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SINGLE MOTHERS

I have much admiration and sympathy for women raising children on their own.

It’s never been more difficult to be a parent. Single parenting can certainly be gloriously successful but it is, to my mind, the hardest job in the world.

I don’t have to tell any single parent out there why single parenting is so difficult. Parenting is a two-person job. The single-parent household simply lacks the necessary personnel to carry out all the tasks.

The single parent must fill both parenting roles: you are the provider/protector and you are also the nurturer. Every family needs somebody to carry out both roles because both roles are essential. Every child needs both economic stability and the nurturance and unconditional love of a parent.

A single parent not only has to fill both parental roles but also must handle personal anger or depression about the missing parent and deal with the child’s feelings about this lack.

Single-parent households headed by women are likely to have money problems. The single parent is often isolated in a coupled world. And because most single parent households get that way after a divorce or death, there are painful transitions with effects on the mood, morale, and behavior of both the parent and children. Elective single parenting does not have to deal with divorce or death but the child still experiences a loss–there is no father in the home.

Here is the Heins list of suggestions for single mothers. There is no magic here, but many suggestions will help most single moms.

o Deal with your own reality. If a divorce led to the single-parenting you will experience grief, anger, guilt, loneliness, and despair (even if divorce was the right decision). Pay attention to your own needs in order to be able to care for your kids.

o Get help! Start by acknowledging that you can’t do it all and you can’t do it alone. Then make a list of resources available to you. Can anyone in the family help? What about friends? If someone takes the kids out to dinner occasionally, you can have some much needed self-time.

o Eliminate all unnecessary chores. Get life down to absolute basics. How? Make a list of every chore you do. For every chore, ask yourself if it can 1) be eliminated; 2) be done less often; 3) be done more efficiently; or 4) be done by someone else. Relax your standards; we’re talking about survival here!

o No matter how busy you are, spend some part of every day alone–apart from the children.

o No matter how busy you are spend some time exercising. You and the children can go for a brisk walk or you can buy an exercise video.

o Keep a diary to clarify your thoughts and track your progress.

o Join with other single parents. Parents Without Partners is one suggestion. Many churches and agencies have group meetings for single parents. How can this help? 1) You will realize that you are not the only single parent in the world and 2) You will learn that the coping strategies of others are helpful in your situation.

o Accept the fact that your children will react to the lack of a father. Do not be surprised by questions, behavior problems, school difficulties, or sadness.

o Let your kids know your feelings. If you are sad tell them. Families that can discuss and deal with feelings are healthy families.

o Find activities for your children that include models of the missing parent. Have your children visit two-parent families.

o Consider sharing living quarters. The economic advantages are obvious. But also children do better in two-person households whether the other person is a relative or friend.

o If you don’t want to share living quarters try sharing child care with another single mom. She takes your kids and feeds them dinner one night and you take her kids another night. This gives each mother time alone without having to pay for a sitter.

o Don’t get your children involved with persons you are dating unless you are pretty sure it’s going to be a permanent relationship. More often than not the first person you date after a divorce will not be the one. Your children do not need the trauma of grieving over another person leaving them.

o Don’t badmouth the children’s father. Keep lines of communication open for your children’s sake.

o Keep your sense of humor working at full speed.

o Take advantage of what we now know about handling stress. There are specific stress-reduction exercises like meditation and imaging which can help diminish our stress levels. Check the book stores or take a class in stress reduction.

o Get counseling help if you need it. How do you know if you need it? If you are having difficulty functioning or relating to your children, get help. If you are sad all the time or don’t see any way out, get help.

o Enjoy your child. Cherish the time you can spend together.

o Remember children are resilient and they can thrive living in many different kinds of families. Don’t waste any precious time worrying about your single-parent life. This is your life–and your child’s life–accept it and live it fully!

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