If you're a newly single mom or a single or divorced mother who is still having a hard time finding backup, getting a support system in place is crucial. Whether it's finding someone to help with your children or creating new holiday traditions as a new "family" of sorts, creating a new village for yourself will enrich your life and your children's.
Whether you've been a single parent for two days or two years, having women to turn to who have been there and done that is valuable. It took me a year to finally make my own social media group comprised of single moms. I added acquaintances and friends (and suggested they add friends too) in order to get some support on questions and problems I had that my other friends and family couldn't answer. While I know some ladies better than others, I consider them a good source of information and one I need as I venture into a new life with my daughter, alone.
If you don't have a group of single parents to consult with, why not google around or search Meetup.com or Facebook to see if you can find a group to join? This is a great way to get instant feedback on your questions and fears and maybe even make some real-life friends!
Let's face it, unless you've got great family to help you for free, a babysitter is a single mom must! Of course, budget is always a concern for single parents, but having backup just in case — because we all know the "just in case" will happen, it's simply a matter of time — is crucial.
I recently used my daughter's aftercare teacher as a babysitter and we liked her a lot. However, she has had a busy Summer and now I am in need of finding more reliable backup. My first plan is to ask friends for references and second, to put an ad on Care.com. Since I can't ask my ex all the time, my family is not available, and I already know my friends are busy with their own children, it's time to reach out to strangers. This can be very terrifying (there I admit it — I am scared!), but I have to start interviewing people with the hopes of creating a good network of help.
This can be the hardest. How do you ask others to intrude on their holiday time, which is most likely their family time as well? First, if you don't have someone off the top of your head that you know you can sneak in on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July celebrations, why not make a list of people who you could potentially ask?
Second, once you have the list, think of some ways you can add to the party. Is it Christmas Day dessert or bringing beer to the Labor Day BBQ? Third, contact the person you feel the most comfortable and ask if they have any major plans for the holiday. If they don't or if they do but you think another party wouldn't be a bother, ask away and offer to bring whatever goody you thought of in the second step!
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Why not send out a text or message to friends saying you and your little ones are looking for some holiday fun. Would anyone mind some more guests? You promise to bring your famous cookies! Chances are, a few friends will respond with a resounding yes. Most of the times, people don't assume others are alone on holidays. People assume everyone has family or friends to celebrate with. Reach out and let it be known you're looking to join the fun.
Yes, I said it. Therapy. If you can afford it, I highly recommend joining a single parent or divorce support group or one-on-one therapy, at least for when you first start your journey as a single mommy. It's good to have the emotional support since it's a big life change. For me, I have good insurance and recently decided to go back since I have had a hard time grieving my divorce. Every time I leave the therapist's office, I feel better and have a new perspective. This is invaluable in my journey as a single parent.
If you do have family available, ask them for help and to possibly create new traditions. For example, my ex used to work every Saturday so Sunday night dinners were a big deal for me. It was so nice for all three of us (me, my ex, and our child) to have dinner together. Fifteen months later, Sunday dinner hour is still hard on me whenever my daughter is with her father. Reach out to family and share that your old traditions that meant very much to you are drastically changed now. Is it possible that they could start a new tradition with you and your children? Perhaps your old tree-cutting ceremony could instead be a tree-decorating ceremony with the grandparents. Your annual pumpkin carving contest? Maybe your siblings wouldn't mind taking on the old jack-o'-lantern tradition.
Ask and you might receive. Don't ask? No one will be there to guess your needs. Speak out.
Other Single Parents
There may be other single parent friends around you looking for someone to have a monthly movie night with, but you won't know until you ask. Most likely, your single mom friends would love another single mom and kids to spend time with. Ask your friends how life has been for them as a single parent and if they have a lot of support and chances are, you'll find they're looking for another shoulder to lean on like you!
Go to your children's/child's teachers to ask if they know of any good parenting groups or perhaps have any additional support they can offer you like babysitter recommendations, therapists, good parenting books, or free family events. Teachers know their neighborhoods well and can be a good source of information. Plus, if you or your child/children happen to be having a tough time, it's important they know in order to fully support their students and their parents.
If you can afford to hire an accountant, do it! Having someone you can turn to for trusted financial advice as a single mom is a must. If you are just getting on your feet as a single mom and don't have much experience managing a budget or are trying to figure out whether you can feasibly buy a home or should stick to renting, Savvy Ladies is a great nonprofit organization you can turn to for free financial advice and education.
Just Don't Do This
Whatever you do, don't stay silent. Speak up and confide in your current resources as well as find new ones in order to make a positive life for you and your kids. And most importantly, do not rush into a new relationship with the goal of finding a replacement family for your kids. Finding a solid partner is not easy and is a decision that should take time and thought. Besides, you and you alone are good enough for your children. Don't ever feel desperate to provide a "new dad" or "dad" for your kids because you fear you might not be good enough. You are good enough and when the time comes, the right person will appear in your life! In the meantime, create a support system that is reliable and solid, giving you and your kids a great foundation.