Roughly 3 years ago, if you had told me I'd become a single mother, I'd have laughed right in your face. Sadly life, love, and parenthood don't always end up the way you'd like. My son is four years old now, and in the beginning, it was intense trying to figure out who I was as a young woman and single mother, working full-time, while then finding time to give my son the precious memories he deserved. Something I discovered quickly was that between work, making dinner, and then playing with my son each day, I basically lost a little bit of myself. I didn't give myself time to mourn the marriage. I was no longer living a moving life, but one on autopilot. I think all parents feel this way in some way or another, but for me especially, who was briefly nowhere near any family or friends, it felt hopeless. Well, that is, until I discovered a few important things that ended up helping me heal, as well as becoming a better parent.
1 -Ask for Help
Maybe that sounds easy, but I know that for me (and plenty of other single parents out there) asking for help is incredibly difficult. You suddenly feel like you have something to prove. You feel like asking for help is admitting defeat, but if you keep doing everything on your own, you will get burnt out... and then you'll feel more defeated than ever. It took me too long to do this step, but once I finally started admitting I couldn't do this alone, I was shocked how many people were right there to help. Some people you can ask: family, though not everyone is close to their family whether physically or emotionally. But my friends were and are my rock in every possible way, for that I am internally grateful.
2 -Set Boundaries
Let your work life be your work life and your home life be home. This tip is honestly for anyone because everyone should leave their work at work (easier said than done). Kids are excited to see their parents, and if you let your stress of work take over your world, then you aren't really with them. Same with work... though you might have an awesome boss that doesn't mind hearing about what's going on in your life, that's not really what your workplace is for. Work has so many stresses of its own, and the best way to handle these competing stresses is to give them their own home. I found that I was almost a different person at work sometimes, and over time I saw that as a good thing.
3- Designate Special Time With Your Child
Make sure to spend special time with your child. I mentioned this a little before, but it's so important. Being home doesn't mean you're spending time with your child. If I'm on the couch on my phone or computer, my son doesn't consider that playing with him or spending time. I need to leave my comfort zone to enter his world. I don't know about other parents, but I'm not always great at sitting in one place playing with trains on the train tracks, going to the park or wrestling with him to reduce his energy. So what I often did was play with him as long as I could, then do one of the chores I needed to do and come back. Another great tip I found that helped was that I started letting my son help me with chores. He loves helping me sweep the floor with a brush and pan, even though it takes twice as long he enjoys helping me. One of my favourite things though is that specifically one day each weekend is "Maksimus & Mommy Day". He knows to count on the fact that on that day, I am totally his and we'd do anything I know he loves. Following him around often reminds me to stop and see the world from his point of view.
4- Just Breathe
Parenthood is a commitment, and sometimes we aren't ready for the challenges that may come with that. The trick to being a good parent though is stepping up and doing what you have to do to give your child an amazing childhood and keeping a roof over their heads. Sometimes I lose my temper, and sometimes I'm burnt out beyond all reason, but the best thing is that my son still is there excitedly wrapping his arms around me.
Your child will forgive tiredness and even a bad attitude, but my above tips should at least help you balance your own life and wellness along with your child's. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to add a few tips, please feel free to comment below!
5- Your Child wants you to be you
The truth is, we give up a lot for our children. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our responsibilities and the drudgery of daily life that we give up everything. But, really, your child doesn't want you to give up your whole self for them—they need you to be there for them, but they WANT you to be YOU. It inspires them. They benefit from seeing your enthusiasm; from seeing you get stuck in there, appreciating the world around you. You are their role model, and watching you enjoy life helps them to grow into well-rounded, ambitious adults. Your passion teaches them how to nurture their own and to make the most of life. And that's true even if one's circumstances are not perfect or there is not much money. So, if you have lost yourself, you know what to do—get out there and find yourself again. Your child will thank you for it.
6- Don't lose yourself
This ties in nicely with the above, when you become a parent—particularly a single parent—it's easy to lose yourself. You get stuck in basic 'survival' mode—you're doing everything to look after your child, provide, parent and maintain the house but nothing for yourself. Whether you are separated or divorced, widowed or have been a lone parent from the outset, you might feel as though you are spinning on a constant wheel of responsibility. And when it feels as though there is no getting off that wheel, it's tough going. You might not even realise how stuck you are—perhaps you are just exhausted, coupled with an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction, and you just don't feel as though you are 'going' anywhere. But you are still a person too. You are a parent, but you are more than a parent. You are YOU. And that matters. You might think it's ridiculous to even contemplate doing anything for yourself. But it's just as important, perhaps even more so. Being a single parent can be a lonely experience - you might feel a sense that life is just passing by whilst you are merely existing. Perhaps you have even forgotten who you are and what you enjoyed before life became so all-consuming. The most important thing is to take some time out for your self even if you can just a couple of hours a week to do something just for you, it can help to bring about a new lease on life. It will help to make you 'you' again! Even if that 'something' is just getting lost in an inspiring book, or revisiting and building on your skills. Perhaps you dream of studying or starting an online business - both of these can be done at home, so you wouldn't need to worry about childcare. Perhaps you have always wanted to make your own jewellery, or you enjoy knitting or sewing, or you'd like to try your hand at another type of craft. Raising a child is the most beautiful achievement in the world, but children grow up, and you are still YOU. You can be a great parent, but being a parent doesn't mean all those dreams and passions have to be extinguished.
7- Enjoy the struggle, it's not going to last forever
Being a single parent is a difficult job, especially if you have financial difficulties. However, tell yourself that you CAN do it, you WILL do it, you are WORTHY of it. Life might be hard, but if you push yourself forwards, and start doing all those things that you want to do and somewhere deep inside believe you can do, then you can open the door to rediscovering the real 'you'. You are someone special, with your own amazing qualities and talents. You probably knew that once upon a time, when you were young and life had knocked you down - you just have to believe it again. Life is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, opportunities and disappointments. It can be a hard learning curve - but it can also be utterly fantastic and deeply fulfilling. The thing is, you need to be in the game still to ever have a chance of winning the race.