The highs and lows of doing it alone as a single parent

Single parenting is often overlooked and underappreciated, yet it’s a tall task. Being a single mother literally can mean doing it all, from working all day to carpooling to handling the dirty dishes, without anyone to pass the baton to for a break.

While many agree it can be challenging, these five single mamas share their perspectives on the high, lows and unexpected joys of doing it alone.

Sarah Korf

Mom of two; consulting partner; single mom for more than three years

Hardest part: Not being with my kids when they are with their dad.

Unexpected positive: I don’t feel as guilty about taking time for myself and I’m able to create a much more healthy work-life balance. When I’m with my kids, it’s all about them. When I’m not, I can work or spend time with friends without feeling guilty.

Treat yourself: I do yoga and spinning and that helps me feel my best. I make time for the occasional massage or bath to enjoy stress-free “me time” or a nice dinner at Bavette’s with friends.

Best advice: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being a mama is hard work for everyone. We all have challenges and triumphs, and none of us can truly do it alone.

Cameron Gearen

Mom of two; writer, tutor and marketing manager; single mom for three years

Hardest part: Not having adult time is very hard.

Unexpected positive: I have the final say. I don’t have to work out decisions with a partner, which can be a plus and a minus.

Treat yourself: Sometimes I get a massage therapist to come to my home. I go to yoga class. I also get eight hours of sleep every single night and make it a point to see my therapist regularly.

Best advice: Self-care is necessary! You have to be an emotional ninja to be a good single mom and that means working on yourself all the time. If you don’t have it together, you will be useless to your kids.

Ilana Shabanov

Mom of one; freelance writer; single mom for almost four years

Hardest part: It’s the feeling of isolation. I am an only child and have an extremely small family. So it’s really just me caring for my son and no other person to share the responsibility of day-to-day care.

Unexpected positive: The pride of being responsible for this amazing little person. Discovering that, despite all the mistakes, I am incredibly capable and resourceful. I’ve found such strength in being a single parent. There is also a certain freedom that comes with being the one who manages it all.

Treat yourself: I go to Target by myself. After my son has gone to sleep, I add to my wish list on Amazon with a glass of wine. Going to the bathroom by myself is also quite the treat. My indulgences have simplified since becoming a single parent.

Best advice: Find a community and forge supportive friendships. Accept that you will need help, and that it is a sign of strength when you ask for it. My son is growing up with diversity in his life. He has witnessed all different versions of what a family can be.

Destinie Brannigan

Mom of one; works in human resources; separated for 18 months

Hardest part: Having to realize I am just one person. I can only handle so much and without spare hands on deck, I can’t do it all. Being a single mom can be really isolating and lonely. It’s just sort of its own tribe, where it’s hard to navigate with your other married friends or single friends without kids.

Unexpected positive: I’ve gotten better at investing in relationships. I don’t have a lot of time, so the time I have, I want to be around people I care for. I’m better at being a mother, daughter, sister and friend because I am trying to invest in the people around me and get the most out of our time together.

Treat yourself: I have learned to accept help from others and to take a moment for myself without guilt. I love Take a Break Playcare for a dropoff play space or even as simple as lying down with zero noise around.

Best advice: Never forget you are a rockstar doing the job of two in the body of one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and outsource what you can; I buy all my household groceries and items online with a doorstop delivery. Learn how to say “no.” And remember even in your hardest moments, know that you are absolutely a superhero.

Carolyn Carrillo

Mom of two; owner of A Book Above Family Bookshop and founder of Readers Ignite; single mom for 13 years

Hardest part: It’s really rough to get together with friends. It’s a combination of lack of time and money.

Unexpected positive: I began to see how tough the struggle is to stay on your feet as a single parent. I decided to take my experience and use it to create change. I started my nonprofit, Readers Ignite, and I work to create programs and energy to help other families who are struggling with so much more.

Treat yourself: I like to go for a walk in Graue Woods, sit outside in the sun at lunch or meet friends at our local coffee shop.

Best advice: Enjoy the journey, as much as you can, every day. No matter if you know it or not, you are an amazing treasure for your children. Celebrate your children and your family the way it is. It’s not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy today.

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