Are you tired? Not just physically, but emotionally? Tired of being the one to manage every aspect of your kids' lives? The one who's responsible all the time, or at least 100% of the time the kids are with you? If you feel beat and need a little encouragement, consider this:
- What you're doing matters. As a single parent, it can be pretty discouraging to bear the brunt of your kids' tantrums, outbursts, and opportunities to test you (just to see if you mean it). Remember, though, that your kids can be "their worst selves" with you because you're a source of unconditional acceptance and love -- and that's a good thing. So when you have those iffy moments and you wonder whether you're doing enough, step back and look at the big picture. All that you're doing matters -- every sacrifice, every deferred dream, every sleepless night.
- Your kids need the other parent. That may not be a welcome thought, especially if the other parent has chosen not to be involved in your kids' lives (or is unable). However, this is still something you need to know so that you can help your kids manage their expectations and work through their grief. And if it is possible for your ex to be more involved, or to be included in your lives moving forward, I strongly recommend it.
- Collaborative parenting is possible. From where you stand today, you might feel that getting along, even for your kids' sake, would be an impossibility. But I encourage you to dream big! It may not be easy, but that's never stopped you in any other part of this journey. Start by envisioning a life where the two of you are working together in ways that you aren't right now. Envision the baby steps that would make collaborating possible. For example, picture yourselves agreeing on parenting time schedules, learning how to compromise, or rebuilding trust. Imagine trusting each other, knowing that you can count on one another to be reliable, to keep the kids' best interests at heart, and to respect each other's choices and right to part of your kids' lives. Pushing through the discomfort and getting to a place where you can work together is possible when you make it happen through small, intentional changes in how you relate to one another.
- Your presence is a gift. Whether your kids live with you full time, or only some of the time, they need you in their lives. And whether they show it or not, they want you to be an active participant, cheering for their successes and guiding them through their struggles. Even when they resist your input, know that your presence in your kids' lives is a gift to them. So don't back down!
- You have within you what it takes to do this job. Single parenting is a great cultivator of inner strength. Whether you've been single since day one, or you worked with a partner and now must adapt to parenting alone, know that you've got what it takes to be the best parent your kids need right now. Parenting is a continual learning curve with lots of trial and error along the way. But learning from your experiences allows you to get better at what you're doing -- and that's what matters. There's no such thing as a perfect parent. But you're present, you're trying, and you're getting better at it as you go.
- Your kids will thank you. Your efforts don't go unnoticed. Whether you hear the words "Thank you" while your kids are still at home, or they tell you much later in life what your sacrifices meant, know that they're grateful -- not just for what you do for them, but for who you are.
- Help is available. Finally, know that help is available to you. When you're feeling overwhelmed, as your ex to help out with the kids, or see if your parents or siblings can pitch in. And when it comes to government assistance for single parents, it can be tricky to find programs you qualify for, but they're out there. Start with govbenefits.gov, your local food bank, or 2-1-1.