Natural parenting is often looked at as a parenting style that takes more time. If we weren’t raised the same way we want to parent our children, we get to learn new skills. If we are parenting alone, we have extra challenges that may inhibit our ability to apply what we are learning.
Life brings about changes, and many parents who may have initially intended to be in a relationship end up parenting alone or apart from the other parent. Single parents who embrace natural parenting can feel caught in very unfamiliar territory as they create a life for themselves and their children.
As a remarried mother of four, I have spent plenty of time lone parenting. I am also writing this when my husband is in between trips that require him to be out of the state for a few weeks. I am thoroughly convinced that what takes two to create takes at least two to nurture. Parents who are doing it solo don’t have it easy, but wallowing in our neediness doesn’t help. It can get easier with practice, a change in perspective, and some reflection about what you really want for your parenting experience. Here are a few ways to begin:
1. Simplify. In moments where you feel like you can’t keep up, simplify. It can be all too easy to think you have to do things a certain way – whether that’s breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, or determining who does the chores. If you feel overwhelmed, make a list of your priorities in parenting. Some examples may be breastfeeding, co-sleeping, caring child care, and home made food. Rate how important each one is to you. Be aware of the times when you are holding yourself to a standard that you cannot meet. This is not to say you cannot benefit from gently nudging yourself at times; it is to encourage you to slow down and enjoy your child(ren) rather than stress about whether or not the way you are parenting fits in line with a particular style.
2. Self-care. Moving from self-neglect to self-care is essential if we want to parent our children in a way that honors everyone in the family. Do you want your child to grow up and put herself last? Taking time to care for ourselves can be as simple as having a glass of water handy at all times, exercise or movement we enjoy, fresh foods everyone will eat, or some time alone. What do you want to do for yourself? What do you need to do for yourself each day to feel your best? Yes, the kids’ needs are important, so are yours. Meet them – daily. To do this whether your life is hectic or calm, you might enjoy what I wrote about Uninterrupted Parenting for the Carnival of Natural Parenting.
3. Communication and Community. The support that many single parents lack is evident in the home and often in the community. Judgment can come from various angles. We have to start with ourselves there, too. The circumstances of your life don’t have to define you. It’s easy to poke about what parenting style is best, what we do that another does not, and yada yada. You are a parent and you care for your child; allow that to be the common ground you share with other parents. Consider how you are communicating with yourself and others. If you feel really down, look for people who truly support you in being the best parent you can be (not people who will commiserate with you). If you are confident in single parenting, communicate how much you have learned in doing it on your own. Develop support through community. Join parenting groups if they are in your area, attend school or other functions where parents congregate, or hang out at local parks. Single parents have to reach out if they don’t want to be alone in parenting. Strike up a conversation with another parent and see what you might have in common. The adage about it taking a village to raise a child is true, and we get to create our own village at times.
4. Appreciation. In times of stress, notice what you are grateful for. There is probably not a better practice to incorporate into one’s life than noticing the gift in struggle. When the baby is screaming and you are trying to help your older child with a bath, bring your attention to your breath, feel it circulate in your body, and tune into how much you love them even when it’s hard. Many of us didn’t get lots of practice with appreciation in school or growing up and we can benefit from experimenting with it as adults. Make an appreciation list each night before you go to bed and highlight the things you love about your kids, self, work, whatever. If it feels difficult at first, start small. Just start and let it flow to other areas of your life. In heated moments you can stop yourself and think of what you appreciate. Single parenting can be challenging and appreciation can help meet those challenges in a new light.
5. One day at a time. Take a moment just now to really feel your breath coming in and out of your body. Allow your breath to go deeply beyond your lungs, into your abdomen, and every cell of your body. Focus there for a moment and notice how you feel. We can get so caught up in what we have to do as parents. Remember, though, that there is a peace present right here, right now. If you ever feel stressed about being a single parent, tune into your breath and choose where you put your attention – one moment, one day at a time.
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