According to an article in The Atlantic, "The National Marriage Project reports that 58 percent of first births in lower-middle-class households and 40 percent of all U.S. births are to unwed mothers." Apparently, young adults in the United States delay getting married until their mid-20s.
This means that more and more single moms are out there navigating uncharted territory and they are definitely not a one-size-fits-all group. Maybe they are parenting without an active father. Maybe they're single, but co-parenting with the child's father. Maybe they are co-parenting with a stepfather. And then there are those women who find themselves parenting alone the death of a co-parent.
I fell into that last group. I got married and found myself parenting our two boys alone after my husband died. So, I'd like to share some lessons I learned you might find helpful as you walk down the path of being a single mom.
1. Know you are enough.
I don't know about you, but I often had my doubts about parenting my children on my own. I felt that I was missing a critical element — the father!
Well, even if you're missing that element, know that you will be enough to give your children what they need. It's similar to when you lose one sense, the other senses become heightened. Don't doubt your ability.
Know for certain that you have what it takes to successfully parent your children.
2. Nurture yourself in the process.
Women are notorious for taking care of others, and we often feel best when helping others, particularly our children. However, the flip side of that strength is we often forget to take care of ourselves and we don't even recognize when our energy gets depleted.
This leads to exhaustion and an inability to parent the way we'd like to parent. You are the center of your family. Being strong so you can take care of everyone else is part of the job.
It isn't selfish to prioritize your own needs; it's actually smart because the stronger you are, the more you can do for your children
3. Don't try to be "Daddy" too.
All too many times, I've heard women say, "I'm the mommy and the daddy too." I believe this is a disservice to your children.
There's no way you can take over the daddy role when you are the female. I knew immediately, I couldn't teach my boys what being a real man means.
What did I know about growing up from a boy to a man? What I could do was make sure they were responsible men in their lives. I'm not talking about going out to find a replacement father.
They didn't need that. I'm talking about the men who were already in their lives: uncles, grandfather, teachers, coaches and friends. I made sure they had plenty of time with strong, caring men so they could — by osmosis — learn what being a wonderful man is all about.
Don't surround your children with transient men. You may not want someone you've only known a few months spending alone time with any of your children. Choose male role models you have come to know, trust and respect over time.
4. Treating your kids the same is the most unfair thing you can do.
This is a lesson I learned from an important man in my life. I had two boys who were constantly competing with each other for absolutely everything. I spent a great deal of my time and energy trying to keep everything equal for the two of them and they still weren't satisfied.
My friend helped me to see that treating all your children the same is the most unfair thing you can do. Children are not the same. They have individual differences that will necessitate different treatment at times.
You won't want to create favoritism but there will be times some children get to do, have or be something others cannot. And that is most fair.
5. Use empowerment parenting skills.
Empowerment parenting is a method of parenting based on "choice theory" psychology, which explains why and how people do what they do. When you understand yourself and each of your children, you will be better able to manage those day-to-day challenges, as well as those big issues that come up from time to time.
When I was parenting with my husband, he was the strict one and I was the permissive one. This worked out all right because we balanced each other. When he was no longer there, I couldn't remain the pushover parent and raise responsible young men.
I had to find the middle ground. Empowerment parenting is that middle ground that allows you, the parent, to get what you need while teaching your children responsible ways to get their ways met without hurting them in the process.