A Single Mom's Emotional Life
Single moms are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression, and for good reason: parenting is hard work, and it's doubly hard when you don't have a partner to help with the emotional and physical work. Still, there are ways you can cope with the emotional difficulties of single motherhood.
Rethink Your Idea of “Family”
If your family doesn't look like the wife, husband, and baby down the street, it's easy to feel lonely and inadequate. But by reworking your mental picture of what a “family” is, you can find new ways to reach out to the people already in your life.
For instance, if you're feeling bad about not having a partner to share your baby's development with, you could ask a close friend to act as a milestone buddy, so that when your baby has a special achievement, you'll have someone you can call who can't wait to gush over the good news.
Can I really raise a happy, healthy child as a single parent?
The news seems full of unsettling statistics about the kids of single parents. But you are not a statistic. With support, planning, and flexibility, you can provide your baby with a stable, happy, loving childhood.
Focus on the Moment
Try focusing on what you do have instead of what you don't have. Thinking forward to a time when things might be easier can be helpful, but not if it makes you anxious or keeps you from appreciating the way your baby looks, feels, and smells right now. Try to be fully present and enjoy your baby. If the rest of the house is falling down around you, that can be fixed later. Don't think too much about what's down the road or what mistakes, challenges, or obstacles you might face tomorrow, next week, or next month. Take it one day, hour, or minute at a time — whatever helps you cope.
Know Things Will Improve
Don't fixate on the future, but do remember that things will continue to get better. Your body will begin to get back to normal, and your baby will sleep longer stretches at a time, eventually through the night. You'll start to feel up to getting out and doing some of the things you used to love.
Find Your Tribe
Everything feels harder when you're doing it alone. When you're parenting your baby alongside a friend or group of supportive moms, you may find that the more tedious tasks that can threaten to overwhelm you when you're by yourself, like constant diapering and feeding, seem much more manageable. Chatting and sharing the workload with a group of mothers can feel refreshing and rejuvenating. Also, a group of like-minded moms gives you a place to turn with questions or concerns about parenting.
Don't feel like you need to limit your mom's group activity to sitting around a circle chatting. There are plenty of ways you can help one another and benefit from your mom friends. Here are some ideas:
Get together with another mom on the weekend and cook and freeze meals for the upcoming week.
Do your grocery shopping with a friend. That way, if one of you has to temporarily remove a screaming baby, the other can watch her grocery cart. You can also help each other load and unload groceries.
Cleaning is much more manageable — and enjoyable — with a friend. Take turns getting together to clean one person's house thoroughly, then swap houses. You can focus on one room at a time — say, organize each others' hall closets one week, then deep-clean the bathrooms another.
Dinner for one person and a baby can be lonely. Why not regularly get together for dinner with another single mom and her kids?
Where the Moms Are
Check churches, community centers, and organizations like La Leche League, Mommy and Me, and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) for parenting support groups. If you don't find what you're looking for, start your own group. Ask your doctor or midwife if he or she can help connect you with local single moms or moms-to-be. Mom-baby yoga and fitness classes can also be a great way to meet other mothers. You can also ask about posting fliers at the library, in your doctor's office, or on college campuses.
Many local support groups also communicate via e-mail lists. Two popular e-mail list services are Yahoo! Groups and Google groups. Search these e-mail list services for mothering groups in your area, or start your own. Moms looking for support groups online may find you and join the list.