The challenges of single parenting are many. Holding down a job, taking care of the children’s needs and household repairs, and a whole host of other things vie for the 168-hour week. How do single parents make it through the trials and come out feeling good about themselves and their children?
When Martin Luther King III was asked how his mother handled being a single parent, he responded, “My mother did the best she could. She surrounded us with caring adults, including my grandmother, who loved us and provided structure and security to help us grow to be responsible adults.”
Census reports indicate there has been a significant increase in single-parent households. In fact, more than 13.7 million men and women find themselves in the position of parenting alone. Things that have never been issues before are now on the radar screen, often producing anxiety, fear and many sleepless nights.
“I have been a single parent of three for six years,” says Richard.* “I didn’t know a soul when I moved here and had no family support. The biggest obstacle for me was keeping all of the balls up in the air. I was launching a new business and trying to keep my family going.”
Richard describes his transition into single parenthood as highly emotional.
“I was living in a one-bedroom place,” Richard says. “At the outset it was very difficult. I realized I was insecure emotionally. I remember taking lunch hours to do laundry at the laundromat.”
Fortunately, Richard found resources that were available to assist in his parenting efforts.
“The aftercare program at school was a lifesaver,” Richard shares. “There were teachers and friends who helped out in many ways. We were befriended by many people to whom I will always be grateful.”
If you’re a single parent trying to find your way, here are some helpful suggestions from seasoned single parents:
Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.
Focus on family. Set expectations, establish boundaries, keep the lines of communication open and set aside time to be together as a family.
Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.
Ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, church friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate.
Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.
After going through the trauma of a breakup, loss or abandonment, it’s easy to shy away from asking for help for fear of being seen as weak. Most single parents will say this is not how they wished things would be. But over time, many single moms and dads realize the experience has made them stronger and that it is truly okay to ask for help.