If there’s a single group of people who are underappreciated more than any other group of people, it has to be single parents. While everyone knows being a parent is hard, being a single parent tends to be even harder. Not only do you have to play the roles of both parents, but you’re financially responsible for a set of bills that are usually paid by two incomes. Here are six of the most common single parent struggles with tips and strategies on how to overcome them.
1. The Financial Challenges. When you have two people paying a mortgage of $1,400 or more a month, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. However, when one person is responsible for that kind of monthly payment, it becomes a big deal indeed. If you’re having a hard time making your monthly housing payment, try downsizing to a smaller home, or if that’s not possible, refinance over a longer period of time (or at a lower interest rate, if possible).
Make sure you do what you can to cut your other monthly expenses as well. Clip coupons and shop the sales at your local grocery store, get an all-in-one phone, cable and high-speed Internet plan and try shopping Goodwill stores for your household needs. Believe it or not, Goodwill isn’t just about used clothing. Stores donate brand new items to the Goodwill center and you can get some really helpful household items for very little money. Even inexpensive computers for young children can be found there.
2. Finding Competent Childcare. Many single parents are at the mercy of the childcare opportunities available in their area. No one wants to leave her child in a childcare center that is anything but the best. The problem is that the best is also usually the most expensive. Call the different childcare centers in your area and compare charges and services offered. Ask each one for references and check to see if there are any financial assistance opportunities available like reduced price lunches.
3. Gender Issues. A mom who is a single parent may have a hard time teaching her sons about the things a dad would normally cover and a single father may have a hard time discussing female issues with his daughters. If there isn’t a parental figure for your child to discuss gender-related issues with, you should enlist the help of a favorite aunt or uncle or a close family friend to act as a “surrogate parent” for your child. It may be easier for your child to open up to this other significant adult.
4. The World On Your Shoulders. When there’s only one parent in the household, all of the family responsibilities lay on that person’s shoulders. Cleaning the house, cooking meals, keeping up the yard, paying the bills, keeping an eye on the kids and all of the other parental responsibilities are the sole responsibility of that parent. It’s easy to see that every single parent needs a break every so often. Make sure you take a break to revive yourself and re-energize. Even if it’s just sending the kids to a sitter for a few hours, take that time to catch up on your reading, watch a favorite movie or just relax to soothing music.
5. Feeling Lost and Alone. Many single parents find themselves feeling isolated at one point or another. They don’t really relate to singles without children because single parents have an entirely different set of priorities and responsibilities. If you find yourself feeling a bit lonely and you want to communicate with people who can relate to what you’re going through, look into joining a nearby support group for single parents. Besides just chatting with other adults and exchanging thoughts and ideas, you may meet a new friend and enlarge your social circle.
6. Introducing Your Child to Those You are Dating. Having an array of boyfriends or girlfriends running in and out of your child’s life isn’t good for anyone. Many single parents are confused as to when a significant other should be introduced to your child. While it’s never good to hide a growing relationship from your child, watch that they don’t become emotionally involved with someone you’re dating unless you really think the relationship is going somewhere. At that time you can plan outings together and involve the child in the relationship on a deeper level. You don’t want to run the risk of your child getting hurt should they become attached to a person you’re dating and the relationship doesn’t work out. Sometimes it happens, but try to minimize the revolving door.
It is said that if a child has one stable adult in their lives who they can depend on, they will be ok. You can be that person for your child.