How to Survive as a New Single Mother

Whether you are a single parent because of a relationship breakdown, an unexpected pregnancy, or a single mother by choice you will face additional challenges parenting alone.  Even the death of a partner, although not traditionally seen as “single parenting”, creates another unique set of challenges in parenting.

You’re usually in a better position if you’ve had time to anticipate being a single parent, plan ahead and make some decisions on how you want to make this work.  It is harder if you suddenly find yourself managing as a single parent, because a relationship has suddenly ended.  You are not only dealing with the shock of the break-up, but trying to work out how you are going to manage.

You need to assume that you are going to be solely responsible for your child/children until they are approximately 20, and are financially independent.  There are some practical things to consider with single parenting.

  • Look after yourself! It’s really hard to make time for yourself, especially with a new baby, but make sure you are eating properly, and try to get naps when your baby is sleeping to make up for lost sleep other times.  As your baby gets older, it will get a bit easier to find “me” time.
  • If you are pregnant, check out family leave provisions from your employer, and what you need to be eligible. If there are no family leave allowances, work out how you can take time off for the birth and how much time you will be able to take before having to go back to work.
  • If your marriage/relationship is ending, try to take some days off work to catch your breath, have a good cry and work out your next steps.
  • Start checking out childcare options near your home or work, depending on what is most convenient for you. Childcare near your work might be a good option for a very young baby, if you are planning to breastfeed/express milk during the day.  If you have long commuting times between home and work, a childcare near work means the baby will spend less time in childcare and more with you.
  • Research government subsidies and allowances available to single parents in your state.  Even if you only access them for a short time, until your circumstances improve, they are worth using to help you in difficult times.
  • If your kids are school aged, sign them up for an after school activity or class. Then you can drop them off at the activity, and have an hour or so to yourself before picking them up again.  Try to avoid jamming your free hour full of domestic chores, and focus instead on doing something for yourself.
  • Work out your budget to make sure you can afford everything, and if possible you can have some money aside for emergencies.
  • Will your work schedule fit in with single parenting? Is there flexibility or do you need to consider a change?
  • Create a network of fellow single parents, they can be great support and back-up when you need a sympathetic person. Also work out who your emergency contacts should be, and programme them into your phone.
  • On-line forums and blogs for single parenting are a great source of information and support, and you can access them from home when you have brief moments free. It’s always good to be able to chat with others dealing with similar “stuff”, get advice and suggestions and be reassured you’re not alone.
  • Babysitters are important so you can have a break and some time out, so make sure you have one or two people who can help out with babysitting.
  • You’re in sole charge, there’s no one else to take over when you or the kids are having a bad day. It’s okay to just go and hide in the bathroom for a couple of minutes to give yourself a break.  Don’t stay in there too long though, or the kids will be knocking on the door demanding your attention again!
  • It’s okay if you don’t get it right all the time. Take 10, take a deep breath and plan to do better next time.
  • Compromise! Sometimes the house won’t be tidy when you leave for work in the morning (okay, more than sometimes ….) but that’s the compromise we have to make.  As long as the kids are fed, safe and delivered to daycare or school, you’ve done well.  The housework (sadly) will still be there later.
  • You will always get people telling you they are a single parent this week because their husband/wife is away for work for a few days and how terribly hard it is for them to do everything. Smile nicely and take a deep breath – they don’t “get” it, and there’s no point trying to convince them that a few days does not qualify them for understanding!
  • Set ground rules with your ex. Get some legal advice promptly.  Even if the break-up is by mutual arrangement, you need to make sure you have everything arranged legally and custody arrangements set down.  It is much better to have independent advice and support in case the situation gets difficult.
  • Remember that the problem is between you and your ex-partner, keep any animosity there and do not impose it on your children. If you need to vent, find friends or adults in the family who can support you through this.  Your kids are dealing with huge changes in their lives too, they do not need their parents dumping their anger or bitterness on them too.
  • Emotions can get in the way of making sensible decisions very easily!  If you have a difficult relationship with your ex, communicate by email rather than talking.  Write up your email, save a draft and come back to it a few hours later or the next day to check it is written without anger and that you are comfortable with what it says, before you send it.
  • Shared parenting schedules can get complicated, so having an email record of what is agreed means you can check back to make sure you have understood the arrangements correctly.

Some additional good resources and articles about single parenting can be found at http://singlemoms.org

Despite the doom-and-gloom predictions at times in the media about the disadvantages of being a child raised by a single parent, don’t beat yourself up about it.  As long as your kids are well cared for, know they are loved and are secure, you are doing a good job.    Your kids will (eventually!) see you are independent and accomplished, and able to run a household, bring home a paycheck, and take excellent care of your kids.

Whether you are a single parent because of a relationship breakdown, an unexpected pregnancy, or a single mother by choice you will face additional challenges parenting alone.  Even the death of a partner, although not traditionally seen as “single parenting”, creates another unique set of challenges in parenting.

You’re usually in a better position if you’ve had time to anticipate being a single parent, plan ahead and make some decisions on how you want to make this work.  It is harder if you suddenly find yourself managing as a single parent, because a relationship has suddenly ended.  You are not only dealing with the shock of the break-up, but trying to work out how you are going to manage.

You need to assume that you are going to be solely responsible for your child/children until they are approximately 20, and are financially independent.  There are some practical things to consider with single parenting.

  • Look after yourself! It’s really hard to make time for yourself, especially with a new baby, but make sure you are eating properly, and try to get naps when your baby is sleeping to make up for lost sleep other times.  As your baby gets older, it will get a bit easier to find “me” time.
  • If you are pregnant, check out family leave provisions from your employer, and what you need to be eligible. If there are no family leave allowances, work out how you can take time off for the birth and how much time you will be able to take before having to go back to work.
  • If your marriage/relationship is ending, try to take some days off work to catch your breath, have a good cry and work out your next steps.
  • Start checking out childcare options near your home or work, depending on what is most convenient for you. Childcare near your work might be a good option for a very young baby, if you are planning to breastfeed/express milk during the day.  If you have long commuting times between home and work, a childcare near work means the baby will spend less time in childcare and more with you.
  • Research government subsidies and allowances available to single parents in your state.  Even if you only access them for a short time, until your circumstances improve, they are worth using to help you in difficult times.
  • If your kids are school aged, sign them up for an after school activity or class. Then you can drop them off at the activity, and have an hour or so to yourself before picking them up again.  Try to avoid jamming your free hour full of domestic chores, and focus instead on doing something for yourself.
  • Work out your budget to make sure you can afford everything, and if possible you can have some money aside for emergencies.
  • Will your work schedule fit in with single parenting? Is there flexibility or do you need to consider a change?
  • Create a network of fellow single parents, they can be great support and back-up when you need a sympathetic person. Also work out who your emergency contacts should be, and programme them into your phone.
  • On-line forums and blogs for single parenting are a great source of information and support, and you can access them from home when you have brief moments free. It’s always good to be able to chat with others dealing with similar “stuff”, get advice and suggestions and be reassured you’re not alone.
  • Babysitters are important so you can have a break and some time out, so make sure you have one or two people who can help out with babysitting.
  • You’re in sole charge, there’s no one else to take over when you or the kids are having a bad day. It’s okay to just go and hide in the bathroom for a couple of minutes to give yourself a break.  Don’t stay in there too long though, or the kids will be knocking on the door demanding your attention again!
  • It’s okay if you don’t get it right all the time. Take 10, take a deep breath and plan to do better next time.
  • Compromise! Sometimes the house won’t be tidy when you leave for work in the morning (okay, more than sometimes ….) but that’s the compromise we have to make.  As long as the kids are fed, safe and delivered to daycare or school, you’ve done well.  The housework (sadly) will still be there later.
  • You will always get people telling you they are a single parent this week because their husband/wife is away for work for a few days and how terribly hard it is for them to do everything. Smile nicely and take a deep breath – they don’t “get” it, and there’s no point trying to convince them that a few days does not qualify them for understanding!
  • Set ground rules with your ex. Get some legal advice promptly.  Even if the break-up is by mutual arrangement, you need to make sure you have everything arranged legally and custody arrangements set down.  It is much better to have independent advice and support in case the situation gets difficult.
  • Remember that the problem is between you and your ex-partner, keep any animosity there and do not impose it on your children. If you need to vent, find friends or adults in the family who can support you through this.  Your kids are dealing with huge changes in their lives too, they do not need their parents dumping their anger or bitterness on them too.
  • Emotions can get in the way of making sensible decisions very easily!  If you have a difficult relationship with your ex, communicate by email rather than talking.  Write up your email, save a draft and come back to it a few hours later or the next day to check it is written without anger and that you are comfortable with what it says, before you send it.
  • Shared parenting schedules can get complicated, so having an email record of what is agreed means you can check back to make sure you have understood the arrangements correctly.

Despite the doom-and-gloom predictions at times in the media about the disadvantages of being a child raised by a single parent, don’t beat yourself up about it.  As long as your kids are well cared for, know they are loved and are secure, you are doing a good job.    Your kids will (eventually!) see you are independent and accomplished, and able to run a household, bring home a paycheck, and take excellent care of your kids.