Low-Stress Single Parenting
The fact that you don't have a life partner doesn't mean you can't be a good parent. Forget all those statistics (even if it's hard to forget them when people keep quoting them to you) about children in single parent families experiencing more problems and getting into more trouble. Single parent families are still families. If the people in your single parent family share a sense of belonging, spend time together, have fun together, and are open about their love and mutual caring, they will be an excellent family.
But life is pretty stressful for the single parent, who often has to fulfill the role of both parents on a daily basis. It isn't easy to have to cook the dinner, wash the dishes, sweep the floors, take out the garbage, and earn the money all by yourself — and then be cheerful and playful with the kids! But you can do it, and it's worth the effort. You can also put effort into stress management, which will make the rest of your life a little bit easier:
Get enough sleep! You may think it isn't possible, but it's always possible to rearrange your schedule.
Eat a healthy diet. Your kids will learn from your example.
Sit down with your kids during meals and talk to them, even if you plan to eat later. Turn off the television!
Don't let your entire life revolve around your kids. Go out as a grownup at least once each week.
Pamper yourself. You certainly deserve it!
Meditate every day.
Remind yourself every day that although like any parent you are bound to make some mistakes here and there, overall you are doing an excellent job.
Enjoy your time with your kids. You'll never have it back again.
If you have to choose between cleaning and being with your kids, let the kids win out most of the time. Or, involve the kids in cleaning and make it a family affair. (My kids love to scrub the kitchen floor.)
Try not to doubt yourself. But, if you find yourself doing so, consciously replace your doubt with a vote of confidence. Remember the little engine that could!
Teach your kids to exercise. Learn a sport together, or do yoga together. Kids love yoga, and it's good for the whole family.
Make it a family tradition to tell each other what you love about each other.
Be your own best friend. Nurture your inner confidence so that you'll have reserves when it seems like nobody is cheering for you.
If your relationship is breaking up, you are probably experiencing many intense emotions; inflicting these emotions on your children can make the stress much greater for them. Being strong, calm, and happy with your children is important for them, but it can have a surprisingly positive effect on you, too. Acting calm and happy can actually make you feel calmer and happier. Don't bury your emotions, but compartmentalize them and deal with them when your children aren't around.
Childless by Choice
Women who choose not to have children or who, for whatever reason, find themselves toward the end of their childbearing years without ever having had children are subject to enormous social pressure. Why? Because society still expects women to have children, and any woman who doesn't must be doing something wrong, right?
If you feel the need to build up your stores of confidence and courage, learn the yoga warrior pose. Stand with your feet about four feet apart. Turn your right foot to face the right, keep your left foot facing straight ahead. Hold your arms out straight, one hand pointing right, one pointing left, then turn your torso so that you are looking straight out over your right arm. Your right arm, right foot, and face should all be pointing to the right. Bend your right knee and balance your weight between your two feet. Hold your arms out strongly and feel the power of the warrior! Repeat to the left.
Of course not! The world has plenty of people. We don't have any kind of civic duty to procreate. Yet, women who choose not to have children, whether or not they choose to marry, are often on the receiving end of constant commentary from well-meaning relatives and friends. “So, when are you going to settle down and have children?” These thoughtless comments can be painful to those who have tried and been unable to conceive, but they can also be painful to those who, even though they may sometimes grieve the path not taken, have decided that parenthood is not for them.
How do you handle the pressure? By staying calm and having ready answers. While you may be tempted to snap back with a similarly intrusive response to unwanted questions about your procreative status, you'll just add to the tension and make yourself feel worse. Instead, try these comments to end the conversation (if that's what you want to do):
“Why do you ask?”
“That's a personal matter.”
“Children aren't in my plan right now.”
“That path doesn't interest me.”
“I have other outlets for my maternal instinct.”
Or, if you want a zippier response:
“Oh, my goodness! I didn't realize there was a shortage!”
“Well, you know, I didn't pass the test.”
“But it's the twenty-first century! Don't they have special equipment for that now?”
“They don't encourage undercover agents to procreate.”
Okay, maybe those answers don't all make complete sense — but you might at least confuse people into silence!
The point is this: Whether or not you choose to have children is nobody's business but your own. You aren't obligated to justify yourself to anyone (no, not even your parents). Don't let people make you feel guilty for your decision. Just breathe deeply, and let the comments go.