The Extra Joys (and Extra Challenges) for Single Parents

About one-fourth of all children in the United States live in a single-parent household. In fact, the second-most common arrangement for children living in the U.S. is living in a home headed by a single mom.

Single parents often find themselves stressed out and exhausted. From financial concerns and sole household duties to navigating shared custody, there’s no doubt single parents face extra challenges. But what exactly are their unique challenges, and how can we — as friends and fellow club members — offer our support?

“My biggest parenting challenge is that the challenges are forever changing,” explains single mom Tonya Neville of Hutchinson, Kansas, who is raising her four kids: Jaelynn, 13, Eliana and Amalia, 10, and Micah, 8. “By the time I think that I’ve got things worked out, ages and stages change once again.”

The Joys of Family Life and Mothering Twins
“My biggest joy in parenting is watching my children become amazing little people. It is the simple things like sitting on the couch and watching them play with the new toy I gave them for their birthday, listening to them play together in another room, and looking out my kitchen window to see them in the sandbox or on the tree swing just enjoying peace,” Tonya says. “Not all of our time together is easy, joyful or peaceful, but when I see my kids in their own element at school or in their individual sports, they are kind, hard-working and talented. It is a joy to witness them implementing the things I have taught them, as well as their individual uniqueness.”

The Hidden Benefits for Single Parents
Research shows there are a number of benefits to single parenting, including the chance to form a closer bond with your children and the fact that children aren’t witnessing daily conflicts between the parents. Single parents are able to make all the decisions regarding household rules, technology use, medical treatments and other issues (although the flip side is lack of control when the kids are staying in another household). If other caregivers are routinely responsible for the children, single moms may enjoy some alone time to recharge their physical and emotional batteries.

The Struggles Faced by Single Moms
Despite these few potential benefits, most single parents need help from others, and financial concerns usually top the list of single mom stressors.

“I have only myself to make family decisions. Only one brain to think through, plan for, and accomplish life as a family.  I must be extremely intentional in everything from how I spend my time to how I spend my dollar. Worry and guilt are my constant companions,” Tonya says. “My current parenting challenge is better learning who I am so that I can better support each of my kids in their individual needs.”

“Single parenting is incredibly hard,” she admits. “It’s an everyday battle and a talented juggling act. I cannot be the mom I want to be, in numerous ways. I cannot get enough hours in for work, and I cannot get enough hours in to be mom. There is only one of me, no one else to fill in the gaps. It’s all on me!”

Local Clubs Can Provide Much-Needed Services for Families
Being the only adult in a household can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is a great opportunity for a local club to step up and show support for members. One idea is to form a Single Parents subgroup that can gather for playdates, adult-only dinners or weekend breakfasts (bonus points to club members who babysit during these times!).

“My local club gave me a place to turn to for support and encouragement during my new years as a twin mom,” Tonya says. “I gained friendships with older, experienced moms that I still have today. Those moms lived through many challenges outside of parenting twins, and they were there with smiles and positive attitudes. That was comforting for me. One of the things I appreciated most about my local club was their desire to serve new moms and meet them where they are at. My confidence as a mom of four, mom of twins, and a mom of a special needs child was boosted.”

Friends and leaders within a local club need to keep one important thing in mind: the parent may be struggling with whatever condition led them to be single. Death of a spouse and divorce are both traumatic events, and we need to be sensitive about these issues. For grieving spouses, Multiples of America offers a number of resources on our website, including the Loss of Spouse brochure and one-on-one support from a National Worker volunteer who provides bereavement support.

Tonya has advice for anyone going through a high-conflict divorce. “There are many important things you need to do to make the best of your new life,” she says. “Join the single parenting groups, healing groups, court system help groups, read the parenting books, write in a journal and ask for help. Make time and space to grieve and heal.”

Single Parenting Tips
– Find a way to enjoy some alone time. Easier said than done, but crucial to any mom’s mental health, which in turn impacts our children’s mental health and stability. Maintaining friendships and nurturing adult relationships can give you an emotional boost when you need it most.

 – Build a network of support for help when you need it. Your local club is a great place to start, or contact Multiples of America to learn about other resources. Team up with other parents for babysitting,  sleepover swaps and carpooling. “You must gather a support system, because you will not survive on your own. I have an incredible support system that is the reason I am still growing today,” says Tonya.

– Don’t hesitate to ask for help. This includes expecting your kids to help with chores, which research shows leads to increased self-esteem and better work-ethic as adults. A win-win!

Show yourself some grace. “People do not understand how society works against single parents,” says Tonya, adding that single parenting means “learning to accept that just doing your best is good enough.”

Manage your stress. Healthy eating, sleeping and finding a little time for physical activity can go a long way in keeping your stress at lower levels. “When I am healthy and whole, I can keep up with whatever comes our way,” Tonya says.

– Learn to say no. “Do not forget that you are a human too! You can’t do it all, and you are going to make mistakes,” says Tonya. Set some boundaries and try to stick with them. That includes recognizing your limits and saying no at times — to your kids, neighbors, the school PTA or whoever is demanding more than you can give.

Find your village. “You need to come to terms with the court system entering your life and taking away some of your power as a parent,” she says. “You must find mentors and counselors to help guide you through all of the forced changes. It takes a village, and you will have to create it. Hopefully, one day, you will see beauty in the changes and feel peace.”

Make rules and be consistent. “You are always out-numbered by your kids as a single parent of multiples, so make clear rules and be consistent with any punishment,” says J. Susan Griffith, MD, of Bluegrass Parents of Twins & Multiples Club, KY, who was a single parent since her fraternal twin sons were 8 months old (they are now in their 30s). “Usually the result of breaking a rule was being put in time out (or grounded when they were older) or they had a privilege taken away for a specified time (TV watching, computer games, etc.). Once when my twins were 17, one was being grounded for not coming home by his curfew time. He continued to mope and complain the entire weekend he was grounded. I asked, ‘Why are you acting like this?’ and he said ‘My friends at school say if you complain enough your parents will let you out of being grounded’ to which I replied, “Has that ever worked for you before?’ He sheepishly replied, ‘No!’ so I told him to quit complaining or he would be grounded for longer. My sons told me their friends at school really respected that I was so consistent and fair.”

By Sara Barr

This article is just one of many from our bi-monthly member publication, Multiple Connections. Each full issue is posted in the Members Only section of our website. If you are a member, log in using your Members Only password to browse through other issues. If you aren’t yet a member of Multiples of America, consider joining us through a local club or as an affiliate to access our newsletters and a wealth of other resources. Learn more

Follow us:

More Posts


If you need help with the username and password, please contact your local club or contact us here.