What has happened?
Single parenting can be very challenging and can come from any direction such as the loss of a spouse to death, loss of a spouse to divorce, deciding to adopt or having a biological child without a partner. All these dynamics impact how we parent. The difficulty is often related to how we experienced our own childhood, like how we were raised. If we have good memories and are well adjusted, we can tap into our internal reservoir of resources to assist us with our child/children. If we have the finances to go places, like vacations, purchase as we desire and not look at the checkbook balance, life can be a bit less challenging, but not necessarily easier. For most people the financial resources are not there, so we have to depend on extended family or our own parents for help. Even if the financial resources are there and our parents help, guilt can take over making life miserable.
When my husband died our son was 2 yrs. old. I did not have a college degree and was stuck at a job that paid a bit better than average, but I hated. So I decided to get my 2 year college degree and continued on to get my bachelors. To make it work, you must have a life/work/school balance. I would plan the weekend outings. I would clean the house and do the laundry on Friday evenings and go to the beach on Saturday. I would choose free events, museums, park outings, water slides (always had coupons for discounts). The local college had minimal fee for dance lessons, so I learned to dance. I would always take a large purse with snacks if I was short on funds.
If you believe in a higher power, it makes life much more manageable. As a believer in God, I prayed and kept asking for a spouse, but I felt my prayers fell on deaf ears. Later to discover that I raised my 2-yr old son for twelve years before remarrying, we had life memories of the challenges and difficulties experienced as well as both being stronger for the obstacles we had to overcome.
At first, I would take time for myself to study and I would leave my son watching TV or playing video games which gave me a feeling of guilt, for the time passed and there was no sanity or schedule letting me know when and how I would take time to balance my day. I discovered having a schedule worked best which gave my son and me a set time we could plan to have fun and enjoy the weekends together. I was quick to apologize when I lost my temper, which was often. As the years passed, my son learned to cook. One day when I came home from school late at night, he had dinner made. I remember one evening, I was teaching patience to my 9yr old son when he dropped a spoon on the floor and I yelled at him. We immediately both broke out laughing knowing this was a lesson inside a lesson I had to learn.
Some friends that were also single parents due to divorce told me they felt so guilty not being able to spend time with their children when they worked late and had to have their ex’s keep the kids another night. Other times, they reflected how they would pick up their child (in this joint custody case) at 9pm on a weekday and would take the kids to the movies out of feeling the guilt of having to make up time with them. This was during a school week so they had school the next morning. It was a disaster the next day when the children would not get up for school, they were cranky, teachers calling, homework not done and on and on it goes. The parent is this case was trying to elevate their guilt at the expense of their children.
Guilt is an emotion that will mess up your day. Put it aside and get real with what you can and can’t do. You don’t need money to ride bikes or go to the park or beach. I would do my homework at the beach and pack a sandwich and bottled waters. My son was right there with me. I found highly discounted last minute get-a-ways for 2 and 3-day night mini-vacations and take off with my son in tow. Finally, keep a journal of your thoughts and the things you want to accomplish both short and long term. Write your successes and challenges. Note how you would approach situations differently and re-read your notes weekly to assess progress or things you want to change.
Ileana Oxley is a psychotherapist and a certified hypnotherapist who enjoys helping clients through their journey in finding hope, direction, healing or recovery. Ileana holds a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Business Studies from Barry University.
Ileana is fluent in English and Spanish.