Genuine Advice on Succeeding as a Single Parent
BEING a single parent for the past 10+ years has been an incredible adventure of both highs and lows. And we haven’t even reached the teenage years yet! Wish me luck…
Here is the thing. I did not set out to be a single dad. It happened. And I would bet that other single parents would share a similar story. To be honest, the details don’t really matter. Just like the transition into parenting, the crossing into life as a single parent is just as “figure it out as you go.”
Even so, I hope I can provide some insights that might help you find joy and balance as a single parent. While I respect that everyone has a unique situation, I wanted to share a little perspective about my own experience and what has helped me to be successful as a single parent and co-parent.
If you take only one thing away from what I have to say, I would ask it to be this: You must always act in the best interest of your children. So, what do I mean? You will inevitably be confronted with conflict or a shortage of time across your individual professional, personal and parenting life or have disagreements with your co-parent. You will be stressed. You may want to act selfishly. You may have a strong emotional response. Handle your business in whatever way works best for you, but always make sure the decisions you make are best for your child(ren).
So how will you know how to act in their best interest? I get asked this a lot. There are many different factors in play and I get it doesn’t seem black and white. But it is actually pretty clear-cut. Imagine if your child was an adult of sound mind. Would he or she approve of the decision you are making for them? This philosophy has always kept me focused on doing what is right and saved me from some tough moments. Please keep it as a regular part of your single parenting mindset.
It won’t be easy at first but, over time, you will learn to embrace your situation and, while different than what you may have expected parenthood to be for you, take full advantage of it. Being a single parent is special and I never would have imagined I could be this happy raising a daughter on my own. Sure, I am terrible at doing her hair or putting a cute outfit together. You know what, though? I don’t care.
My victories are in things like potty training her, teaching her to tie her shoes, opening her mind through travel, opening her heart by helping her facilitate a project to help the homeless and coaching a Special Olympics team together. It’s attending their school events and activities, even when it is not your parenting time. I could go on and on. Single parents first succeed by being present and active.
Single parenthood (in that it’s just you and your kid(s) during your parenting time) comes with the freedom to make your own choices. There is a ton of value in that. Don’t get me wrong – I miss my daughter terribly every day she is with her mother and I wish it could be different. But – ‘news flash’ – it cannot! So take advantage of what this situation is.
Rest up on those days your children are away so you have the energy to give them your all when it is your time. Use the time to invest in yourself because our kids require a better us to make a better them…
Here are some nuggets of advice. Never talk poorly about their other parent. Be careful about jumping to conclusions. If you co-parent, don’t stop working on the relationship. Be flexible. Be patient. Remember, parental disagreements aren’t unique to co-parents. Everybody has their own parenting styles and expectations and they will forever require collaboration to achieve the right balance. Start accepting that not everything will be in your control as this is important for your sanity.
You will need to make sacrifices to be the best parent you can be. My joy and successes as a single father have come at the temporary expense of some things such as a romantic relationship or advancing my career. Sure, I worry about it and wonder if I am making the right decisions. But, being an awesome dad makes me feel better than anything. The early years are so important and memorable. If there are consequences down the road, then I’ll be able to approach them more courageously because the relationship with my child is so rewarding.
You will make mistakes. You cannot foresee every obstacle. I endured an abusive relationship and made some terrible choices which hurt my daughter and damaged my co-parenting relationship. I had no choice but to move on.
Accept that things will happen where you will be required to learn on the fly. But if you already have love as a cornerstone of your relationship with your children, then this will be much less demanding to deal with. I have ten years of evidence that this is true.
Love. Act. Enjoy. Use these three actions to make the most out of your single parenting experiences. Don’t wait for things to get easier or better as life will always be complicated. Just do the best you can. Do right by your kid(s). And make the most of the present!
Damon Darienzo is a blogger and speaker who has been sharing his perspectives on single parenting since 2019 on his website and social media under the name “Single Dad Magic.” He is a Navy veteran who currently owns and operates an Amazon package delivery company in the Greater Boston area where he lives with his daughter.