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The 5 Parenting Tips I Wish I Knew as a Single Mom

The Mighty logo The Mighty 12/30/2019 Sylvia Smith
a man and a woman standing in a room: a woman in a bathrobe holding her son in the kitchen © The Mighty a woman in a bathrobe holding her son in the kitchen

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Are you a new single mother? Perhaps you’re expecting your first child and your spouse bailed on you. Maybe your partner passed away or there is some other reason why you’re heading into raising children solo. Whatever the case, I’m not going to lie to you — single parenting is a wild ride, much wilder than I was expecting back when I was still with my children’s father. It takes discipline, strength and has a heck of a learning curve. But if I can do it, you can do it too.

Whether you are recently out of a marriage or your partner split the moment the strip turned pink, being a single mom is one of the biggest challenges you will ever take on. It’s a nail-biting adventure, but definitely an adventure worth having. Here are five single parenting tips I learned from many years of solo parenting.

1. Routines are everything.

You may or may not have gathered this by now during your journey in single parenting, but children thrive on routines. When my daughter knew that every Monday was her drama lessons and Thursday she would have playdates with her friends, she grew to look forward to those days. Your child will thrive when they have set mornings, mealtimes, bedtime routines, childcare appointments and structured playdates. These routines and schedules can help your children understand your expectations of them, such as doing chores and homework. It can also establish great habits like brushing and flossing their teeth. As your kids get older, their routines will change. As long as you have kept up with their weekly schedule throughout their lives, they will have a better understanding of time management, responsibilities and healthy habits.

Not only are routines great for kids, but they’re also great for single moms. Routines ensure that you can schedule your week in a way that helps you tackle work, social engagements, time with your kids and other responsibilities…with time left to spare for yourself, of course!

2. You have to be a priority in your life.

I remember growing up and my mom would be dressed in old leggings and oversized, secondhand T-shirts. Her hair would be thrown up into a bun, while my brother and I were dressed in brand new clothes and were offered the world on a platter, so to speak. My mother was a beautiful woman, but she never took time for herself. After having my own daughter, I finally understood why — mom guilt. She made the same mistake I did as a new mother: believing that making yourself a priority is selfish. After all, if you have time to spare, shouldn’t you be devoting it to your child? If you have extra money to spend, why not make them smile? Putting your child before yourself is deeply ingrained in all parents. It is not a bad thing, but neither is self-care. Moms need to take the time to pamper themselves. This could mean getting up earlier or going to bed later, or making good use of a babysitter every month to ensure that you’re able to read, practice hobbies you love, take a bubble bath, get dolled up, or go get a message. Don’t feel bad for taking the time to pamper yourself. If you are well-rested, rejuvenated and in a good mental headspace, you will be able to be a better mom to your child.

3. Budget like your life depends on it.

As of 2017, the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 years old rested at a whopping $233,610. Now, I don’t know about you, but I definitely didn’t have that kind of money laying around when I gave birth to my daughter. Raising a child in a single-income household is difficult. Studies show that mothers experience a 25-50 percent loss in income after getting divorced or separating from their spouse. This is why budgeting is such an essential tip for single parenting. Make a list of your income and expenses (ensure you have set aside “fun money” and savings into your monthly expenses, if possible) and measure that list against how much money you are bringing in every month. By creating and sticking to your budget, you’ll give yourself one less thing to worry about each month.

4. Guilt will only hold you back.

I touched on this a little bit in my second single parenting tip, but guilt is deeply ingrained in us as parents. We feel guilty when we buy something for ourselves instead of our kids. We feel guilty when our child is upset when we can’t give them the moon and the stars, and we feel especially guilty for wanting time off from our parenting duties. But the truth is, guilt isn’t going to get you anywhere. The next time you are feeling guilty or beating yourself up over a desire or decision you made, ask yourself, “Who is my guilt helping?”

5. Have a good support system.

The support I received from family and friends while I was raising my daughter was invaluable, especially in her younger years. In fact, studies show that support from friends and family during traumatic times can significantly lower psychological distress. But here’s the key — your friends and family can’t help you if you don’t reach out. Raising my daughter alone was a large point of pride for me. I didn’t ask for single parenting, but when it came a calling I was ready for it. I wanted everyone to know that I could do it all on my own. And I could do it on my own, but it was exhausting. When I finally swallowed my pride and asked my parents to babysit, vented to my friends about my anxiety and utilized the support system of people who loved and cared for me, parenting became a much happier ballgame.

Single parenting is tough but so rewarding. As a mom, it’s important to keep up with your kid’s routines since this will give them structure. Self-care is also important for your mental health. Surround yourself with a good support system and last but not least, enjoy your kids while you have them.

Related video: Try these parenting hacks to make life a little easier (provided by WZZM-TV Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek)

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