Being a single mom (or parent) is hard. I think that’s a pretty universally known fact. But you know what makes it waaaay fucking harder? Trainwreck single moms. They give us all a bad name! They’ve created stereotypes that make an already difficult life, feel like a constant uphill battle.
I’m definitely NOT a perfect single mom in any regard. I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way. But I’ve always consiously tried to live by these rules and defy the stereotypes. I’ve wanted to be an example for others, who like me, want to be taken seriously in business, as parents and in our personal lives.
This list is for all you hotmess single moms… get yo shit together! For real. And this is for all you brand-new single moms, or those going through a recent divorce. I wish someone had told me these rules when I was first starting out!
HOW TO AVOID BEING A TRAINWRECK.
1. Put your kids FIRST. As a mother you CHOSE to have kids, whether you chose to be a single parent or not, you chose your kids. So it’s your JOB to put them first. That means being present when you are around them. That means buying them what they need before you get yourself anything. That means giving them your attention and love before you waste it on dating or drama friendships (or drama family for that matter!).
2. NEVER bring a man into your home when your kids are there. This has been my golden rule. I don’t believe that we have any right to introduce a man into our kids’ lives unless we firmly believe that the relationship is headed for marriage. For me, that means that unless I’m engaged, I’m not introducing my kids to anyone that I’m dating. There should never be men coming and going in your children’s lives. If that means you only date when they are with their dad, or get a sitter for after they’ve gone to bed, then that’s what you do.
3. Keep your drama to yourself. Your kids hear and see EVERYTHING, no matter their age. They can feel your energy shift when a certain person calls or texts you. They know instinctively who’s good for you and who’s bad. So don’t talk on the phone to your girlfriends about your personal life when your kids can hear you. They don’t want or need to know your drama. They want stability, and security in a life that is otherwise pretty scary (especially for newly divorced kids). Save those conversations for when they are asleep or at school, or text it if you need to, but keep it away from them.
4. Never bash your kid’s father around them. This is hard I know. Believe me. Especially if you’re dealing with a deadbeat dad, but trust me this is critical. Remember that your child is half their father and half you, whether you like it or not. And when you bash their dad they begin to question if they are “evil” or “bad” like their dad because they are part of him. They will begin to feel guilty for loving him, or talking about him around you. Don’t project your drama with their father onto them. Let them make up their own minds, and create their own relationship with him that isn’t influenced by your opinions. This includes talking about him when they are in earshot. Just DON’T DO IT. PEROID.
5. Don’t date the first year. This is a lesson I learned the hard way, and wish I’d known anyone who was divorced so they could have given me this advice. Though I never dated around my kids (only on the weekends when they were at their dad’s), it still brought so much needless mental drama into my life. It’s hard enough to juggle all we do as a single parent, don’t add more unnecessary baggage to the mix by dating before your established. Like every other single mom before you, you are going to think “you’re ready” probably a few months after your marriage ends. But take it from me; YOU’RE NOT.
It takes at least a year to get into the rhythm of life alone, and to begin to find yourself, learn how to parent alone, heal from your divorce, and trust your own judgment. Respect yourself and your kids enough to give it that time. And in that year focus on 2 things ONLY: 1. your kids. 2. Your job. Nothing else matters that first year. Get the parenting part under control, and the job thriving and then you can start to explore your options when your kids are away.
6. Be your own savior. You don’t need anyone to take care of you and your kids. That’s just facts. You can do it on your own. No matter what your situation is, it can be done. And it’s YOUR JOB. It’s no one else’s job to pay your rent, or buy your groceries, or take care of your family. It’s your responsibility, so handle your business. Find a way. Do it on your own. When you do, the sense of pride and accomplishment is like nothing else on earth. When you are able to comfortably take care of your family, then you will attract the right kind of man who’s not looking to own or control you, but instead be a real partner.
7. Set a routine. Providing structure is sooooo important for your kids, they NEED it. Set a daily schedule that you follow religiously. This will help you stay sane and keep your kids from feeling anxiety.
Especially important to have a nighttime routine. Kids need wind-down time and sleep, and you need alone quiet time. So spend the hour between 7:00-8:00 PM finishing homework, bath time, and maybe a 30 min movie, or reading before bed (my kids watch Curious George from 7:30-8:00 every night). Then at 8:00 on school nights, (maybe 8:30 for middle school kids) put them to bed. Set a routine around bedtime as well. Sing a song, read a story or say a prayer. Do the same thing every single night. In my house: I sing a song, we say prayers, I lay next to each of them for about five minutes so they can talk one on one about whatever they feel like talking about, then I put on Jim Brickman which is their night time music. They LOVE their routine, and if I ever try to rush or skip any of it they call me out on it! Even my twelve year old son. Make this time a special bonding time with each kid, maybe give each of them a special song that’s just for them.
8. Discipline your kids! Yes it’s hard to be “good cop” and “bad cop” all the time, but do it anyway. Let your kids know that even though it’s just you, there are rules in your home that when broken have consequences. Don’t tolerate disrespect. And ALWAYS follow through with the punishment that you’ve threatened. For example if your kid is throwing a fit and you’ve warned them twice that if they don’t stop they will get “time out,” then they sure as shit better get time out! If you don’t follow through you’ll have no credibility, and since you have no one to back you up at home you’ll lose control of them. So if you’ve said it, follow through. The best discipline and parenting advice out there in my opinion, is the tools and tips on the show Super Nanny. Spend some time on YouTube or wherever you can find episodes so you can get her tips and then apply them faithfully every single day. They have worked for me, and many moms I’ve coached on how to become a better parent and get your kids to be respectful and obedient.
9. RECHARGE. Whenever you get free time, or on the weekends your kids are at their dads, spend that time recharging your spirit and your soul. Workout, go to yoga. Take yourself to breakfast. Read a book. Travel. Spend time with your family and girlfriends. Get your hair and nails done. Relax! Breathe! Get a massage. Clean the house. Whatever it is that sets your “recharge button” do it, as long as it’s positive and healthy (no that doesn’t mean bootycalls!).
10. Don’t pull the “single mom card.” It’s hard not to, I know. I’ve been guilty of it without even realizing it. But don’t do it. If you want respect, and to be treated like everyone else (instead of people assuming you’re a hot mess), then earn it. The best way is to not put yourself in positions where you need to use it as an excuse for falling short, or not keeping your commitments.
Don’t make financial commitments to ANYONE that you can’t keep. Understand your budget and live within it. If you can’t afford something, don’t be ashamed of that and do it anyway, putting your family in a bad financial position. Instead commit to what you can and turn down what you can’t. You won’t be able to say yes to everything, that’s just the reality. Your kids won’t be able to do everything they want, and you know what? They will be just fine too. That’s life. But if you’ve committed to something then move heaven and earth to make it happen, don’t show up empty handed with excuses. Aint nobody got time for that!
DON’T ASK FOR HANDOUTS! Don’t use the “I’m a single mom” thing to get free shit when you don’t need it (or worse, when you could pay for it). Don’t “hire” a trainer when you can’t afford one. If you’re asking him to train you for free because you’re a single mom, that’s some bullshit! Use common sense. If you can’t afford it, wait till you can.
I know these rules might seem pretty tough, but believe me if you can follow them even most of the time, you and your kids will make it through just fine. It’s difficult, and seems unfair, but it’s not impossible and it’s just the way it goes unfortunately. You don’t have to be perfect; I know I’m not. But set guidelines for yourself and standards. Set expectations that make you the best women and mother you can possibly be. Not the best “single-mom,” but the BEST MOTHER you can be. Just because you’re raising a family by yourself, without help or support, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a mother. It also doesn’t make you a super-hero. It makes you a mom. Doing the very best she can, and giving her family the very best life possible, regardless of the situation she’s in.
Your married friends won’t get your struggle. The people in your life, who’ve never walked in your shoes, can’t begin to understand what your life is like day in and day out. But that’s ok, it’s your life, it’s your family. The best you can do is put a smile on your face, keep your head high, and not make excuses. Be a rock, even when you feel like you’re just made of sand.
Written by Sarah Centrella