A few weeks ago, we heard from 19 Incredible Single Moms About Overcoming Overwhelm. The advice was amazing so I thought I’d reach out to more single moms with a similar question. As expected, I received some fantastic words of wisdom from more amazing single moms.
When you are done reading, I’d love to hear your input!
Here is the question I asked:
What has been your biggest key to survival as a single mom?
VERONICA DAEHN, CREATOR OF SINGLE MOM WITH LOVE, FORMER SINGLE MOM
When I became a single mom, I had a 4-year-old and a 6-month-old, a full-time career and a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the suburbs (with a mortgage I couldn’t pay by myself).
I was overwhelmed.
But I was brave. And I believed in myself. That was the key to surviving, more than anything else: choosing to believe that failing was not an option.
So I did the best I could. I forgave myself. And I surrounded myself with as sturdy of a support system as I could. I will be eternally grateful to the friends I had then, the friends who stopped by unannounced to check on me, to bring me a coffee (or a bottle of wine), the friends who watched my kids overnight so I could go to a late show (music became my savior, too, in many ways), the friends who went to my divorce hearing with me, the friends who listened, who were present, who helped build me back up, who reminded me I was OK, we were OK, we were happy even, better off than ever before.
The support I found from my friends helped me figure out who I was, what values I had, what I wanted my life to look like. I found peace. I found hope. And then I found my husband.
Getting remarried isn’t something I thought I’d ever do, when my first marriage was ending. But then I met Kyle and for the first time I understood why people get married at all.
I’m no longer a single mom, but I’ll always remember that chapter, savor it even. Without that struggle, I wouldn’t have the family I have today. I wouldn’t be the mom, or the woman, I am today. I wouldn’t have the love I’m surrounded with daily. It’s a blessing, and we are all stronger than we know.
D. A. WOLF, MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT, FREELANCE WRITER, CREATOR OF DAILY PLATE OF CRAZY, REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR AT HUFFINGTON POST, SINGLE MOM OF 2 BOYS
- Do not expect “perfect” of yourself or your children. (It doesn’t exist.)
- Do not expect to “do it all.” (It’s impossible.)
- Stay open, stay flexible, stay brutally honest with yourself.
- Enlist help where you can, including the help of your children as part of the “team” that is your family.
- Use whatever communities you can – both real and virtual – to ease the stress and share ideas.
- Finances will become an increasing issue as children grow older. If there is a father in the picture, do what you can to enforce his financial follow-through.
- Prioritize – and this can be a wrenching challenge. (I’ve been dreadful at this, and my sons have had to remind me to take care of me.)
- The overwhelm will come and go. But the kids? They know who sticks by them, who loves unconditionally, and also constructively. It can be exhausting at times and a delight at others. I don’t regret a minute of it, but it’s important that you know that I did not choose to be a single / solo mother. It isn’t what I wanted; it is what I got. I also got two remarkable kids whom I love and respect and believe will become decent and honorable men.
The biggest key to survive as a single mother has been to nurture my own optimism. What helps me is to focus on the bright side of things, the fact that my daughter will soon be grown and that I have to take the opportunity to enjoy being with her as much as I can.
And even when I think there’s nothing to be cheerful for, if my child and I are healthy, I can always be grateful for that. Sometimes happiness has to be found all by ourselves and I learned to do it.
LINDSEY RENUARD, PUBLISHED AUTHOR & POET, WRITER AT DISHWATER DREAMS, SINGLE WORKING MOM
Since I have become a single mom, I have had a lot of new challenges to face. I get asked a lot how I cope with the challenges. The short answer is I have learned what my challenges really are.
A typical weekday goes something like this.
6am – Wake up. Shower, get dressed, make lunches.
7am – Wake the boys up and get them dressed and fed.
7:30 – Out the door to drop kids off at school. Hope I didn’t forget anything they needed.
8-5 – At the office.
5pm – Leave the office to pick kids up from school.
6pm – Depending on the day we run errands or go to karate or soccer
8pm – Get home, make dinner.
9pm – Kids in bath then start the bedtime fight
10pm – Both boys usually asleep by 10. Try to clean up some and get ready for the next day or skip picking up at all and fall into bed exhaused
12pm – Finally fall into bed myself if I didn’t collapse earlier
As you can see, there is no room to breathe. Somewhere in there I have to squeeze in exercise, grocery shopping, and playing with my kids. My challenges are not being lonely, finding a date, or really anything to do with anything outside this schedule and the two little boys I am raising.
Here are some facts you may not realize about single moms:
1. When I go grocery shopping my kids go with me. I am going to be the tired cranky mommy saying no or stop every 30 seconds. I have coupons too. A lot of them. When you glare at me in the checkout line, I refuse to notice.
2. If I blow you off because I say I am tired, I actually am tired. Actually, tired would be a lie. Overworked. Overburdened. Dead on my feet.
3. I want to say a sincere and loving thank you to all those who have offered to come over and socialize with me. I truly do appreciate and welcome your offers. However, at the end of a long day, sometimes the last thing I want to do after the boys are asleep is have to scramble around and try to make my apartment look decent enough for company and then entertain when all I am really thinking about is my bed.
4. If I seem frustrated or grumpy, I probably am. I never get enough sleep, and during the week I only get to see my kids when they are tired and cranky.
5. I can’t do it all. I act like I am superhuman because my kids need me to. I am their provider for everything day in and day out. Between taking care of the boys and work, I just don’t have time to get it all done. I will forever act like I can though. Its part of the job.
What can you do to help a single mom?
1. Volunteer to babysit. I am either with my kids or at work. I can’t afford to hire a babysitter. Give me a chance to go out and do something – or just stay home alone. I am never alone.
2. Clean something. Don’t make any comments about how messy things are or offer suggestions to improve the situation (unless you too are a single working mom). Just show up and help me do something. Clean the kitchen. Pick up toys (oh the agony). Put away laundry.
3. Want to be my hero but don’t have a lot of time? Take over bedtime one night. Spare me the battle. I do it every night. I accept food that all I have to do is heat up so I don’t have to cook. Save your coupons and give them to me.
As I said before, being superhuman (or at least acting like it) is part of the job of a single working mother. If you really want to be supportive, help me without making me feel less than superhuman. Don’t point out my failures and shortcomings. I know them better than anyone. Just help. Please realize that sometimes the best way to be supportive is to spend less time with me and more time with my kids. It’s not because I don’t want to hang out or I don’t want to talk, it’s because I sometimes need a break too. I hope things will get easier as my kids get older and can do more things for themselves, but at 4 and 7 years old, they are still pretty dependent on mom.
The biggest key to my survival as a single mom has been surrounding myself with a solid support network made up of family and friends. When I first stepped into the shoes of being a single mom I turned to family for comfort, I turned to my grandmother for insight, and to fellow single moms for advice. Each has played a vital role that has been essential to my journey. They have not only inspired me to be the best “mom” I can be, but have helped me maintain the perseverance to face the challenges of the modern single mom.
I believe a good support network is an important part of a solid foundation for all single moms. I strive to reach out to others who are either in my shoes, or starting their own journeys. Being a voice and lending shoulder is one of the reasons I started to blog about my life as a single mom. Telling my story, and my misadventures, is not only therapeutic, but a way to reach out to others and be a part of their extending support network.
CHRIS BENNOR, WIDOWED SINGLE MOM OF 2
Routines. Routines. Routines. Seriously, the more I standardize things at the house and reduce ‘surprises,’ the easier life is and the calmer the kids and I are. Routines, whether daily, weekly, monthly or yearly save us in all areas of our lives.
We know that Tuesdays are chicken night. We do a 5-minute cleanup of the living room before dinner. Homework is done at 4 p.m. They read at 8 p.m., I read to them at 8:30 p.m. Fridays are movie nights. I change the air conditioning/heater filters the first day of every 3rd month. I pay the bills on the 15th of every month. We get our flu shots all together in October and then go get ice cream.
Well, you see where this is going. Kids thrive on consistency, traditions, and routines and so do I. It’s funny, though, by standardizing these predictable activities, we really leave ourselves more open to grabbing new experiences because we know regular business is taken care of. Routines rock!
Putting my son’s needs first before everything else was definitely the biggest key to survival as a single mom. When I was getting divorced, I chose to strictly focus on how I can give him the best life possible and make it normal for him by creating opportunity rather than limitations.
Separating my pride from the process and making all my decisions based on my son’s perspectives helped direct all my actions and reactions to always be of benefit to him. This has been a driving factor for me in moving forward, bettering myself, and subsequently thriving at being a loving and caring mother to a very happy and emotionally stable son.
When I’m at my lowest lows, wallowing amid my own bubbling stew of self-pity, and pondering how much more my mind, body, and spirit can handle thrown at me, my thoughts inevitably shift to the one constant driving force in my life – my son. I must keep my shit together, if anything, for the sake of my son. A short-term pep talk ensues, a glance at his innocent face with bright eyes that don’t and shouldn’t know any pain and sadness in this world, not yet, and I’m refueled with the energy I need to get out bed, face the day, and maybe even put a smile on my face.
The critical piece to the notion that I should get my shit together for my kid, is that in order to really be there for him, in a positive way, is to make myself and my personal happiness a priority. So in a roundabout way, the focus on my son acts as a conduit to giving me that extra push to truly take care of myself. By giving myself the attention and care I need, the focus on enhancing happiness and positivity increases, and I become a better parent, a better person, and a better role model.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the effort that it takes though, and it’s embarrassing to admit how many times I cycle in and out of this thought process, and have to force myself to actively think it, repeat it, so that I believe it, and act it, even when I don’t want to. The days bring me down, the falls and the missteps interfere with my direct path from A to B, just like everyone else. But to keep myself healthy and happy and focused on jumping the hurdles and making it through the cloudy days with happiness and joy for myself and my son, is of utmost importance, and I strive to keep this at the forefront of my thoughts.
And for those days where I decide it’s OK to indulge in a little pity party, a good glass of wine, a few episodes of Sex and the City, and a solid sleep will do wonders to fill the gap.
The biggest key to survival as a single mom is having a plan and a support system.
SARAH BRANDT, FOUNDER OF OMG THERE’S THREE, SINGLE MOM OF TRIPLETS
The best thing I’ve done is make a disaster plan. I’m not talking about hurricanes and tornadoes (although probably a good idea), I’m talking about situations – big and little – that can really screw things up.
What am I willing to live without to pay for diapers or formula or clothes or an ER visit? What do I do if my kid gets sick and can’t go to daycare. What if I lose my job and can’t find another quickly? I developed a list of a wide range of situations and came up with many possible solutions. My list is no means comprehensive and I continue to add to it as events occur.
I didn’t realize how quickly I would use my disaster plan when I started making it. At just 6 weeks pregnant I found out I was having triplets! No, triplets never made the list, but I did have one called “Worst Case Scenario” – basically a plan to sell my house, gut my budget and move in with family. A little pre-planning meant I was able to make decisions quickly and limit the amount of stress my extreme situation was causing.
The biggest key to survival as a single mom for me was having a support system of people who were willing to listen. My family did not live near by, and as my kids have grown, they become increasingly challenging. Having friends who didn’t judge as I was blowing off steam has been a God send.
Sometimes you just need to unload. Don’t feel guilty about wanting a break from your kids, or about the days when you don’t haves many nice things to say about them. It’s totally normal. It does not make you a bad mom. It makes you human.
Always put God first in your life. I haven’t always done that and I can assure you, it makes a difference. Life is full of many challenges. My son was 11 months old and my daughter was 12 years old when I became a single mom. They are now 13 and 26. I can tell you there have been many challenges through those years.
Have I always made the right decisions? No, but I keep learning. Life is a journey. I have been blessed with great friends and a great family. I know that without them I would not have made it through some of those years. It’s amazing to me how God puts people in our life just when we need them.
I’m a very independent person, but I’m learning when someone offers help, take it. Also, if something can’t get done today, there is always tomorrow.
I turned 50 this year. That was a biggy for me. I think the biggest part about it is my life hasn’t turned out quite the way I thought or wished it had. But, my new goal is to make the best of every day and stop wasting time looking back on past failures. I want to be the best that I can be for my kids and myself.
Another thing, I have always tried to budget or live within my means. I try to set goals for projects at the house and also, save for trips that I want to take.
Don’t ever give up, when one door closes another always opens. A quote I like is “Life, It is not the years in you life, but the life in your years that count.”
I can sometimes get overwhelmed knowing that whatever decision I make will effect my whole family. When you’re the only one, you can’t blame it on anyone else. I’ve started trying to rely more on God to guide me and give the strength that I need. It’s amazing to me how things always work out.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
What has been your biggest key to survival as a single mom?
Please share in the comments!
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