Divorce, even when it's the right thing, is always devastating. But as hard and messy as getting divorced has been, the thing that I've always been certain of is that my kids are counting on me. I am their mom, and even as a single parent, I've always known that I can't ever let them down.
There are millions of single mothers traveling this rough road all over the world. There are 12 million single parent homes in the United States and 84% of those are single mother families. While the median income for married couple families is $84,000 a year, nearly half of single mother families have an annual income of less than $25,000. To say it's not easy being the sole provider and care giver doesn't even begin to describe the daily struggle of making ends meet and raising children alone. And yet I, along with so many other moms out there, keep digging deep because I know that it's up to me to give them the best childhood and brightest future I can.
Single moms are some of the toughest people I know! We do brutally difficult things on a daily basis and we sacrifice so much, but we do it because we know that our kids deserve the best we have to give. Being a single mom has taught me how to be strong.
I've been surviving this single parenting gig for a while now and while I'm a long way from having things figured out, there's a few things I know to be true. Here are 6 Parenting Hacks from a Single Mother that can make all parent's lives a little easier.
It doesn't Have to Be All or Nothing
For a long time I felt bad because I couldn't do all the things I wanted to for my kids. But I've realized as a single parent that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You get credit every time you do something, even if it isn't everything you'd like to do. I wish I could volunteer in my kids' classrooms at school, but since I can't, I give myself credit for chaperoning a field trip once or twice a year.
I can't give my kids everything, even if they do deserve it, because I just don't have the money, time, and energy to do it all. The key is to do what you can and give yourself credit for it. My kids don't get to take all the lessons or join all the teams they'd like to, and I can't give them all the parties and play dates and vacations that I wish I could, but I give them some things, and that's always better than nothing.
There Is Such Thing as Clean Enough
One of the first lessons I had to learn as a single mom with a crew of young kids is that there is such thing as clean enough. My house could always be cleaner, but I've learned to settle happily for clean enough. Cleaning is a constant battle with kids in the house, but I'd rather them remember the time we spend reading together, than how I was constantly nagging about dusting and vacuuming.
I like a clean house, but I do think it's okay for parents to lower their expectations just a little. We put things away, we keep the dishes washed, and I attempt a few loads of laundry every week. But we never have matching socks, I can count on one hand the number of times I've cleaned the oven, and I almost never wash the windows. Our house is clean enough, and I get to spend that much more time with my kids.
I'm a Better Mom When I Don't Mop the Floor, a.k.a Love Being Your Kids' Mom
I try to mop the floors once a week (sometimes every other week when it's "clean enough") but as honorable as mopping the floor may be, I sometimes think I'm a worse mother when I do. After I've mopped the floors I become that person who eyes all of my kids warily - don't you dare wear those shoes in this house, no you can't have a snack because you'll get crumbs all over the floor I just mopped, and no I can't push you on the swings because I've been mopping all day. And inevitably, on the day that I mop, someone will spill a cup of milk or drop an egg or track a trail of mud into every single room of the house.
A few years ago, on just such a mopping day, as I was snapping at everyone and protecting my precious floors, my four year old sweetly pierced my heart when she said, "I like you better when you don't mop." And I knew right away that she was right. If the floor was dirty, I wouldn't think twice about pulling out the crackers, letting them run in and out as they played, and I'd probably just pull out a towel without a word when the cup of milk spilled. I vowed then and there to love being a mom more than I love clean floors. I still mop, obviously, but I've relinquished all expectations that it means I'll actually have a clean house. Not right now - right now, I'm a mom first.
You Can If You Have To
Something that people often say to me is, "I don't know how you do it!" When people find out I'm a single parent with four young kids at home, they'll often tell me that they could never do it, that they don't know how I manage. And I hear married moms say things all the time like, "I can't because my husband's out of town." But the thing a single mother learns very quickly is that you can if you have to.
I never imagined I'd be a single mother and if you'd asked me before I became a single parent if I thought I'd ever take four kids camping by myself, or manage our mortgage alone, or go weeks on end without even a minute to myself, I'd have assured you it was all impossible. But the truth is, you can do anything when you have to. And you can even do just about anything if you want to. Something that I've learned as a single parent is that "my husband's not home" is actually never a reason for not doing something. You can make it happen if you need to and if you want to.
Making it Fun is Not Optional
It's never fair for kids to have to go through a divorce. All kids deserve a loving home with both of their parents. That my kids will never have that is a deep sorrow I know they'll always have to live with and it breaks my heart. It also makes it even more important to me to give them the happiest memories of their childhood that I can.
As a single mom I've learned the importance of making things epic, having family traditions, and finding little ways to make things fun. It's stressful trying to provide for my kids. Honestly, so much of what I do as a single parent is brutal and it takes everything I have to keep going some days. But I know that making it fun is not optional. Family game night is crucial. Reading together before bed is written in stone. Loud dance parties in the kitchen after dinner are essential. These are things I want my kids to remember when they think back on our time together.
Look for What's Right
Parenting, even under the best of circumstances, is a tough business. For most of us, it's easier to see our shortcomings and our parenting failures than it is to see the parenting wins. Managing picky eaters, temper tantrums, messy bedrooms, and sibling rivalry can bring out the worst in even the best of parents - and I haven't even made it to the teen years yet! But it's always a good idea to set aside all that mom guilt and take stock of what you're doing right as parent from time to time.
The list of things I'm missing the mark on is a mile long, but when I'm paying attention, there are some things I'm good at. I almost always manage to get a good homemade dinner on the table that we eat together. We read together every day. I make sure everyone gets enough sleep. And we spend a lot of time outside. I'm doing a few things right.
Celebrating Single Parents Everywhere
In recognition of National Single Parent Day on March 21, Georgia-Pacific’s Angel Soft® toilet paper brand is launching a poignant video celebrating and recognizing the joys and challenges of being a single parent.
This National Single Parent Day video shares the stories of three single parents and how they have overcome incredible odds through raw, personal interviews and it totally made me cry! It culminates with a granted wish that will help make their everyday lives a little easier. Be sure you’re following the #SingleParentsDay hashtag so you don’t miss it! You will also find it on the Angel Soft Facebook page and on their website .
This is a sponsored post by Angel Soft on behalf of The Motherhood. All opinions expressed are my own.
Judi Cutrone says
You sound like a wonderful mom. Thank you for being so open and honest.
You are amazing and have inspired me over the course of our entire lives, but never more than you do now in Motherhood. This is a wonderful post!
What great inspiration for all parents especially single patents out there!
Teresa Pace says
Loved every word of this article!! Keep it up!
congratulations on being an amazing Mom to four gorgeous kids who are having a wonderful childhood because of you!!