Solo mothers face a lot of challenges raising their children. But I’d say the biggest one is their mindset. Generally, if a single mom has issues with low self-esteem and low self-worth, her challenges will be more pronounced.
However, these are some challenges I believe most solo moms face both from my experience and from interviewing dozens of solo moms:
Loneliness and Isolation
Solo moms face loneliness and isolation because they are so focused on what they need to do — take care of their children — alone.
But it’s not always about having a partner. Most of the time it’s about having someone whom you can count on for friendship and support. Someone whom you can connect with when you just want to talk.
What you can do to limit or eliminate this challenge
Keep in touch with family and friends no matter where they are in the world. In the age on the internet and smartphones, this is easier today than it’s ever been. But if this is not an option (and even if it is) try these:
- join a social media or meetup group
- Reach out to neighborhood or community groups.
- Connect with one or two other parents of children the same age as your kids
- Get to know one or two of your next-door neighbors. When you get to know them well enough you can offer them something (cooking/a meal) in return for one or two hours of childcare.
Worrying about her children’s safety
As a solo mom of boys living in New York City, I was constantly worried about my sons’ safety. Several times they were targeted by gang members. But I also worried about negative interactions with the police.
However, solo moms can dream up almost any situation to worry about when it comes to their kids. Can’t we? Not that what they worry about is frivolous or not important.
What you can do to dial down this challenge
- Pray. When my kids were younger I learned to pray and ask God to take care of my sons. I realized I didn’t have all the tools and resources to care for another human being let alone two helpless ones. Also, I felt inadequate to raise children, especially boys. Praying and trusting God gave me the assurance I needed to peacefully sleep most nights.
- Teach your kids safety protocols and monitor their activities appropriately. For example, it’s ok to follow them on social media.
- Relax. Sometimes it’s not as bad as you think. Trust it will be all right.
Finding affordable childcare
Small business owners find it difficult to hire and pay employees on a consistent basis. Can you imagine the difficulty a solo mom has finding affordable childcare on a limited salary?
Childcare was one of my biggest challenges when my children were younger. She is expected to not only provide shelter, healthcare, and food but also hire and pay someone to take care of them while she works.
Sometimes she will take a second or third job to try to balance her checkbook. And sometimes that is still not enough to pay someone. This is why it’s important to keep an ongoing connection with others (friends/family) who can pitch in from time to time.
What you can do to manage this challenge
- Review your expenses and see if there’s something you can cut out so you can pay for consistent childcare
- Start a side hustle so you can be home with your child instead of going to an extra part-time job
- Work overtime at your full-time job
- Swap childcare service with an elderly neighbor. Maybe you can do a load of laundry for them or add them to your meal planning. Your child will benefit from having someone caring and the elder neighbor will benefit by having your children in their lives.
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Balancing work and home life
Work/life balance has been discussed both in a positive as well as a negative light. But creating a balance between work and home is a real challenge for most people but definitely for solo moms.
It’s hard for a solo mom to find balance between her work and home life because when you mother alone, you are on constant alert. I remember when my two youngest sons were in high school. As I mentioned before, they were constantly harassed by gang members. So every time my phone rang while at work and I noticed it was from the school I would go into panic mode.
The other issue I had was insecurity about my job. So I would make sure I keep up with emails sometimes even while at the doctor with my kids. It’s a truly exhausting way to live. So it’s important to create some type of balance that works for your lifestyle.
What to do to make this challenge more manageable
- try to leave work at work Use lunchtime and eat your lunch.
- Make use of any breaks to step away from your desk/workstation and at the very least, do some deep breathing
- Take even a half-day vacation from work when you can. Just for you. You can use this time to relax or catch up on stuff like medical or other appointments. But it’s a time you can consciously set aside to take care of something that won’t come back to interrupt your work day.
- Pray. Trust. Relax.
Not having a second opinion when she makes a major decision concerning her children/family
This can be scary at the moment. But also, many times I look back on my life and cringe at some of the decisions I made while mothering solo. I felt alone.
So I made those decisions alone. Most times in fear. And a lot of times I didn’t even pray about the situation. And while I don’t live my life in regret I do think it would have been a good thing to have another person — co-parent, confidant, parent — to bounce my ideas off before I made certain decisions.
What to do when you are faced with a major decision and you’re uncertain of what to do
- Remember that even though it seems urgent, maybe it’s not. So take some time to consider the angles.
- Talk to someone you trust about the particular situation.
- Ask relevant questions in a social media forum. Be careful not to seek specific advice as everyone has an opinion about what you should do. Better to keep it casual. Gather your information and make your decision.
- Don’t forget to pray and ask God for guidance. Read scriptures that may give you context into what you are facing.
- Make your decision and trust yourself to make the right one.
Worrying about keeping her job when she has to take care of a sick child or take her child to appointments.
Having a job gives you the security you need to provide for your family. But when that security is threatened because you have to attend to your or your children’s needs it can shake the very foundation of your life.
For example, if the workplace does not tolerate sporadic absence due to childcare issues it can place an undue burden on a solo mom. She will constantly worry about how to juggle keeping her job with making sure her child is safe.
What to do if your job/boss is not accommodating
- Get acquainted with your workplace policies concerning absences
- If you feel comfortable or if it’s appropriate, talk to your manager about any issues you may have without going into too many details about your personal life.
- Give as much notice as possible for upcoming absences. Maybe you can remind your boss that you can handle your work even if you have to take a few hours away to care for your child.
Wrestling with unfulfilled dreams and desires
We have many dreams and desires for our lives. Then we get married and have children. Our dreams and desires may still be attainable. But when we get divorced or our spouse dies, those dreams and desires take a back seat to caring for our children.
Still, those dreams don’t die. Every now and then they will come up. The challenge is that we long to do what we were meant to do. And we sometimes wistfully think of what we may have missed out on.
What to do when your dreams are on hold
- Remember your dreams are still there. It’s never too late to start or continue living them.
- Take some time to examine your gifts.
- Set goals for what you want to achieve and write them down. You may not be able to do anything significant now but you can put a plan in place for when your nest is empty.
- Keep a journal of your dreams, desires, and goals
Unaddressed personal trauma
What have you tied up and stuck in the past? If your mind is clogged with past mistakes and hurt it’s hard to focus on what’s in front of you.
Unforgiveness, broken hearts, and unhealed trauma can tie you up in knots that prevent you from living a joy-filled life. It’s important to take care of the things that ail us.
What to do if you’re still traumatized forgive yourself and others
- Let go of those who did not protect your heart
- Seek the help of a professional who can help you work through past hurt –
- Remember you are loved and forgiven.
Inability to cover basic expenses even with a full-time job
Sometimes it’s a budgeting problem but a lot of times there’s just not enough money to pay for everything. Basic math is still basic math.
But there are some steps solo moms can take to make life a little less challenging financially.
What to do when you don’t make enough money from one full-time job
- Track expenses. Make a list of every dollar that goes out for about 30 days. Sixty days is better but you may not have the time to wait that long.
- Cut out what you think is not necessary. For example, rather than stop for takeout every evening because you are too exhausted to cook, consider teaching older kids to cook and/or do meal prep one day per week.
- Does anyone really watch cable television? A subscription to Netflix or Hulu is more cost-effective than cable. If you still can’t find enough to cut, find out if it’s possible to work a few hours of overtime at your current job.
- Sell excess stuff (clothes, furniture, tools, etc.) on eBay or Craigslist.
- Start a side hustle or turn a hobby/something you love to do into a paid gig. Example: writing on Fiverr or Upwork; selling printables or crafts on Etsy.
Being mistreated or looked down upon because she’s a single mom
Having a healthy sense of self can eliminate this as a personal challenge. You can’t control what people think or say about you but you can change the value you place on other people’s opinions.
What to do when people’s opinions cause you stress
- Learn to develop your own self-awareness
- Practice self-love
- See a therapist if you can
- Read and repeat positive affirmations
- Discover what God says about you
Unable to create space for self-care
Late for work one morning I started to run when I spotted my bus at the stop. But my legs wouldn’t work. I discovered later that I had neglected to take care of myself and at that moment my body rebelled when I needed it most.
For many years prior to that I endured a cycle of going to work, coming home going to bed then going to work again. Then on weekends I would run errands and take care of the kids and home life. I never once thought about my own health and wellbeing.
If you think you don’t have time for self-care. Think again. You children need you both physically and mentally well.
What to do if you find taking care of yourself a challenge
Start with one simple thing. After the bus incident, I started walking to the train station instead of taking the bus.
- As mentioned, take your lunch break. And make use of short breaks if they’re available on your job. I sit near Pier 6 to eat my lunch while I watch the helicopters take off and land as well as watch ferries glide across the East River.
- Stop stressing over chores on the weekends. I started walking in the park and browsing the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. And went to church on Sunday mornings.
- Invite the kids when they’re old enough to be a part of the team and pitch in so mom can relax.
- Take a weekend getaway if it’s possible.
Whether or not you’re a solo mom, life is full of challenges. However, our ability to deal with these challenges will determine the quality of life we live.
I hope the above will help you create the kind of life you want for yourself and your children. Remember the challenges will come it’s how prepared you are that matters.
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