Single parents probably read the title of this article and think, “Ha! They’ve narrowed it down to just five?” In fairness, we realize that the challenges of caring for kids alone are innumerable. But there are some hardships unique to the individual, and others that are universal for all single moms. So this list hits those 5 common single mom struggles.
But don’t worry—we’re not just going to remind you of why things feel tough. What kind of friend would we be if we did that? We’ve also got some encouragement and suggestions to help you deal with it.
1. Financial Strain
The most common life events that lead to single parenthood—death, divorce, etc.—upset more than just your marital status. They upset your financial balance, and leave one adult shouldering a load that is typically carried by two. Even if you’re a single adoptive parent and chose the challenge of going it alone, it’s still tough. Single moms often hang in limbo waiting for child support that never arrives or paying attorneys to pursue what should be paid. There always seems to be a little less in the checking account than what your kids need.
While you can’t control others (like an ex-spouse), you can control your own decisions and get organized and intentional about how you handle your money to lessen the stress. Consult with a financial planner, or take a course at your church like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to help make every dollar go as far as possible. And remember: What your children need most—your love—you do have in abundance. Lavish them with that, and lay down the guilt of not being able to give them every material thing they desire.
2. Social Isolation
Single moms sometimes feel trapped underneath a mountain of responsibility that never allows them to invest in friendships, much less find another companion for life. Working single moms say the guilt of leaving the kids in the evening to do something just for yourself is crushing. Add to that the cost of hiring a sitter and getting out of the house for adult interaction seems almost impossible.
You need friendships and encouragement, so this is not a frivolous single mom struggle. Look for environments that allow for some social time for you while keeping the kids occupied or entertained: a church small group that offers childcare, an exercise class at a gym with a kids’ space, or a play date with other parents. And maybe once a month, splurge for that sitter or trade out childcare with another parent to actually go to dinner with friends and really talk about what’s going on in your life.
3. Decision Pressure
Parenting is hard. There are lots of gray areas and the game changes daily as your children grow. For married parents, there’s at least another adult to talk things out with and to share the burden of making tough decisions. Single parents bear the weight of all of those tough calls alone—where to go to school, which friends are OK, or when a child is mature enough for a new privilege or responsibility. The emotional burden can wear a mom down in a hurry.
Seek out a trusted parenting mentor or peer to bounce some thoughts off of. It might be a friend from church, your own parents, or a pastor or counselor. Make sure your chosen sounding board shares your fundamental values so you’ll be certain to receive advice that matches up with them. Although the final parenting decision will still be yours to make, getting some feedback on your parental plan can lessen your anxiety and embolden you to do the hard things that parenting sometimes requires.
Is there any end to the guilt a single parent feels? If you know that your decisions (some of which you may regret) contributed to your current family status, it’s especially present. There’s guilt about the financial things you can’t provide, guilt about the time you spend away from the kids, guilt about the things you just can’t do because of your situation. Regardless of how your children became the kids of a single parent, you worry daily about the effect that it’s having on them and feel responsible.
If your single status is the result of a poor decision, own your mistake, learn from it, and move on. We all make mistakes, and the guilt we feel is only helpful inasmuch as it helps us to correct problems and become better people. If your current situation is the result of the mistakes of another, do yourself a favor and forgive. The burden of anger is too much for you to bear forever. You can’t get in a time machine and fix the past, but you can do your best to make today better—so focus your energy there. Work on relationships with your kids’ other parent/step-parent so they feel less friction. Be a great example today and trust God to fill in the gaps that are beyond your reach.
If your current situation is the result of the mistakes of another, do yourself a favor and forgive.
Let’s face it: You’re doing alone what was designed to be a two-person job. The fact that you often feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually worn out is not just your imagination. But because your kids depend on you, you can’t afford to push yourself past a certain point. You must take care of yourself and your health in order to be there for them.
Find ways to take a breather, even if you have to swap out child care with another single parent to make it happen. Spend that time recharging in some way that will continue to pay benefits when the busyness kicks back in: with exercise, spiritual growth, or good, old-fashioned sleep. It’s not selfish to maintain the engine that keeps your home running: you.
Single moms, what struggle do you think should be added to the list?