Being a parent is hard enough. What should they be eating? Maybe you shouldn't be feeding them those types of foods… those aren't organic! What fabric softener should you be using? Are you spending enough time with them? Why does my child keep fighting on the playground? These are questions that you may ask yourself every day, and there are times when you might feel like nothing that you do is good enough.
These points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parenting, and then there is a whole other side to the task; one that is unfortunately very common- and that is being a single parent. It is never ideal having to face challenges alone, let alone one of them being the insurmountable task of raising another human being! In addition to the financial, physical and emotional loneliness, it can also be hard to maintain a balance between your role as a parent and as someone who has needs of their own.
The fact is that you may have found yourself, through any circumstance, as a single parent. What now? Is it possible to not only survive, but thrive as a single parent too? Of course it is! After all, one of the parts of being a good parent is being a good example, and a good example means a strong, happy parent who survives, thrives and excels beyond that. Here are some tips for surviving and thriving as a single parent:
- It takes a village… There is an old saying that goes 'it takes a village to raise a child;' and this could not be more true. After all, it is hard to survive without any support. However possible, rally people around you and your little ones. Make friends with the parents of your child's friends. If you can afford it, get a nanny who can spend lots of time with you and your child – enough time that you trust them to help with your child when you have to run an errand or attend an event. If you have family nearby, nurture the relationships. After all, not only will this help you get by in times of need (such as when you are sick, or have a work commitment), but it also brings a lot more love and attention into your child's life, which is just what every little one needs.
- Your workplace. Be candid with your boss and colleagues. Make it clear up front that you have a child and are doing it alone. At all costs, do your best to avoid working for a company that is not understanding of your responsibilities. If you have to leave early to attend a parent-teacher meeting, or need to take a day of leave to nurse your sick child, you need to know that your company has your back. If you are working for a larger corporation, or one that is not as lenient as you would like, know your rights. You have the right to take family responsibility leave if your child is sick (although you will need a Doctor's note), and you have the right to work reasonable hours if you are not being paid overtime. Even if you are a workaholic, do your utmost best to separate your work life from your home life. Your child comes first, and remember, to a child, love equals quality time!
- Make an effort to have 'you time.' 'Me time?' you ask, 'what's that?' Although it can seem impossible when you are so busy trying to work and raise a little one (or ones) all on your own, it is possible and actually crucial that you make an effort to spend time pampering yourself. Hire a babysitter, lean on friends or arrange a playdate so that you can take some time out to meet with friends, go to the spa, or even just to have an afternoon nap.
- Talk to people. Find someone to confide in. It's okay if you don't feel strong all the time, and talking about your problems helps! Even if your friends aren't single parents or parents at all, don't underestimate their love for you, and their willingness to lend an ear.
- Try to further yourself. Even if you can only set aside an hour or so each evening to do an online course or correspondence degree, do something that you feel will help your future. Whether it's a short course that builds on your existing degree, or taking the time to learn a new language, by learning something new, and being proud of yourself, you will feel like you have some sort of end in sight to your current struggles.
- Do something you enjoy as often as you can. This should always include exercise! Be active, and get those endorphins pumping! Download exercise videos that you can do in the morning or evening, in the comfort of your own home, when your child is asleep. Go for walks with your little ones and, if you have them, drag the doggies along with you. Read a book in the bath every night; dance while you cook – find joy in the little moments and the simple things. This is your life, and you are living it right now. You deserve to be happy.
Even when you are married with kids, it can be tough to stay afloat, sane and balanced. Being a single parent is another ballgame all together. By following the abovementioned points, you may start to feel like you are not only surviving, but also thriving. But all this aside, remember just how rewarding your job is. Sure, you're a mom or a dad, and it's not always easy, but it is worth it. So, the next time that you are feeling overwhelmed, like you are in over your head and barely surviving, cuddle up on the couch with your kid, chat to them about their day and let your heart fill with love. After all, that deep, unconditional love is exactly what keeps you going no matter how hard the going gets.