When I was first separated, I remember people talking about what a stress it would be to start parenting as a single mom. I couldn’t imagine it would be any different since my ex-husband hadn’t ever participated in the parenting duties.
But I was wrong. I had completely overlooked the support of having another adult human being in the home could be. However small his participation had been – he had participated in SOMETHING. Suddenly, while I had done most of the physical parenting labor in the past, I was now doing all of it AND responsible for keeping a roof over our heads.
While the circumstances may differ, nearly 25 percent of children in America live in single parent homes. It may have been the result of death, divorce, separation, or becoming a single parent by choice. Whatever the reason, the challenges are nearly the same.
There are at least nine things you can do to help reduce your stress level so you can parent your children and be productive at work without blowing your top every other minute. Even if you aren’t physically yelling and screaming, the stress you feel from frustration and irritation is also felt by your body and by the people around you who have become adept at reading body language.
My dog knows from my body language when I’m ready to take her for her afternoon walk. We don’t go at the same time each day but she invariably understands the slight shifts in my body at my desk chair, or the way I get up that indicates I’m not heading for a bathroom break, but rather for an afternoon walk with her.
Your children and your co-workers can also fairly easily read your body language and know when you’re stressed, even if you don’t say anything. When you minimize your stressors, you can bring peace and joy back into your life and your relationships with your children.
This is often a major stressor in your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you do or don’t have, the issue is a big one. You may not have enough for groceries next week, or may not know how to invest the coin you do have. One way or another, you need to get a handle on your current situation and make a logical and reasonable plan for the future. You’ll be amazed by how much just this knowledge and a plan can reduce your stress. By ignoring the issue altogether, it increases your stress as you may believe the situation is worse than it is. Even if it’s exactly how bad you imagined, it will not change until you face it first. And facing it will reduce your stress and help you develop a reasonable plan of action.
Set up a Daily Routine
A consistent routine for your daily activities helps your child feel more secure in his environment and helps reduce your own stress level over what should be done next. Dinner time, packing lunches, bed time, and naps should all be scheduled to help you plan the rest of your day.
Get Rid of Guilt
All single moms have rights. YOU have rights. You are a loved and blessed woman in God’s eyes and He wants you to believe that. It may be easy to feel guilty about time you may not spend with your children, how you reacted at dinner last night or that you don’t have enough to buy your child’s new favorite toy. But being a single mom is not about being easy – and in the end, feeling guilty is not easy at all. If you feel guilty about disruptions in your family life, like divorce or separation, get support from a local group. It is more important that you grow your relationship with your children and take care of your family, and guilt will keep you from that goal.
Kids Need to Be Kids
It’s important to remember that your children are children. They aren’t your local support group. They have problems and issues of their own. They need your support and structure to help them feel secure and loved. Children who are secure in their environment are better able to become strong, functioning adults. If you find that you rely on your children for emotional support, or sympathy, then it is time to seek out that support outside your home.</
No matter how strong you may be, you shouldn’t take this journey alone. Find a trusted family member, therapist, counselor, pastor or good friend who can offer you the emotional support you need. No one is an island unto themselves and you WILL need someone because it’s just the way we are wired.
Where my family lives there are condominiums and apartments directly next to each other. The condominium section is gated and there’s a chain so the apartment community cannot drive through. The apartment community pays for garbage removal using dumpsters and the condominiums have individual pick up from a different company. There is one family in the condominiums that routinely sends their two girls with garbage to the dumpsters in the apartments.
It is very important to practice honesty when you talk to your children and answer their questions. Children are like little computers – they often remember everything. If you don’t answer honestly, what you tell them today will come back to haunt you later.
When those two little girls grow up and start hiding things from their parents, the parents may wonder where the girls learned this behavior. Some of it will likely be from their friends or just about being teens – but it’s a good bet that some of it will have been learned at home.
Consistency is Key
Children and adults thrive when they understand the expectations. You likely would quickly change jobs if your boss changed the rules every week. While you have the choice to leave an inconsistent environment, your children don’t. You might think that being lenient once in a while is just showing them you love them – but there is a difference between giving grace and being lenient.
There are always consequences for the actions you take. Whether it is the choices you make or the ones your children make – there are consequences. If you were to steal a gallon of milk from the store because your children were hungry, grace would be when the judge gives you community service for your actions while leniency would be when the judge doesn’t require any punishment at all. You could have gone to a food bank, asked a church for help or called a friend or family – there are always choices to make and consequences for those choices.
Grace is a wonderful thing that teaches your children to show others grace – leniency just teaches them they can get away with just about anything.
Set Written Rules
Again – consistency is key. When your children know exactly what your rules ARE, they can follow them or choose to disobey. Writing them down helps them to learn to read and to rely on written ideas and not memory. Make the rules global instead of specific so your list isn’t miles long. Instead of saying they must not hit their brother, make the rule that no violence will be tolerated.
Make Time for Yourself and Your Children
There are a limited number of hours in your day, and it’s likely you burn through them quickly every day. However, both you and your children need your attention. You need to pay attention to your emotional health doing the things that feed you – friends, workouts, music, walks, reading or whatever it is that recharges your batteries. Your children also need your time and energy. You don’t need to spend days together, but more than minutes each day.
You might feel like you don’t have time to spend individual time with your children, but think of it as an investment. The time you invest now pays off when they are teens and adults, in the time they invest back into you. Children don’t raise themselves well. Take time to listen to their daily struggles, pay attention to changes in their behavior and try to remain positive through the whole thing.