So You're About To Be A Single Mom?
It can be pretty frightening to know that you are, or soon will be, donning the title of “single parent”. Whether you became one by unexpected pregnancy (like me), or divorce, or some other means, knowing you’ll be raising a child or children outside of the traditional family dynamic can feel overwhelming.
I can’t lie and say it won’t be a challenge.
Being a single parent brings its own set of unique life hurdles and lessons. If you find yourself on the path of single parenting, there are some things that are important to remember.
Your family isn’t broken or “less than” because it now looks different. It’s just that, different, just like families with a father who mostly works out of state, a blended family, a family with same-gender parents, etc etc. Your family now has a different structure, but it’s not broken or any less of a family because of that.
You’re going to feel all the emotions you possibly could, and that’s okay and normal. Be prepared to honor and address them in a healthy way.
Your family is not doomed. There are some scary myths out there about the success rate of single mothers and their children. YOU determine how life comes out for you and as of now, your child, not stereotypes.
As you start to navigate your way through single parenthood, remember those things! It’ll come in handy when everything seems like it’s becoming too much to handle.
Now that you’re a single mom, however, you might have started thinking what you should be focused on (outside of your child). There are no “rites of passage” into single motherhood. Preparing to be a single mom actually looks much like preparing for motherhood in general if you’re expecting or adopting. If you’re divorcing or separating from your partner much of your focus will be on getting into the new normal.
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Motherhood is motherhood is motherhood, with all the same diaper blowouts, toddler tantrums, preteen woes, teen drama and eventually ushering them into adulthood. However, there are some events and situations that will eventually come up specifically because you’re a single mother and having a heads up on those can be helpful. So I’ve listed some things that I wish I had known and done when I found out I was pregnant (thus becoming a single mom in my situation).
- It’s okay to lean on others for support. I tried to be fiercely independent and avoided asking for help (or accepting help) for a long time unless there was absolutely no other option. Needless to say, I made things a lot more difficult for myself by doing this. It’s okay to accept help from others if they offer it, even things like someone watching your kids for a few hours even though you have nothing to do necessarily. Take the break! Find your support tribe (or build one!) and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it; reciprocate when you can.
- You’re going to feel the weight of people’s judgments, learn to ignore it. I assumed everyone was judging me, watching me, just waiting for me to screw up. I thought I had that “poor single mom cloud” hovering over me at all times and people noticed it, so I was always on guard and stressed about others perception. One: that’s not necessarily true. While there will be people who judge and feel the need to interject, most of the pressure I was feeling was self-perpetuated.
Two: build your confidence and learn to move whether people are judging or not. Fearing what people would say or think kept me from doing a lot of things when it shouldn’t have! There will be people who have rude and insensitive things to say (“Are they all by the same dad?” “Why aren’t you married?” “You just couldn’t make it work out with dad?”) and it’s going to be all too easy to let them get under your skin but being mindful of this makes it easier.
- People will have questions. People are naturally curious and sometimes nosy. They’ll want to know where dad is and if he’s involved and other such questions. Know that they’re not always coming from a negative place when they ask, sometimes they’re just genuinely curious but there can be those people who want juicy details and to hear some “baby daddy drama” type of stories.
These type of questions and stir up quite an emotional reaction in us, especially if it’s not a favorable situation (like dad being out of the picture altogether.) It’s okay to have a generic response prepared and move on from the topic. Mine is usually “Dad is in the picture and we’re figuring it out.” then I casually brush off attempts to re-spark the conversation and move it along when it’s someone I’m not comfortable discussing the topic with. You don’t need to validate nor explain yourself or situation to anyone you don’t want to, especially if it’s emotionally taxing. This also isn’t the time to vent your drama with your child’s father unless it’s someone you trust. I found it helpful to have a generic response prepared because then I don’t feel so caught off guard.
- Bitterness creeps up quietly. Whenever I felt an emotional wave of bitterness or “it’s not fair” type of moods, it almost always wasn’t out of the blue. Reflecting back, it was built up after days or sometimes weeks of either neglecting my self-care routine or not addressing one of the underlying emotions. Make it a priority to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and not revolving your every waking moment on your child.
- Self-care especially needs to become more intentional. As a single parent, your time disbursement is different. There might not always be another hand on deck to help out and often that means we simply make no time for ourselves. Even if you have a co-parenting relationship with regular visitation, we can get trapped into getting all our errands done, working extra or simply “missing” your kids during that time their away. Self-care often gets pushed out by the wayside. As a single mom, your attention to self-care is going to actually take some effort and intentional planning on your part or the chances of it happening are slim to none. Remember, your kids aren’t going to die if you drop them off to take time for yourself. They will not feel neglected or have permanent emotional damage if you take a vacation!
- You DO NOT have to over-compensate. It can feel like you need to make up for something “missing” because your household is now different and start overspending or gifting your children but there’s no need to. It’s a small, usually unconscious action. If you suddenly find yourself feeling the urge to take your kids on more trips or finding it harder to say no to material things, take a pause to see where those feelings are really coming from. This feeling to “never let your kids have to want for something” can be that much stronger especially if you have to make a lifestyle change financially during your transition into single parenthood.
And last but not least, remember that you are 100% capable of doing this! It might seem daunting to think about stepping into being a single mother, whether you know the father is going to be an active participant or now. It’s always a change, but change isn’t always a bad thing and whatever challenges you face, you and your family will come through to the other side!