What special skills do single moms have that new moms would benefit from knowing?
There seems to an annual tradition of articles debating whether or not it is best for moms to work or stay at home with their children. Many of these debates quickly degrade to a competition of which mom is better, the one who stays at home or the one who pursues a career. If you are the single mother to a child with special needs you are more likely to have to work because if the additional costs of the endless co-pays for hundreds of doctor visits, medications, medical equipment, thousands of hours of therapies and the endless list of things your insurer thinks are uncovered or unnecessary. So perhaps before denigrating a working single mother, think about what you know, even in its most basic form, about the family unit before you chastise that mother for working and realize that this decision may not have been a choice, but the only option to be able to provide for her child.
Creating a budget was always my best skill in single parenting.
And not just with money.
Everything, from time to expenses to chores, is limited in a single parent home. You have to plan your meals out for the week to create your grocery shopping list. You have to subtract your bills from your paycheck before they are due so you know what's left over. You have to organize help from the kids so that everything gets done. You have to be honest with yourself about what you are capable of, what you need to let go of, and what you are going to need to ask help over. And you can't slack off or it builds up against what you have available. Single parenting is a really hard job, but with planning - and budgeting - you can get anything done. Oh, and you'll look like superwoman while you're doing it. :-)
One thing that all moms can benefit from is learning to pick your battles.
As a single mom, you don't have anyone to tag-team with...it's just you. You can't allow yourself to get stressed because your little one won't put his toys away. My time with my Peanut is limited and if one out ten times, he doesn't want to clean up...I don't make a big deal out of it. I've realized that the bigger deal I make, the more he refuses. If I ignore him, he eventually cleans up. I don't want my precious time with Peanut to be filled with battles. I want our time together to be filled with laughter and love.
Making new friends and building a growing support system is a special skill anyone can benefit from. I learned to overcome my shyness and ask for other mom´s phone numbers and make the first move to makes us meet again. This way, I find new friends for both me and my child.
I also learned that offering myself to help first is key in receiving help. Whenever I can, I offer myself to babysit for others and end up with a ¨credit¨ of assistance for later.
We live in a big and scary world. It is sometimes overwhelming to make decisions regarding what is best for our kids. As an only parent, 100% of the decisions made for my children are made by me. When my children were small, I was quick to second guess myself. Was I making the right choices? How did I know that what I decided was really best for them?
As a single mom and an only parent, I had to learn to trust myself and trust my instincts. Every child and every family is different. I knew that there was no way I would ever intentionally put my children in harms way, so I needed to trust that the choices I was making were always in my children's best interest.
As a new mom, it is important to trust yourself. Trust that feeling in your gut or that voice in the back of your head. You are doing the best you can, and that is good enough.
One thing I struggle with as a single parent is consistency. When there are two parents, you get to do the good cop bad cop thing – one of you can be a bit of a softie, safe in the knowledge that the other can take a firmer hand. When you’re on your own, you have to play both roles at once – you have to be the understanding friend, and at the same time the disciplinarian. This can be difficult for everyone.
My advice, (although I’ve always found it hard to do myself!), is to be really clear both with your children and with yourself, on what exactly your role is, what you want your parenting ethos to be, and then to try and be consistent in your approach. This is hugely important for single parents but also for couples - being clear and consistent and presenting a united front as parents is crucial.
Of course as a single parent with a million things to juggle at once this isn’t always easy!
Most single moms seem to have perfected the art of hiding their emotions from their kids. We are only human. Our hearts break...we cry buckets- oftentimes in the bathroom, without our children knowing. We have to be the bastion of emotional strength for our kids, as they have nobody to look up to but us. When we're having a bad day, we can't just sulk and lock ourselves up in the bedroom. We have chores to do and our kids' needs- emotional and physical- to attend to. There's nobody else we can tag to be our substitute even for a few hours.
I know its not so much a skill, but its incredibly important that you are and remain in good health. When you are sick, you have to suck it up. There is no one else to take care of the kids. They don't understand that you cant carry them, of play with them or maybe even leave the bathroom.
Try to have backup for any and every situation but remember, no matter what, you are the one they want. Ask for help, don't wait for someone to offer it. I'm a single mom (by choice) to twin boys. I've learn to ask more now. I didn't turn down offers to help, but its only recently that I started to outright ask. People will say no if they can't but Im amazed at how many do help.
Most other advice applies to any parent, single or not, about patience, consistency etc.
As a new mom, I was very reluctant to accept help from anyone (except my own mom), as I really did not trust anyone with my precious little baby. As a single mom (with a great relationship with my kids' dad), I need not only to accept assistance, but also to ask for it from time to time. Even something as simple as running to the store for milk can be complicated when you have three kids between 2 and 8. My circle of support includes my parents and siblings (my sister to whom I am very close lives 12 hours away), my parents, my in-laws (with whom I remain very close), my neighbors and friends. Sometimes I need someone to meet the older two off the bus or to put away the winter clothes; sometimes it's just enough knowing that these people care about me and my kids (and also their dad).