As a single mother, there is one question that is almost guaranteed to arise in conversations you have with coworkers, peers, friends, family, and sometimes, complete strangers:
How do you do it?
Becoming a single parent, whether by choice or by fate, is daunting, and dare I say, very scary. You’ve either had nine months to contemplate how in the heck you’re going to make it work, or you’ve been in a slowly unraveling relationship in which you’ve spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how two hands could possibly handle the work of four. To top it all off, you’re sleep-deprived, anxious, stressed, and an absolute rollercoaster of emotion.
Deep breath. How do you do it? Well, you just…do. It’s not a philosophical response, nor a magical equation that suddenly makes it all possible, but it’s the simple truth. Think of all the times in your life when push came to shove and you just stood up and showed up. When you finished your college degree while holding down a job, or when you bit off more than you could chew with a new project. Or how about that time you moved across the country for a new job? Or when you embarked on a fitness journey that maxed out your physical and mental states of mind? Those all seemed impossible at one point too… until you did them… and then they suddenly weren’t. Managing life as a single parent is possible because there is no other choice. As mothers, we are able to accomplish and effectively take on far more than we let ourselves believe.
Take for instance, this statistic: “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” What this means is that women cut themselves short in the confidence department. This doesn’t just apply to the workplace, but to your home life as well. Rarely have I heard a male ask for advice on single parenting, or stress about the fact that he didn’t think he could juggle his career and his family. Half the battle is believing in yourself, the other half is actually doing it. Ladies, have more faith because you can do this!
While the idea of loathing in self-pity may sound appealing for all of two seconds, allow yourself a good cry, and then move on. The world doesn’t stop for anyone. Single parenting doesn’t have to be a dark chapter in your life. Embrace it rather than letting it consume you. Here is some advice to help you keep a positive mindset about the adventure you’re about to embark upon.
Asking for help is ok (and totally acceptable).
If you don’t, you will eventually break. There is no shame in needing a helping hand, or a break, every now and then.
Don’t sit on the sidelines while you watch everyone else play (especially your ex).
Feel like dating? Jump back in if you’re ready. Interested in starting a new hobby? No better time than the present. Want to try out a new gym? Yes! When you look good, you feel good. The point is, being a single parent does not mean social suicide. There are plenty of ways to get out and about with your kiddo in tow.
Schedule and prioritize your life.
You’ve heard it one hundred times, but I’ll say it again. Kids do best with structure and routine. As a single parent, don’t make things harder on yourself than you need to. Keep a (somewhat) constant routine so your child knows what to expect. This makes other, more unpredictable, aspects of their life easier to handle. And it will make your life much easier too, as you become an efficient and well-oiled single mommy machine.
Enjoy the ride.
I know it may seem bumpy and dark and never-ending, but you will never regret the one-on-one time you spend with your little one. When all you have is each other, a truly unbreakable bond will form. And there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Always.
Be flexible and open to change.
Everything is about to get thrown into the air (or already is). Trying to control the situation is only going to set yourself up for disappointment and exhaustion. Let the dust settle and the pieces drop where they will. Accept the new normal and let go of feelings that keep you pining for the “way it used to be.” Perhaps this new way is actually how it was meant to be all along.
Cry. Just do it when you feel like it.
Sometimes it’s because it’s one of “those days” and sometimes it’s because you’re watching Pretty Woman and you feel like your life is in shambles. But hey, if Julia Roberts can turn prostitution into a glamorous, fairy-tale life, you surely can own single motherhood.
Don’t feel isolated.
Ironically, millennial single mothers are actually becoming the majority over married millennial mothers. As crazy as it sounds, you are far from alone. Join a single mommies group on Facebook, or join a forum on a popular single mommy blog. Try to find one that offers humor and inspiration, rather than just crazy venting sessions (though, similar to some reality shows, it can leave you feeling better about your life and disposition).
If things totally suck because your baby daddy left you high and dry, keep your chin up! It is absolutely crazy (and amazing) how quickly things can change. Three months, six months, one year from now, your life could be a complete 180 from where it was. The world is full of new opportunities waiting to be experienced: new jobs, new schools, new houses, new states, new people, new challenges, and most importantly for you, newfound freedom and confidence.
I am a huge believer in the power of prayer. Pregnant with my son, alone, and totally unsure of where to go or what to do, I wound up surrounded by a community of people who had nothing to give but love, and support, and empowerment. It was life changing. When life gives you more than you can stand, kneel.
You’re going to be ok. I promise. All of those crazy questions you ask yourself… How am I going to… What will I do if… Where will I find the energy… Will there be any time… You will figure it all out, one day, one step at a time. You do it because you don’t have a choice. You do it because you have to. And sometimes, being forced into a situation where there is no other option than to succeed, is a good thing.
When you look back at all that you’ve accomplished months, years, down the road, realize that you conquered what you once thought was impossible. You turned "I can’t do it alone" into "I can and I did." Carry that newfound confidence into your career, your passions, and into every part of your life. Things will never be the same after becoming a single parent. And that, is a very good thing.
This topic is near and dear to my heart, as I very clearly remember going through all of these thoughts and emotions myself. Parenting is an incredible journey in and of itself, and single parenting teaches you more about yourself than you would ever believe. And for all the mommies out there who are concerned how this will affect their child down the road, my son still asks if we can do Mommy and Keylen night, just like “it used to be.” Kids are resilient and strong. And so are you.
If you have lessons or positive thoughts to share with others who may be going down this road for the first time, please share.