Written by A. Noelle
All the single parents! All the single parents! Now, put your hands up!
And as HuffPost blogger, Maria Lin, would note, “There’d be a lotta hands. And they’d probably be tired.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, family households “maintained by a female householder with no spouse present numbered 15.3 million, more than twice the number maintained by a male householder with no spouse present (5.8 million).”
A single parent herself, Lin admits to having “learned the hard way that if [she] took on too much (easy to do as a single parent), [she] would burn out.” So, to recognize single parents and caregivers, Lin offers some advice (in her own words), “The Single Parent’s Guide to Taking Care of Yourself,” on what she finds “critical to the role of being a single primary caregiver” (HuffPost).
1. Know Your Limit
You are human. That means you have limits. You are not limitless in your capacity, although some days it can feel like life needs you to be that way. Identify your limit or warning sign that indicates you need to stop, get help, or change something. […] Just get familiar with the concept of a ‘limit’ and be aware of when you have reached it.
2. Get Help
We need to get better about asking for help. Ask for help whenever you can. Ask friends, family, church and community members. Heck, ask a stranger to help you hold a bag as you’re struggling with your child and the stroller. If you wait around for someone to offer to help, you may be waiting a long time (and get angry in the process). Identify the things you need most help with (laundry, watching your child, driving to appointments) and ask for specific and concrete assistance. If you can afford it, hire help. You are a better and wiser, not lesser, mother for getting help. And you may not always get it when you ask, or it may not come exactly the way you wanted, but it will get easier and better with time. That’s right, help-getting is an art, one that every single parent needs to practice.
3. Forget What Everyone Else is Doing
This is really important. […] The bottom line is that you have a responsibility to you and your child to carve out a situation that works best for your family – and that starts with closing your ears to outside voices, and listening to your own.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Health
Your eating well, sleeping, exercising, and being emotionally healthy are some of the best investments you can make in your child’s future. Value your own health and well-being as much as you do your child’s.
5. Be as Proactive About Your Joy as You are About Your Child’s
Your child loves ice cream, or balloons, or Elmo. How much time goes by before you give her something that delights her? How much time goes by before you treat yourself to something that delights you? Sure, we’re not children, we have responsibilities, and we don’t need to be attending a 24-7 birthday party. But if you are not proactive about your own joy, only looking out for your child’s, one day you will look up and it will be hard to find again. You may have forgotten how to be happy. Do one thing each day that gives you joy – and tell your kids why you do it, and why it makes you happy. Children pick up on their caregiver’s emotions more than we realize – and your happiness will do double duty for your child.
6. Hold on to Your Dreams
You matter. Your children may be the center of your universe, but it doesn’t mean that you have to disappear to give them everything they need. In fact, I would argue that your having an identity is a gift that they need. As a single parent, you are modeling to your child how to be an individual in this world. While you may make sacrifices for your child, it’s important to still hold on to the things that delight you, inspire you, and make you who you are. Make time for hobbies. Spend money on yourself, not just your kids. And don’t give up on the big dreams, either, of a career that was stalled to raise your kids, or a vacation or lifestyle you’ve always wanted. You can raise your child and pursue your dreams at the same time. Those dreams make us who we are…
If you would like to read more about these excellent tips and about Lin’s personal take on single parenthood, click here.