Once the shock of becoming a single parent wears off, you’re left with a new landscape. Blogger Carl Unger helps single parents make the transition to the new family dynamic.
In my previous post on single parenting, I mostly focused on the initial adjustments that accompany becoming a single parent. It’s safe to say that this initial shock is often followed by a period of relative calm. Not necessarily a pleasant or peaceful calm, mind you, but once the dust clears you will settle into a new reality, for better or worse.
As I said in my prior post, everyone’s path to single parenthood is different, so offering advice can be challenging. Because no two relationships are alike, every breakup will be unique. But with that in mind, I’ll share my experiences that may help others find their way.
(Writer’s note: I want to stress the following are simply my experiences, meant as reference points for Grownups going through similar transitions.)
Align Your Parenting Styles
Make sure you and your former partner are on the same page regarding the basics: discipline, boundaries, rules, and so forth. How much TV is allowed? When is bedtime? These seem obvious, but parenting alone is much different from parenting as a team. (Confession: I’ve been tempted to bend the rules or be extra strict to make things easier on myself.) But whatever the relationship you have with your ex, you’re still partners as parents, so try to be as consistent as possible. This makes everything easier on everyone, including (and most importantly) your child.
Find Your Fun
Attitude is everything: Approach single parenting as an opportunity to forge a unique relationship with your kids. That’s easier said than done, and it definitely depends on your exact circumstances, but there is a chance to connect one-on-one with your kids that may not have existed otherwise. I found that my young son and I have a blast exploring Boston. He enjoys trying new foods, so we go on these impromptu food adventures all over the city. It’s become our thing and I’d like to think it’s something he’ll remember when he’s older. It may not be easy, but look for activities your kids love or that you want to share with them and seek out ways to make them your own.
Settle Your Finances
I touched on this in my previous post: The sooner you deal with any large financial entanglements, the sooner you can get on living your life. How you actually handle these issues is a whole other topic, but as you move forward it’s essential to know exactly where you stand financially and legally. Single parenthood will change your economic situation substantially, especially once you settle into a new home, so having a firm, predictable budget is crucial.
Regardless of your relationship with your ex, you’ll need to discuss your kid, in ways that work for you both. If being in the same room is simply unthinkable, agree to some other form of communication, like email. You’ll need to discuss financial and logistical issues at a minimum, but most importantly, you’ll need to talk about how your kids are doing. These conversations can be difficult even when you do get along well, so setting up boundaries and expectations around communication will help keep things civil.
Find Your Place
Parenting alone is mentally and physically exhausting. For me, the mental part of it is worse—at times it feels like there’s no break, no moment to catch my breath, and my patience is tested. There’s a reason people do this in pairs, after all.
But once you settle into a routine, you can start to build a life for yourself outside your role as a single parent. You will have stretches of time alone while your kids are with your former partner, so you might as well use that time to explore the things that make you happy.
Is this making the best of a bad situation? Absolutely. Everyone wants a break from the kids occasionally, but going days at a time without seeing them, week after week, is not something one easily gets used to. So yes, make the best of a bad situation and seek things that enrich you as a person—and that you can then turn around and share with your kids.
Carl Unger is a writer living in Massachusetts. Follow him on Instagram @cunger38.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.