When I saw an opportunity to write an article for single parents navigating lockdown, I quickly put my hand up. I was a single parent for the first nine years of my daughter’s life (pre-lockdown of course) and it is fair to say this was a challenging time. The sadness of not having your child’s other parent around each day to ask “How do you think our parenting is going?” or “Were we too hard on her?” or just to share connection regarding your child’s life. And the questions got trickier as my daughter got older – When would it be okay for her to date? What school will be the best fit for her? Am I being too strict? As a single parent, I really missed being able to check in with a partner as I considered these sorts of issues.
The responsibility of raising a well-adjusted human on my own weighed heavily, and at times I found myself in a heap on my bed feeling overwhelmed with the job ahead of me.
Good enough is great
One day I had a revolutionary thought – what if I gave myself a break and accepted that ‘good enough’ actually was good enough?! What if I gave myself permission to not be the perfect parent? I mean, is there even such a thing as a perfect parent? No. Instead, I would aim to be the best parent I could be. This meant there was going to be some great parenting moments, and some not-so-great ones, and that was going to be good enough for me!
I also realised, at some point of my journey, that looking after myself was super important if I wanted to look after my daughter. The old saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ is absolutely true. And this truth is especially raw for single parents as they often find themselves at the bottom of the priority list.
Solo, and thriving!
The lockdown period is proving a stressful time for most families, but single parents obviously have the added dynamic of not being able to pass the baton to another parent. You’re it! Parent, teacher, cook, housekeeper, morale-booster, coach, entertainer, counsellor, nurse… need I go on?!
Single parents – you are AMAZING!
Here are 5 things I want to encourage you with today:
1.Be kind to yourself
Jacinda is right, kindness is key. You are navigating through an incredibly challenging time: learning how to juggle working from home during a crisis, being a parent (and possibly a teacher too), and not having your usual self-care outlets available (like catching up with friends, going to the movies, going out for dinner, or even just grabbing a takeaway coffee!).
- Make time at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed, to run yourself a bath or have an extended shower. Light a candle and put on your favourite music. Set yourself up for a movie night with a treat or two.
- Zoom or phone a friend, reach out and connect. It’s easy to get locked into your own bubble and not reach out to others. I strongly encourage you to use your village to maintain adult connection. Have a couple of people who you talk to about the challenges you might be facing, or simply to debrief your experiences of lockdown life with. You may feel alone physically, but you’re not alone in the bigger picture – we’re all in this together and people who love and care about you are just a text, phone or video call away.
- Just breathe! Stop and take some deep breaths, whenever you need to throughout the day. If it’s been one of ‘those’ days, put the kids to bed half an hour earlier and savour some peace.
2. Be realistic
You are only one person and you can only do so much. Some days will go a lot smoother than others. Allow things to slide. Give yourself a well-deserved break from the expectation that the house needs to sparkle like it did in its former glory – in those days before you lived inside it 24/7! It’s okay that today’s trip to the supermarket just didn’t happen – baked beans for dinner tonight is absolutely fine.
3. Education is everywhere
Here we all are schooling from home… Suddenly you’re a teacher and I’m not sure about you, but I don’t remember getting a qualification for this role! The general consensus is that we needn’t put too much pressure on ourselves (or on our kids) when it comes to home learning. It will look different for every age group, but if your kids are young (actually, even if they’re older!), there are loads of learning opportunities simply in everyday activities. Get your little kids to sort the pegs into colours while you hang out washing, or count the cookies as your roll them out on the tray for baking. Gather all your children together on the couch and read a pile of books aloud. Get your older kids helping with the cooking – lockdown is a great opportunity to equip our kids with some valuable domestic skills.
4. Front foot the connection
Maintain and pursue connection with your kids before their behaviour screams ‘I need you’. We can feel like we don’t have time to stop and spend quality time with our kids but here’s the deal – when their behaviour spirals out of control because they desperately need connection, we will spend the same amount of time – if not more time – helping them sort their feelings out and getting them back on track. Invest in short, but intentional, moments of focused attention throughout the day – this really helps with ‘maintenance’, keeping our kids’ tanks full and their emotions in balance.
5. Empower the team
You don’t have to do everything on your own. As soon as your kids are old enough to help (and even toddlers can master some tidying up or laundry sorting skills… kinda), involve them in household chores, cooking and gardening. Single parents have an opportunity to raise especially resourceful and responsible kids.
As a single parent, it’s really easy to slip into comparing yourself to other families and how they appear to be navigating lockdown. This offers little relief but instead usually leaves us feeling like we could/should be doing better. Comparison is the thief of joy, Theodore Roosevelt once said. Comparison will also steal your peace. Stay in your own lane and remember that nobody else has the exact same scenario as you. The number of kids, their ages, their personalities… families all vary hugely.
So be kind to yourself and run your own race. And stay in today – you only need to find the patience, kindness and love that you need for the day you’re in right now. When tomorrow comes, the same will true.
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Bridget Gundy believes that no matter what the family situation, finding someone to talk to can make a world of difference. An experienced counsellor, Bridget has worked at Women’s Refuge and now helps parents through family coaching and facilitating Toolbox. Bridget has navigated complex parenting moments, having started her parenting journey as a single parent and then going on to co-raise four children in a blended family. She’s passionate about seeing people thrive, not just survive, in their role as parents. You can book a Family Coaching session with Bridget here.
Looking for more personalised strategies and solutions for your family?
Our family coaches are still available during the lockdown and can meet with you online. We’ve also introduced a shorter 30-minute appointment type, to make things easier while you navigate family life with everyone at home.