When I first got pregnant, my husband and I were over the moon. We thought we would be the coolest parents ever. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we would be parenting separately.
Four years later, when we got divorced, all I could focus on was how good it was going to be for both of us. There would be no more arguments, no more compromise, and we would both have the freedom we had been craving.
But raising children alone, or while separated, was much harder than I thought. There was one less person to pick up the slack, to help clean up, to read to the kids at bedtime, and to give me a break. Even just a ten-minute break would have been so heavenly in those first few years as a single mother.
Here are 6 of the best parenting tips, as well as lessons I learned during my time as a single mother.
I Needed to Be an Example
Children watch us closer than we think. Studies show that children learn from observing those around them. For example, if you smoke, the likelihood that your child will grow up to be a smoker will skyrocket.
Setting a good example is important – especially when you are the only parent your child has to learn from.
Fatherless Children Have a Harder Time Than I Thought
Children are heavily impacted by their parent’s divorce. Studies by the Linacre Quarterly Journal found that children lose economic security, time with each parent, emotional security, are more likely to act out sexually at a younger age when a father-figure is not present, and mature at a slower rate than other children.
Kids also do worse in school when their parents are no longer together, resulting in lower GPAs, repeating grades, not attending university, and the list goes on.
Divorce can also be incredibly stressful for young ones. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that children often blame themselves for their parent’s divorce and assume the responsibility to fix the broken marriage. This leads to childhood anxiety and stress, which can be damaging both mentally and physically to your little ones.
To give my children the best chance possible to grow up happy and healthy, one of the biggest parenting tips I followed was to keep the lines of communication open. I wanted my kids to know they could come to me with their feelings or any questions they had. I established a routine of being open and age appropriately-honest with them in return.
I Learned to Handle My Own Finances
Raising a child isn’t cheap. We all know this when we become pregnant, but the reality of how broke you are going to be – especially as a single parent- is shocking. As of 2017, the average cost of raising a child from infancy to eighteen years old was $233,610.
When I was married, I worked part-time, but my husband was the primary breadwinner. He also handled paying the bills and doing all of the budgeting in the household. Needless to say, when we separated, I was feeling financially overwhelmed.
As a single mother, you do what you have to do in order to make your new family dynamic work. I got a full-time job and my mother would babysit when necessary for me to work.
Eventually, I made enough money to hire a nanny and felt empowered and proud of myself for being able to support my family financially – all by myself.
Quality Parent-Child Time is Important
One of the biggest parenting tips that helped empower me to value my family was to spend quality time together on a regular basis.
This was, and still is, incredibly important to me. The older my kids get, the harder it becomes to get everyone in the same room.
I remembered reading a study about family mealtime. It said that eating meals regularly as a family contributes to your child’s linguistic and cognitive development. I wanted that for my kids, so I instituted a regular family day each week where we would take turns planning activities. These “family dates” involved such things as:
- Going to the park
- Having an at-home movie night complete with blanket forts and a myriad of snacks
- Heading out to a museum
- Playing tourist for a day
- Going skating or playing a sport outside
- Building snowmen/sandcastles
- Reading or listening to audiobooks as a family
- Cooking a meal together
- Taking classes (instruments, language)
Not only will a great parent-child relationship contribute to a peaceful household, but it can also have a positive impact on your child’s mental health. A 2012 study found that children who grow up close to their parents have better overall mental health than kids who report poor relationships with their parents.
I Felt Alone
It’s lonely to parent alone. Even if your marriage was toxic, you’ll still find yourself missing the positive qualities in your ex, or if you were anything like me, you’d miss the intimacy. My spouse and I were not good communicators, nor did we see eye-to-eye on the same things very often, but we always had a healthy, satisfying sex life. And when I was single, I definitely missed our effortless intimacy.
Dating is hard when you’re a single parent. You must disclose your children to the person you start seeing, being intimate is harder because you have children to think about, and introducing your new beau to your little ones can be a challenge – to say the least.
But chin up. You’re stronger than you think. I certainly was. You will find a way to get through the difficult times as a single parent and will have more strength and self-confidence in yourself than you ever thought possible.
Single parenting is a wild ride that I was so not prepared for, but it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done with my time.
There are great parenting tips available to help you keep your cool when you become a single mother. Keep the lines of communication open with your kids, set a good example, and finally: give yourself more credit – you’re stronger than you think!
Author Bio: Rachael is a noted writer currently associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of her motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying about today’s evolving forms of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on all types of romantic connections. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.