I think I'll start this post by defining my intended audience for "single parent" because I'm aware that there are several different kinds. I originally called this "Single Mom's Guide" but then I thought of all of the single fathers out there who might be in the same circumstances. I don't know any personally, but I've heard that they exist. I'm just going to write it like I'm talking to women, but, gentlemen, feel free to switch pronouns and names of genitalia around as they apply to you. Also you could be a gay, lesbian, bisexual,or transgender single parent. Just take all of the pronouns and names of genitalia and...sprinkle them everywhere and anywhere. All the same emotional stuff applies.
Don't become a stripper. I know you've thought about it. The pay is awesome and the work hours fit in really well with your kids' schedules, but your bits will become diseased and fall off and though your kids would love for you to be more available, they want you to keep your vagina. Oh, they might not say it out loud but I bet if you asked them they would say so without hesitation. And the reason they won't hesitate to answer that question is because their mom has just said the word "vagina" in relation to herself and they want the conversation to end as quickly as possible.
The same advice goes for becoming a prostitute, shot girl, porn model, or a phone sex chick. I'm all about owning your sexuality but if someone is buying it from you then technically you don't own it. It is no longer yours, it's theirs, and that's why they're getting off on it. Oh I guess really you're renting it out, so you've got me on a technicality. But we're not going to get into an argument about this, young lady, because no matter how your frame it YOUR VAGINA WILL BECOME ILL AND FALL OFF.
*Note: What I'm really doing here is practicing an argument that I hope I never have to have with my daughters. I appreciate your participation in this endeavor.
Dealing with Feelings of Jealousy or Bitterness Over Others' Happiness
You're having lunch with a friend and she is glowing from a wonderful night with her husband. You are not at a restaurant. You have invited her to your house because you can't afford to go out to eat and it's a Saturday so you cleverly suggest that she bring her kids so that all of your kids can play together and you don't have to go anywhere or spend money. You were feeling pretty clever and good about yourself until this moron who you love brings up her happy marriage. You are suddenly jealous, angry at her because you feel like she is purposely throwing it in your face, and feeling guilty because she's your friend and you really want her to be happy. Guilt, anger and jealousy well up in you and you feel like you might start screaming at her.
Don't do that. You need all the friends you can get. Do this instead:
1) Accept the truth of your feelings. Don't squish them down or feel ashamed of them.
2) Remember that you love your friend and you are glad for her and for her children's sake that she has such a wonderful marriage.
3) Remember that she is no more lovable than you are just because she's got someone.
4) Acknowledge that your breasts are bigger than hers. No really, you need something to balance you out. Everyone has their positive and negative qualities. You're already comparing yourself to her, so while you're listing the ways her life is better than yours you might as well appreciate the fact that you've got fabulous tits and she doesn't. You HAVE TO for the good of your friendship. She would want it this way.
Some say that when you eat meat you're eating an animal's fear from the moment that they die. You already live in enough fear. So if you're a meat-eater be sure that you only eat animals who have died bravely in battle. Like lions or crawfish. Have you ever seen a live crawfish? Those things are tiny, but when confronted with a huge human that intends to boil them, they whip out those claws in a "You'll never take me alive! Have at you!" kind of way and they go out swinging.
And now I'm upset about animals who die and I'm considering being a vegetarian again. This section has been completely unhelpful. Go eat chocolate because that is what I am now doing, and if chocolate can dispel the fear brought on by Dementors in Harry Potter, then it can also cure the fear of dying alone.
You should never follow my advice about relationships...except for the previous statement. Which I know might be psyching you out in a "the following statement is true: the previous statement is false" kind of way, but you're just going to have to trust me on this.
Regular crying is very important. Don't neglect your crying in the same way that you shouldn't neglect your teeth. You might have grown up being told that it's not ok to cry, or to suck it up if things get rough. Sister, you have to suck it up ALL THE TIME. You suck it up when you wake up in the morning to go to work, you suck it up when you have to call your ex about money, you suck it up when you're too tired to cook dinner, you suck it up when your kids are sick and you don't want to clean up vomit, and you suck it up when you don't feel like getting back in the car but you have to because you have to drive someone to ball practice. So dammit if you're overwhelmed go take a nice hot bath and cry. And make sure you kick and shake your fists.
Get to Know Other Single Parents
This can be a treasure trove of support. As long as you all have time to talk on the phone and get together, which none of you do. So skip all of your house cleaning and everyone's homework and just get together one night. Omitting essential chores is the only way it'll get done, and you'll all pay for it the next day but none of you will care because the alternative was another night of isolation which caused you to finally snap and wander the streets mumbling to yourself.
Ok, I'll Say This About Relationships
Do not date or remarry anyone who is less emotionally mature than and/or has more needs than your children. This will drive you crazy, like literally, you will drive over a cliff while you scream and punch the ceiling of your car. It's most likely the reason you got divorced in the first place and you did not change your whole life around just to get involved with someone who needs you to take care of them.
*Note: This is excludes everyone. Don't date, just hire someone to mow your lawn.
*2nd Note: I didn't mean for "mow your lawn" to be a euphemism but if you feel the need to hire someone to do that too, I'm not judging. I just said that YOU shouldn't become a prostitute, I didn't say you should never...you know what, I'm going to shut up.
*3rd Note: Darn it, none of this applies because I've already told you to never take my advice. So you've probably found a codependent relationship in the last five minutes. Dammit, I ruined society AGAIN.
You're stressed and kind of bummed and you might not even feel like laughing. In fact, if someone tries to make you laugh you might get angry. I don't know why this is, but it happens. But laughing is just as important as crying in the delicate balancing act of your emotional life. Since you're in a dark place, you might have to start with dark humor that comes from someone you don't know and therefore can't kill, like the Internet. And dear God, whatever you do don't watch sitcoms where people are happy. Those are less common now than they were when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's but I'm guessing since today's writers also grew up in the 80's and 90's and they came from broken families, they are more inclined to write about broken people, or sick things in general like "Family Guy."
My favorite go-to comedy of choice is Eddie Izzard stand up. That man could make me laugh if I was fired from my job and murdered in the same day. He's ridiculous and irreverent with a heart, and I highly recommend him.
Remove All Unsightly Facial Hair Regularly
Hmm. This rule might only apply to me.
Try Not to Hurt People When They Tell You to Remember Your Children
"You could go back to school and finish your degree, but I don't think it's a good idea. You have to remember that your kids need you," a family member tells you when you mention the possibility of going back to school.
You look at her dumb-founded. Remember the kids? It wasn't your intention to forget the kids. It is impossible, in fact, to forget the kids. You are probably cleaning up urine from one of the kids while your relative is giving you this stupid advice.You are with your kids more than you are with anyone, except maybe your coworkers, and certainly much more than this relative who you don't see often because she doesn't help you.
First - don't kick her in the stomach no matter how much you want to right in that moment. She's older than you and won't recover as fast and...what?...NO THAT DOES NOT SWEETEN THE DEAL! I didn't tell you that she's weaker than you so that you have MORE incentive to hurt her, jeez! What I'm saying is that you can't hurt her physically because we don't hurt people with our hands. We hurt their feelings with our words.
"You smell like old mayonnaise."
Ok, perhaps not. Try sarcastic.
"I can see how bettering myself would make me less of a parent. Can you hand me another paper towel? What remained of my hopes and dreams just fell into this puddle of urine."
Let's go with that one.
Consider a Deity
This works for a lot of people. I believe it's good to have a strong belief in yourself. You have to know that you are a strong, beautiful, and capable person to make it through life regardless of your situation. But maybe you're not there yet with yourself, or maybe you're just having a really, REALLY bad day and you need strength outside of yourself and no one is answering their phones. You are by yourself and you are losing your mind. You feel hopeless, abandoned and alone. In these moments you can pray to something. Anything. Jesus, a saint, Ganesha, Zeus, Poseidon, Princess Diana, Hello Kitty. In fact, pile 'em on. Get a team going for you. You need every single ounce of strength, dignity and serenity that the universe can muster.
If you don't believe in spiritual stuff that's fine - make something up. People do it all the time. Suddenly you can have unwavering faith in the good of mankind, and draw from that. This takes overlooking as many inconsistencies as there are in organized religion but people do it and they make it through those hopeless moments.
Remember that you're not alone, even though no one is helping you in this moment. Remember that you are strong even though you don't feel it right now. Remember to breathe and cry when you can. Remember to watch something funny as soon as you can do it without strangling someone, because the worst thing you can do is take things too seriously. Remember that Hello Kitty loves you and that you're going to be ok.