Everyone knows that being a single mom isn’t for the faint of heart.
I mean, it’s a non-stop, constant piece that demands more of you than you even remotely thought was possible. It takes the “adulting” thing up a hundred notches, then blasts it through the roof to new dimensions that you had no idea even existed.
I’m lucky in this.
I was solo parenting for so long before my husband and I split up that I had a lot of practice. I also did the bulk of the bills, taking care of insurance, all of Moxie’s IEP stuff, health and dental checks, clothing purchases and so forth: I had little to adjust to when I divorced my husband.
But that’s not saying that I didn’t have to learn how to cope with being a single mom: I did. I am. This is far from over: I am daily learning how to survive and thrive as being the sole caregiver for my three kids.
There is a big difference, after all, between REALLY doing this completely on your own, and knowing that you have some one else there sometimes – probably sort of like how different it is when you rock climb solo (just you and your equipment), and when you go with someone else.
The first thing that comes to mind in how to cope with being a single mom is:
I’m using these photos that I took while at the beach recently for this post because it’s a reminder of how much organization it takes to do things, make something happen, go places, have order and happy kids.
This photo – an image of my 3 kids happily building sand stuff on the beach – equals the fact that I remembered to:
- charge the Olympus Tough waterproof camera. And download and clear the memory card
- pack the sand toys – and packed enough of the crucial pieces for all 3 of them (no fighting)
This one represents nutritious snacks that were made and packed with care.
It also represents my remembering to pay attention to the time to get them out of the water before they became overwhelmingly hangry.
I don’t know if “foresight” is the right word, really, or if it’s “planning” or just more organization. Whatever it is, it’s really important.
Take this beach trip for example.
If we are on the beach or in the water, and if Moxie or Mack has to poop (which has totally happened), I have to get all 3 kids out of the water and trudge over to the bathrooms. The bathrooms are usually far, and let me tell you, it is NO FUN dragging the two kids who don’t have to go to the bathroom clear out of the water and on up to the bathrooms to wait it out for their sibling.
I also have to leave our stuff unattended to on the beach, which always makes me nervous.
So, this foresight (or whatever it is) makes me remember things like the bathroom and purchase a portable potty (which I’m linking here in case you want to know a good one) and a shade tent (for pooping privacy).
I never thought of these things before I was a full-time solo mom. Never. Either I’d screw it up and we’d have to trudge to the bathrooms, or I’d have my husband or someone else with me.
Thinking of what can happen/could happen/has happened and preparing for it makes life happy for all of us.
We’re set: anyone (except me) can poop at any time!
You know all that stuff they say about “making time” for ourselves? It feels like an affront sometimes as a single mom, because I have such limited time, point blank, and a super-limited income. Plus, I just moved, so my networks are slim and my resources are not fully lined up. Childcare isn’t an option right now; how on earth would I get all that time for myself so that I can center myself and cope with everything?
For me, the answer is just to wake up earlier.
Either before the kids wake up or after they go to sleep would work really, but I’m a morning person now, so morning it is. I wake up early – and even earlier when I know I need more time to myself.
This used to seem stupid before I tried it. But now that I have, I see it’s like that adage of needing to pay yourself first. You just need to fill up your own gas tank before you can drive off to help someone else, put on your own oxygen mask first. Time alone is the juice that keeps the sauce flowing – and so I make it a priority (even when it means waking up at an ungodly 4 in the morning…).
I’ve gotta let the steam off!
I do that through the Beachbody exercise videos or Gaia – I can’t go to yoga classes in person yet (because … time, and also it’s waaaay more than a $9.99/month unlimited Gaia membership), but I can do these things and they make me feel a hell of a lot better.
They help me cope.
So much of my life lies in the mundane now. My focus is, more often than not, with what is immediately and directly in front of me: the laundry, the dishes, the meals to cook, the forms to sign, homework to help with, money to made/jobs to look for, and the things to figure out.
I know that I need to dream – dreaming is a huge way to cope.
I need to think of a future beyond what we live in a given moment, and visualize it.
I need to act on the fun things and the awesome opportunities all around us. I need this for my spirit – and I need this to inspire my kids and to allow zest to line our lives.
So, back to the beach analogy:
You’d think that waking up on a weekend morning and pushing myself to prepare, prepare, prepare and then load up the car and drive an hour and a half to the other side of the island (where it was sunny that day) to schlep a bunch of stuff to the beach – PLAY hard and well for a chunk of the day then do it all in reverse go back home wouldn’t be an answer to coping as a single mom, would it?
But it is. For me, it is. It keeps the dreams real and alive and moving forward. It keeps the fun happening and the laughter vivacious and bright. It’s a method of coping and moving above and beyond the core of what is challenging in this for me.
How to Cope as a Single Mom
Coping will look different for different people, and I think also, the further we all go down this path, the easier it gets and the more that may be added/subtracted or swapped out to the list.
I think one of the main things that I try to keep in mind as I move through all the challenges and changes is that my kids are biggest investment.
They are my gift to the world.
As Khalil Gibran says in The Prophet,
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I aim to be that stable bow.