Things weren’t easy growing up with a single mother. It was a fact that we always had less money, less food, fewer clothes, and pretty much less of everything except challenges. Today, however, when other parents ask me for advice, I realize that my parenting philosophies are a direct result of my own childhood experiences. Here are some of the things I learned mostly because my mom was a single parent most of the time.
When I was a kid, I resented the fact that my mom was not there to help me do homework, choose clothes, find my shoes or a hundred other things that I saw other parents helping their kids do on a daily basis. Once my mother told us to do something or taught us how to do it, she expected us to do it or figure it out again on our own.
If my mom was at work when my brother and I came home from school, it was my responsibility to fix something us something to eat, clean house and do my homework. I honestly can’t ever remember a time when anyone “reminded” or “prodded” me to do my homework. Even during times when I was living with my grandparents, everyone had work to do. Everyone was busy. It was each person’s responsibility to keep up with his or her own tasks. This is probably where my family has made the biggest impact in my adult life. I don’t think I would have been able to author books or achieve other goals without the concept of self-motivation, responsibility and accountability. These concepts have also made the biggest impact in how I homeschool my own children. I provide them access to educational materials and opportunities, but it is their responsibility to learn.
The importance of siblings
Parents frequently talk about how their kids don’t get along. When you grow up with a single parent and you’re frequently left alone with one or more siblings, you learn not only to appreciate them, but you feel accountable toward one another. I’ve frequently told my children that no matter how many other kids stay in our home as short or long term guests, they are the only people in the world who will know what it was like to grow up in our home. They were created from the same DNA. There are similarities in their looks (and possibly even personalities!). Siblings have a unique bond. In a single parent household, this bond can be even stronger as children feel accountable for each other when the parent isn’t around. Encourage your children to cherish one another.
How to make our own fun
There were no fancy toys, no computers, no after school programs, no music lessons, no sports, and other than occasional activities, no clubs until I reached high school. In other words, no one else was given the responsibility of entertaining my brother and me three, four, five afternoons or evenings each week. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, one of my fondest memories of childhood is entertainment. We rode bikes, played with marbles, build forts, walked to the park, played with friends, watched birds, took hikes in the woods, helped neighbors, planted a garden, created make-believe worlds, made walnut-shell boats to sail down the creek, and read books. If we ever said we were “bored,” we very quickly earned ourselves a chore. There is no excuse to be bored in this life. There is always something you could be doing – if not for yourself, then to help someone else.
The value of money
My children are always shocked when they see other children who brag about how many pairs of shoes they have, leave bicycles in the road, drop their new computers and laugh, demand a different food because they don’t like what they’re served, etc. Although my children aren’t being raised in a single parent household, we do have a one-income household and five children. It’s difficult to make ends meet, but at least my husband and I have each other to lean on in terms of child-rearing, decision-making, etc. Most single moms do not have this support on a daily basis. Because I was raised by a single mom and in an environment with lots of grandparents who were quite old-fashioned and frugal, I have been able to be a stay-at-home mom because I learned from them how to stretch every penny. I also learned how to mend what’s broken, eat what I don’t like, grow my own food, find a way to work or trade for what I want or need, and many other skills that are being lost to a generation today that pretty much has everything handed to them. I’m passing these skills of frugality down to my own children.
The art of appreciation
Single moms are busy. Frequently they are doing two parents’ jobs at home while also working outside the home and caring for their own personal needs. Single parents are frequently too busy or tired to notice that the kids feel neglected, that they might be in trouble or perhaps that they are excelling at something like music, art or a certain school subject. Sometimes if they do notice, they are just too tired to do anything about it. Even a little appreciation goes a long way – for the child and for the parent.
So what can you take away from all of this? First, even if you’re part of a two-parent household, we can always learn something from others if we allow ourselves to do so. It’s true that some single parents are doing a poor job (as are some parents from two-parent households), but instead of judging them simply because they are raising their children without a spouse, you might take the time to learn something from these moms or dads. Many of them have streamlined parenting and housework and are doing a terrific job raising intelligent and ethical children. Out of necessity, they’ve learned how to be frugal as well as how to encourage independence and responsibility in their children. It’s also important to remember that many single parents didn’t choose to be in that position. They’re making the best out of challenging situations. And sometimes those challenging situations can be what help them develop parenting philosophies that actually end up helping their children in the long run.