Life in a Single-Parent Home
Being a single parent can feel overwhelming. There often isn't enough time or money to go around, and finding a moment to take a shower or run to the grocery store without children in tow can be impossible. But life in a single-parent home can also be rewarding. You decide how your home will run; you set the tone of your relationship with your son.
Being Mom and Dad
Single parents sometimes struggle to balance all the responsibilities they carry. And many worry that a growing boy needs a full-time mother and father. Is one parent really enough?
Jim was in the kitchen preparing his famous spaghetti when five-year-old Derek wandered in with Coco, the family dog, at his heels.
“Hey, Dad, is dinner almost ready?” Derek asked, picking up some cheese from the counter and plopping it into his mouth.
“Pretty soon, Bud,” Jim replied. “How are things in the front yard?”
“Well, Alex and his family are going camping this weekend up at the lake. And Robert is going to visit his grandparents and cousins, so he'll be gone, too.”
Derek was silent for a moment, drawing designs in some spilled sauce. “Dad?” he asked, “Why is our family different? I mean, my friends all have a mom and a dad in the same house. I just have you, and Coco, and my lizard. Mom lives so far away, and I only get to see her sometimes. Why can't you and Mom just be together?”
Jim put down his spoon and went over to Derek. “That's a tough question, Derek. But I can tell you that it isn't because we don't love you. Your mom is a great lady and a good mom. And I try my best to be a good father. But she and I, well, we just didn't get along when we were together. We fought a lot, and that wasn't good for you. Derek, our family may look different from your friends' families, but it's still a real family. We have lots of love, and we're working on our problems.” Jim ruffled his son's hair and gave him a hug. “Now, are you and Coco ready for some spaghetti?”
It is unlikely that you can simultaneously fill the role of both good mother and good father, no matter how hard you try. And in truth, your son does not need you to single-handedly be both parents. Coaches, neighbors, friends, aunts, and uncles can all provide support, teaching, and fun (as well as a respite for you from full-time parenting). Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. A skilled therapist, a single-parenting class, or a support group may provide ideas and encouragement.
Focus on building a loving and consistent connection with your son; be sure that you stay tuned in and find time to talk and listen on a regular basis. One good enough parent in your home is all your son truly needs.
Statistics show that the risk of physical and sexual abuse increases when unrelated adults move into a home with children. Your son does not need a parent figure nearly as much as he needs safety and trust. Only invite a potential partner to move in when you are sure he or she will treat your son with respect and kindness.
Keeping Your Balance
Part of being a successful single parent is learning to take care of yourself. You can and should make time for activities and relationships you enjoy. You may need to learn some new skills: Single parenting requires that you learn to manage money wisely, organize time efficiently, and provide kind, firm discipline.
Regular family meetings will help you and your son solve problems together. Believe it or not, life in a single-parent home presents children with real opportunities to learn skills, to make a contribution, and to feel genuine belonging. Choose your priorities (and battles) carefully; there simply isn't enough time to deal with every issue every day. Be sure you spend your time and energy on the things that really matter.