, so he can show him how to make a winning goal. I asked my brother Brian to attend the Father’s Day party at JD’s school and I make a point to hang out with my platonic guy friends in front of JD, because I want him to see the interaction. If Dad’s not around to show your son or daughter how a good man behaves or to do “guy things,” than it’s your very important job to seek out these role models.
I know this sounds silly, but if you live alone with your child, no one is going to pat you on the back when your kid is finally potty-trained or when you serve up a hot, healthy dinner after working all day. You should be aware of these epic achievements and know you’re the one making it all happen. I smile proudly when JD burps and says “excuse me,” without me having to prompt him. When he shares his toys at the park, I feel good that my constant “share with your friends” speech has sunk in. I do it all, and I deserve the recognition.
Always be prepared
I never leave home without a sippy cup and snack of some kind. I also keep crayons, a coloring book, a few Matchbox cars and snack in my purse at all times. I stash clean clothes, snacks and juice boxes in my car. Being prepared is important for all parents, but even more so for single ones since it’s up to only me to squelch a meltdown or entertain my child while we wait to be seated for dinner.
I try to accomplish housework and playtime simultaneously, so I’m not up for hours after bedtime getting chores done. I sit on the living room floor with a basket of clean laundry and fold while JD races cars on a ramp. Every so often, I make a “vrooom” noise and slide a car down the path. I can also hold up a shirt to quiz JD on his colors, or encourage him to pair socks together. Work, play and even some sneaky learning gets done and everyone is happy.