Everyone knows single parenting is hard. Few people choose to do it willingly and those who do likely have a strong support system lined up. But what if you don’t? What if single parenting is a new, unexpected challenge?
You may find yourself as a short term “single parent”, or a long term real single parent. It’s important to me to highlight the differences. I’ve been both and they both suck. It’s important to remember they’re not the same, but you can thrive in either role!
Short Term “Single Parent”
This is the parent whose partner is away for weeks, or months at a time. They’re deployed or traveling for work. You’re left with all the parenting and household chores, errands, childcare, and probably the majority of the decision making as well. You may also be worried about your partner’s safety, when they’ll actually return home, and reintegration into the family lifestyle you’ve been cultivating while they’ve been gone. And you miss the quiet Sunday morning talks over hot coffee, or the late night snuggles in bed after the kids are asleep. You can’t wait for it to all be normal again. It’s hard work. Mentally, emotionally, and physically… It’s heavy, and difficult.
Real Single Parent
This isn’t to downplay the short term “single parent”, but simply to contrast the two. The real single parent faces all the same burdens, and worries, but they are permanent. In addition to having the full weight of all the household chores, all the errands, all the childcare and all the decision making, we also have the financial weight on our shoulders as well.
There is no team effort. There is no one to lean on, no one to cheer you on or celebrate your successes. No one to text and ask “hey can you pick up some lettuce and cheese for dinner on your way home?” You’ve gotta go get it yourself. There is no “3 more months and I won’t have to do this alone!” And so the real single parent goes on day after day, month after month carrying all this weight, alone. The heaviness of it all, for months and months on end, is monumental y’all.
The bottom line is being a single parent is hard. But whether your single parent status is expected or not, it may take a while to wrap your head around your new reality. And that’s ok. The first step to thriving is to acknowledge the hurdles ahead and formulate a plan!
If you have family or loved ones nearby, let them step up and help out. Their help may come in different forms, such as: running errands, childcare, money for bills, groceries or meals, or a venting session. Having some of these tasks or burdens lifted from your shoulders will feel amazing. Saying yes to the support being offered from family, FRG members, best friends, or neighbors can be very difficult, but is often met with little regret after the fact.
Asking For Help
You’re feeling swamped and drained (emotionally, mentally, and physically) but you don’t know what to do. First, you take a deep breath and you recognize you have two choices; continue to push through until something suffers, or ask for help now before something suffers. And believe me, something is going to suffer; work, the house, the kid(s), or you. None are ideal, but it almost always it ends up being you. But it doesn’t have to. Make a list of things other people can do for you. Ask them to:
- spend an hour or two with the kids so you can catch up on chores, or ask them to help you with the chores
- pick up your Target order for you since they’ll be there picking up theirs
- cook or bring dinner for your family one night
- watch the kids so you can run errands—you’ll get done in half the time and can stop for lunch, too!
Friends and family want to help, they just don’t know how. All you have to do is ask.
Make Time for Self Care
We usually view self care as grocery shopping alone, or treating ourselves to something fun like a new pair of shoes, or *cough* a new house plant we’ve been eyeing. But self care is so much more than that!Real self care is creating a life and a lifestyle you don’t need to run away and escape from. Real, true self care consists of putting yourself first by:
- building a system of support
- setting healthy boundaries
- eating well
- getting rest
- asking for and accepting help
While that relaxing bubble bath may provide wonderful short term benefits, focus on setting yourself up for long term benefits, too. Once you learn to take care of yourself you’ll be better able to care for those sweet babies of yours. Single parenting may or may not be the journey you saw yourself on, but you can do hard things. Single parenting included.