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Family Matters

11 Truths About Being a Single Mom

Always be the queen of your castle and more advice from a single mom of seven

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I never expected to be a single mother. As a little girl, my future family looked like a fairytale wedding followed by two perfect kids. There was no room in that fantasy for divorce, let alone raising my kids alone. Yet here I am raising seven kids on my own.

Real life hasn't turned out like my childhood dreams, but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy as a single mom. And while everyone's experience is different, here's what I've learned along the way.

1. Let it go. Being a single mom is hectic, and sometimes chaotic, but it doesn't have to be a total nightmare. Be relentless about your priorities and ditch anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Daily baths? No way. A few extra germs will make your kids' bodies stronger anyway—they can thank you for those ironclad immune systems later.

2. Be the queen of your castle. If you've ever been partnered, you know that coupledom comes with a lot of compromise. The beauty of single parenting is that no one else gets a say about, well, anything. It's your house, your rules, and if you decide to leave the dishes in the sink to binge-watch your favorite TV show once in awhile, no one will be the wiser. Even better, you'll never have to negotiate chores or childcare duties again because (congratulations!) it's all your job. It's amazing how much less exhausting it can be to just do it yourself than to have that argument for the 300th time.

3. There's always room for fun. It's easy to get caught up in trying to be the perfect parent, but single moms know kids don't need perfection from their parents to thrive. A spontaneous movie night or an occasional ice cream for dinner is all it takes to help you reconnect with your kids after a long week of school, work, and chores. All work and no play makes everyone cranky, but single moms know the power of a dance party after a busy day.

4. Kids are part of a family, not the center of it. When you're flying solo, it makes sense to ask your kids to pitch in more around the house. Kids need to feel cared for and valued, but they also need to learn how to care for and value others in their family. Pitching in with chores and babysitting on a regular basis helps kids grow into responsible and compassionate adults who understand their place in their community.

5. There are never enough hours in the day. Ever. No matter how much you get done, your to-do list is probably still a mile long-and that's okay. No one can be everything to everyone and do it all perfectly. You don't expect perfection from your kids and you shouldn't expect it from yourself, either. Your to-do list will still be waiting for you tomorrow, so you might as well give up on ever conquering that beast.

6. Co-parenting can be messy. "Conscious uncoupling" may work for some, but it's harder than it looks. When it comes to co-parenting, expect some bumps along the way and forgive yourself for not always navigating it with grace. Single mothers aren't superhuman, no matter how hard we try. Just remember: the better you co-parent, the more likely you are to get a break once in awhile... and who doesn't want that? 

7. "Impossible" isn't in our vocabulary. Single mothers know how to work from home with a baby on the boob, a toddler underfoot, and a call into the plumber about that overflowing toilet. We don't give up easily, or at all, and we're masters of doing the impossible. This makes us strong, but it can also make us go too far in the name of saving the day. It's okay to say no sometimes or to refocus our priorities. That's called sanity.

8. Memories are made when you least expect it. There's not a single mom among us who hasn't tried to make up for being single with some sort of grand gesture at least once. There also isn't a single mom among us who doesn't eventually realize that none of those grand gestures ever pack the punch we expect them to; real, lasting memories are made in the endless evenings playing board games or tickle monster before bed. Our kids need us to be parents—nothing more and nothing less. 

9. Budgeting is a single mom's best friend. Let's be real here. Kids are really, really expensive. Between paying for baby food, diapers, and childcare, it's a miracle that any of us get by at all. Single moms know how to maximize their money with budgets, meal plans, coupons, and shopping tricks that would make other moms' heads spin. If budgeting was a competitive sport, we would crush it.

10. No one can do it alone. Single moms know the value of community. They learn how to build a village for themselves and their kids, and they don't try to do everything on their own. Whether support looks like a friend on speed dial after a long day or a weekly coffee date, single moms know the only way they can take care of their kids is if they take care of themselves, too.

11. There's absolutely nothing like it. It's easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of raising kids alone, and there's no end of negative portrayals of single motherhood in the media. But single moms know the truth. From hugs on our way out the door to Sunday mornings spent cuddling in bed, we're great moms with more happy memories than we can count.