Single Parenting Can be a Challenge
How much"free" time do you have being a single parent?
Single parenting is hard and it can feel overwhelming at times.
I'm a single parent...I'm a single parent...I'm a single parent
Not all of us will join the team of single parenting, but for those of you who have, welcome. It took me quite some time to get used to hearing that and referring to myself that way. I got divorced a few years back and I was alone for the first time in 12 years, I thought how am I going to do this? I had 4 year old twins at the time, how was I going to be everything to them? I remember that feeling hit me like a brick one night when they woke up in the middle of the night with the flu. Ok, I said to myself, this is it, you can do this because you ALWAYS do this. Now get up and fix it! It was that day, I realized that the majority of their young lives will be spent with me and they depended on me take care of them. And so, I became fly-swatter, spider remover, hairdresser, chef, baseball coach, dance mom, cleaner upper of UBER messes and mommy doctor. For my daughter, she put her trust in me and never looked back. For my son, it was not so simple. Because he has Autism Spectrum Disorder specifically PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Delay - Not Otherwise Specified) and he has anxiety. And so I had to organize! I had to formulate a plan for our family to navigate this new journey. Daddy no longer lived with us and now he has his own home. How do you explain this to children, especially one who CRAVES routine.........with patience and help. And so I hope this helps any of you struggling with a similar situation!
I cannot tell anyone what to do, but I can share what worked for us.
1. Carve Out Special Time with Each Child: Ok, I realize those of you reading this are saying, "sure thing, I wish I had a spare moment." I understand, I have twins and they do not understand ALONE! However, I knew what each child loved and what was important to them so I tapped into that and carved out special tea times for my daughter, we watched movies, and we played with her animals. For her, it was special mommy time. She is my "old soul" and she knew things changed but it she was ok. We worked on things together and we talked A LOT. She's a very intuitive child so I used that when we played. No phones, no distractions, just time for the two of us where she got my undivided attention. For those of you with twins, you get it and for those of you with autistic children you get it! Which brings me to my son (my new soul) and my WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) kid. He, who is very differently from his sister, does not adapt well to change. He thrives on consistency and routine. My tactic was different with him. I became vigilant and extremely organized. Our play reflected a scheduled event and we knew in advance what we were doing, e.g., a puzzle, cars, a movie. Like his sister, he got my undivided attention as well, and with less anxiety for him. And then I began to rely more and more on my family for support. Thankfully, my family embraced our challenges and rose to the occasion and still do. They became surrogates and stand-ins. They allowed me to spend single time with each child (which is nearly impossible with twins).
2. PLAN PLAN PLAN: I cannot say it enough, but planning and organizing saves a lot of heartache for all. For my son, transitions were almost impossible to handle without a major meltdown following. In order to circumvent these, we set up weekly calendars with Velcro pictures. We had pictures for everything....school, mommy at home, mommy at work, daddy's house, daddy alone. And at the beginning of every week we put the appropriate signs on the appropriate days. This helped him (and her) be in control of their schedule. It alleviated a lot of anxiety of the unknown. We kept it on the refrigerator at eye level and every day, they would go over and know exactly what was going to happen that week. It stimulated conversation and gave them a bit of independence in their lives by allowing them some control. it was our goal to make the situation as bearable for the kids as we could and we made each transition as easy as possible. For weeks, their father would visit in the home only. Once they got used to that, we brought them to his new place for the day. It was quite some time before they spent the night but when they did, they were ready.
3. Allow Yourself Time to Grieve: I think most moms and dads that are divorced or single forget to live. We dive into our work, our children, our homes and by the time the day is over, we are so exhausted we go to bed so that we can do it again the next day. Everyone needs time for themselves. It took me two years to look at myself from the inside out and realize that if I did not start taking care of me, I would be of no use to my children. It's ok to feel sad for what you lost whether it was your decision to end the relationship or not. Having time to recognize all of the emotions that are played out allows us to feel, and then move past, our old lives and move into our new future.
4. Do What Makes You Happy: I had to find something for me so I would not suffocate. I started reading again. I also started planning more daily events; I was planning excursions and park trips and we started to emerge from our nest. We began living again and we did it together.
We still have a LONG way to go and I would like to say that I give my children equal time but I would be lying. My son's needs simply demand more thought and attention. Because, on top of all my mommy jobs, as well as my paid-for job, I have to be an advocate, and fighter for his rights too. And all of it is tiring, but I still try.
My point is that raising children is hard work and it’s doubly hard when you realize – It’s all you. No matter how you got to be where you are, you are not alone and there are some great resources available to help you navigate your new life.
There are some links below that you may find useful.
Text Copyright © 2012 Lisa Davis
Links for Single Parenting/Autism Resources
- 100 Useful Sites, Networks, and Resources for Parents of Autistic Children | Masters in Health Care
It is difficult to read the news or watch TV today without hearing about autism. Included are some useful resources that may help.
- Single Parent Alliance and Resource Center
It is SPARC's Mission to empower and equip single parents with the necessary tools, resources and support to enable them to create a healthy home environment and nurture their children into a productive and successful adulthood.