It may sound cliche, but your life really isn’t over until it’s over. The end of your marriage isn’t the end of you. With that said, there are many different ways to move forward from a divorce, no matter how painful.
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Do you feel that, since you’re raising your kids alone, you have to fill in for their dad as well? You’re not the only one. There are more than 11 million single-parent families with underage children in the U.S. Out of those, more than 80% are single-mom families.
Whether the father is present or not, he surely doesn’t play the same role he would if you were living together and working together for the benefit of your children. Now, most of all the responsibility falls on your shoulders. You need to look after them, provide for them, talk to them, be there when they need you, and still be able to laugh.
It cannot be easy, and there are surely times when you feel exhausted, desperate that you will never get things done the right way. Well, take a deep breath and move on. You’re already doing a great job, and, even if you weren’t, no one has the right to judge you.
In fact, you should give yourself some slack and make efforts to relieve some of the pressure or, better put, cope with it. How do you do that? You’ll find some ideas and advice below.
8 Tips to Cope with the Pressure of Single-Parenting
1. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help When You Need It
Raising healthy and happy kids is a challenge for many two-parent families. It is downright difficult for single parents, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s normal to need help, and you shouldn’t feel bad asking for help.
You surely have a relative, friend, or neighbor who wouldn’t mind watching your kids for a couple of hours now and then. If not, perhaps there are single parents with kids of the same age that you can befriend and help one another.
Unforeseen problems will always appear. It is important to have someone to rely on when they do. It is also important to be able to give yourself a break every once in a while. You are human too, and you have your needs, be they physical or emotional.
2. Take a Day or at Least a Couple of Hours for Yourself Regularly
How long has it been since you last went out on your own, or enjoyed a glass of wine over a hot bubble bath? Perhaps you could go to a local spa for a massage, have your hair and nails done, or just lie in bed and get some sleep.
Your worries and responsibilities won’t go away but you will at least recharge your batteries to be able to better cope with them. You will feel better in your own skin, and you will be more relaxed and patient around your kids.
3. Show Your Kids Some Love
If you and their dad have just broken up, they are surely affected, no matter if they are able to express their feelings or not. Perhaps you feel that they are getting out of control but all they need is some love and attention.
Forget about your chores for a moment, as they won’t go anywhere if you do. Take some time to play with your kids and have fun. Take them to the park, play some games, go out for ice cream, bake some cookies, or microwave some popcorn and see a movie.
As you do, don’t avoid open discussions. They have questions, fears, and things they need to share. You should listen, answer, and share back. After all, you only have each other. And, last but not least, don’t hesitate to tell and show your kids how much you love them. They need it!
4. Build a Routine
Kids also need stability and knowing what to expect. You need a schedule, to be able to better cope with your responsibilities. Building a routine solves both problems. Start by having your meals and going to bed at the same hours. Continue by scheduling homework and playtime.
It will be a little difficult in the beginning, especially if you used to live chaotically, but it will prove useful in the long run. You will be able to function on autopilot even on your worst days if both you and the kids know what’s next.
5. Don’t Forget about Rules and Limits
Both you and the kids are vulnerable. It is easy for them to cross boundaries, and it is normal to be tempted to overlook some actions and mistakes. Don’t! They need to know what’s right and what’s wrong, and they need to understand that actions have consequences.
Therefore, set strict rules and enforce them. Those who do not follow them should put up with the consequences. With kids, restricting internet use and TV time is the best punishment. Of course, good behavior should be rewarded too.
6. Find Your Emotional Triggers and Control Them
Even though you’ve created routine, set rules, and gotten used to the idea that you’ll be raising the kids by yourself, there are times when you still lose control. Perhaps you get angry and start yelling, or you get vulnerable and start crying.
Although such reactions are normal, they do not benefit the kids, so you should learn to manage them. You can do that by identifying and dealing with the emotional triggers, namely the words, people, or actions that cause your outbursts.
Try to look at them from a different perspective, a positive one. Look for their fun or educational side. Don’t hesitate to go to therapy if you need to. It is better to acknowledge problems and deal with them than deny them and hope they would go away.
7. Don’t Isolate Yourselves
Both you and the kids need people in your lives. You need support, inspiration, and fun. While rushing into a new relationship is not a good idea, getting to know people, setting playdates, and spending time with friends and families is.
Make sure to include some friends and family members of the opposite sex, if your ex is not involved in raising the kids. Your children need a role model. They need a fatherly figure in their life, just like you need the occasional help with repairs around the house, football training, fishing, and camping, etc.
8. Remember to Take Care of Yourself
While it is normal to put your kids first, you need to look after your own needs as well. Take care of your body and soul, learn to relax and have fun, and, as time goes by, don’t close the door on new relationships.
You cannot raise healthy and happy kids if you are not healthy and happy yourself, both on the inside and on the outside, so see to your own health and happiness! Things will get better with time, and the pressure of single-parenting burdening your shoulders now will fade and make room to hope and fulfillment.
Do you ever feel as if your ex is acting like the proverbial grand marshal of the parade at Disney World, fiercely entertaining and wooing your kids, while you are the one who is left pushing the stroller and carrying the diaper bag?
If this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with a “Disney Dad”! Disney Dad is defined as the “fun parent” or the person who does not worry about the day-to-day grind.
How to Cope When Your Ex Is The Fun One
A Definite Lack of Fairy Dust
It may appear your ex has set up shop in The Happiest Place on Earth and turned you into the villain, but think about it this way: He feels terrible about the fact he is not home when the kids go to bed each night and is incredibly focused on making up for that in any way he can. Now, realize that some of these feelings may be intensified and heightened if he is the one who was responsible for your split or who initiated the divorce.
I can guarantee that while a forty-eight-hour, all-inclusive trip to the Magic Kingdom is a lot of fun in the heat of the moment, when they are tired and done at the end of the day, they just want to fall asleep on Mommy.
How to Avoid Feeling like the Runner-Up
This new dynamic in your life can be hard—and it can feel bad. I am quite sure you have thought, “Well, I could be ‘Fun Mommy’ if I had to parent only every other weekend, did not have to worry about homework getting done, and did not have to think about a million other responsibilities day in and day out.” However, your life right now requires you to care about the minutiae—“the stuff that is not fun.”
I encourage you to think about your role in your children’s lives and what that means to them. Remind yourself that love cannot be bought and that children understand when a parent is there to support them, nurture them, and comfort them. Learn how to cope better by creating a barrier and not worrying about what happens when your child is on Disney Dad’s time. This might go against your most basic instincts as a parent, but for your sanity, I encourage you to master this.
Yes, Disney World is a very fun place to visit, but at the end of the day, a child craves stability and consistency. As your children grow, they will develop an appreciation for the parent who got it done, day in and day out.
They will admire the parent who took time out of her day to get them to soccer practices and ballet rehearsal; they will appreciate that Mom helped them with their homework and made them brush their teeth before bed. Take comfort in the thought that while a weekend vacation might be nice, there is no place like home.
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