Truth be told, being a single mom is not for the faint of heart! No one gets married planning to get divorced and raise kids on their own. But divorce happens, often resulting in an unexpected foray into the complicated single mom life.
Even though your divorce may be a blessing in disguise, you still have to deal with the day-to-day challenges of doing the work of two as you try to raise amazing kids.
So, how do you navigate the single mom life? What’s the secret to thriving in spite of becoming a single mom after divorce? I’m pretty certain that no one handed you a manual for how to cope with being a single mom along with your divorce decree!
Being a single mom: some statistics
The numbers suggest that the single parent family is becoming more common. According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, over 5 decades from 1960 to 2016, the percentage of children living with only mom tripled from 8% to 23%. The percentage of single mothers (among single-parent households) is a whopping 77% and single mother families make up 23% of all households in the United States. The bottom line is that You are NOT alone.
Being a single mom is not easy. But you can overcome the challenges and enjoy your single mom life!
Every situation is different and single-parent households are not all the same, but being a single mom is often difficult. Becoming a single mom after divorce also presents some different challenges from being a single mom who was never married. However, many of the same issues occur in both cases.
Here are some of the issues that make being a single mom challenging, along with tips on how to tackle them so that you can enjoy your life right now!
1) How to survive financially as a single mom.
This is probably the biggest challenge for the majority of single moms. Many single moms stayed home while they were married. They may have been out of the workforce for several years, or they may have never had a regular job.
Although a recent report from the Pew Research Center states that mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40% of U.S. families, typically, dad still brings home “most of the bacon”. This is also generally true in other parts of the world outside of the U.S, although the numbers for mom breadwinners are on an upward trend.
Therefore, when a woman gets divorced, she suddenly has to provide financially for herself and her kids. Even if she was already working, she may not be earning as much as her now ex-husband. This transition from either stay-at-home or low-income earner to the main provider is a hard transition. It’s also a major cause of fear when divorce becomes a reality.
Surviving financially as a single mom is often difficult.
This difficulty is compounded by the fact that child support can be difficult to enforce. Many women are forced to bear the financial burden of raising their children with little or no help from their children’s father. This exacerbates the stress of everything else that they endure as single moms. I’m so sorry if this is your situation.
My single working mom life
Just like you, being a single mom was not on my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up! However, I have always worked. Therefore, I didn’t have the hard transition of entering the workforce after divorce.
I remember feeling terribly guilty about going back to work after my maternity leave when my first child was only 4 months old. At the time, I discussed the idea of staying home with my now ex-husband and he was seemed supportive of the idea.
However, both of my parents were vehemently opposed to it! My typical Nigerian mom even asked me how I could “just stay at home” with all of the education that I had received?. Haha! As if being a stay-at-home mom is easy! Her perspective is shaped by the fact that she comes from a lineage of working women. Also, staying home as a mom is less common in my Nigerian culture than it is in the United States. I can’t remember any stay-at-home moms from my childhood growing up in Lagos, Nigeria.
As my marriage ended in divorce, I am so grateful that I took my parents’ advice and kept moving along in my career.
You can achieve financial independence as a single mom!
If you are reentering the job market after your divorce, I applaud your courage and cheer you on. With God’s help, you must figure out how to become financially independent from your ex-husband if you want to become truly disentangled and live in peace. Depending on someone who has no allegiance to you for your sustenance is such a precarious position to be in. If you are like most, you can’t survive on child support alone. You must find a way to break free!
What can you do to get moving on the road to financial independence?
Many single moms underestimate their own capabilities! Dig deep and think about the things that you do well. Does everyone rave about those cupcakes you take to church? Are you great at mending your own kids’ clothes? A fabulous organizer who loves details? Great cook? In today’s internet age, you’d be surprised at what you can turn into cash.
Trust God to provide as you work hard, doing what you must to gain financial independence so you can provide for yourself and your children without looking to your ex-spouse for help. It’s okay if you have to start there, but make a solid plan to grow to independence. Even if you receive sizeable financial support from your ex-husband through child support and/or alimony, you may still have to make changes from the lifestyle you had when you were married. Downsize your home, get a smaller car, go back to school, get that certificate, make and sell stuff…find a path to standing on your own feet.
We could all use some help in the area of our finances! I highly recommend the following books from Dave Ramsey to help you with the important task of getting strong financially. I have applied many of his principles in my quest to improve my finances and ensure a better future for myself and my kids.
Would you like some additional help? Read these great resources to help you deal with the challenges of your single mom life
2) How to cope with being a single mom with no help.
You landed a job, congratulations!! Now, on to the next problem: how do you balance work, taking care of your kids and life as a single working mom?
I was so nervous about this issue when I found out that my now ex-husband had filed for divorce. At the time, I had a new 3-week old baby and my 6-year-old son. I wondered how was I going to cope with the kids and work. How could I juggle it all?
Hear me! God is such a good Father, so faithful and kind. He knew my divorce was coming and made provision to help me even before it happened. My aunt was able to spend the first 18 months of my daughter’s life with me, and God has provided me with some kind of household assistance since then. I have not been without help for longer than a couple of weeks at a time since I became a single mom.
The same God that helped me wants to help you! Just ask Him and be open to hearing His instructions for how to get the help you need. Maybe you have to give up something so that you can afford to pay for a starving college student’s time every night to help you with your kids. Or maybe you have to become more tolerant of others and allow a relative live with you and your kids in exchange for help around the house. Look around you, in your neighborhood, at work, and at church and make friends with other moms. Build a strong community to support you in parenting and in life.
3) Being a single mom can be lonely
Maybe most of your girlfriends are married and you struggle with loneliness as a single mom. You are used to being part of a twosome…now, you are all alone.
Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing! It’s ok to be alone. In fact, I think that you have to learn to enjoy being alone as a single mom in order to really rediscover yourself and heal after your divorce. Don’t be afraid of the silence! Get comfortable in your own skin again. Take the time to figure out who you are all over, and just enjoy your own awesomeness! Don’t be in a hurry to have someone new in your life. Get to know you and fall in love with yourself. That way, you will know how precious you are and become more discerning about who you allow into your life.
4) How to help your children cope with the aftermath of the divorce
Many kids struggle after their parents’ divorce, and it’s really heart-wrenching to watch our kids suffer the aftermath of divorce. In addition to dealing with the effects of the divorce, immature, selfish adults often use the kids as a pawn to hurt the other parent, causing more havoc in what is already a very difficult situation.
Unfortunately, you cannot control your ex-spouse! But you can choose how you respond and do your part to protect your kids as much as possible. How to help your children heal after divorce provides several tips to get you started. You also need to decide to heal and move forward, so that you can be emotionally available for your kids.
Don’t be shy about arranging sessions with a Christian child psychologist if your child needs it. Divorce Care for kids may also be a helpful avenue for your children to interact with other kids in the same situation; they may be more open in this group setting than with you.
Here are some additional resources to help your child cope with your divorce.
5) Dealing with your ex
Women who didn’t have kids with their ex-spouse have the luxury of being able to move forward without ever having to speak to the ex again if they choose not to. But, unless there are strong legal reasons at play, chances are that you still have to communicate with your ex.
Some women are able to maintain a good friendship with their ex and working together is very easy. Good for you if this is your situation! More often though, left unchecked, the relationship with your ex can be toxic, increasing the strain of an already tenuous situation.
So, what can you do to make dealing with your ex as stress-free as is within your power?
- Say to yourself: I CANNOT control my ex! Seriously. The earlier you understand and accept this, the better for your peace of mind. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Pick your battles wisely. You DO NOT have to respond to every provocation that is hurled your way! Sometimes, the best response is silence.
- Set appropriate boundaries in your relationship with your ex. What is needed varies for every situation, but the mere fact that you are no longer married means that the relationship has changed. Understanding the boundaries that work for your situation is crucial to the well-being of your new family.
- Decide on how you want to communicate. This is simple, yet so crucial. Are you able and do you want to engage in verbal communications with your ex? If you are often subjected to verbal abuse, or you just don’t want to speak directly to your ex, you have options. Consider having either email or one of the many parenting apps designated in your divorce decree as the primary mode of communication. This simple action can increase your peace of mind. It also allows you greater control over the frequency and tone of the interactions with your ex.
Above all, I find that your mindset determines how much you get to enjoy being a single mom.
Decide that you are NOT a victim, choose to heal and embrace the new things that God has in store for your future.
I love this promise from our heavenly father in Isaiah 43:19,
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Will you believe this???
I’m sure there are many other challenges that we face as single mums; I would love to hear your experience. What are your particular challenges and how do you cope with them?
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