Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips for the Single Parent

In 10 years of single motherhood, there are lessons I have learned. Some of them, granted, everyone has to learn for themselves, but I also appreciated others before me who taught me by their own experiences. So while we celebrate #National Singles Week, this one's for my fellow single parents:

Don't look at single parenthood as a transitory state. Whether it may or not be is not the point. The point is, you and your child/ren cannot stop living life while you are a single parent. And this is one I learned the hard way. I kept waiting for something to happen until eventually, I realized that I had to make things happen. So I went back to school, and I researched alternative schools for my girls, and I planned events for the three of us to enjoy our lives now. I think that most days, most of the time, we can each say that we love our lives.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish. There is a lot of pressure on single parents to be and do absolutely everything for their children. You are still just one person, and in order to be the best parent you can be, you have to allow yourself some down time. We can and do perform daily miracles, but we have to know our limits, too. You are not a "bad" parent if you opt out of PTA meetings so that you can be home with your children, or you can't take your kid to a birthday party because of your work schedule. And guess what? You're not even a bad parent if you miss the science fair! I missed one once, and while Sylvia does remember that, she also remembers all the times that I was there. Yes, we want to be there for every special moment, but I reconciled it for myself by remembering that we are indeed separate people. I may not always be there for everything physically, but my heart is always with her.

Your child will misbehave. Because they are children. Not because you're a single parent. I definitely threw myself on the cross more than a few times in the first few years, telling myself that none of this would happen if they had two parents. Which, of course, now I look back and just shake my head. All children push parents' buttons. It's their job! And it's our job to muscle through and deal.

Ignore the vampires. In [title of show], there's this great song ("Die Vampire, Die") which describes the naysayers as vampires because they attempt to suck the hope and joy out of our lives. There will always be people who don't get it. Don't waste your time and energy (which are both limited with our lifestyle) trying to convince them to validate your life or your family. There are so many better ways to use that time and energy. Like, playing Words with Friends or sleeping. I mean, almost anything else is a better use of your time!

When it all gets to be too much, get out of your own head. Your feelings are absolutely valid, and I am the first to say cry it out or see a therapist or talk to a friend about how frustrated or lost or alone you feel when you feel that way. But eventually, you have to get out of your own way and the best way to do so is to be there for someone else. And I don't mean your children. I mean, volunteer for a charity.  Or help a friend move or write a resume or just listen to them talk about their lives. Helping someone else is the most powerful reminder of the vastness of the world and our part in it. Single parents have an enormous capacity to be there for other people. And sometimes, we have to give of ourselves elsewhere to be better parents at home.

Finally, don't forget to celebrate! Celebrate #singles week, celebrate getting to work on time, celebrate when your checkbook balances. I mean, don't go overboard and buy yourself a gift you can't afford, but at least smile. Revel in your kid's laughter and the beauty of your child sleeping peacefully and the quiet soft love in holding their hand. Listen to music you love while you wash the dishes and make their lunches. Celebrate their milestones, and your own.

You probably don't hear this often enough, so come back here and let me be the one to tell you, you're doing a great job.

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