Single mothers become so for a multitude of reasons. Some purely by choice, specifically choosing to raise children without a partner, teen pregnancy, being widowed or the most common - divorce. The number of single moms is growing. Of course, we can't forget the single parent fathers but this post focuses upon the group that is close to my heart - single moms.
When you become a single mom, the range of emotions you experience are untold and no one can prepare you for the strength you need to deal with them. Looking at the positives - it shapes you. It makes you grow up, quickly. It changes you as a person and in some ways, I think that is makes you a better person (I'd like to think so anyway). At the very least, it humbles you and squarely puts you right in your place.
And in amongst the panoply of emotions that you experience, you still have to function. Mouths still need feeding, rent still needs paying, kids homework has to be done and the bathrooms still need cleaning. Oh, and you still need to brush your own teeth, eat, do well at work and, of course, remain sane and grounded.
If you are lucky enough to have an uber cool network of supportive friends and family during your journey into single motherhood, then you must know that you are truly blessed - they are the ones that will stop you falling through the cracks. The kind of friends that at the drop of a hat will be there no matter what time of day (or night), family members that don't think twice about having a two hour phone conversation when the need arises or the strangers that leave money at your door so that you can buy groceries. These wonderful human beings are angels with kind wings that envelop you when you need to be reminded that the universe has got your back.
This post is not designed to focus on the reason why you find yourself in the position of single mom. Don't look backwards, you are not going that way. No, this is designed to focus on ways that we can get through our day and survive the jungle of what single parenting can often create.
These are some of my top tips to survive as a single mom.
Be Kind To Yourself
Airlines get it! During the safety drill we are told that in case of an emergency, we must place the oxygen mask on yourself before our baby/children. This sums up my point very nicely. If you are not OK, then no one or nothing else will be. So, be kind to yourself. Make sure that you are OK. This means early nights, eating well, taking natural health supplements if your body is lacking certain vitamins or minerals, taking warm baths, reading, lighting candles, spoiling yourself occasionally (even if it is something small like a new lip liner or your favourite hand cream). Listen to your body, it speaks a language that only you understand. Your body will tell when things are not right. Hear it.
Therapy & Talking
There is such stigma attached to mental health and our wellbeing. Somehow, sadly, it is frowned upon and shamed when things fall out of synch with our mental health. Whether it be triggered postnatally or through tough life challenges, our mental wellbeing is greatly tested and somewhat stretched as a single mother. The way we deal with it holds the key to overcoming the negative effects of the challenges we face.
To seek help shows incredible courage and a real strength of character. Reaching out and admitting that you need help is an incredibly difficult thing to do and often seen as a failure when in fact it is quite the opposite. We all need help occasionally and that is cool. That is OK. Speak to someone, a professional who can advise what help you can get whether it be counselling, natural health treatments such as acupuncture or herbal remedies or even prescription medication if it's needed. Investing in your mental health is paramount. You will benefit. Your children will benefit. Your next relationship (I know it seems like a million years away) will benefit. It is the best gift that you can give yourself.
It is the easiest thing in the world to detach yourself from the rest of the world when you are feeling so down, hurt and disappointed with life. The pain and hurt is so big it can consume your every waking second. But, dig deep, this is exactly when you need to stay connected. Go for coffee. Meet your friend for dinner. Talk on the telephone. Send WhatsApp messages, especially in those crazy moments when you feel you are falling off the edge of the world. Trust me, you will not regret opening up and reaching out. Women are great communicators, and together there really isn't anything we can't achieve.
Whatever you do, find time to create. Bake, cook, paint, drum, dance, sculpt, write, design, sew, knit, crochet.....whatever releases that wild woman spirit in you, do it. Stagnant energy will kill your soul. Move, do, be, carry on living....don't stand still.
Life isn't all that bad. Let your children see what an inspiring, shining example of how funky you are, how special you are and what creative energy can be unleashed when given an opening. If you can't tap into your creative side alone, search out a women's group who often meet to be creative together. Evening or morning classes can be a good way to meet new people as well as let your creative juices flow.
Use Social Media
If used wisely, social media groups can help in providing a wealth of advice and ideas. From which lawyer to choose to help reclaim failed alimony payments, to which homeopath to use for your child's latest tic or where to find cheap groceries - such groups can be an invaluable resource. So sign up for Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Snapchat and whatever else you can think of and reach out, join in. The hard truth is that this is the way forward, the way our kids are communicating, so if you can't beat them - join them.
Now this one is tricky because after a long day at work, preparing dinner and finishing homework, all I am usually fit for is bed! But remember, often the more you do, the more energy you have (I have never quite figured this one out, but it is true).
Try to allocate 20 mins (more if you can) to go for a walk or run, it will help you so much. If you can do this at least three times a week, that would be a great start. It will get your blood pumping and increase your serotonin levels to increase your positive cognitive energy as well as make you feel better about your body. Try also taking supplements, like Research Verified Omega-3 to give you that extra boost.
Find what works for you. Don't set your goals too high, just start and see what you can do.You are stronger than you think.
Natural Instinct and Your Inner Voice
Listen to your inner voice, your instinct, it knows everything. Ignore the external noise of negativity around you if it exists. Someone always has something to say about the way we live our lives. People can be very judgemental. How you live your life has nothing to do with anyone else and it is none of your business what other people think of you.
Don't waste energy worrying about if you are doing things 'right'. Truth is, there is no right way. There is your way, and it is right for you. So to all you single moms out there balancing work, home, children, and life, stop the guilt that eats into your heart when you realize how many hours you spend away from home or think that you could have done it better, bigger or more. Focus on the positive aspects of the strong life skills you are showing your children. Learnt behavior is stronger than anything that you will ever tell them. Don't doubt yourself, stop beating yourself up - you've got this, girlfriend!
Don't Underestimate Oxygen
Now this one is particularly important. Don't forget to breathe. Breathing is totally underrated. I am talking about big, really deep, stomach filling, huge breaths.
Breathing deeply not only keeps the blood pumping around your body, it also allows you those crucial few seconds we often need to stop the screamy words that regularly fall out of our mouth when we are tired and/or stressed. For added bonus points, throw in a positive mantra that my mom taught me “sunshine in (breath in) and greyness out (breath out)“, positive thinking never harmed anyone.
Being a single parent is a tough life challenge that can test the best of us. The good news is that you are not alone in your journey. There are millions of us out there. Reach out and connect with the world around you, you don't have to face this on your own. Time provides comfort in offering routine and a sense of stability, be patient and kind to yourself. There are many joys to be had along the way, keep your eyes open, it would be shame to miss them. So, next time when you feel like you're not quite enough - remember, for your children, your best is good enough. To them, you are their MOM and they would be lost without you.
“I didn't set out to be a single parent. I set out to be the best parent I can be....and that hasn't changed“.