Surviving single motherhood

surviving single motherhood
The author, Jen Watkins, makes single parenting work by involving her children's father as much as possible in her boys' lives. | Photo by Of My Affection Photography

SOUTHERN UTAH – Single parenting, whether by choice or chance, is a daunting task for most parents.

Most parents will say that having children is the most rewarding experience of their lives, and sometimes the scariest. For single parents, sometimes those rewarding moments are overshadowed by fear and guilt. Getting a child the proper nutrition, education and in some homes, spiritual guidance, is not an easy job to tackle while juggling one or more jobs, homework, household chores, bills and other factors that are part of life.

St. George News asked real single moms for their one best tip on surviving single motherhood, and raising good, healthy children who will lead productive and fulfilling lives despite the fact that they are, in most cases, going at it alone.

Take Walks Separately
I’m a single mom, both widowed and then divorced, with five children I’ve been raising on my own. Here’s the biggest tip I can offer: take walks with your children separately. Each child needs alone time with you. Keeping connected means knowing whom each child is, both together and separate from their siblings. By taking individual walks with them, you learn who they are on so many levels. If you can take each of them on trips by themselves, that’s even better; but truth be told, in this economy, walks are just as good. You will find out who they are during this time.

Skip the Gym
I am a busy mom working, yearning to go the gym but arriving home around dinnertime—too many things to get done before bed. So really, should I hustle my child to the gym to sit in the kiddie section for another hour while I workout? Then have to rush home to get dinner, cram in homework, shower and to bed? Or focus on the child? I now walk with him each night, and have encouraged him to learn how to “exercise walk” with me. We spend quality 45-minutes walking together, now have time for a sit down dinner rather than a drive-by one, homework doesn’t turn into stress-work, and sometimes we end up with extra 30-minutes at the end of the night to unwind. Yeah, I am not working-up the same amount of sweat I would’ve if I took a spin class, but I am teaching my child about exercise and not running around like a frantic mommy. Clear you mind of all the clutter; exhale all the emotions; truly focus on the child and you will make the right choices.

Get Help
I have a 17-year-old son, and I am his only parent. When my son was 8, he had a lot of anger because of deaths in the family, which left me with no partner, and him with one parent. Friends would comment on how he didn’t listen. My stress was overwhelming, and I called a meeting of friends and said, “Instead of complaining and criticizing, give me help. When you see him not listening to what I say, don’t just sit there, tell him to listen.” It was very effective, and it was no longer just me telling him what to do. Only involve friends who support you, and reinforce your message, and not people who will tell you how to parent. Call friends who love you and your child. Have a meeting with them and ask for help. Be clear what you need- someone to give you an occasional break, take him or her out for ice cream, or support you through reinforcing your rules.

Be Honest about Money
Her dad is very involved and I am very blessed to have a good relationship with him. You must put everything aside and be civil for the sake of the children. Also, be honest with them about money. I try to be very honest with my daughter about why we can’t have a house, why she doesn’t always get what she wants. I sacrifice a house to pay for private school and I tell her one day, she will understand.

Talk about School
The one tip I can give single mothers is to talk to your kids every day about what happened at school, even if it’s only for five minutes. Do not judge or comment while they are talking or you won’t always get the full truth. Then calmly, one hour, or even two hours later, if there are suggestions to be made, do it then. Not while they are talking. Communication is the key.

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Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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1 Comment

  • Mike September 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Enjoyed this article! Thanks!

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