Whether you became a single parent by choice or circumstance, you deserve a moment to marvel at your ability to do one of the most difficult jobs on the planet! After giving yourself a solid pat on the back, please take another moment to consider a fascinating, somewhat troubling, yet hopeful single parent dilemma.
As single parenting in today’s world becomes ever more challenging, what used to feel like doing the job of two may now feel like doing the job of the entire ‘village.’ Although you may personally experience single parenting as if you were a full-on task force, there still exist residuals of social stigmas which imply (not always subtly) that single parent families are not whole families and maybe there is something wrong with you for being in this situation in the first place! The dissonance between feeling as if you must function like more than one, and being told you might be less than one (or just plain ‘less-than’) can wreak havoc with your sense of Self.
While establishing and keeping a solid core of Self-strength and a coherent sense of wholeness are basic tasks of healthy psychological development, it is even more essential for single parents to form a positive Self-identity and a solid sense of Self. As you cope with single parenthood complexities, maintaining trust in your worth as a parent and as a person includes the necessity of rejecting negative stereotypes and restoring belief in your sense of wholeness. The courage and wisdom that you will derive from refuting outdated notions and restoring your Self-wholeness can become an underlying spring of strength that continues to replenish the resilience, motivation and wisdom you need to cope with single parent life.
Let’s take a closer look at Self-wholeness from the single parent perspective. Being a single parent is a challenging road. During each full 24/7 runaround, single parents sometimes operate on something like a car’s cruise control. However, whether you are aware of it or not, like the gasoline you do not see, your thoughts, emotions and intentions continue to fuel the way you cope with your zillion responsibilities. As you run the kids around, run errands and run the show, you are actually drawing on a fuel tank of resources that come from various aspects, or parts, of Self-wholeness.
Awareness of the strengths residing in the parts of your Self (and the whole is greater than the sum!) allows you to consciously refuel coping resources needed for raising your children and taking care of yourself. Knowledge of what makes you whole enables you to make more effective parenting choices, be more in charge of your life and model coping strength for your children. Since there is no escaping the psychological fact we all have diverse parts, it is a good idea to learn as much as you can about them.
In Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother, I have identified maturity, resilience and strength as three core qualities that make up Self-wholeness. I have named these qualities ‘True MRS’and despite the feminine implication, they are as crucial for single dads as they are for single mothers. (And, yes, for people in general!) As single parents continue to refute implications that they or their families are broken, roots of maturity can grow deeply and firmly, seeds of resilience will be sown and strength can flourish within the wholeness of the single parent’s authentic Self.
Following are six tips for single parents to restore and keep Self-wholeness and a positive Self-identity. These tips are derived from ‘Insight Three’ of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom, in which maturity, resilience and Self-strength are discussed in more detail.
1. Refute negative stereotypes! For neither you nor your family is ‘broken.’
2. Believe that regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not, you are a whole person. Self-wholeness is an inside job!
3. Cultivate an unassailable belief in ‘True MRS’ (and ‘True MR’: Maturity, Resilience and Strength) consciously returning to your belief in Self-strength and wholeness as needed!
4. Trust that you do not have to be a perfect single parent to be an effective parent!
5. Become aware of the thoughts, feelings and motivations as well as the capacities, talents and traits in various parts of your whole Self.
6. Connect to the wisdom of positive Self-talk that keeps Self-wholeness alive in your soul.
Restoring your sense of Self-wholeness will give you confidence to trust that you can be the single parent you desire to be; your children can become all you work so hard for them to be; and you can realize the positive Self-identity you so richly deserve to enjoy.
Bette J. Freedson, LCSW, LICSW, CGP, is a clinical social worker, Certified Group Psychotherapist, speaker and writer. Bette’s specialties include stress management, parenting issues, recovery from trauma and the development of intuitive insight. She maintains a private practice with her husband, Ray Amidon, LCPC.
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