If you’re a single parent, and let’s make the distinction between single parent and co-parent, the latter being the lucky group that gets every other weekend and/or additional weeknight entirely to themselves with potential help of another driver, you’ll need basic tools to survive in suburbia.
If, like me, you are the sole provider, sports spectator, caregiver, homework supervisor, permission slip signer, science fair project organizer, bake sale donator, parent-teacher conference attendee, school supply hunter/gatherer, and chauffeur, here’s what you need:
10. A Creative schedule.
It’s Saturday morning and one kid has a lacrosse game in Scarsdale at 8 a.m. and the other a softball game in Katonah at 9 a.m. How is each kid getting to and from the games and which will you watch? Answer: You drive to the earlier game (and offer to take as many other kids that will fit in your car!) and stay for the first half. Arrange a ride home with one of the kids you drove. You arrange a ride for the other child (in a pinch the coach often helps) and watch the rest of that game. All meet back at home for lunch.
You cannot be in all places at once and will not attend every child’s game/field trip/fill-in-the-blank. Your kids will have to know this, accept this, and appreciate your efforts. (Accept two out of three on that one–appreciation is not in their repertoire yet.) Oh and I hope you saved your personal days–you’re going to need them when your kid wakes up vomiting.
There is no need for full disclosure. Keep your feelings about and dealings with your ex to yourself. Ditto for money woes and new romantic encounters. I’m not suggesting lying –honesty is essential for children’s sense of well-being. But kids are on a need-to-know basis so keep details to a minimum.
7. Kid-free time.
Make time for you! Hire a babysitter, ask a friend to take your kids, arrange play dates, but carve out time away from your kids, even if that time is spent in your own home. You need time to decompress and be undisturbed, whether it’s reading a book, gardening, or watching reruns on television. It will make you a better parent.
6. Sense of gratitude.
It’s taking a village to raise your child and you need to give back to all that are helping you. Offer to do extra carpooling, take your child’s friends overnight, after school, to a movie, or out for pizza, but don’t forget to show your gratitude!
5. Great wardrobe.
I’m not kidding on that one–you look great, you feel great! This is Westchester after all. And you don’t have to spend a million dollars to do so. Hit the local merchants at their end-of-season sales and dress to impress!
4. Fulfill yourself.
Do something every day just for you even if that requires getting up an hour before the rest of the house. Whether it’s a workout, creative endeavor or something that engages your mind, do it.
3. Develop a support network.
If you have supportive family nearby consider yourself extremely fortunate! If not you’re going to have to humble yourself and ask for help from neighbors, friends, and parents of your kids’ friends. (See #6!!)
2. Embrace your social life.
I’m living proof that it’s entirely possible to have a full social life while working full-time and successfully raising your kids. It does require that all-important creative scheduling and possibly a small fortune in babysitting fees, but a rich social life is essential for morale! If possible, find classes or things to do that happen while your children are engaged in independent activities, but find opportunities to be around other grown-ups.
1. Widen your friendship circle.
You can’t have too many friends and hopefully yours are from all walks of life–from your childhood, college, colleagues, and other parents in your neighborhood. It’s never too late to reconnect so look up some people on Facebook or in your alumni magazine. Some of my best friends are people I’ve met in the past ten years. All my friends make my world a happier place!
Miriam Longobardi is a freelance writer, first grade teacher and single mother of two daughters living in Westchester. A breast cancer survivor, she also volunteers for the American Cancer Society and has completed four marathons. Also, check out her weekly New York Modern Love column at Examiner.com.