How to ‘Rock It’ as a Single Parent

Parenting is hard work.  Arguably, the toughest job out there.  No one dreams about or plans for the opportunity to do it alone.  Yet, so many parents, myself included, find themselves in that role as “the single parent.”

I became a single parent the day I became a widow.  When Dale died, we were living in New York City.  My family lived 8 hours away and his family lived 4.5 hours away.  I had some acquaintances, but no close friends in New York.  I was alone, alone.  There wasn’t anyone who called me up or came over to visit or offered to help me out when I first became a single parent.  That first week of taking over as my son’s sole parent I panicked and thought that moving back to my hometown was the only choice I really had.

By the second week, I was determined to give it a try, on my own, as a single parent, in the most expensive city in America.  The easier, more comfortable choice would have been to move back home, but it wasn’t the right choice.  I may not have had a choice about becoming a single parent, but it was empowering to make the choice about where and how I was going to attempt to  do it.

 The Toughest Part of Being a Single Parent

The toughest part of being a single parent was not having someone else there to share the stories and moments with.  My son was 20 months old at the time, so there were many milestones and sweet moments that were mine and mine alone.

Time and money were also at the top of the list.  When you’re a single parent , 24 hours pass by too quickly and too slowly simultaneously.  You feel like you’re pulled in all directions not only as a parent, but also as the one who is responsible for every other aspect of the home:  cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, roof repairs, car, pets, etc. On top of the time it takes to take care of those things yourself or calling on an expert to take care of them for you, there is that little issue of money.  Even if you have a decent paying job money goes very quick especially when there’s only one paycheck coming in.

There’s a lot of pressure.  Some things just need to get done and it’s all on you.  It’s not only physically exhausting, but it’s mentally exhausting as well.  I only have one child, I would imagine that having more children multiplies everything.

I was a single parent for 3.5 years before moving in with my fiancĂ©.  It was a very difficult 3.5 years, but also very rewarding and inspiring.  I grew so much as a parent and a person.  I am self-reliant, self-sufficient, and very confident in my abilities to parent and to get things done.  I am very lucky that I have a healthy and happy son.  He made my job so much easier, but I have to admit, I rocked it a bit.

My Tips on How to Rock Being a Single Parent

  1.  Ask for help.  There is no shame in asking for help.  I find that the majority of people do want to help, they just don’t know how to ask either.  But you cannot do it completely alone.  It truly does take a village.
  2. Prioritize.  My son was always at the top of my list.  But there were other things that needed to get done.  I am a list person, so I scheduled my days.  I planned what needed to get done weekly and I tried to make sure that I checked off everything on my list for that day.  I tried to go easy on myself as well.  I didn’t over do it.  And I had to learn to let go.  If I didn’t vacuum every day or if my tables were a bit dusty, that was a tradeoff I was willing to make for 20 minutes to myself or for those 20 extra minutes it took to put my son to bed without feeling the pressure of my chore list.
  3. Budget.  I’m a teacher with a decent salary, but NYC is a very expensive place.  I had a tight wallet.  I learned how to get creative though.  I began to invite friends (yes, I started to make some!) over for a potluck “night out” because I couldn’t afford to pay for a sitter and go out for dinner.  I shopped only when sales were going on or where I had coupons.  Name brands meant less to me.  I learned to value experiences more so than materialistic things.
  4. Take Time for Yourself.  You need it!  You deserve it!  You are no good to your children if you are tired and miserable and unhappy!  I could afford a babysitter for 3 hours a week.  I used that time to walk through the park, go window shopping, get a coffee… anything that was cheap or free and something that was outside of my home.  It was my escape to just be me.  I wasn’t a mom.  I wasn’t a teacher.  I was just me.  I also took time out of each day for myself too.  My son went to bed early.  Even at the age of six, he is still in bed by 8.  Those few hours, even if I was doing dishes or cleaning, were also a time to mentally recharge.  A hot bath, t.v., yoga, reading… whatever it is, make some time for you.  You are not doing a disservice to anyone if you do!!
  5. Take each day one at a time.  Some days are going to be horrendous and horrible.  You may yell, scream, and cry.  Some days are going to be smooth and happy.  Both will come to an end with each new tomorrow.  There is always another day to get it right and to do it better.  And there will also be another day to add on to your joys.
  6. Do your best.  At the end of the day, if you did the best that you could do, you have nothing to feel bad about, no regrets.  Children are amazing little creatures.  All they need is your love.  As long as they feel that, they are going to grow up just fine.  How many of you feel more appreciation towards your parents as you grew older?   You may not see or feel it from them now, but give your children that same chance.