#1 Assemble a Support Team
A few weeks after I adopted my 8-1/2-month-old daughter, Eleni, I was about to take her to the park when I suddenly burst into tears. As I glanced down at my little baby, my backpack overflowing with diapers, bills, bottles, and toys and a big bag of trash that desperately needed to be tossed -- I thought to myself: How can I possibly carry all this stuff? And who's here to help me?
Looking back now, I realize that as a first-time single mom with a new baby on board, I was clearly emotional, exhausted, and stressed. But in that moment, I was also struck with the reality of being on my own with a child to raise, bills to pay, a household to run, and only 24 hours in the day. No wonder I felt frazzled!
More than four years later, I can safely say that being a single mother has at times been difficult and demanding, but it's also had great rewards. If you're a single parent -- by circumstance or by choice -- you'll no doubt hit some bumps and turns along the way. Here are six strategies that can help you weather the rough times and enhance the joy of parenting.
#1 Assemble a Support Team
"Single mothers can often feel isolated and overwhelmed, so it's important to feel that you have some sort of community behind you," says Sheila Ellison, author of The Courage to Be a Single Mother (HarperSanFrancisco, 2000) and founder of SingleMomsConnect.org, a nonprofit organization that matches single mothers as support partners.
Carlena Seep-Gaither, a central Minnesota single mother of two, has long relied on a solid network that includes her best friend, her parents, and other parents in her community. "I realized early on that no matter how strong I felt, I couldn't do this alone," she says.
Even now that her kids are 6 and 4, Seep-Gaither still receives an emotional (and hands-on) booster from her team when the going gets tough. "There are days when it's hard to feel as if I'm being the best mother," she admits. "But then my best friend or another parent will remind me to hang in there or tell me she's proud of all I've done for my kids, and the morale boost helps to keep me going."
For Tracy Shaw of Southbury, Connecticut, life wouldn't be the same without her Wednesday night supper club (she and three other families from her daughter's daycare center take turns cooking meals), a reasonably priced handyman, a support group called Parents Without Partners, a circle of friends, and reliable babysitters. "Even though my ex-husband lives nearby and spends two evenings a week with our daughter, I'm still her primary caregiver, activities coordinator, and chauffeur," Shaw says. "Without some help, I would have a tough time maintaining a balanced life."