Chicago mom: Single parents need a tribe for supportThursday, October 10, 2013
Men and women become single parents in a variety of ways. The one thing that remains true, regardless of how you found yourself parenting solo, is that you need a tribe. Some even call it a village. These people may be relatives, friends you made in college, or other parents you met during an after school activity. The key to any successful single parent family is having a strong support network, to not only help you manage the chaos of Saturday morning soccer games, but also lend an ear when you've had a stressful day at work. As a single mom, I've found my tribe invaluable and want to share some tips to others solo parents who need to start gathering their tribe.
So who should be in your tribe?
The other parent
I know there are instances where the other parent is deceased or uninterested in being a parent so this can be difficult. However, if you have an engaged co-parent it would be a good idea to have a chat with him or her about your tribe. If your co-parent may be called upon to babysit or chaperone your child to activities, make sure they are kept in the loop.
Family & friends
You have your biological family and the family you pick up along the way, also known as friends. When I need someone to do a pickup, drop off or just give me a few moments to breathe, they are there. I'm lucky that my son has amazing grandparents who are available when I need a night out or have to stay late at work. Grandparents Day has taken on a new meaning in my family! I also have great friends who enjoy spending time with my son (that helps!) and have come through during crunch times.
I decided when my son was born that he would only go to a home daycare. I wanted him to be in a home atmosphere since he would be away from me for 10 hours a day. I also like that many home daycares are licensed for 24 hour care. That way if I was running late, I didn't have to worry about being charged a fee. Obviously this is not a green light to abuse a home daycare. Another important piece of this puzzle is finding good sitters. I have to respect that my family and friends have lives and aren't always going to be available. Luckily I've always been able to find college students who have been great sitters for my son. There have been times where I didn't have anywhere to go but just wanted someone to play with my son while I took a nap or went for a walk.
Now that my son is in school, I have learned the great joy of connecting with the parents of his classmates. Not only does my son get to build friendships with his classmates, but I also get to gain new friends.
Single parent friends
Find them. They are out there. There is nothing like having a friend who is also a single parent who understands your "why me?!" moments. There are MeetUp groups for single parents. The one in my area plans events - both kid friendly and grown-ups only - a couple of times a month.
It's important to me that I let my tribe know how much I value them. I don't use them as a rotating door of childcare. Raising my son is my responsibility, not theirs. However, as a single mom, I recognize the value of letting my son know that while he is being raised by one parent, he is also surrounded by people who love and care for him. My tribe is also a way of taking care of myself. As a single parent it's easy to put your child first and self-care last. Surrounding yourself with good people only helps make you a better parent and person.
Who do you have in your tribe?