I've been a single mom since my son was born.
Nate and I have done so well, thanks to a ton of help from my family, but we've had our fair share of challenges. While it is incredibly fulfilling to watch your child grow and develop, it can also be overwhelming to handle the responsibilities of raising a child alone.
Here are three of the challenges I've had to work to overcome as a single parent:
Brittany and Nate.
1. Financial instability
One of the biggest challenges of being a single parent is financial instability. Raising a child is expensive, from paying for childcare to buying food and clothing. Doing it alone makes the costs seem overwhelming at times. Unexpected medical bills or car repairs can wipe out savings quickly. It's so hard to build up savings when you're just surviving.
I worked in the education/childcare field throughout Nate's entire childhood, and it's not the most lucrative field. Thankfully, we lived with my parents, so what would have been spent on rent could go to childcare/school and fun extras like zoo trips, sports, and fun restaurants. I know many single parents are not lucky enough to have the fantastic support system I do, so I truly recognize how lucky I am.
2. Feelings of failure and inadequacy
Even with my support system, there have been times as a single parent I've felt isolated, overwhelmed, or exhausted. There still feels like there's a stigma attached to being a single parent, so that's something I struggle with too.
I struggle the most with feeling like I've failed because Nate doesn't have two parents.
When he was younger, I spent a good bit of time dating and talking to everyone I could, desperately trying to find someone ... for him. It was a really dark time and so unhealthy. It only got worse when he was old enough to ask questions and express his own sadness at not having a dad.
A year or two ago, I started listening to self-help podcasts and doing a lot of work on myself to reframe my mindset: "I am enough for him. I am more than enough. He has a great life, with or without a dad, and if I find someone: Great. But if not, we're doing fine."
If you have a friend or family member who is a single parent, here are four ways to show your support:
1. Offer to babysit or trade babysitting nights.
2. Cook them a meal.
4. Include them in plans like playdates, trips, or a night out.
If you're feeling a calling to help a single parent who you know, just offer. The worst they can say is no thanks!
3. Finding time for ... everything
I think I've done well juggling all of the responsibilities of being a single parent, but I also just like to keep myself busy in general. I've always had two or three side hustles going, and love a good schedule and to-do list. Of course, I've definitely dropped the ball a few times, but who hasn't?
I think asking for help and having a solid organization system is key because single parents have to balance a huge number of responsibilities, from managing finances to providing emotional support to their children. This can be challenging, to say the least, especially while also working full-time. Asking for help is definitely something I struggle with, no matter what it's for. If help is offered, though, I try to jump all over it.
The rewarding side
While there are challenges, being a single parent can also be incredibly rewarding. I have a unique bond with my child, as his primary caregiver and provider. He's my best friend, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I feel that closeness has made it difficult for him to accept affection or direction from men. Strong, independent women surround him at home and school, which I love. But I don't want it to affect his relationships with men moving forward.
As for me? I have a sense of resilience and strength from learning to navigate the challenges of raising a child alone. I've had to learn to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. Self-care and support can come in so many ways: Asking for help from family and friends, seeking out counseling or therapy, or joining a support group for single parents.
Remember, you are not alone! Being a single parent is a challenging journey, but every day, I'm reminded — when those little hands wrap around me in a hug — that the rewards are far greater.
Brittany Joyner is the publisher of Macaroni KID Kinnewick-Richland, Wash.