Life After Labor: The Stress of Being a Single Mom
Mother, father, friend, teacher, cook, housekeeper, entertainer, employee. The list goes on.
You wear more costumes than Lady Gaga dons in a two-hour concert.
Doing it all on your own can make you feel helpless, especially if you don’t have family to lean on. The good news? You’re not alone. Although it feels like you are, there are more than fourteen million other women out there battling the trials of raising children without a partner. If you’re conquering all the demands of being a single mom AND dealing with the emotional aftermath of a relationship breakup or divorce, it can be even more difficult to find balance in your life. But as a mom, you are willing to do what it takes. And whether it’s one kid or four, you need superhuman abilities to make it work. So why is it that people still have the nerve to tell you your children will probably end up drunk, drugged, violent and in jail? Or pregnant and perpetuating the cycle. Not to mention the media claims that single mothers are to blame for all that’s wrong in the world.
Trashing bras in the ’60s may have called women to unite and make strides in the workplace, but it only set them back at home. It created the monster of the supermom who could work full time only to come home, cook dinner and put her kids to bed. It’s caused a guilt for not stacking up and a struggle to do it all alone. This just in: it’s possible to do it all alone and still be a healthy individual. And it’s certainly okay to ask for help.
“Being the superhero mom and doing everything themselves isn’t a good approach. They have to realize they can’t be everything to everyone. It’s important they give themselves room to slip up once in awhile, as opposed to expecting themselves to be perfect,” says Brett Blumenthal, founder of Sheer Balance, which helps people find a balance between all the demands in their lives.
We sat down with Blumenthal and asked for her advice on how single moms can find the balance in their lives and make it all work. Here are seven tips:
1. Move closer to family: If a mother has a close connection with her family, she should rely on them. If a child’s world revolves around Mom, it can be very limiting for both of them socially. Expanding this world to other family members strengthens the support that both receive. It might make sense if finances are really tight that Mom looks for a job in closer vicinity to her family so the family can be part of her network in helping take care of the kids. Family doesn’t expect to be paid and grandparents can’t have grandkids around enough.
2. Schedule a date: Just like children need structure so do adults. You can’t ever underestimate scheduling your life a little. The more Mom can say, “I’m prioritizing a date on Saturday night” (whether it be a date with a man, a date with the girls or a date with herself), the more of a priority it will become that she has that outlet every two weeks or so. It will become a part of the child’s understanding of who their mom is. And the more structure Mom can provide for herself, the more structure the child will understand. As we know, without structure, it can be really detrimental to a child’s development. The more regular Mom can make it, the more used to it the child will get so it will become a part of life and understood.
3. Find single mom MeetUp groups: If you can’t reach out to family, you can find other moms in the same situation in your area online. Venting to each other can be cathartic and make you feel less alone.
4. Join a play group: Moms are joining forces to rotate watching the kids so that each mom gets time off. This is also a great outlet for socialization for both the mother and child to develop friendships.
5. Tap into your child’s interests: Getting involved with a child’s school or extracurricular programs encourages their development, but also provides socialization with other adults which is really important for you.
6. Take advantage of religious programs: Lots of religious outlets provide a natural support system to single moms and their children, and give them the community aspect they need or crave.
7. Work out: Many gyms have gotten familiar with the fact that there are moms that have their kids all day so they have provided joint classes and daycare programs within the workout facility. This allows Mom to maintain a healthier regiment and gives her the ability to have her child close by, but take an hour for herself.
Those who put single moms down for trying and dropping the ball sometimes have clearly never been in that position themselves. It’s easy to make judgments about others, a lot harder to actually envision what someone is going through. We’ve come so far as a society over the last hundred years, but yet can’t seem to master the basics of human consideration. Gay marriage, anyone? The family unit is no longer dominated by a mother, father, 2.5 children, and a dog. What children need is love, guidance and structure, not necessarily a father figure.
“What’s important is not whether they are raised by one or two parents. It’s how good is the relationship with the parent, how much support they’re getting from that parent and how harmonious is the environment,” says fatherhood expert Michael Lamb, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge in England.
The statistics that highlight the negative are staggering, but there’s also a lot of proof of the good that can come from children raised by single mothers. To name a few: President Barack Obama, Oscar winner Julia Roberts, Peabody Award winner Ed Bradley and Grammy winner Christina Aguilera.
You may be surprised to learn what the greatest advantage of being a single mom is. It’s actually the very thing that causes you to stay awake all night worrying. Drum roll, please. You’re doing it all on your own! That takes an incredible amount of strength and you should be proud.
So while every day is overwhelming, it’s crucial to carve out time for you. You haven’t gotten to enjoy the excitement of dating and being single again. You’re lucky if you get enough free time to take a bath instead of a shower. That tub wastes precious time filling up.
“Building in alone time is so important. They don’t often consider it because they think they have to be everything for their child, but it’s almost more beneficial if a single mom gets a sitter to watch her kids for a couple of hours every week to build in alone time to rejuvenate. The more that one does that, the more they’ll be able to take on the stress they have to contend with on a daily basis,” Blumenthal says.
So when someone tells you a child without a father is doomed, feel free to brag about your son or daughter’s latest accomplishment. It’s only natural to dwell on this fear that raising your kids without a father will somehow screw them up. In reality, you’re building stronger individuals by putting your own survival skills to work. Having doubts? Just look at that smile on their faces and know that despite the odds being stacked against you, you put it there.
Single moms, strike back! Tell us what negative criticism from others really bothers you and how you respond to it. Tell us your stories of finding balance in your lives and doing it all with a smile!
By Morgan Vines for BounceBack