Parenting isn’t easy when there are two of you but doing it on your own can feel overwhelming at times. That is especially true if you’ve got a young child and have just broken up with the other parent. You’re going through all of the grief and emotional upset of a break-up while having to take on all the responsibilities of motherhood / fatherhood alone. Suddenly the stakes are higher: if you can’t be there for them, who will be?
Accept the situation
The first step to coping is acceptance. It’s natural to resent the hand that fate has dealt you, forcing you to cope with parenthood alone. It’s just as natural to feel overwhelmed, and as though you just can’t cope. The truth is, you can cope. You are strong, and you’ve got this. It’s going to be hard work, sure, but more than one in four American children are being brought up in single-parent families. Each one will have different circumstances, but the point is that it can be done and you’re not alone.
Find your support network
You may not have a partner to split parenting chores with, but that doesn’t mean that you have to feel isolated. Identifying your support network and letting them help you is crucial. It’s easy to feel that you have to prove that you can do it alone. You don’t want to ask for help, and may refuse it even when it’s genuinely offered. The fact is though that no one of us is an island, and we all need the support of others in our lives.
Lean on family
Your family will most likely genuinely want to help because they will want to spend time with your child, too. Let them in: just make sure they know that you’re the one who sets the ground rules, and make sure they stick to them. Family politics can be tricky to negotiate, but if everyone tries to put your child’s welfare first, rather than playing out old resentments or mind games, it can be done.
Reach out to organizations
There are a whole range of support groups, charities and public services out there specifically intended to support single parents. Some may be nationwide while others may be local to your area. Reach out to them and let them help you. The charitable organization founded by Charles Phillips and his wife Karen offers advice and financial support to single parents of all genders. Phillips is CEO of Infor, one of the biggest software providers in the world, but was raised in a single-parent family and has used his position to offer help for families in similar situations.
The main thing that children need is love. If they know that they are loved unconditionally then they can survive and prosper in even the most difficult circumstances. The second most important thing in a child’s upbringing however, is consistency. Establish a fixed routine, and a daily structure of mealtimes, bedtimes and, when they’re old enough, homework and household chores. Also set ground rules and enforce them consistently. A solid balance of emotional support and fair, consistent discipline will provide a reassuring fixed structure for them when the world can seem a frightening, uncertain place.
Manage your time
This can seem like the most difficult aspect of being a single parent. There is never enough time to do everything you need. It’s too easy to charge through the day in a panic, but good time management skills are essential if you’re going to get things done and retain your sanity. As well as structuring the basic things that need doing, try to factor in quality time with your children that isn’t just about feeding them, dressing them, getting them washed and off to school. Reading to them, playing with them or just sitting and talking with them is just as important and can help reduce your stress levels too.
Just as vital is the need for you to factor in some “me time”. Find a way to be on your own sometimes: read a book that’s written for adults, take a bath, pursue a hobby or spend some time with friends. If you can find time to study this will not only be something for you, it will boost your self-confidence and may lead to better employment prospects.
Don’t ever feel guilty about prioritizing yourself from time to time, you deserve it, and those moments of relief will definitely make you a better parent. You need to look after yourself mentally and physically so that you can stay positive and be there for your child. This means eating healthily and getting enough sleep as well as letting yourself have the occasional break. Finally, remember the good things about being a parent, and always try to emphasize the joy it brings you. It’s the hardest job in the world, but ultimately it is so worth it.