I was talking with another single parent the other day and she said “Well, you know how it is, the kids always come first!” Of course, as parents, most of us do put our kids first and try to keep our children’s welfare and interests at the heart of our family focus—but as a single parent, we can lose ourselves in that and start to wonder where we fit in to the whole family picture if it all about the kids!
It took me YEARS to get some semblance of balance into my life as a parent and, especially as a single parent. Since I embarked on single parenthood when my kids were quite young—just taking care of all their basic needs, getting them to school and day care and keeping the cupboards full took every ounce of energy I had. I couldn’t help feeling a constant tug, however, that I needed to make sure that I had a life that was somehow separate from my role of a mother. With three small children (and now three loud teenagers), it can be hard to find a place for one struggling single parent amidst all those needs and personalities.
In the early years of single parenthood, I tended to justify anything I did in relation to the children—even things that were good for me like socializing with friends or exercising, I tended to justify based on what was “best for the kids.” I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but now that my children are nearly grown, I can see that all the steps I took along the way to carve out room for myself and my own interests and needs in this family dynamic are really paying off. My kids do not worry about me or think that I will be “all alone” so they are doing what they should be doing as independently-minded teenagers, and I am actually enjoying the increased amount of personal time I gain with each passing year. I don’t know if I will ever be able to move myself to the top of the list and maybe my kids will always come first in terms of my affections and focus in some way or another—but as a single parent, I think I’ve avoided some of the pitfalls by making sure that I stay in the family roster as a separate person too.
Also: Fight Isolation!