Single Parenting ReflectionFeb 07, 2023
I recently got reminded again how many broken families there are in this world. Yes, even in paradise. With my two kids now being young adults, I guess I can say I survive being a single mom. I of course realize my work in terms of supporting them is not quite done in any shape or form, but I can certainly say the most challenging part is over. What I can say is there is an amazing light at the end of the tunnel, as I believe our shared trials and tribulations brought us closer which we are now able to enjoy and appreciate!
Here's my reflection 25 years down the line:
I raised my kids as a single mom from when my son was six, and my daughter was two and half. Before that I was mostly alone with the kids as my husband was often away from home due to work. I took my job raising them very seriously and took the responsibility of making sure the kids came through the divorce, with as little damage as possible squarely onto my shoulders. Much of this was driven by guilt around giving up on my relationship with their father, and not being able to give them the normal family that I had. I know most single parents can relate to this.
We were living in Botswana as expatriates at the time and the kids spent every second weekend with their father. We, the kids and I, moved back to South Africa when they were around six and nine in I hope to find a better life for us. Their father moved to the States shortly after, so bi-weekly contact turned into bi-annual contact. I met my second husband when the kids were much older, so we spent most of our time on our own. This resulted in a tight little family.
I worked hard to pay the bills and life was stressful at the best of times juggling work, making sure the kids adapted to life without their dad, and adjusting to a new environment. Also with real financial struggles, not being able to provide them with the life I would have wanted for them.
My tips - I made mistakes, many, and so will you:-) There is no such thing as a perfect parent - your parents weren’t perfect, and neither will you be. However here are some of the lessons I learnt:
- Be in the moment. I can only guess that the biggest criticism my kids would have if I asked, would be around the numerous times I listened but didn't hear. You cannot be everything to them all of the time. But you can make 10 minutes per day dedicated to each child.
- Do not stress the small stuff, especially in the teens. What a small? If they are not going to hurt themselves or someone else let it go. As irritating as it might be that your son wears his pants on his thighs. And boys don't have thighs. He will get over it sooner if you make no fuss look the other way.
- Work is work and family time is family time. You need to find a way to leave work at the office.
- Spend time - if quantity is impossible, quality is required.
- Take time away on holidays away from everyday life.
- Find a routine and stick to it. The best advice I received before embarking on the single mother journey. This will take the nagging out of bath time, dinner time, homework time.. eventually.
- Do not make promises until you know for a fact that it will happen. And even then manage expectations as we are not in control. Breaking a promise to a child is the worst thing you can ever do. And trying to explain a broken promise to a child is the hardest thing to do. Remember your divorce is bound to create trust issues for your child breaking promises will add to the feelings of not being able to trust and possibly not feeling worthy.
- Allow them to help. I was not great with this, but it does make them feel valuable and worthy.
- There is no place for perfectionism in a “normal” family. Let alone in a single parent family. Find a way to see the beauty in the imperfection.
- Ask for help. I realized this very late. You will find that there are people sitting in the ranks waiting for you to ask quite willing to help. But you need to reach out. Which, by the way, is not a sign of weakness.
- Be disciplined with your own bedtime. Our bodies revive while sleeping. If you are stressed your body needs a decent night's sleep to rebuild.
- Let go. I'm not advocating allowing kids to run wild, but sincerely do not try to control the every move, action, participation, relationship, future etc.
- Look after yourself. Your kids will be okay if you are okay, put your own mask on first. I heard and even said this so many times, but rarely put it into practice back in the day. This goes so much further than doing your nails and hair. It’s about working through the downs that you will most definitely have as a single parent properly, and looking after the little child inside of you.
- Meditate or create quiet time.
- Exercise, even if you walk the dogs it is still exercise.
- Be in nature. Take quality time away from the kids, work, and responsibilities.
- Read - listening to audiobooks that enhances your growth can be done while driving, cooking, or exercising.
- Be honest and authentic with the kids, especially as they get older and are able to understand. So if you're having a bad day say it. You are entitled to your bad days, as are they are, before you shout it out and they get the message anyway with damage in the process. This teaches them to be real and to be true to who you are.
- Have fun! Parenting does not have to be serious all the time. Allow yourself to have fun, laugh and be silly.
- Do not feel guilty! I cannot stress enough there is nothing to feel guilty about. Guilt is one of the most destructive feelings. Feeling guilty will change how you would normally react to something, and the kids will get hurt in the process.
In summary - being tired and stressed out does not help. So do look after your own mental well being. Besides, your kids will pick up on this and will react in one of two ways. Either act out and make life even more difficult, or overcompensate and take on too much responsibility for the age. None of these are ideal scenarios. Reach out if you're struggling and get help.
Wishing you strength and sending love!
If any of the articles resonates with you in any way, and you would like to have a chat to see how I can help you, please reach out for a FREE 15 minute call!
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