Bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan isn't as easy as baking a cake. Yes, we know, being a single mom is a tough row to hoe. But, to mix metaphors even further, being a single mom can either be a half-empty or half-full proposition. Perhaps you are freed from your Peter Pan husband who couldn't pull himself off the bike long enough to change junior's diapers let alone tie his own shoes, or perhaps your "starter marriage" was just that—a great preface to the rest of your life.
The Source staff has culled through back articles of O and surveyed our Rolodex of heroic single moms who are doing double duty as money-maker and minivan-shaker.
You didn't actually ask, yet we're still providing advice.
1. Taking Out the Trash
Census Bureau data shows that after divorce, family income for a single mom drops by nearly 40 percent. Adding to those challenges, the number of household duties increases twofold (assuming the partner was pulling his/her weight). Just because your partner isn't there, the normal day-in, day-out duties don't disappear—there is still dinner to make, lunches to fix, kids to tuck in. But gone is a partner to take out trash, change light bulbs, and install smoke detectors.
The industrious single mom will take this on as a fun challenge buoyed by independence.
The key is finding a routine and locating the tools to get the job done.
Step one: A day planner. In pen, set aside a day for paying bills, for cleaning out the car, for one significant house project per month. Setting a weekly routine for house chores is one more easy way to create stability in the household. Saturday morning is vacuum time. Wednesday is trash night.
Step two: Planning for single-parent life is like planning for a camping trip: Take time to plan what tools and supplies you need to keep things running smoothly. Load up a small toolbox with screwdrivers, hammers and a tape measure. Also, pick up expendables in bulk: Grabbing King Kong-size packages of toilet paper and waiting-for-the-end-of-the-world supplies of peanut butter and canned tomatoes will cut down on trips to the store.
According to a variety of studies of dating patterns, many women jump into new relationships after divorce because (surprise!) they feel fearful of being alone and the burden of caring for children without a partner is daunting. Psychology Today describes the resulting desire to seek out a new mate as a craving or an addiction. In that frame of mind, a single mom could make some particularly bad decisions for the health of her family. Consider this statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau: 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce, a number higher than the national average for first marriages. Oh, please, sister, check yourself before you wreck yourself: Assess whether the desire to seek a new partner comes from a place of stability, or from out-of-control feelings (horniness, loneliness, etc'iness.).
If a single-woman-with-kids (SWWK) does begin to date, consistent advice from psychologists on the subject is to avoid exposing children to new partners until a relationship has matured. Experts recommend moving through that first fun stage of a relationship (when every little thing a partner does is just adorable!) and through the next phase (the one in which partners ask themselves if they really want to see that much back hair for the rest of their lives) before introductions are made.
In the no-sheet-Sherlock category: Kids and single moms have got a lot going on upstairs after a divorce. For moms, emotions range from guilt (especially in shared custody situations when children and moms are apart) to relief to loneliness to joy to fear to pride to depression. Kids are on a similarly wild ride, but lack the (alleged) experience of an adult in recognizing these emotions. So stressful for everyone! Go see a shrink! If your car has a knocking sound in the engine, wouldn't you take it to the garage? Seeing a counselor may not fix these head-and-heart problems, but certainly can provide perspective and some general maintenance tips.
4. Parenting with Dad
So, the break-up sucked? But, assuming Mr. Mister isn't in jail or under a restraining order, it is time to let it go and move on to a new definition of family. The website coparenting.com, with its court-related mediation and parental rights tabs, certainly paints a bleak picture, but the new family configuration does not have to be miserable. In fact, co-parenting can even lead to more thorough decision-making on education, religion and parenting styles—and that's a good thing.
The best way to set up that dynamic, according to divorce counselors, is to set some ground rules when things are calm. How will decisions be made when the parents disagree? Are there some topics that the dad gets to decide on and some the mother does? Will you resort to Ro-sham-bo? Whatever the solution, parenting literature is clear—parents need to support each other and love the heck out of their kids. Things turn out OK with a foundation like that.
5. Moms Need Support
Being a single mom is draining—financially, emotionally and physically. It's critical to have some support. Oftentimes this comes in the form of family, and that doesn't need to mean blood relatives. Whatever and whoever, actively find and form a rock-solid support network through family, friends and other moms.
Create a dream-team—and sometimes the best way to do so is scratching someone else's back. Invite someone else's kids over for a play date, so she can have a moment of peace or time to get some errands done. Build up an account of good-mom deeds you can cash in if need be.
Also, make sure to choose the right dispositions for your Dream Team. Edit out the Debbie Downers. Single moms need to be particularly selective about the people they spend time with. There's just not enough time in the world for negativity. Ultimately, being a successful single mom is about being able to recognize what, and who, you need, then going out and getting it.