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5 Best Tidbits of Single Parenting Advice

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype


I’ve been writing about my life on the Internet for about six years now. To the uninitiated, I know, it still seems insane — why on earth would I want to put it all out there? Why would I want to expose my warts for people to poke at, what do the people in my life think about having their lives magnified under the looking glass of thousands of strangers over the years?

For me, it’s simple: writing is therapy. Writing it down helps me make sense of this tumultuous world, and the keen words of wisdom of commenters over the years has actually helped me make some very tough (and very smart) decisions. I am a better person when I write and think about my actions.

I started writing a personal blog in 2003, when I’d just started dating the handsome, charming, and frustratingly evasive man who would become my son’s father. Dating advice rolled in.

In 2004, I became unexpectedly pregnant, and my boyfriend and I stared at the wall and at each other and tried not to throw up and I wrote about it, in painstaking detail, on the Internet. Advice about babies and relationships and whether or not we should get married right away rolled in, providing a respite, sanity, diversity of opinion.

Right before I became a single Mother, I closed down the blog. There were lawyers and pain and very raw emotions all around and I felt that it wasn’t the time to write, and so I didn’t. I did it, instead, in my head, and yearned for a place to pour my thoughts.

When I started writing online again in 2007 after a year hiatus, I found that advice to Single Moms was a little less common. I get a lot of “Not sure how you do it!” and “You’re doing great!” but few are reluctant to say: “I’ve done it. This is what worked for me.

However, I have had some incredible gems over the last year, and here are the ones I try to apply to my life every day.

1. Realize that I am just as powerful now as I was as part of a couple. More so.

2. Do not be afraid to lean on family and friends.  Ask for help.

3. Get life insurance.

4. Realize that no partner you’ll ever meet will ever love your child like the father of your child. (this one is controversial but resonated strongly with me, and was given to me by a woman I respect immensely - would love to know what you think.

5. Have the equivalent of one year’s worth of living expenses.  It’s not as tough as you think, write down where you’ll cut corners. (This one I’m in the process of beginning - it will be tough but I think it’s important, too.)

What is the best piece of single parenting advice you’ve ever received?

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13 comments so far...

  • In answer to #4: My sister is a single mom with a wonderful 9 year old daughter and a slightly nerdy, kind hearted boyfriend who lives with them.

    He’s not quite her dad (who has never been in the picture) but he’s got her back as much as any of her blood relatives. And we are a VERY close family. Their relationship grew over time (he and my sister have been together since before she was 3) and it’s turned into something really positive, both in terms of having a guy around who is REALLY good to her mom to model relationships on, and having a guy around to do dad stuff with.

    I think it’s possible for people to have very important, close and loving relationships with their step parents. It’s just complicated. You’ll know the right guy to let in the door when you meet him.

    Margaret  |  October 4th, 2008 at 3:08 pm

  • 2,3,5 are important to all parents, single or not. Great post. Thank you.

    vera babayeva  |  October 4th, 2008 at 8:24 pm

  • [...] Visit Kristen to read her Five Best Tidbits of Single Parenting Advice.  [...]

    Good advice from a working single mom  |  October 4th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

  • Speaking as a step mom, I’m not sure I agree with number 4, unless you’re talking semantics. If you’re talking about intensity, or level of commitment, all I can say is that I love my step children as dearly as the children I birthed myself. Is it the same as they way their biological mother loves them? Well, their bio mom and I are two different people, so maybe not. But that doesn’t mean my love for them is less than hers, or more, just different.

    Lylah  |  October 5th, 2008 at 9:31 pm

  • I don’t really have any close friends who are single parents, so there’s nobody I can go to for single-mom-specific advice. I suppose I should be in a position to give some now, though. I would have to say that the most important wisdom I’ve discovered is that we should accept help from others. Yes, we pride ourselves on being independent and able to do it all. But so what? Even God rested on the seventh day.

    Another bit of wisdom I’ve discovered is that it takes a LONG time to get acclimated to life as a single parent. I am sure this is also true for married parents, but I think it’s harder when you have no escape valve. The inability to do anything, ever, without either bringing your children or arranging childcare, requires unique planning skills that take time to develop. Meanwhile, it’s important to go easy on yourself when everything isn’t perfect.

    SKL  |  October 5th, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  • One of the most amazing moms I know is a single mom to a thriving, now college-aged son (his dad has lived several states away since he was 3, so while he has been around, it was pretty much just the two of them his entire life). I’ve been friends with her since he was 10 and he has always been one of those “good eggs.” I can only hope my son is as polite, well-rounded and grounded as he is.

    In addition to the advice above, the most important things I learned from her are to always be honest with your kids and always treat them with respect. That is the best way to get those same things in return.

    Brenda  |  October 6th, 2008 at 9:58 am

  • My daughter was a college baby. I have been a single parent for 10 years. My fiancee who will be my husband next year was my friend in college and we were friends forever before we dated. My daughter’s father was in her life for the first 3 years before he moved away. My fiancee also had a college baby who has been in his life (short visits here and there), but whom he will be raising full time for the first time from next year. I am writing this in regards to #4. My fiancee has been alot to my duaghter. More a parent than her biological father will ever be. However, my daughter still feels a stronger attachment to her father and talks about him as if he has constantly been here. Also, right now, I spend many moments in anxiety wondering if he loves my child with the same intensity as he loves his son. Especially when he comes to live with us. Right now, he and my daughter enjoy a very close relationship. However, there are times when I can’t help but to feel that he has made decisions that he would not have made if she were his biological daughter. And I still find myself making the bulk of decisions and arrangements when it comes to her, even though we now live together. Thank you for bringing up #4. I would love to hear more on it.

    soleil  |  October 6th, 2008 at 10:58 am

  • I sure hope your # 4 is true, because the father of my child wanted me to have an abortion and took off, got arrested for selling drugs and shipped off to the military jail. I married a different guy who adopted my son, then ditched him when we got divorced. So yeah, I sure hope if I’m ever in a relationship again he won’t love my son the way his “fathers” have.

    Ruth  |  October 6th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

  • I would reword #4 to say that it’s UNLIKELY. But it is possible.

    My mom remarried when I was six to a man who I sincerely believe loves me as much as (if not more than) my biological father. Furthermore, I have never felt that he loved me any differently than he did any of his three biological children.

    There are really no absolutes in human relationships.

    @soleil: My advice to you is that if your fiance and daughter enjoy a very close relationship now, you would be well-advised to stop trying to compare the quality of any one relationship with another. No two relationships are exactly alike anyway, and trying to compare “better” vs “worse” is sort of nonsensical, in my opinion.

    Jan  |  October 6th, 2008 at 2:40 pm

  • I know at least one child whose stepfather loves him more than his biological father. This even though his mom divorced his stepfather. I venture a guess that the same is true of some other stepdads I know.

    I guess if you start with the assumption that the biological dad gives a hoot, you get one answer, but when you’re dealing with fathers who are too selfish and immature to care about another person, you get a different answer.

    SKL  |  October 6th, 2008 at 6:02 pm

  • I (sadly) think I agree with number 4. I am pretty confident that if a stepdad divorces the mom, he would be so much more likely to also walk away from his stepkids, than a biological dad would. I mean, just say R wasn’t N’s real dad, but everything else in your relationship stayed the same…do you think he would move from the only city he’s ever known, away from all his friends, in order to spend more time with his ex-wife’s kid? I doubt it. And I doubt that you as his ex-wife would think it was a good idea either.

    joyce  |  October 7th, 2008 at 11:50 am

  • [...] in day-to-day life, to some degree, all the time. A few weeks ago, Kristin’s great post about five best tidbits of single-parenting advice got me thinking about the subject some more. I was nodding along, agreeing with everything she [...]

    Step kids vs. bio kids: Do you see a difference? - The 36-Hour Day - Work It, Mom!  |  October 19th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

  • #1 is related to being a person, not a parent. Strive for your partnered or un-partnered state to be irrelevant to your self-worth.

    What I’ve found as a single parent for 11 years is that married (or coupled) parents both don’t understand you & are vaguely threatened by you. The reality is that after the first intense years of physical care, day-to-day single parenting is not that much different for the parents, as long as there are at least 2 caregivers - be it the 2 biological parents, a grandparent, a partner…For the children itself, its a different story. There is a definite upside to single parenting with another involved caregiver - chiefly time for yourself, which I think is sorely missing for women in 2 career families. However, it’s more difficult to see any upside for the kids of the single parents. They mostly wind up making the best of an imperfect situation, and think they may wind up with a lifelong sense of loss, possibly of security. Not that this is the only way to wind up feeling this way….

    Jen  |  February 16th, 2009 at 4:43 am