Children raised by single parents can be just as happy and emotionally healthy as children living with two parents. Whatever the family constellation, the key is to be able to provide consistent, sensitive, nurturing and responsive care. Add in some flexibility, compassion towards the self and minimise any potential conflict with ex-partners and that’s a good start for meeting children’s needs in any family.
Challenges and strategies
Being a single parent however is unique and the following tips may help support you on your parenting adventures.
Finding time off can be difficult.
If you don’t have access to helpful supports it can be harder to look after yourself, go to a medical appointment or even take a night off. If you can find some other single parents and take it in turns to help each other or source a local high school student to come over and help, give you some much needed time out, that might help.
Lack of financial resources can be a concern.
Reach out to friends/family or local councils for some child-minding options, obtain some legal advice if necessary and see what other benefits are available to ease the pressure. Sometimes childcare can be subsidised and returning to work can be helpful. However, it can also be hard when you have no choice but to return to work due to financial worries.
Sleep disruptions are a common issue.
Especially in the first year of a baby’s life. When you are the only adult it is all on you and exhaustion can prevail. Allow yourself some short, sharp nap/rest times and find other ways to take a break and nurture yourself when you can. Keeping the baby in a sling as you do other things or just getting out and going for a walk can break up the day and ease some of the tiredness.
Keeping realistic expectations
is also important of yourself and of your baby. Babies don’t need an awful lot at first and society/social media all play a part by placing unnecessary pressures on new and expectant parents to be exceptional rather than being real. We all need time out, make mistakes and at times be thoroughly over it all but these are all normal experiences of new parenthood. It is not glamorous.
Combatting isolation is also important.
You may not talk to another adult for days. Finding ways to meet or talk to other single parents (in person or supportive online groups) can also alleviate the loneliness and give added support as you exchange stories and stay connected to others.
The upside is that you can make all the decisions and it can give you freedom to do what you think is best in terms of parenting. You can think about what sort of parent you would like to be and put that in place. Every parent has their own style and it’s useful not to compare yourself to others. Just work out what works for you and keep your values e.g. loyalty, honesty, love aligned with how you carry out your parenting role.
Acknowledge your feelings, ask for support if you need and make the most of the everyday moments with your children, be interested in them and take care of yourself as much as you can along the way. Remember that there is only so much you can do physically and emotionally each day and that ‘good enough’ is absolutely fine.
Please reach out to Gidget Foundation Australia if we can help.