Are you a single mom feeling overwhelmed? Or a newly single mom asking yourself “how do I cope as a single mom? What is the hardest thing about being a single mom?”
The single mom struggle is real, but there are ways that you can reduce some of the stressors. I’m a single mom of 4 boys, and I’ve listed 5 tips below, which can help you. Read on!
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1. Seek Support
This is huge! Getting help from others will help you enormously. Think of who you can call or text for assistance when you need it.
Do you have nearby family? A close circle of friends? Good neighbors? Some single moms are blessed to have some or all of these to depend on. If so, make a list of them and their contact information and hang it somewhere (your fridge, your bedroom or bathroom) that you’ll have easy access to. Or put their information in your phone!
But maybe you’re a single mom who’s just moved and doesn’t know anyone in the area. Or maybe you don’t have any close family and most of your friends took your ex’s side in the divorce. Don’t despair–it will take a little more effort, but you can find some support.
Most houses of worship have ways to get you connected with people or groups. You can also search out local mothers’ groups. If your kids have started school in your new location, you can check with the school for resources, and ask the teacher if there are other class parents who might make a good contact for you.
2. Lower Your Kids’ Expectations
Let your kids know that they might not be able to have all the toys or go to all the places. Depending on their age, maturity level, and how much of a difference their standard of living changes when going from a two-parent to a one-parent household, this can be an occasional annoyance to a constant conflict.
We live in a wealthy area, but even when we were a two-income family, we were never wealthy. So lack of funds has been more of an underlying hum to our usual lives than a sudden switch. I often field questions from the boys on why we can’t take a spring break vacation to Disney Land like their friends or buy the latest electronics like “everyone else at school.”
I make sure to acknowledge that yes, lots of other kids in the area may do or have these things, but that the majority of the world does not. That we are, in fact, blessed to have a home, food, clothes, health, each other, and peace. That just because other kids have lots of things does not necessarily make them happy.
It’s true that all complaining doesn’t instantly end when I tell them this. But by reinforcing it over and over, they realize that I won’t give in to guilt about “all the other kids.” And my oldest son now prefaces his requests for “stuff” with “I know the most important thing in the world is family…”
3. Pick Your Battles
Just because I won’t (can’t!) give in on buying lots of extra things for my kids, doesn’t mean that I’m a hard-liner on everything. As a single mom, I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to fight every battle.
You need to decide what things are important to you so that you can stick with the boundaries for your home. Maybe you want your kids in bed at a certain hour or no electronics or no lying. You decide!
For example, I bite my tongue if my boys go out the door without a jacket when it’s cold. I remind them to wear one, but if they tell me that they’ll be fine, then I let them go. Sometimes they’re fine, and sometimes they’re cold.
But that’s a consequence of their choice, and not a battle worth fighting. (Obviously, if it’s below freezing, I wouldn’t let them leave the house in a tee-shirt! I’m talking uncomfortably chilly, not frostbitten.)
4. Shop Online
This might seem like a strange tip, especially if you’re a single mom struggling financially, but hear me out. Online shopping has two great benefits–it saves you money and it saves you time.
You can look around online for deals and coupons, and have an endless inventory to search through. Since you can do this without the kids, there’s no guilting and whining to contend with. You can avoid one of the worst things–going shopping for a birthday party gift on a Saturday morning at a crowded store, when you’re rushed, don’t have time to compare prices, and have your kids with you.
Personally, I like shopping on Amazon, but there’s tons of sites you can choose from. I have an Amazon Prime membership, which I think saves me money. Even though there’s a monthly fee, I get free delivery on most things, free videos to stream online (I don’t have cable!), free photo storage, and a free Kindle book every month.
Just not having to go to an actual store for most things is something I love. I save money on gas, don’t have to deal with crowds, and don’t have to grapple with my loud boys in public.
Don’t get me started on the time I had to take them to Target when they were little and the entire store heard them screaming at the top of their lungs. I had my toddler in the front of the cart, and the twins in the main basket of the cart. But then the twins kept trying to climb out of the cart on opposite sides while I tried to keep them in, without letting the cart tip over. It was not a fun experience!
If you’re a single mom tired of struggling, be as honest as you can with your kids, in age-appropriate ways. You’re allowed to have feelings and be tired. You’re not super-human.
If you have older children, get their help as much as you can. Don’t turn them into alternate spouses or parents, but do have them contribute to the household by doing chores and having responsibilities. After all, they’re going to grow up and have to know how to be an adult, so you are training them as well as getting some relief. Let them in on as much of the budget as you are comfortable with and that you feel would not be too stressful for them.
For younger kids, it’s okay to tell them that you feel tired or angry or sad, but that you love them and it’s normal to have feelings that are not happy all the time. Be sure to also let them know when you do feel happy. Let them know that they can tell you their feelings, whatever those are.
Avoid Single Mom Stress Syndrome
While not an exhaustive list, I hope these 5 tips have given you a starting point to reduce the stress in your single mom life. Seeking support, lowering your expectations, picking your battles, shopping online, and sharing honestly with your kids all help reduce the struggle a bit. And remember, you’re not alone!
Amy is the writer behind A Lady and Four Gents. She is a self-employed single mom to four boys, including twins. Amy traded her full-time career and outrageous commute for more time with her kids. She hopes to inspire and equip other single moms to build confidence, pursue personal independence, and design the life they long for.