By Guest Blogger Karen Cooper
Some brave souls set out with the clear intention of being a single mom, but not many. In my case, I didn’t choose the single mom life…the single mom life chose me!
After a 10 year (not-so-happy) marriage, I found myself divorced with one- and three-year-old little boys. Their father trickled out of their lives slowly and then completely…which was for the best. I have no complaints, but 24/7 single mom responsibility wasn’t always easy. The kids and I adapted pretty well to being a family of three and with the kids at those ages, my only downtime was when they were asleep!
Flash forward…I am 11+ years past those early days of being single mommyhood. I’ve been married to a great second husband for several years and the chaotic days of raising kids by myself seem further away all the time. Sometimes I long for those crazy days and my wild little boys. Certainly, I did learn from them. Being a single mom, though unbelievably hard, has its true blessings and its lessons. I wouldn’t trade those for anything.
The Bond with Your Children is Strong and Resilient
When you’re a solo parent, your kids rely on you for everything. The bond that’s built between you and the children you spend all your free time with feels unbreakable. I was the one feeding them, bathing them, shopping with them, comforting them, playing with them, taking them to sports events…they even slept in my bed, until they got so big they had to move to their own beds. But I treasure those days and wouldn’t have had it any other way.
You Are Stronger Than You Think
You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option. As a single mom, you don’t have the option of falling apart! When you have other small humans depending on you, you learn what you’re made of. You rally when you’re sick, you smile when you feel like crying and you get moving when you’re so tired you could sleep for a month. Soon, you learn that you are much more capable than you ever gave yourself credit for. Additionally, you learn patience, resilience, self-sacrifice and what really matters in life. In a single parent’s world there is no time to sweat the small stuff, deal with unnecessary drama, or spend time with people who drain your crucial resources.
You Feel Like You’re Failing, But Your Kids See You Thriving
With finances a constant worry, stress is a constant companion. It’s hard to see how everything can get accomplished by one person. Even worse, guilt is also a major issue. You wonder how you alone can give your kids the life they deserve. Even so, when I would step back and look at the bigger picture, I would see mostly happy kids, thriving kids, kids who seemed to be getting the love and attention they needed. They were growing into incredible people before my very eyes.
Support Systems are Critical
There are many things two-parent families take for granted. Tag-teaming kids in a parking lot or anywhere dangerous , providing relief when your partner is about to drop, taking care of each other so you can live to fight another day…these things are just a beautiful fantasy to a single parent. Having an established support system is vital. For me, this was mainly my parents. Parents who would drop everything and come to my rescue if a kid got sick and I couldn’t miss work. A father who knew when I was struggling to make ends meet and would pick up the slack without me ever having to ask. Support showed up in unexpected ways, too, such as from a neighbor who raked my leaves, friends who helped unpack after one of our many moves, and from a family with a boy my son’s age who invited my son over to play and fed him dinner at least a few times a week. People showed up for us and only now, many years later…can I truly appreciate what blessings those people were!
Things I Wish I could Go Back and Tell Myself
It will all turn out okay! You don’t need to worry so much. Focus on these precious moments and enjoy your children…because what they say is true. The days can be slow (sometimes agonizingly so), but the years, they fly by!
*This blog originally appeared in Forsyth Family magazine
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