Being a mom is hard. Being a single mom is even harder. I feel confident in assuming that, like me, most of us who are navigating parenthood solo are not single by choice. We are often struggling daily to balance our careers, run our households as both mother and father, and not screw up our children up in the process.
I have two young daughters. In my house, little eyes are always watching. When I feel overwhelmed as a single mother, how do I ensure my children observe a strong and confident woman? The kind of woman I hope they grow into one day?
Fill Your Own Cup First
If you’ve been on a plane, you’ve heard the safety instructions should an issue occur at 30,000 feet. Single parenting is kind of like jumping out of that plane and learning how to pull your parachute cord midair some days. The flight attendants always announce that should the oxygen masks deploy, put on yours before assisting others.
As a mother, let alone a singe mom, it is so important to remember to take care of yourself. You can’t take care of children when you are running on empty. Be sure to schedule some time for self-care, whatever this may look like to you.
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I literally mean schedule it. Make an appointment at a salon or with a friend just to catch up on adult conversation. Whatever it is, write it down in your planner next to all the activities and things to remember for your little ones and keep it. I personally hope my children look back one day and remember me as being polished and poised more rather than my frazzled mom alter ego.
Call in Reinforcements
When my firstborn was old enough to be left with a sitter, I remember my mother-in-law advising how a good babysitter is worth his or her weight in gold. This is especially true when you live remotely and need someone who doesn’t mind making the drive to your house.
I have been fortunate to have a handful of wonderful babysitters who my children and I absolutely adore. As a widowed introvert, I sometimes need a little push to go out for an event or get together in the evenings, but wanting to keep my babysitters actively working is often reason enough to call up my girlfriends for a kids-free dinner or local concert.
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Recently, both of my girls performed in their Christmas ballet recital. Their studio put on two shows and being in different classes, their backstage waiting areas were separated where it wasn’t feasible to go back and forth. My three year old is also a bit of a button pusher and a potential runner. I asked one of their older cousins to help me for the weekend.
She stayed backstage with my five year old, helping with her costume change and keeping her entertained with books and games of Go Fish. This also made my oldest feel incredibly special to have some “big girl time” with someone she really looks up to.
I stayed in the three-year-old room with my flight risk, and she was absolutely perfect. I didn’t realize how much she needed some one on-one-time with me. Having the extra help allowed me to really enjoy a special moment for my kids and kept everyone from feeling overwhelmed or rushed.
Watch Your Own Actions
It’s hard to envision it now, but that sweet little preschooler watching you will be a hormonal wild card the next time you blink. Even when they don’t say anything, our kids are watching how we dress, how we work, what we say, and the company we keep. That should be reason enough to want to set a good example.
Your fourth or fifth grader will be a teenager in a few short years. You want to have a leg to stand on when it’s time to start enforcing a dress code or curfew.
Little eyes are watching.
It may seem like parenting is about just putting on a brave face for your kids, but it is so much more than that.
The most important thing for me when it comes to shepherding my daughters is honesty and open communication. I want them to understand that as a single mom, I will always do the best I possibly can in every situation. I want to embody all the qualities I wish for my daughters to have because I know they are watching.
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