If you’re a single parent, you’re likely to face many of the same challenges as any other new parent, married or otherwise. In fact, many of the sections discussed earlier in the chapter may apply just as well to single parents as to married ones. But parenting a newborn on your own presents its own set of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that nearly all parenting responsibilities rest ultimately on the physical, mental, emotional and financial resources of one person, you.
The literature is often unclear when it comes to the odds of successfully parenting a child on your own. But this may have more to do with the circumstances that often, but not always, surround a single parent — such as poverty, divorce, a mistimed pregnancy — rather than the parent himself or herself. Many children, both young and old, can attest to the monumental love and support provided to them by a parent who happened to be single. If circumstances are difficult and a parent succeeds in creating a positive family experience, it only attests to the incredible resilience of the parent in the face of intense obstacles.
To cope with some of the particular challenges of single parenthood, consider the following suggestions:
- Gather support. Support for your role as a parent is critical as you navigate the ups and downs of learning how to be a parent. This may mean cultivating and drawing on sources of support such as the baby’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, a religious or spiritual community, or a network of other parents in a similar situation.
- Seek out good child care. Most single parents are also working parents, so finding child care that promotes your child’s well-being and accommodates your schedule is critical. Get recommendations from family, friends and other parents. Visit the location and talk to the person who will supervise your child’s care before committing.
- Provide worthy role models. As your child grows, it’s helpful to have role models of both sexes for your child to learn from. Incorporate activities with adults you trust and admire into your child’s life. You are an important role model for your child, as your child sees you succeed both in the workplace and at home.
- Make time for your child. Single parents are often busy managing the demands of work and baby care, and time with your child may not be as much as you’d like. Still, take the opportunity to interact with your baby whenever possible: sing in the car on the way to day care, spend a lazy Saturday morning together perusing (or trying to eat) the newspaper, or take a long walk around a park.
- Make time for yourself. Single parents need breaks, too — perhaps even more so than do couples. Plan dinner and a movie for yourself after the baby has gone to sleep. Find a fitness center that offers baby-sitting services while you work out. Gather the phone numbers of prized baby sitters from your parent friends or take up your mom’s offer to watch the baby while you dine out with a friend or see a movie on your own.
- Be part of a community. Feeling connected to the world around you is important for anyone, but can be especially helpful for a single parent. Get to know your neighbors, join a church or religious community, or connect with groups dedicated to single parents. Being connected to a larger community can also be beneficial if a crisis arises.