Parenting alone is challenging. We need to start here, with acknowledging that it’s hard. I wish I could say that it’s easy, or that if you follow five simple steps it can be easy, but I won’t lie to you. It’s going to feel hard sometimes, very hard. We can learn to be up for the challenges though, which can smooth the journey and remind us that we have the courage and determination to do what we’re doing. This is our hope amidst the sometimes struggle that it can be. Whether we intended to parent alone, are separated or divorced from the other parent or the other parent is away for some reason, peaceful parenting alone is challenging for two main reasons.
First, we’re alone. We are finite beings with only one body and 24 hours in a day. We can’t do what two or more people can do (well, almost, but not quite). We may or not have a local support system and we may or may not believe that the universe supports us. We’re going to find our limits, and maybe feel frustrated by them. We’re going to feel pulled in different directions and we’ll need to choose which directions to go. This in itself can feel challenging, to put aside things we feel are important and to surrender to the fact that we must prioritize, or all else suffers.
Along with being alone, we’re learning new skills of positive parenting, likely without direct support and feedback other than our own and from our child(ren). I don’t recall what it felt like learning to walk, but it wasn’t easy for me. I was pigeon toed and wore a bar with special shoes at bedtime for over a year to correct my feet positioning. When I didn’t need it anymore and my parents took it away. I cried. An attachment developed between me and that bar, as I knew it was helping me learn to keep my two feet on the ground. I imagine the process of parenting positively, learning new skills as we go, may be similar to learning how to walk. At times,we’re going to fall, we’re going to benefit from some assistance, we’re going to fear being on our own, we’re going to feel tired and we’re going to sit down or crawl when it’s just too much.
Thankfully, these two factors we cannot change are also invitations for growth. Sometimes we might fight against the growth opportunities, and want to complain, and if we bring our attention back to what we can influence in our lives, we are likely to find the potential in peaceful parenting even when we’re alone. Here are some insights that may be helpful along the way.
Let yourself grieve, especially if emotions are overwhelming. We need to embrace sadness and defeat and a change in circumstances, and we need to embrace the loss of partnership, never having one or whatever parenting dreams may be off the table in single mothering. We want to support our children in their emotions and we really must start with ourselves compassionately. Give yourself permission to feel and heal.
Admit that it may take more time initially to peacefully parent, because we’re learning, but it’s worth the investment because we’re building relationships with our children, plus it’s healing and growth producing overall. Another mom commented that she was grateful for the wisdom that while it’s intense when our kids are young, most of our lives we’ll be adults together and these times are contributing to a life long relationship. When you feel at your wits end, remind yourself that you’re in this for the long haul, one moment at a time.
Repetition is part of the process. Learning, teaching and guiding requires repetition regardless of the method. When faced with the frustration about repetitively dealing with upset, irritating behaviors or a sink full of dishes, make some decisions. Sit down with a piece of paper and decide what peaceful parenting strategies you want to repeat instead of reactive behaviors you might find yourself exhibiting. Maybe you want to spend five or fifteen minutes during the day centering yourself in meditation to help build a basis for responding calmly and clearly. Maybe you want to let the dishes go at nighttime when you’re tired and gratefully wash them after breakfast in the morning. Maybe you want to institute a plan for responding to your child’s upsets with a practice of deep listening, just to see what happens for both of you.
Commit to your values and work from there. Peaceful, positive parenting is only possible when we commit and choose to learn the skills we need to parent this way. We might need help and time to do this, and maybe just fifteen minutes with a journal will help you begin to declare (or re-declare) your intentions for parenting. When we know what we value, we have a foundation to work from. We can revisit our values in times of struggle and learn how to live them.
Welcome and invite feedback from the kids. When they’re tiny, their feedback may seem minimal (or monumental if they’re challenging). As they grow our kids can learn to give some very valuable feedback about what is and isn’t working in the home. When we’re open to this information we can take it to heart and see what’s not working for us and what changes we want to make. How can we be a family team? How can we work together in the challenge of only one person being a parent? Talking about the challenges with our kids and what we can realistically do to meet them can help. If you’re unsure about this, start by talking with another mom, friend, therapist or coach and role play some to get comfortable with talking about challenges with kids.
Make anytime quality time. We might think we need to do a bunch of special things with our kids. Special outings or activities are wonderful, and what our kids really need is us – available, present and open to being with them fully (or as fully as we’re capable). Do chores, cook together, read books, look out the window, listen, play, be curious. Invite your child to play by you as you work or sit and read with your teen. Make transition and transportation opportunities for conversation, curiosity and introspection with open ended questions, singing or whatever your family enjoys. Ditch any unhelpful ideas you have about quality time and embrace all time as quality time.
Reflect regularly about what works, what doesn’t and what you’re learning, to track progress and celebrate/appreciate connection. We can be hard on ourselves. Sometimes (often) this is due to erroneous thoughts and beliefs about our worth or capabilities. Journal or talk with a friend, therapist or coach about your experience to gain a healthy, accurate perspective. What’s going well and what gifts are you discovering in single mothering? Keep track of special moments, successes and appreciation in a journal or another way that’s meaningful for you.
Learn how to collaborate. When we’re faced with the stress of single parenting, we may be more likely to fall into punishment and control based parenting strategies. However, we can learn to replace them with collaboration – and everyone benefits in learning how to work together as a team. Kids want to do well if they can. So do we. Click here for more on collaborating with kids.
Seek support and ask for help, a friend to call, child care reprieve, parent coaching, community, therapy, whatever you need. We’re in this together; don’t go it alone. Find a local mom friend or mom’s group you jive with and/or find a community online. Lean on your community as you strengthen yourself to stand on your own two feet confidently.
Would you like to read more about solo peaceful parenting? Read about gentle parenting through chaos and multiple children. 🙂
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.