Being a single mom is so much more than you understood it to be, back when you had a partner. Whether you are newly divorced or widowed, starting over on your own is intense to say the least. It comes with so many emotions and expectations and you have to react immediately to everything because you are the only grownup in the room. You have to get comfortable stretching and contorting yourself to be both mom and dad, both good cop and bad cop.
As you navigate these new, uncharted waters here are four tips to help you find your footing.
Find Good Help
While being a single parent leaves you responsible for everything, that doesn’t mean that you need to do it all on your own. Know your strengths and weaknesses and delegate where you can.
If nothing else, you absolutely need a reliable babysitter and two or three backup childcare options that you can call in a pinch. Ask around at your kids’ school for recommendations or use a website like Care.com. While your married self might have been insistent on a highly qualified sitter who speaks multiple languages and holds an advanced degree, your single self really just needs someone relatively patient who likes kids and has no social life. Whether it’s to keep the kids during a doctor appointment, a girl’s night out or a date (!) you need a few dependable people on your babysitting roster at all times.
There are plenty of other areas that you’ll likely need help in from time to time. Ask friends and family who they use for lawn maintenance, household repairs, plumbing issues, HVAC service, house cleaning and any other service you may need. Create a spreadsheet to manage your list of household helpers. Be sure to include who refers who and add notes as you contact each person so that you can easily keep track of who had great prices and who did the best work.
Be Proactive About Your Finances
As a single parent, a lot of big financial decisions fall on you that you might have never had to think about before. If you were on your ex’s health insurance policy, you’ll now need to get individual health insurance. You may need to get a new life insurance policy and revise your will to exclude your former spouse. You also may need to reevaluate your long-term savings goals with a financial adviser so that you can create a plan for how to pay for your kids’ college education and retire one day.
Make Time for Other Adults
When you were married, it was all too easy to exist in your family’s own little all-consuming universe. But now that you are one your own, you will quickly learn how much you need a reliable support system of friends, neighbors and other single moms who can relate to you.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it. Likewise, be quick to offer help to those who need it, even if all you have to offer is a shoulder to cry on or a bottle of wine to share.
An Optimistic Attitude Will Make Everything a Little Easier
Fake it until you make it. Some days it will feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, but press on and be positive. And on the days where you are so mad or hurt or scared, the optimism that everything will get a little brighter tomorrow may be all you can muster to plow through the muddy emotions that come with this new season of transition. After a while, optimism can become a habit just like anything else.
It’s going to take some time for you to readjust to your new normal, but following these tips can help you get control of things so that you can thrive on your own. Trust that this too is just a season and everything won’t always feel this hard.