There are days when you are pulling out your hair and can’t figure out what the next steps will be. Being a single mom, you become so accustomed to doing it on your own, you don’t even question the next steps. Okay, that’s not true — you always question the next steps, but the decisions become second nature.
Even though you are alone (and yet never alone), there are some perks to single mommyhood:
1. The Hugs
They are all yours. You don’t have to share or feel any guilt about liking having them all to yourself. You get the conversations after school about what they had for lunch, who hurt their feelings, and who their best friend is this week. You can also kill an hour after school playing with Play-Doh just to bond with your kid and postpone dinner till you both just have to eat. And it can be cereal — kids love cereal for dinner.
2. The Schedule
The key to the schedule is that it is your schedule. You only need to figure out your world and your kids’ world — no one else factors in. You relish the evenings when there are no sports practices or meetings, especially when those unexpected ones that pop up at the most inconvenient times.
3. The Vacations
This is an extension of schedules. You plan the vacation and make it happen. You are more likely to consider your kids’ opinion on where to go and what to do. This has become an annual thing for us — we try to go somewhere we’ve never been and see things we wouldn’t be able to see in where we live. These vacations are the time when your kids can see you outside of your routine. You aren’t just mom on vacation — you get a taste of your pre-parenthood life and can share that with your kid. Plus, you can pack whatever you want since you know there will be room in the car.
4. The Money
This one is a little trickier. Single parenthood is not exactly synonymous with wealth. However, it’s your and your kids’ money. You budget it, make it work, and when there is some left over, it goes where you want it to go. There is no hiding purchases. There is no guilt for spending money on something frivolous that you and your kids want — even if it is something as silly as a trip to the American Girl store or an expensive tube of lipstick.
5. The Village
As a single mom, you find a village to help and support you. Even when it seems like you don’t have one, there are people more likely to help you in a pinch. I know I can’t be a good parent without the help of my village, but I’m still learning how to ask for help.
6. The After-Bedtime
This is the time that a single parent looks forward to (it’s okay to admit it). Your kids are safely tucked away in bed, the house (or apartment) is quiet, and you can just relax. That’s when you can catch up on the TV shows you can’t watch when they are awake — Walking Dead is my personal favorite. You can either grab a glass of wine or a bowl of your favorite ice cream hidden in the back of the freezer and binge on Netflix. Or you can focus on whatever projects that keep you sane outside of work and parenthood. Or both — you know those hours are fleeting.
7. The Choices
You make them. You make all of them. The school your kids go to, the doctors they see, and general everyday stuff that comes up in your life. These are all made at your discretion. There is no one second-guessing you. You can ask opinions from people whose advice you respect, but it ultimately comes down to your decision. This may not work for the single parents who have custody agreements prohibiting this; however, you work together to make the best choices for your child. But when it’s just you, enjoy that! From decisions regarding the next steps in your kids’ education to letting them get a drastic haircut, it’s up to you and your kid.
8. The Craft Table
It can stay a craft table. Even if your kids don’t craft, it’s that table that always seems to have something on it — a puzzle, homework, science experiments guaranteed to stain something. It may be a random table in the house or your dining room table (like mine). It’s our creative space that is exempt from the “clean the house” part of the day. We do eat at the dining room table — we just push stuff over and do our best to avoid spills. For some reason, when it’s your kids’ crafts at stake of being ruined by spilled milk, they suddenly become super-vigilant about not making a mess. Go figure.
9. The Independence
You are teaching independence to your children whether you realize it or not. Your kids see you hustling to make their life better. They see you planning, budgeting, shopping, juggling, and they know it is for them. It doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows. In fact, good stories don’t really come out of sunshine and rainbows; they come out of hard work and perseverance. It makes finishing your bachelor’s degree more special when your kids are clapping for you in the audience, getting the promotion at work, or finding a job with better hours and pay more satisfying knowing you are giving your family a better future and mastering the French braid on your kid’s hair so she’ll be able to do it herself one day. The French braid and the bachelor’s degree aren’t exactly the same accomplishments, but the French braid is freakin’ hard!
I am not advocating for you to become a single parent — it’s not something most people plan on happening — but if it happens, you have to find the silver lining. There are struggles and pain, but it makes the good times that much better. I’ve been a single parent since the stick turned pink, and some days are hard. Some days really suck.
But most days are just like I would be married: take kid to school, go to work, pick kid up, do dinner and homework, then bedtime. Only after my kid goes to bed, I’ll be in my sweats, binge watching Shameless with a glass of wine, and giving myself a pedicure. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome.