Dear Single Mom, You're Doing a Good Job

My friend is a single mom. She called recently, stressed and overwhelmed, feeling like she wasn’t being “enough” of what her kids need. She has to work, to provide for her family, so she can’t always make it to the PTA meetings. She gets frustrated and impatient after a long day.

It’s not just single parents, parents in most circumstances face feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Your job as a parent is a sacred task, it’s ever changing, and you’ll never be capable of doing it perfectly. 

1.    You are only one person. You can’t do everything.
Whether you’re parenting partnered or alone, YOU are just one person. You can’t be everywhere, see everything, or do it all. Maybe your spouse, community, teachers, or neighbors are there to be your eyes and ears, but you’ll never be able to do everything. It’s just not possible.
Tips: Learn to ask for help, and lean on your support system. It takes a village! 
2.    You won’t be flawless.
If you are working hard to be self-aware and to be a great parent, you probably catch yourself making some mistakes. It’s impossible to be a flawless parent. You’re going to have bad days, or even make mistakes on good days. That’s just the way it is.
Tips: Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not perfect. None of us are.
3.    Your best is enough. It will have to be.
There will be days when you give it your all, and your efforts fall short. Maybe you tried to pull off a morning soccer match followed by an afternoon birthday party, and you showed up to the party dirty, late, and without a gift. That’s okay. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.
Tips: Don’t beat yourself up. Being a parent in not about perfection, it’s about being there with -and for- your kiddos, muddy shoes and all. Your friends will be glad you made the party. You can always drop a gift by later on.
4.    You don’t have to answer for the unrealistic expectations of others.
Just when you get your own inner voice under control, a voice from outside chimes in with a criticism: “My sister is a single mom, and she finds time to be her child’s room parent.” It doesn’t matter what others want or expect from you. Each family is unique, and you’ll have to structure your work-family-service life in whatever way works best for you and your kids.
Tips: Don’t worry what others think. Take care of you and your kids in the way that’s consistent with your own values and priorities.
5.    As long as you notice signs you need to grow and keep trying to learn, you’re doing well enough.
When I meet with families in my mental health clinic, I often hear moms or dads say, “I’m afraid I will be just like my own dysfunctional family.” But if you’re working on being the best parent you can be, and if you’re worrying about how to do better, then you’re probably doing fine. It’s the parents who aren’t willing to work on things that might be more concerning.
Tips: Just keep looking for new ways to grow. As long as you’re mindful of your successes and mistakes, your kids will have a good enough childhood life, and that’s all you can offer.

Being a parent it hard, but if you’re taking the time to read this, you’re probably doing fine. So give yourself a break and a little bit of credit, and embrace the joys and uncertainties of being a parent!

Posted on April 27, 2015 .