Mothers are arguably some of the best multi-taskers in the world today. The sheer amount of responsibilities they need to juggle makes them a combination of nurturer, caregiver, teacher, nurse, cheerleader, disciplinarian and more. I would know—I’m a mother, myself. If there is something even more challenging than being a mother, though, it is being a single mother with no parents to help you out.
My situation is a little different from other single mothers, however. Aside from the aforementioned roles, I also took on the additional roles of full-time student and part-time worker. Thankfully, I’ve learned enough from the University of Hard Knocks with respect to balancing school and family life. Most of my time is devoted to caring for my children. My studies take second place, with work coming in third and the remaining fraction of my time left for the rest.
Unfortunately, juggling all of the things I’ve mentioned above does not necessarily translate into calmness and ease all the time. In fact, it often leads to role strain. There are times when I actually wish I had help in the form of a helpmate—someone who could look after the kids while I sought that much-needed break. My children are precious to me, yet there are admittedly days when they seem semi-precious. This most often happens when their needs prevent me from keeping up with my homework. Sometimes, my assignments have to take a backseat to more pressing needs like feeding them, cleaning them or helping them with their own assignments. My social life is almost non-existent as a result of this (Szakaly, “Role Strain in Caregiving”).
The good news is that my part-time job doesn’t really feel like work. In fact, it feels more like an interesting diversion—a chance to go out and meet new people and help someone out. The benefits work both ways: the people I reach out get their needs met and I get the chance to forget my own problems for a while (Howe, “Meeting the Challenge of Being a Single Mom”). It is also a great opportunity for me to connect with someone other than my kids and it helps me grow in a fun way.
Then there are the rough days when the frustration sets in. During these dark times, I continuously remind myself of my reason for doing this precarious balancing act: to provide a better life for my kids. When they are sleeping, I take the time to ground myself, to pray and to ask God for the strength to do what is right (Szakaly, “Role Strain in Caregiving”).
At first glance, it would seem as if I am the sum of these statuses and nothing more. Most people look at me and see a struggling mother, a part-time worker and a student, and rightly so, for these things are part of my current life. However, I am working hard to be more than just them. I know that God put me on Earth for a reason. Part of my life’s meaning comes from discovering that reason and living it out to the best of my ability. One day, I will not only live out my potential—I will transcend it as well.
In closing, I see my status as a single mother as a supreme challenge. It tests my conviction and my courage on a daily basis to the point where I question and doubt myself. Nevertheless, all it takes is a prayer and one look at my sleeping children to get me back on track. As God has showed me time and time again, it is in dying to myself daily and in trusting Him completely that I discover the person that I really am and the life that I am truly meant to live.
Howe, Michele. “Meeting the Challenge of Being a Single Mom.” Powertochange.com.
Power to Change Ministries, n.d. Web. 26 April 2012.
Szakaly, Jennifer. “Role Strain in Caregiving.” Jenniferszakaly.hubpages.com.
Hubpages, n.d. Web. 26 April 2012.
Being a single parent is challenging, and a stressful way of life. If you can find the balance between work, home, children and time for yourself, it is a very rewarding experience. But there is no simple answer. The balance for each adult and every family is different. I tried to balance work with a happy and stable family life by considering my financial priority, cooperation and communication, coordinating with friends and family members, and taking time for myself.Managing money wisely helped relieve the financial strain that forced many single parents to work long hours or excessive overtime. I worked out a budget for living expenses and stuck to it. I spent time with my children instead of giving them money for entertainment purposes. I weighed the benefits of my job (salary, insurance, etc.) with what it would cost me in time spent away from my children. I found a less demanding job, which provided a better way of life for me and my family.
Being a single parent, I had to learn to cooperate and communicate. I had to keep in mind that while I went to work and fulfilled other parental obligations, my children were busy with their own activities. I made sure that my children knew how to reach me and that I knew where to find them. I made sure we all agreed on our schedules, transportation and all the details relating to a planned activity. It helped to post a calendar that listed all our activities, drop-off times, pick-up times, etc. And I made sure my workplace allowed my children to contact me when they needed to.
Full-time employment meant missing out on important after-school athletic events, school functions and Girl Scout meetings. I asked my cousin to pick up my children from school and babysit them until I picked them up after work. Instead of trying to make it to every event and feeling bad when I couldn’t, I invited my sister or brother and close friends to attend instead. My children liked the idea of being able to show their aunt or uncle their achievements or athletic skills.
Because I had to divide my time and attention between my three children, I made sure to take time out for myself. At least once or twice a month I made a point of doing something just for me. I sometimes lock myself in my room and read a book for an hour, or go to a matinee movie alone. Once a month I spent an evening with the girls. We’d go to dinner and dancing. This allowed me to meet other singles out there and to ease back into the dating scene. Everyone needs a break now and then, and I made sure I made the time.
Single parenting has become more common and accepted in the United States. Being a single parent is frightening, confusing and overwhelming, but it can also be very rewarding. Single or not, I am my children’s parent and the most important tools I possess are my love for my children, my wisdom and my common sense. If I do the best I can, learn from my mistakes (and I learn something new everyday) and love my children along the way, I’m doing all any parent, single or married, can ever do.
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