Being a single parent is not easy at any age, but definitely for people with children under 6, it is incredibly difficult to manage one’s life while having to worry about a child’s every move when they are with you. Dealing with children who cannot eat, go potty or entertain themselves without you is exhausting, and if you do not have a partner to tag-team with you, these duties can be overwhelming. After a child has gained the ability to be somewhat self-sufficient, life does get somewhat easier, but it makes all the difference in the world if you have understanding co-workers, friends, and family that can sympathize with the challenges of being a single parent.
As I look back at that last six years, I think organization was my salvation. Having plans provided us both with things to look forward to such as sporting events, the theater, museums, trips to the beach, amusement parks, New York City or Disney. The key is not to be too rigid with plans because things always come up with kids, and they actually need some down time. Everything is so new to them, and letting them process is important to avoid overload. It also takes the pressure off as a parent if you can allow yourself some unstructured time. Some of my best talks with my son have taken place at home, when we are not running around all over the place.
It is an intense relationship to be “on” all the time with your child, without anyone to relieve you for just an hour to go to the gym, especially when your child is your opposite. That said, I have learned a lot from being around my son, who often sees things quite differently than me. I have never seen my flaws and strengths as clearly before in my life, and I am grateful for the chance to have this insight with enough time (hopefully) to change the parts to my personality that could use some improvement. Perhaps in an intact household, I would not have been afforded such an opportunity.
For the first time in my life, walking away is not an option when things get rough, and so all those active listening and conflict resolution skills in my professional life have come in quite handy at home. By no means would I promote single-parenting, but my point is that it can be done, and it has been the most rewarding experience of a lifetime.