The journey will be tough, but it will be worth it.
It has always boggled my mind how easily people can become parents. We need approval and are regulated for virtually every other aspect of our lives, yet bringing a child into this world requires no screening, schooling, certification, testing, or regulation. Even when we plan and prepare for parenthood and raising a family with a partner, life often throws us a curveball, and things can change dramatically overnight. When relationships fall apart, a spouse/partner dies, or the “sperm donor” runs for the hills and abdicates all responsibility for a pregnancy, a woman may be faced with the prospect of raising her child(ren) as a single parent.
I can write with authority on the subject, having experienced this firsthand. After six years of marriage, two children whom I had raised with their father, a sister-in-law, a mother-in-law and a live-in housekeeper, I was suddenly faced with the daunting task of doing it all on my own post separation. I was an emotional wreck; my children were too young to understand why their father had left, and I had to hold it all together while trying not to fall apart. It is within this context and against this backdrop that I want to share 10 things a single mother should know.
- Single parenting is challenging. You are mother, father, mentor, psychologist, cook, cleaner, breadwinner, protector, disciplinarian, chauffeur, entertainer, and often the “bad guy” who made daddy leave. It is not the life that you may have signed up for, but when we bring children into this world, we need to do our best for them regardless of our personal circumstances.
- You will need a village. My mother and my best friend saw me through the early years and provided me and the children with much-needed help and support. There will be days when you feel you can’t go any further and your village or tribe will carry you when you feel you can’t carry yourself.
- Take time to fill your cup; you will be no good to anyone if you’re running on empty. Total self-sacrifice and always denying your needs for the sake of your children’s are not sustainable. Take time, once in a while, to nurture and take care of yourself.
- While single parenting does not leave time for much, it is normal to crave companionship, emotional and other support; however, be careful who you bring into your space and expose your children to. Until and unless you are sure that a new partner is willing and suitable to be a part of your children’s lives, keep your private life private and prioritise the safety and happiness of your children.
- Try your best to co-parent with your ex and to be on the same page. Try to put your problems aside and cooperate when it comes to what is best for the children, and save your venting, frustration and berating your ex for your friends. Don’t use your children to get back at your ex—your kids want to love you both. Divorce and separation from being with both parents are painful enough, so avoid using children to manipulate your ex—you will just hurt and confuse them more. If he/she is willing to spend time and will not physically or mentally abuse or harm your children, allow him/her to be a part of their lives.
- Don’t let your ex get away with not doing his/her fair share. Women are quick to want full custody mostly to punish their exes. This generally means that the woman will end up taking on all of the responsibilities, leaving the ex to forge new relationships, have other children, progress their careers and spoil your children to compensate for their neglect. If he/she was a good parent, albeit a lousy partner, don’t deny them their right to fulfill their duty to help with raising the children.
- Your kids did not ask to be here or to be in the situation—you are the adult, and you are responsible for the social, physical, and emotional well-being of your children. Step up and do right by them.
- At the best of times, it will be a thankless job, and you will feel like no matter how hard you try, how much you give or sacrifice, it is not enough.
- You will feel guilty for all of the things you will be unable to do or give, and you will make mistakes, but be gentle on yourself for doing the best you can.
- Single parenting may be the hardest thing you will ever do, but if you do it right, it will absolutely be worth it. Parenting is a huge responsibility, and while there are no guarantees of the outcome, as single parents, we must endeavour to raise healthy, responsible, respectful and successful children.
As with most things in life, with parenting, you reap what you sow. Kids grow up, they become discerning, and with maturity they develop wisdom. The lessons you taught and the discipline you instilled are embedded in their minds, albeit at the time it seemed to fall on deaf ears. There is a lot that I could have done better and differently, but even with all of my imperfections as a single parent, I did my best to do right by them, and every sacrifice, challenge, and stress was worth it.