Over the past five decades, there has been a huge shift in family structure in the United States. In the past, single-parent households were a rarity. Today, over 11 million parents are raising their children alone. While most of these parents are single mothers (over 8 million), over two million fathers have raised their children without a partner.
Although all types of parenting have difficult aspects, being a single parent has a unique set of stresses. These challenges, when addressed head-on, can build your parenting muscles and help you excel. By understanding the difficulties you are likely to face and thinking of solutions ahead of time, you can create a healthy family dynamic for yourself and your stepchildren.
5 Stressors To Manage
Every family situation is different, but single-parent families often share similar struggles. I'm sure you're thinking, "Just five?" After all, parenting regardless of your relationship status isn't for the faint of heart. If you are a single parent, you've probably wrestled with at least one of the following challenges:
Elizabeth, an elementary school teacher and single mother of three, says she's struggled with all these stressors at one point or another. "Being a mother is the most fulfilling part of my life," she gushed when speaking about the difficulties of being a single parent, "but it can be extremely challenging." "I didn't expect my marriage to fall apart, but when it did, I was left standing with the pieces and unsure how to move forward," Elizabeth shared. "But I've found over time that every time I face a challenge head-on and conquer it, my confidence as a mother increased."
You're probably thinking, "Good for her, but what does that have to do with me?" A lot! As single parents, we can learn a great deal from the successes (and trials of others). The next section of this article aims to elaborate on each of these parenting roadblocks and discuss avenues that Elizabeth and other parents are using to move forward.
#1 It's A Balancing Act
Unless you're a stay-at-home parent, work/school-home life balance is probably one of the greatest parenting struggles of your existence. Even two-parent households have a hard time figuring out things like who will pick the kids up from school, who will take off work and attend the kindergarten Christmas play, and who will tackle dinner for the fourth time this week.
For parents, the question isn't "who will?" but "how will I?" The struggle of balancing home and work life quickly becomes a one-person (or woman) juggling act. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be this way, at least not every day. Instead of adding more balls to your routine, you can:
#2 Making Tough Decisions
Adults make around 35,000 decisions per day. Some of these choices are made on impulse, while others are based on logical thinking. Many of these decisions affect our children, and in single-parent homes, the tough calls are often made alone. Even without a partner to bounce ideas off and lean on for support, making sound decisions for your family is possible. This can be accomplished by embracing two Cs-confidence and consistency.
When faced with a tough call, take time to think about your options, write out the pros and cons, or call a friend. You can also try the 10-10-10 method. Ask yourself, "will I be happy with this decision ten days from now, ten months from now, and ten years from now?" Then, choose with confidence. Sometimes things won't work, but that's okay.
It's all right to make allowances now and then, but most family decision-making should be consistent from one day to the next. Setting dos and don'ts for your household can take some of the mundane decisions off your shoulders because the children already know the rules.
#3 Managing Finances
There are hundreds of websites and programs that offer money management advice for single parents. Still, the truth is, there is no one 'plan' that can alleviate the day-to-day difficulty of managing a family's finances alone. As the head of the household (and sometimes only an adult in the home), you must be diligent in the way you handle financial matters. It's not an easy task, but the following tips can make it more manageable.
#4 Creating Quality Time
When not working, you find most parents in the same place: with their kids. So, how could it be that so many parents struggle to find quality time with their kids? To answer that question, we must take a hard look at what quality time is. Quality time is being together in the same space while also giving each other undivided attention. Working on your laptop while the kids watch a movie in the same room doesn't equal quality time. Neither does mindlessly scrolling on your cell phone while your kids try to tell you about their day. Quality time must be both dedicated and intentional.
Dedicating time to spend with your children together and individually is especially important since many people have quality time as their "love language." Children who fall into this category don't need you to tell them you love them or buy them expensive gifts; they need you to be there. To meet these needs, you can:
#5 Making Time For Self
If you've ever listened to a flight attendant give safety instructions on an airplane, you've probably heard them say to put your oxygen mask on before trying to assist someone else with theirs. As single parents, we often forget about ourselves. We take on the world's problems and take a bullet for our family members, but we don't take the time to practice self-care. This is a costly mistake. It simply isn't possible to be the best parent you can if you aren't your best self. To figure out where you rank on the self-care scale, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I …
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you might not be taking care of yourself properly. Not only can this affect you physically, but it can also lead to emotional and mental strain, including anxiety and depression. One of the best ways you can commit to self-care is by talking to a professional that can help you streamline the process. This is not to say that making time for yourself isn't something you can't do alone, but having someone to support you through the process can be very empowering.
Fortunately, this can be accomplished in the comfort of your own home. You no longer need to travel across town to get professional support since programs like ReGain can help you strengthen your relationships (with your family and yourself) through over the Internet counseling sessions.
Even if you decide not to pursue counseling, it's important to remember that your time is valuable. Finding ways to maintain balance while tackling life's challenges and making tough calls will allow you to be the best person and the best parent that you can be.
“Denae has a strong background in child psychology. We came to her because we're figuring out how to navigate our first year with a newborn together. She understands couples dynamics, personality styles and is very knowledgeable on secure attachment and how to raise a child to feel seen, understood, safe and heard. I Highly recommend this counselor.”
“Dr Bown has made significant impact in our lives and She is always giving honest advice and we feel she genuinely cares about our family. She is a valued treasure that we are grateful for in our lives :)”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is It Possible To Raise A Child Alone?
In short, yes – raising a child alone is absolutely possible! Though it can be difficult and is often overwhelming, raising a baby as a single parent can be achieved through a few key techniques. It may take some time, but learning to balance your life, set boundaries, trust yourself, create a weekly budget, prioritize quality time with your child, and prioritize yourself for even a few minutes per day is key in raising a baby a single parent.
Can A Single Parent Raise A Successful Child?
Again, it’s absolutely possible to be a single parent and raise a successful child! Following the tips from the previous question will help immensely, as will building a support network if you don’t already have one in place. Learn which friends and family members you can rely on to help out in times of need; these can be considered your “parenting family” and can all serve as a community to help you raise a child. You are not alone!
Some studies have found that baby names can really impact children's future success. Those with friendlier sounding and more common baby names tend to get hired more often as adults than those with somewhat strange or rare baby names. During pregnancy, baby names can be difficult to decide on, but a quick online search can help you come across some baby girl and baby boy names that you may not have thought of before. However, you may also find that once your baby is born, suitable baby names may spring into your mind as you establish a connection with them and get to know their personality. Though it may seem like a name is just a name, know that your children have to live with their baby names for their entire lives, so choosing baby names that are appropriate and fitting for their personality can really be fundamental in establishing your child’s success.
How Do Single Moms Survive Financially?
Though we recommend this for all parents, single parents, in particular, can really benefit from setting up a weekly or monthly budget. Making a note of all weekly expenses, such as groceries, gas, rent or mortgage costs, child care, and so on and tallying them up for the month while also noting your income and allowing for some wiggle room for emergencies such as car repairs and doctor visits can all help you successfully raise a baby as a single mom or dad.
You can also recruit family and friends who are trustworthy and willing to help care for your child(children) while you work or run errands for less than you’d pay a designated nanny service. Some may even be willing to do so for free!
What Jobs Can A Mom Do From Home?
If there’s one positive thing about 2020, it’s that it showed us just how possible it is to work from home and that there are many job options for doing so! Raising a baby as a single parent doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t work, nor does it mean that you can’t do something you love! For example, you could work as a customer service representative as that primarily requires using a phone and computer, which can easily be done from home. Other options include data entry specialist, writer or editor, virtual assistant, tutoring or teaching depending on the subject, accountant or financial clerk, graphic designer, mental or physical health coaching, virtual therapist, web designer, and many others.
Really, the options are incredibly numerous, and the primary roadblock, as with most things, is your mental attitude toward it. Even if you’re a single parent raising a baby and not just older children, there are jobs out there that can be a great fit for you and work around your schedule. You’re not just limited to working from home, either – many jobs also offer in-office childcare to help ease both the financial and emotional worries of going to work while raising children.
What Support Can A Single Mother Get?
Raising a baby as a single parent doesn’t have to mean you’re alone. As mentioned above, friends and family can be recruited to help you out, and many of them will likely be quite happy to do so!
Additionally, therapy can be a very useful tool in helping you to feel supported, validated, and heard. Some therapists even specialize in helping those who are having or have a baby as a single parent.
You may also consider childcare and support groups for single mothers. There are also financial programs for single parents to obtain both whiles pregnant and after their baby is born. If you’re hoping to continue your education, many schools that understand raising a baby as a single parent are hard and will offer classes and schedules that are flexible and work for you. Many jobs also offer in-office childcare to help ease both the financial and emotional worries of going to work while raising children.