Any parent can agree that parenting is tough. It is a challenging and complex experience that requires every fiber of your being, and although at times you can become overwhelmed and exhausted by it, you would never trade it for the world. Being a single parent is no different. The added level of complexity comes with the fact that you’re handling most, if not all, of the responsibilities of raising your child on your own.
National Single Parent Day is the day to recognize and honor the valiant work and sacrifices of single parents to raise healthy and happy children. As a significant number of children are raised in single-parent households, this recognition is unique and powerful—it not only recognizes the single parent’s hard work, dedication and passion towards raising their child, it motivates and drives single parents to continue this work even when society frowns on parenting without a partner.
In celebration of Single Parents Day, I have been asked to think about what it means to be a single parent. My answer is as complicated as the question.
I have been a single mom for almost six years now. I have so many moments that help me to define what it means to be a single parent. I can share numerous examples of shedding physical, emotional and mental tears in my every day experiences and struggles as a single mom. Being a single mom requires strength of both mind and body, endurance, being a master at time management and, most importantly, the fortitude to hold your head up through it all.
To explain what it means to be a single parent from my perspective, you require an understanding of what I’ve learned so far.
I can do it all. Many people ask, “How do you do it all?” And my answer is always, “I have no clue.” Even though I doubt myself regularly and believe that I will not accomplish all my daily tasks, I bite down, focus on one thing at a time and get it all done. My house may be a mess at times and I may have laundry in the dryer that has been there for the past week (and I’m only pulling out the clothes as I need them), and we may order out 2 to 3 days a week, but it all gets done.
I couldn’t do it all without help. I literally have an entire community available to me to help me with my son. My neighbors, friends, nearby family members, fellow bloggers and co-workers are all available to provide an encouraging word, a laugh, a shoulder to cry on or someone to watch my son for a few hours for a mommy mental break. Yes, I can do it all but I couldn’t possibly do it without their help.
For every good day, there could be a bad week. As a single parent, there are those amazingly great days where you feel like you could conquer the world if given the opportunity. These days can last for an entire week and you feel as though you can fulfill every task out there without even missing a beat. And there are those incredibly bad days, too. Those days can last for months. It is those days when there are unexpected expenses that creep up, when you wonder how you’re going to make it through the week: How am I going to be able to afford to feed my son for the week? How will I be able to commute to work? How can I get through the week with this dread in the pit of my stomach? This is real, and no matter how much money you make or how many people are around you to help, it is hard to break through the mental torment that we experience when wondering how to make it through.
Finding time for you helps everyone. I noticed that when I am more relaxed and carefree, my son is equally as relaxed and carefree. Whether we know it or not, our feelings and actions play a huge role in our child’s daily life. They depend on us to lift them up when they’re down and keep them grounded when they’re touching the sky. Finding time for yourself and taking care of yourself makes that happen.
Life is as fun as you make it. Even on those most challenging days, we still can make life as fun as want to make it. My son and I will jam out in the car, run around and play in the park, color and draw together, read at least 15 to 20 books a night, give each other hugs and kisses to make each other feel better … we make life grand. We could easily let those rough days keep us down but instead we work harder to make life as we want it to be and not how it is. Live in the moment and be happy and healthy. Don’t expect the future to bring happiness.
Trust your instincts. You’re doing the best you can. Even though we doubt it from time to time—and many people may put us down just because we’re raising our children in single-parent households—we are, in fact, doing the best we can. We are working through this whole parenthood experience, just like every other parent. Trust that you’re doing the best that you can and focus on raising your child.
Find your own rhythm. Every single parent has questioned themselves at some point. We question whether we will figure this whole thing out, or find a rhythm to it all, or we think we are failing ourselves and our kids. Every single parent household is uniquely different; they each have their own rhythm. Focus on finding your own rhythm and focus. In the end, you will find your rhythm, and life will become simpler.
Focus on today, plan. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day, to allow the negativity to creep into your soul and drain you. Instead of getting bogged down, focus on today’s tasks—complete them, step-by-step—then start thinking about what you can do in the future to avoid the bad things that happened today. Don’t dwell on it; plan to make it better.
So, what does being a single parent mean to me? It means handling it on your own but knowing that you have the support of family, friends and others to help you get through it. It means relishing in the good days and enduring the bad days. It means finding time for yourself, in order to continue being the best parent you can be, and finding fun in even the simplest things. It means trusting that you are doing the best you can and focusing on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. And, finally, it means finding your own rhythm in life—one that works best for you and your family. Be happy and healthy, and live in the moment, rather than waiting for the future to bring happiness.
Single Parents day is March 21st! Tag #singleparentsday to show us how you are celebrating.
Natasha Peter is a single (and solo) mom of 1 and blogger at Epic Mommy Adventures. Her blog focuses on sharing her epic adventures with her son, sharing her secrets to success as a single parent, and offering advice to other single parents managing epic adventures of their own.