Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I’m not happy.
Single + parent.
When those two words come together, most people think of the stereotypical exhausted mom or dad living a life full of hardship and struggle (emotionally and financially).
And, of course, we all tear up over those beautiful stories of professional athletes who buy their mother a new house as a “thank you” for all she did (love, support, personal sacrifice) as a long-suffering single mom.
Single parenting is incredibly common these days due to the rise in divorce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 12 million single-parent families in the U.S. (more than 80 percent of which are headed by single mothers). And with 45 percent of kids in single parent homes living in poverty, there is good reason people consider being a single mom one of the most difficult states of existence in our culture.
But … hello! It is not all doom and gloom! In fact, I’ve discovered some pretty amazing perks to being a single, divorced parent. Here is the upside of parenting solo:
1. The time with your kids is all yours!
You don’t have to share cuddle time, or worry that someone is going to walk in and distract a special moment with any of your children.
You don’t have to include any other adult in your conversations, because when it’s you and your kids, no one else matters. You’re a family unit.
2. You make the rules at your house.
And you can create them as you go. There are times when you can choose to “make bad choices” for a meal (like going to three different drive-thrus to appease all parties with not very healthy dinner options). Is that wise? No, but once in a while, it is fun.
Pancakes for dinner? You bet! And no one to give you a “you’re poisoning the children” dirty look while you do it. Can you and the kids wear your pajamas all day Saturday? Yep, and you can also watch 50 episodes of whatever on Netflix instead of being productive members of society.
You get to decide what you and the kids do whenever. Now, of course, you still have things you have to do, and you must do those … but, the rest of the time — woohoo!
3. You get to redefine what “family” means.
Who says “a family” must always include a Mom, Dad, and child(ren). Family is really about a group of people who love one another. Family can look anyway you want it to, there are no rules except the made up ones.
A family supports each other, forgives, keeps you safe, and accepts you for who you truly are.
Define family your own unique way. Discuss this openly with your children, letting them share their thoughts about how your family will work.
I tell my children constantly that we are ALWAYS a family. And they are a family with their Dad, too—but, at our house, we’re our own happy family. They love knowing that they’re an important part of something secure and loving.
One day, I might get married again and who knows what our family will look like then. I let my kids know that I do hope to marry again someday and add to our family, but for now, it’s just us, and it’s just right.
4. Creating new traditions is so much fun.
Instill that “family feeling” by allowing your children to help come up with new traditions. It’s fun and an excellent way to bond.
Whether it’s something simple (like every third Saturday is “Stay In Your PJs Day”) or creating an elaborate new holiday all your own … whatever you do, family traditions offer a powerful way to bond and build a lifetime of happy memories together.
5. (If you share custody) … you actually get a break!
Not all single parents get this (unfortunately), but those who share custody with their ex spouse do get a break. Though it’s not always fun or easy being away from your kids for periods of time, it is extremely liberating and therapeutic, if you use that time apart well.
Yes, an empty, quiet house might feel like a hole in your chest at first. But, alone time offers you the opportunity to reconnect to yourself.
What did you love doing before you had kids? You can get all of that back again. You can reclaim the woman you were before your life was taken over by tiny aliens that call you “Mom.” She’s still there, just waiting to emerge again, only better.
Use the time apart from your kids to heal and grow. Take those naps you need. Go to bed early, or, if you want, stay up late. Be selfish.
I know that having time to myself makes me a better Mom when my kids are home again. And for that, I am grateful.
Look, whether you’re married or flying solo, parenting is one of the most important yet difficult things any of us can do.
Divorce just adds a new dimension to the challenge. As parents, let’s make the best out of the situation so we can teach our children to do the same.
I still struggle with getting everything done, but, honestly, I did that while married, too. Yes, it can feel harder now, but I just accept that and do the best I can each and every day.
Ask your kids to help when things get hard. Remind them that you can’t do it all, and that you’re a family that works together. And remember, just because something feels a bit hard and challenging, doesn’t mean it can’t also feel fun and wonderful.
It’s OK to love your life and feel proud of being a single mom.
Start living the life you deserve by taking that first step right now. Contact Marcy Goss Garcea at YourReluctantGoddess.com or on Facebook. Your first session is always free, contact her today to move into our personal power and joy.
This originally appeared on YourTango. Republished here with permission.