Being a single parent
Raising a family is quite a delicate intricacy that one gets thrown into without much training. You can read all the parenting books if you want to have some sense of preparedness, but it never really hits the mark. And it doesn’t really get any easier with more kids, almost directly proportional with one another. Because raising a child is literally raising a whole human being who, upon reaching adulthood, should be able to function in this world well. With each being different from one another, you have to be very careful with how you treat and raise them. Raising children and running a household while also working for an income is hard enough for two individuals- doing so as a single parent reveals a whole new set of challenges.
There is a multitude of reasons why you might find yourself as a single parent. You perhaps have separated from your partner, which can either be really ugly or decent; a gamble. Or you have lost your significant other and were never truly given the chance to mourn. Maybe you wanted to start a family on your own, and when you felt ready to do so, you did. Whatever the reason may be, a household having two parents can look vastly different from a household with a single parent; the dynamics of the families would be interesting to note.
The stress of your household
You become the sole authority figure, and most major decisions fall on you. Your singular income is running your household, paying the bills, bringing in groceries, school tuition fees, and purchasing school supplies. All these are just a tiny fraction of the list. A list that is completely separate from the one you have for your work.
The stress of your work life
Your work life does not exactly halt itself so that you can get yourself together nor does it grant any extra holidays for being a single parent. If you are running a business, you have to take care of all your employees. All your partners and shareholders must be looked after, and your product quality shouldn’t be compromised under any circumstance.
If you happen to be of the majority and have the usual 9-5 job or one that demands random shifts with no prior notice, your hours become strenuous. You have to make sure your subordinates are doing well and that all the operations of your department are running smoothly. You have to report to your supervisor. Taking one day off can risk your paycheck. While it is a demand of all jobs, you become extra vigilant not to mess up.
Your children(s) needs
And while you are yourself struggling with trying to stay strong and upright, your children need you to help them with their emotional instability. A loss of one parent, for whatever reason, has serious impacts on the children and can lead to adverse effects on the mental health of all individuals involved, regardless of age. And while raising good and happy children is difficult, it is definitely not impossible to achieve. A single parent can provide warmth and care just as equally as any two parents. If you are with your child every step of the way, giving immense love and support, you can raise healthy and happy children. For this very reason, you need to fill up your cup before you can pour into your family and ultimately yourself as well.
All this dividing up yourself to provide for yourself and your family leaves you empty-handed when it comes to giving yourself something. Neglecting yourself and everything that keeps you afloat and grounded leads to burnout, and you do feel it no matter how many times you refuse to acknowledge it. And by no means is this an easy task to pull yourself out of this mental and physical mess and help yourself so that YOU can still function and be there for your children when they need you the most.
Ways to replenish
You need an outlet, a place, or an activity that lets you break free from all these obligations and live your day recharging and relaxing. Not giving yourself the time you need will lead to a total shutdown. Your body will decide the time for rest, and you will not be able to fight it anymore.
Finding a balance between your work life and personal life is what you need to actually look for. You need to find activities that will help you recover from any mental, physical, and emotional drainage. Some things that might work out for you have been expanded on below.
- Accept and let go of the past
Clinging to our mistakes and regretting them makes us only human. We do make our fair share of mistakes, however, that does not mean one can not learn and improve from them. You might blame yourself for putting yourself and your children in a position such as this. You might be thinking over all the what-ifs and how things could have been. What is really happening is that you are subjecting yourself to a mental battle that will not cease until you consciously intervene. The very first step to filling your cup is to fix this leak. Do not dwell on it what you could have done differently. Acceptance means that you are willing to learn all that is meaningful from this experience and let it go.
- Social circle
You need to make sure the people around you are not draining you dry. Find people who understand your situation, sympathize with you, and want to help you out. People who will encourage you to take a break every once in a while and step up to offer their help so that you can take some deserved time off. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you, have a firm belief in you, and understand your plight without passing judgment on you. Plan your week, or at the very least, a month in a way where you can go out with your friends and family and indulge in activities that bring you peace and joy.
Meditation is important! Be it for five or ten minutes, be it the first thing you do when you wake up or the last thing you do before you go to sleep, but this is important. It has immense power to transform negative feelings into positive ones and is one of the best ways to find real happiness. Meditation helps you self-reflect and let go of all of the pent-up frustrations and negative thoughts you were pushing to the back of your mind. You need to understand that putting your own mental peace in the backseat will always do so much more damage than it will be even harder to clean up. Whenever you feel anxious or extremely stressed out, just follow effective stress management techniques, including deep breathing, Mindfulness, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and Yoga. However, if you still feel anxiety and burnout, never hesitate to approach therapy groups, counseling, or Guided Imagery and Visualization sessions.
One of the best ways to take out all your frustrations and mental stress is by penning it all down. Keep a journal and write whatever and however, you feel in that journal. Do not be ashamed if you feel like giving up or just feel utterly lost. Write it all down. Writing helps you relieve all the things you can not say to others and feel no hesitance. You have to absolutely stay true to yourself, for your sake, and your family. Once you have all your problems and frustrations written down, you will feel calmer and at ease and will be able to find better solutions to your issues. While penning down your frustrations, it is always good practice to write down all the things you are grateful for. All the things that worked out for you that day and made your day a bit easier.
- Spend time with your children
While you are with your children, try to spend as much fun time as possible with them. Try not to stay too serious and definitely do not bring any of your outside work or your house chores during this time. This time is reserved for you and your kids to emotionally let go. It is to connect with one another and make memories you can fondly look back on. Connecting with your loved ones, that being your children in this particular situation, will bring you comfort like no other.
- Eat and sleep a healthy
You need to live a healthy life. It is easy to lose yourself in this situation and one day realize you are ordering take-out for dinner fourth time in a row. It is not bad to order take out every once in a while, however, do not make it a habit. Make every possible effort to eat well, sleep well and try to stay as active as you can be. Since having a healthy lifestyle is the key to great mental health even when things get frenetic. Take care of your sleep. Take 10 minutes out of your day to go out for a walk before starting your hectic routine.
- Have an artistic release
Let your creativity wander and unleash whatever it holds. It can be anything you desire. You can do an abstract painting or a sketch. You can read a book or perhaps even write one. You can write fanfiction on Wattpad if that is how you can escape the forever-clinging obligations and find your relief. Being creative lets, you release all your negative energy and allows you to focus on something that brings you joy. Once you start, do not think about making it perfect or what other people might think of your work. It is your relief, and you are the one who decides how it is done. Your satisfaction is what matters the most here.
- Adjust your Expectations
To expect yourself to give 100% every day to every task you set for yourself for the day is being cruel to yourself. You can not be on top of everything and be a great parent at all times. There will be times when you would be forced to lower the bar because of the exhaustion catching up. Your mind and body require you to go easy on yourself and if there is a way to do something that probably would not give the best result but will get the job done regardless, do it that way. Do not ignore the burnout you experience and adjust your expectations when needed.
Letting go as a single parent is a rabbit hole; getting out is nearly impossible once you fall into it. That is what you need to stay away from, what you need to be mindful of. Do not be harsh on yourself to the point you feel ashamed of all that you have accomplished. Make this a rule of thumb. Always appreciate yourself for how far you have come as a single parent. Every person is different, and every family is different. While it might be hard at first and you might need outside help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Don’t compare your family and how you have dealt with all the struggles to another who might be operating based on a whole unit and not a single one. Remember, for you to work effectively and raise your children, you first need to work on yourself. Single parenting doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice yourself for work and family or give up all the fun, if anything it demands you to be strong, independent, and ambitious and self-care is the cornerstone to achieve that. Take the time required for yourself, and give yourself the respect and attention you deserve.
By Asma Shareef