When you think about all the activities a kid needs to do to expand, experiment, and escape, you realize as a parent it is your job to ensure those capabilities. Having an agenda of your own and fitting everyone else’s demands around it is a task in itself, isn’t it? Parents are told that sacrifice is a key element of parenting. When you’re single, it’s a given. You may not realize it when you take on the task, fighting in court, or even fighting over keeping the pregnancy, but these things are just the meager beginnings of a tumultuous journey.
The real challenge is being the only referee in the house, the only one paying bills, the only one taking time off of work, the only one making and keeping doctor appointments, and feeling as if you aren’t getting credit for what you do. The hardest part of being a single parent is pulling off the task of being the “fall guy.” You know what I mean–taking the hits to protect your child from the desperation of the other parent who doesn’t know how to handle situations well. The other parent may say something demeaning, either about you or your child, neither of which the child should hear, right? Listen, you don’t want to bash the other parent either. Doing this would only lessen your child’s opinion of him/herself, and that wouldn’t be good. So soften yourself up on the outside, harden your nerves on the inside, and keep your heart beating its happy little tune as you raise your child, doing your best to diffuse the situation without being gutless.
Being a single parent is much harder than just being two people; it’s actually being two people and serving two purposes in half the time! In an attempt at doing the best you can do, involve your children with other kids and other adults you can trust. And you know it’s true when I say “you deserve a break today” (and not necessarily at McDonald’s),and your kids need a break from you, believe it or not. When you’re like most single parents, you don’t have oodles of cash to entertain, so you do the best you can and be imaginative.
A few ideas are to involve your kids in clubs at school, at a community clubhouse, or a public club where they can meet with other kids having the same interests. Even those who are homeschooled can find peers in their study groups to correlate a movie on dollar night. In my neighborhood, I’m the only single mother in my “group,” but other mothers like to work out, clean house, take care of the baby, etc., so we have found a way to juggle the kids rotating to a different house on each day of the week for an hour or so. This way they get to play with their friends and only one house gets a houseful of kids for an hour. Meanwhile you’re given an hour for a bubble bath, getting caught up on paying the bills, or cleaning house. Believe me, those four hours I gain are definitely worth one hour of games, a movie or watching them rollerblade for an hour a week!
The point is that being a single parent is a lot more than being just singular and surviving. To be a great single parent, you need to be a magician! You need to know where to get the dollar movies and library cards–but mostly you need to do more than the work of two parents. You need to be two parents at the same time and find a tiny little spot in your mind where you can escape every now and again… otherwise, when your mind does escape, it will be yelling wildly over its shoulder “See ya”!
Main Points to be a Single Parent:
- More likely than not, being a single parent wasn’t necessarily planned, but now you must be able to plan.
- Because you’re a single parent does not relinquish your right to be an individual.
- Everyone deserves a time-out! If you aren’t getting one now, you MUST squeeze it in–even 15 minutes/day in the restroom!
- Take a few seconds and count aloud rather than tell your kids how you feel about your ex, no matter how disgusting; it will only be a negative reflection on you, not soon to be forgotten.
- Expecting someone who is NOT a single parent to understand your situation is like expecting to know the exhilaration of walking on the moon!
- Quitting is NOT an option!
- There are a lot more single parents out there–you are NOT alone!
When you come back to Earth there is one thing you should always remember–you’ll be the first one to meet the new date, the first to tag the Tooth Fairy, the one invited to sit in front at graduation, and the one whose hard work and diligence paid off. It’s a long road to pave, but the cost will be appreciate by many for years to come! Congratulations on being a parent!