You can’t pour from an empty cup, so as a parent you need to ensure you’re nourishing yourself before you try to nourish others.
Navigating Life as a Single Parent
Raising a child as the default parent, the one with primary custody and responsibility for the wellbeing of growing humans, is no easy task. Navigating life as a single parent involves balancing co-parenting, finances, schedules, your own wellbeing, and so much more.
Things to Consider as a Single Parent
You may feel like there’s no one to advocate for you as a single parent. Whether you’re just entering the waters of divorce or finally emerging as a freshly uncoupled individual, it can be helpful to consider the following.
Hire an Advocate
It’s important to have legal counsel on your side. Even in the most amicable of separations, a family law specialist can ensure you, your former partner, and any potential dependents are being treated fairly and are protected. An attorney can help you with child custody negotiations, division of assets, and alimony or child support. After your initial separation, it may be helpful to once again turn to a lawyer or mediator if you need to make changes to your custody arrangements; it can take stress off your shoulders to have someone you can rely on to organize the paperwork and court proceedings on your behalf.
Talk it Out
As a single parent, you may need someone to confide in or someone who can help you develop coping skills for your new life after separation. Additionally, your children are likely experiencing a lot of emotions as a result of divorce and can benefit from having a neutral party to talk to. Find a therapist for yourself and your children to turn to so you’re not overburdened with the aftermath of your divorce.
While it’s important for you to always be a listening ear when your children are willing to talk with you, you are not expected to be their only resource for emotional support. Even if your partner is still involved and also a safe person for your children to turn to, a trained professional will have more insight and tools for helping you and your children navigate divorce.
Common Behavioral Issues After Divorce
Feelings of guilt and shame after a divorce are common and normal. You don’t, however, have to hang on to those feelings forever. If you or your children experience the following during or after separation, don’t hesitate to seek support from a professional:
- Unrelenting anger
Find Your Network
You may feel isolated as a single parent. It can be lonely to spend the day working and your evenings caring for children. Or if it’s not your time to have your children, you may find yourself coming home to an empty house. That’s why it’s important to find ways to expand your personal network.
Time may feel like a limited resource, but you still need to reserve some for yourself. But what are some ways you can expand your social circle while still being present as a parent?
Join a gym
Fitness classes are an easy way to connect with people who share your interests. Plus, many gyms and recreation centers offer affordable childcare so you can attend classes if when you have your kids with you.
Start or join a social club
If you can’t find a book club, cooking club, walking club, or whatever-you-like-to-do club near you, start one of your own! Put the word out at work or via social media that you want to get together to watch your favorite show each week, cook your way through a recipe book, or hike each peak in your area. Some social clubs are perfect for gathering at home after the kids are in bed, so it’s a win-win when it comes to being affordable and convenient.
Time and financial constraints may make it more difficult to physically be out of the house, involved in activities to strengthen your relationship with friends and neighbors. Don’t let that keep you from being involved with your community it other ways, such as online forums or via apps. Look for a neighborhood Facebook group you can join to stay connected, start a Marco Polo group to chat with your friends, or join a forum to discuss your favorite past-times with like-minded individuals.
When you’re running the show alone, it can be overwhelming to maintain everyone’s schedules. From daycare drop and school drop off to playdates and dentist appointments, having even a semblance of a routine can feel impossible. However, stability in your life and the lives of your children are important after divorce.
Tips for Scheduling as a Single Parent
You may be the only adult in your house with your children, but you’re not the only adult in their lives. Rely on your proverbial village to help you raise your children, without feeling any guilt about doing so. There’s no rule that as a single parent you have to be the only person attending soccer games, parent-teacher conferences, or chauffeuring the kids to their activities and appointments.
Be brave and initiate conversations with other parents at school drop off or extracurricular activities. See if any other parents live near you and would be interested in carpooling to help save you time and stress each week. Carpooling is also a great way for your kids to develop relationships with others (both adults and playmates) they can learn to trust and rely on.
Swap childcare with friends
Even dual-income households can struggle to afford childcare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have quality assistance raising your children as a single parent. Swapping free childcare with neighbors or trusted friends can be mutually beneficial for working, single parents. It may be just for the days your kids are off school, or maybe it’s for after-school care before you get home from work. Whatever arrangement you need to make, don’t be afraid to reach out; you may be surprised to know there are other parents in situations similar to your own.
Calendar-sharing can be a lifesaver when you’re juggling schedules as a single parent. Use a scheduling app to color-code and share activities with anyone involved in raising your children. Be sure your former partner, grandparents, and other caregivers have access to see who needs to be where, and when. It not only helps to see everything laid out on the calendar, but it saves you time not having to individually update everyone about choir performances, doctor appointments, or homework deadlines for the kids.
Keep the kids involved
If your kids don’t have access to digital calendars yet, keep them involved in scheduling with a family calendar in a central location in your home. Let them see what activities they have coming up, and when they’ll be spending time with your former partner. This can teach them about responsibility, paving the way for them to learn about managing their time.
No matter what you’re experiencing as a single parent, chances are there is someone out there in a similar situation. Don’t be afraid to be authentic about what you’re going through, and you may be surprised to find out how many people are in your corner. Navigating life as a single parent is, undoubtedly, difficult. But it doesn’t have to be unbearable. You are worthy of the support of your loved ones and community, but sometimes you do have to ask for it.