While being a single mom definitely has its perks (no TV remote wars or toothpaste cap fights, no snoring to blame for keeping you up half the night, and no grown man’s dirty clothes to pick up off the floor), there are definitely challenges that go along with the territory. Married women sometimes scoff at single moms’ complaints and their argument is they have to do it all, including catering to their man. But let’s get real. As a single mom, there is no one to give you even a teeny weeny five minute break from the kids, no one to consult about parenting issues, and no one to turn to for protection when you hear a bump in the night. Sometimes you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.
That’s why you need to build a positive life for you and your children filled with support and boundaries. Need a single mom life makeover? Start here with these seven steps toward success:
- Get grateful. Single mom self-pity won’t get you anywhere except stuck and you need to move forward. You can’t change the past, but you can ruin your present by focusing on the negative. Divorce recovery or grief groups for you and your children can offer healing from the tragedy that divorce or death of your spouse has caused in your lives, so take the time to deal with your feelings first. Then it’s time to move on by counting your blessings. One great way to do this is to write down a handful of things you are grateful for each day in a gratitude journal. This practice can change your perspective, which will change your life.
- Focus on your priorities. As painful as it is to feel the loneliness in your situation and want an escape hatch to numb the pain—whether through alcohol, relationships, or busyness—your children are your number one priority now, not your boyfriend or even your social life. What do you need to do to get yourself pulled together so you can be there for your children? Figure it out, and then restructure your life around meeting your children’s needs first.
- Learn to say no. You cannot do everything (even fun things!), especially as a single mom. In fact, now you have a built-in excuse to say no. Use the single mom card if you must, but remember that “no” is a complete sentence and practice saying it. What areas of your life are unmanageable? Can you apply a “no” there? Think about a commitment or request that is unrealistic for you to fulfill without throwing other parts of your life off balance and, starting there, put up a boundary.
- Live within your means. In order to take control of your budget, you need to face reality first. Are your expenses exceeding your income every month? How many unnecessary credit card purchases do you make? Track your spending habits every day for a month so you can determine where the problem areas are. Next, you will need to decide where you can cut back and make some sacrifices in order to get your income and spending in sync. Staying on top of your budget will require discipline and perhaps saying no to some of your kid’s requests, but you will feel more confident about having your finances in order.
- Join a support group. You cannot be a successful single mom in isolation. Although most single moms have little free time, your emotional well-being depends on connecting with others you can turn to for love, comfort, and support, so the time you put into a group is worth the reward of fellowship. Churches that offer single parent and divorce recovery groups are good places to start. Also check out parents without partners at www.parentswithoutpartners.org and other online meet-up groups in your area. Even better, you can talk to other single moms from work or your children’s schools and form your own group.
- Decide what to let go. Start with perfection and then move on to expectations. In order to live a sane single parent life, you will need to let go of perfectionist thinking and accept some chaos here and there. It’s perfectly fine to let the laundry pile up, relax your household cleaning standards, let the dishes sit overnight, and bring store bought cookies to the next event—especially if doing so will buy you a little peace of mind. Likewise, let go of your own unrealistic expectations. As a working single mom, you cannot compare yourself to a Pinterest crafty stay at home mom. Take off the superwoman cape and learn to keep it simple in order to keep your sanity.
- Find Your Happy Zone. While your top priority should be your children, it’s important that you take some time out each week to cultivate your personal interests. What did you love to do as a kid? Get back to that! Get out on a Saturday morning when the kids are with their dad for a hike with friends, form a writers’ group and meet at a coffee house once a month, learn a new skill by taking a vocational class, dust off your sewing machine, or find your box of watercolors paints in the closet. When you take time to do what you love, you will not only set a good example for your children about creating your own happiness, you will also show the naysayers that being a single mom is not so bad after all!