8 Lessons Learned While Being a Single Parent

Parenting is tough for all of us, but especially for single-parent families. Forget the stereotypes. Here's how going it alone can be a gift.

Photo courtesy of Care.com

Photo courtesy of Care.com

Being a single mother is the best part of who I am. You might nod in agreement if you were raised by a solo parent or if you're a single parent yourself. Eight years of being a single mother have called me to stand taller, hug longer and dig deeper than I ever anticipated.

There are 9.9 million single mothers in this country. Each of us has a thousand stories to tell and lessons to share about the challenges and triumphs.

Here are eight of mine.

  1. I Am Enough
    I have all of the skills and love it takes to raise a child well and to make sound and safe decisions with my son's well-being at the center. I also give myself points for holding dance parties in the car with Taylor Swift turned all the way up!
     
  2. My Circle of Support Is Strong
    I have many friends on Facebook and in the real world, but I'm clear about the supportive people who help my son and I thrive -- my best single-mom friends, my parents, the pediatrician, my attorney and a great therapist. Those who disconnected from us post-divorce have only opened up space for new, wonderful people to step in. 
     
  3. I Outsource Everything I Can Afford
    Grocery delivery,a house-cleaner, a babysitter who is a craft whiz-- all afford me more time with my son or to take better care of myself. 
     
  4. I Am My Own Favorite Date
    I used to dread the nights my son was with his father. But now I look forward to doing yoga, eating all the sushi myself, and watching terrible reality TV. No matter the plans, this "me time" is a treasured necessity that allows me to be a happy mama the other days of the week.
     
  5.  My Health Is Critical
    I've always wanted to live a long and vibrant life, but now that I'm my son's primary caretaker, the stakes are higher. That means I need to take great care of myself -- be vigilant in exercising and scheduling doctor appointments and mammograms, especially when I don't want to.
     
  6.  I Need to Budget
    As a consultant, my income varies greatly from year to year, but my son's needs don't. I'm continually challenged to budget wiser, learn more about investing and save more as a single-income parent.
     
  7.  I Have A Family Mission
    I focus on building a safe and happy home. That 'mission statement' guides every decision I make, from moving to movie night, and helps me explain those choices to my boy.
     
  8. I Value Exploration
    It's my responsibility to ensure my son grows up respecting other cultures and experiencing life outside our front door. When we can, we love to explore neighborhoods beyond our own. Life is bigger than one home, one mom or one way of being raised. It's a joy to learn over and over together.

There is much more to learn, I know, and I am walking alongside and standing on the shoulders of millions of single mothers who came before me. I am learning from them, I am learning from my son, and I am trusting myself to keep moving ahead, proud and happy in this beautiful, complicated way of parenting.

What are the best lessons you've learned as a single mother? Share your single-parent appreciation ideas with the Care.com community on Twitter and Facebook!