Taking care of a baby, whatever your circumstance, is an unbelievably demanding task. Of course, it’s also incredibly rewarding, and teaching a child how to understand the world is a beautiful, miraculous event. A strong family which supports you through this process is wonderful, but that doesn’t detract from the difficulty of raising a child. That’s why raising a child as a single mother can very quickly become a daunting obstacle to overcome.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. There are ways you can better approach the task of raising a baby as a solo effort. It’s already hard, but it will always be hard, regardless of whether you have family, friends and a partner on which you can depend or not. That’s why you need to go easier on yourself, and remember that you’re one person. You can only do your best, which you already are doing. Still, perhaps you can make the ‘to do list’ a little easier by making your ‘best’ more easily achievable.
Don’t try to do everything
Life can very quickly become overwhelming for any single mother, no matter how strong willed, and no matter how much you enjoy being the sole breadwinner and sole carer. It’s important to remember, however, that you shouldn’t force yourself to be happy with that way of living. It’s okay to not be okay. You may feel guilty about even entertaining the idea of not doing everything yourself, but the simple fact is that you don’t have to do everything.
Don’t be afraid to ask your friends or family for help; that’s the most blunt way I can phrase it. They love you, and they want to make your life as easy as possible. If you’re struggling to take on everything by yourself, the ones you love are not going to judge you for asking them to support you. There’s no guilt or shame in that, and, in fact, you might find your family will be upset if you don’t ask them for help when you need it.
Take it from those with experience: a child’s wellbeing is the most important thing of all, which means they have to come before a mother’s pride. You can do everything by yourself if you want, but you don’t have to. Nobody’s forcing you to do it alone, and the people you love want to see that baby be happy; they want to see your child get all the goodness and opportunities out of life that they deserve. They care about your kid just as much as you do. Trust me, because I’ve been there too.
Join a group
This seems like such a typical piece of advice, but that’s because it works an absolute charm. Who’s the best person to help you with the difficult task of motherhood (especially if you’re doing it on your own)? That’s right: mothers.
It’s easy to think that, just because you’re the sole provider and carer for your child, that means everything is on your shoulders. Nobody’s going to help you raise your baby, because only you know what’s best for them. We’ve all been there, because this is a natural instinct. Of course, natural instincts don’t always serve us or our children as well as they could. Sometimes, we have to put those thoughts aside and use logic instead.
Mothers and experts out there can help you look after your baby in a way that puts less stress on you and the child. Other mothers know tried and tested techniques from their own experience, so it could help you to join a group and get advice from them. Better still, as a single mother, it helps to talk specifically to other single mothers, so as to gain advice and expertise from women who are in your exact situation.
A single mother can struggle in a very unique way to mothers with partners, as I’m sure you’ll agree, so the best way to move forward with your issues may be to talk to women who are experiencing the exact same, or very similar, situation. That way, you’ll know you’re talking to somebody who actually understands you and doesn’t just nod sympathetically, or simply pretend to understand.
Allow yourself nights out
Perhaps you winced a little when reading that, but hold your horses. Going out as a mother isn’t a sin! I thought the same. Every mother thinks the same, whether they’re doing it all by themselves, or they have family and friends willing to help. For some, it’s the guilt of putting aside their duties for one night, but, for many, it’s the effect of being a new mother. The thought of leaving your child with someone else, even for a short amount of time, can be entirely daunting.
Again, it’s natural that you’re feeling this way. It means your maternal instincts are kicking in. That being said, maternal instincts are sometimes overly-intense. Leaving your child in the care of a family member or friend isn’t something to fear. You could find a babysitter online, and then you’ll have the freedom to go out and do whatever you want, free of guilt or worry.
No matter how much you doubt it now, there are people out there who can help you look after your child and will keep them secure to just the same standard as you. Entrusting the care of your child with someone else is an important step for both mother and child, because it helps them to grow individually, rather than becoming too dependent on their mother. It helps you to remember who you are too.
This is all healthy, no matter what you think. You deserve a night out doing something extreme; or tame, as long as it’s what you want to be doing. Ask yourself what you’d be doing if you didn’t have a child and then do it.
In fact, allow yourself all manner of treats
Yes, that’s right. You deserve a ‘cheat’ day. It doesn’t really seem right to call it a cheat day, to be honest, because you are still your own person. There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself treats, no matter how much you might tell yourself that. It’s natural to feel as if you need to devote all your time to motherhood as soon as you have a child, but the best way to look after your child is to look after yourself. Your baby relies on you to be strong and healthy, so that they can be strong and healthy. That requires mental strength, on your part, as well as physical strength. Eat well, but play well too.
You need ‘me time’, because you are more than just your child’s mother. You had hobbies, interests and passions in life before your baby, and you’ll still have them now. Does that sound about right? Well, you need to keep up those hobbies, whether your passion involves something as simple as watching Netflix on weeknights, with a bag of popcorn in your lap, or something as intense as the adrenaline-fuelled experience of jumping from an aeroplane (preferably with a parachute, I would assume).
Make a schedule and everything else will look after itself
Being a mother can seem like a dull and repetitive task, but, beyond the boring chores, the love you and your child feel for each other is something incredibly special. If you want to use your time, and mental energy, having fun with your baby and simply enjoying the loving, beautiful experience of growing together, then becoming organised is the key to doing so.
Changing diapers, feeding times, appointments at the doctor’s and all expenses involved with looking after a child can become a headache if you let them get on top of you. The more stressed you are, the less you’ll be able to simply live in the moment and enjoy the little things with your child; their crazy laugh, they silly habits and all their ‘first moments’.
So, if you start getting on top of things and see the repetitive day-in and day-out cycle as a chance to put together a clear, simple schedule, you’ll find you can turn your routine into exactly that: a routine. A simple ‘to do list’ will give your brain a little break. You can check you’ve done everything you had to do each day, then draw a line under things and relax with your baby in the living room, or at the dinner table, each evening.
Remember, you’re doing an incredible job. Whether you doubt that or not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s the truth. Hormonal changes are entirely normal during this time, which is amplified when you’re a single mother with what seems like the whole world on your shoulders.
Just remember that the bundle of joy you love so dearly is loved by other people within your support network, and it’s entirely healthy to let them help you ease the load. In fact, I’d say it’s unhealthy to take on the whole load by yourself, if you aren’t happy. A happy mother is a happy baby. Treat yourself well to treat your child better.
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