Slowly but surely, I’m getting there.
As a divorced dad with three young kids, ages 6, 4, and 1, I’ve learned a lot (the hard way) about what solo parenting requires. About how to put your kids at the top of your priority list without losing your own mind in the process.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a little list of what I’ve picked up along the way. I really hope it finds its way to others in the same boat as me. After all, the way I see it, as single parents, we’re kind of in this thing together.
So here they are — the 10 commandments of single parenting …
I. Thou Shall Laugh at Themselves
Try and laugh at your life at least three or four times a day. Because it really is comical, you know? All that crying and diaper-changing, all those epic messes and head colds and never having a moment to yourself, it’s enough to make any person NUTS!
But you are managing it, so see single parenting for what it often really is: the most challenging, insane, hilarious tale ever told!
II. Thou Shall Not Try to Do Everything at Once
Seriously. For each kid you manage to get dressed or for each meal you struggle to get put on the table, another five things pop up that need to be done. But look, let some of them slide.
Dirty dishes in the sink? You’ll get to them later.
Unfolded laundry sitting in baskets for the past 10 days? Whatever.
The important thing is that you don’t end up in a crumbled, snotty heap on the kitchen floor. Single parenting life is not a Pinterest photo and guess what? Kids are way fine with that.
III. Thou Shall Have a Very Strict Bedtime for Kids
Just do it. Set up a routine for getting your kids to bed even if they want to battle you on it in a steel cage match to the bitter end. Eventually you’ll win the war (the wonderful fringe benefits of being older and bigger!). And once you do win out, you’ll be really thankful to have that hour or so at the end of a long day to sit down and flip on the TV and just chill out by yourself for a little bit.
Single parents often have to work harder for little rewards, but they’re also that much sweeter when we make things happen.
IV. Thou Shall Not Feel Guilty About Not Being Able to Have One-on-One Time
Before we each became parents, we all daydreamed about the endless amounts of time we’d one day spend reading fairy tales and picking daisies with our precious spawn. But then real life kicks in and before you know it, you can barely find the time to bathe your kids or help them learn to wipe their butts, let alone spend endless hours painting watercolors alongside ’em.
Don’t freak out! You’re not messing things up! Give kids one-on-one time when you can, but never feel guilty when you can’t.
V. Thou Shall Not Regret Hollering at Misbehaving Rugrats
Being a single parent is pure madness sometimes, I don’t care what anyone says. And sometimes things hit the kind of wall where the only thing you can do is let your kids know that you’re done with the B.S. and that you mean business!
Don’t feel bad about having to yell at your kids when they’re being brats. These days there is too much emphasis on being some kind of idealized parent and never enough emphasis on the fact that, hey, sometimes every kid needs to feel the wrath of the Almighty Mom or Dad in order to appreciate the pecking order around here.
VI. Thou Shall Heat up Frozen Dinners in the Microwave
Stop trying to convince yourself that you need to create meals from scratch for your kids every time they get a little peckish. It’s just not true. Kids will eat anything, especially if it’s frozen/prepackaged/and kind of bad for you.
And guess what? At least a few nights a week, that’s never gonna kill them. It’s just not. Give yourself a break at certain mealtimes and serve them up something that they actually LIKE and that frees up a little bit of time for the busiest parent on Earth: you.
VII. Thou Shall Not Date People Who Don’t Want to Hear About Your Kids
There comes a time in the life of every single parent when they decide to test the waters a little, to wade back out into the world of dating. That’s totally natural and totally cool. But let’s face it, so much has changed since you were a 20-something singleton; the stakes are way higher now when you look at the big picture.
So unless you’re on some kind of a mad Tinder bender (oh my!), don’t waste much time on anyone who doesn’t seem too interested in hearing about your kids. Simple as that.
VIII. Thou Shall Not Bring Boyfriends/Girlfriends Around the Kids Without Letting the Ex Know
Obviously every single parent has a different twist in their lives when it comes to the other parent of their own kids, but still. Unless that person is a total deadbeat and is MIA or something, it’s probably always best to let them know if/when there is someone else in your life who you want to be around your children.
And they owe that same thing to you. Talk about it now so that when the time comes, everyone is on the same page.
IX. Thou Shall Miss the Kids When They Aren’t with You
Being a single parent is really hard a lot of the time. So I just want to remind you that it’s perfectly normal and perfectly okay for you to seriously miss your kids when they aren’t with you, when the house if totally quiet and their absence makes you cry.
Love isn’t always pretty, we all know that. But love is still always awesome, even when it makes us kind of sad.
X. Thou Shall NOT Miss the Kids When They Aren’t with You
Missing your children when they aren’t with you is completely natural. But you know what, so is not missing them sometimes, too. It’s okay to feel a little relief when you’re on own for a while. And it’s okay to feel a little guilty about feeling that way, too.
Just remember to spend a bit of the time they are away from you doing something for yourself, even if it’s just having a glass of wine and watching a movie on the TV without having to get up every 20 minutes to change a diaper or wipe a snotty nose.
You’ve earned that, my friend. And you deserve to enjoy it a little even when it seems so hard to do.