It doesn’t really matter how or why you might find yourself taking on the role as a single parent, what’s most important is creating the best life possible for both you and your family.
Being a parent when you’re one half of a couple can be challenging enough, but when you become a single parent—whether it be through divorce, a spouse dying, or if you were alone to begin with—it makes the dynamics of parenting that much more complicated.
When I became a mom for the first time 25 years ago, I was completely overwhelmed with unconditional love for my new baby. I promised my newborn daughter that I would do everything in my power to give her a life of complete joy, love, and amazing experiences. I made that same promise to my other seven children who followed close on her heels and believed with all my heart that all eight of my kids would be blessed with very enriched, love-filled lives.
Now that I’ve been a mom for nearly 25 years, I reflect back on that loving promise I made to my eight kids and truthfully, for the most part, feel I’ve delivered that promise. What I never expected was to become a single mom well into my late forties. While that wasn’t my first choice or what I even asked for, it did become my reality, and I had no other choice but to accept it and work hard to make it as comfortable for my kids as possible.
It doesn’t really matter how or why you might find yourself taking on the role as a single parent, what’s most important is creating the best life possible for both you and your family. Here I share five essential tips for surviving and thriving in the role as a single mom.
How to Survive and Thrive as a Single Mom
- Seek Others in Your Situation
- Empower Your Kids
- Don’t Worry About Being Judged
- Have an Emergency Savings Account
- Always Take Care of Yourself
Here they are in more detail.
1. Seek Others in Your Situation
When you begin to navigate your new role as a single parent, it is not only scary and uncertain, it can also be very lonely. Unfortunately, friendships will change and shift from your previous days when you were part of a couple. Some friends have a difficult time supporting you while they still have a relationship with your ex. Others just don’t know how to stay connected with you as you start a whole new life with just you and your kids. I had some friendships that I thought would last forever, but after my divorce they quietly faded away. It was awkward and sometimes hurtful, but it opened new doors for me to find other single moms to connect and bond with.
It's always better to have someone to talk with, lean on, share your frustrating and joyful moments with when that person is in your same shoes. One of my former colleagues became a widow at the same time I went through my divorce. She and I had been very close at one point but drifted apart once we left the dental practice we both worked in and started our families. We were (and still are) one another’s confidants, cheerleaders, movie dates, and everything else in between when we started our lives all over again. For the first few years we even went out together for Valentine’s Day and had so much fun.
Seeking out others in your situation can be one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself as you grow into your new role of single parenting.
2. Empower Your Kids
One of the biggest obstacles single parents face is the guilt they lay on themselves for putting their family in a new situation that can be daunting and quite unsettling. Our kids depend on us for their physical and emotional needs and the last thing we want to heap on them after a separation, divorce, or death is an unstable environment.
My eight kids were used to having a pretty comfortable lifestyle. We lived in a nice home with most of the amenities and technology needs they wanted, we went on vacations, and they were able to participate in nearly any extra-curricular activity or sport that suited their fancy. After our divorce, I went back to work (two jobs, in fact) and our lifestyle definitely wasn’t as easy as it was when it was a two-parent home. Not only did our financial structure change, my time away from the family changed drastically.
We had to all make adjustments and curb our wish lists a bit, but in turn we learned how to really make the most of the time we spent together when I wasn't working. As they’ve become older, they’ve gotten part-time jobs and have realized the value of working and paying for some of their big-ticket items. They all learned another valuable lesson: how to maintain our home. Everyone can do their own laundry, can cook a simple meal, we’ve all learned to do basic home repairs, and are much more careful about not being wasteful. Rather than dwell on what we might not have right now, my kids have become empowered over the past five years and are enjoying their newfound independence.