How to Raise Your Child as a Single Parent
Being a parent is a tough gig. Being a single parent is tougher. There is nothing as gut-wrenching as picturing your children growing up in one environment, and having it ripped from you both. Being a single parent means balancing work, sick days, school, friendships, family and so much more. I am really grateful I am not doing it alone anymore, but after 7 years of being a single parent, I did have a lot of opportunity to learn, and here are a few things I discovered.
Your Character Speaks for Itself
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When I became a single Mom, it was definitely not plan A. I felt sucker-punched by the weight of my partners choice to walk away from the privilege of parenting. This meant overcoming major feelings of rejection. Because not only did him leaving say I wasn’t good enough. It also told me that my child – the very best part of me, was not good enough. This is personal, and it is so difficult. I learned early on, that the less I focused on what he did to me, the more I was able to focus on raising my child to be healthy and stable. Instead of defending yourself when others offer opinions, stay quiet and let your character speak. Instead of talking poorly about the other parent – say nice things, or say nothing at all. I believe one of the best choices I made early on was to not talk about my ex without praying for him – especially in front of my kid. Those prayers often were simply “God, help this person make wise choices, and fall in love with you.”
Even the Deepest Wounds Can Heal
Abandonment, abuse, and even loss, are all deep wounds that try to leave permanent scars. When your child is young, or you are freshly separated, you hurt in the deepest ways. This is valid. You have every reason to be hurt and upset and nothing is wrong with you feeling the way you do. However, you won’t stay that way. It will come as a shock at first, but one day you will wake up and feel lighter. Eventually, certain sounds and smells won’t make you think of them. For me, the deep realization that I had experienced healing came in the form of forgetting his Birthday only to realize it had happened several weeks later. When you are a single parent, it is important to acknowledge your hurt, and refuse to stay stuck there.
No One Can do it All Alone
This includes single parents. I remember feeling absolutely amazed by the single parents I saw around me thriving. Seeing them show up to work on time, or be present at community events and extra-curricular’s! I was convinced something was wrong with me for struggling, not showing up, and needing help. But when I dug deeper. I learned no successful single parent was doing it alone. Many of them had friends or family as backup to take the kids on school days if they were sick. They cultivated amazing support systems at work and had a boss that was fully supportive of their situation. Often, they were involved in small groups at church, or had tight knit community groups. They were friends with other single parents they could trade childcare with. No single parent can do it all alone.
You Might Not Stay Single Forever
I remember going through waves of believing, or at times even hoping I would just stay single forever. Because sometimes it is less stressful and easier emotionally and mentally to not rely on others. However, this is not often the case. Don’t chase relationships down, but acknowledge the fact that you might fall in love again. Acknowledge the fact that you may meet someone who falls in love with your child and wants to help share in the privilege of raising them. Not everyone is out to hurt you, and not every relationship will leave behind a trail of damage. Be discerning, don’t dive into anything without caution. But remain open to the possibility. Also, be careful to guard against bitterness. When you are bitter it shows and might repel the people that would love to add value to your life.
Being a Parent is a Privilege and not a Burden
The most transformational thing you can come to realize as a single parent. Is that being a parent to your little one is a privilege, and not a burden. When it dawned on me that God wasn’t surprised by my circumstances and entrusted me to be the only influence in my little one’s life. It bore a lot of responsibility, but I also recognized it as a huge honor. God knew I had what it took. He knew that I was the best possible parent for my son. It still was hard a lot of days, sometimes it wasn’t a joy and didn’t resemble a privilege at all. But I still take a great deal of pride in the fact that I was able to love, raise, and serve my son well through that season and into the next one. You are not a victim because you are alone, you have been entrusted with a special gift and are fully equipped to raise your child.
You Can’t Be Mom and Dad at the Same Time
I think most single parents go through a period of struggling to make up for an absence in their child’s life. I found myself trying to fill both roles and the truth is, I just wasn’t designed to. As a Christian, my relief was in the fact that God was my sons ultimate father, and He is faithful. He always pays His child support on time. He doesn’t let His kids go hungry. His children don’t get left without clothes. So I stopped focusing on my inability, and started focusing on Gods reliability.
Matthew 6:26 NKJV
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
It is Not Your Job to Keep an Absent Parent’s Memory Alive
I will never forget the single Mom who shared this tip with me. I was struggling with the fact that people in my exes family were putting pressure on me to bring my son to visit, and come to Birthday parties or family events. As a single Mom – it simply was not possible to always come. Sometimes I didn’t have the gas money, or couldn’t take the time off work. I felt so free when my friend told me to stop keeping his memory alive. She pointed out because he was still alive and choosing not to be a good parent, was his responsibility and the family needed to place pressure on him. I am extremely blessed to have a great relationship with my exes family to this day, and letting go of false responsibility only deepened that bond.
There are countless other lessons that came on my 7 year journey as a single parent. But these were by far the most freeing and valuable. It is my prayer that this can help you on your journey. You have got a tough gig, but I promise the child you are raising will love you even more for it!