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What every single mom must know

Dr Roopa Nishi Vishwanathan | June 15, 2006

If being a mom is a juggling act, being a single mom can be a rollercoaster ride. The finances, the guilt, your kids' anxiety,  nosy neighbours and other issues can make life very difficult.

Here are some useful tips to help every single mom cope.

Get money smart

Most single moms have just one source of income, making it essential to manage finances efficiently and wisely.

The key: get organised. If you receive any form of support from your ex-husband as alimony or otherwise, make sure you maintain proper records of received payments. Save photocopies of received cheques so that all details are accessible at any time.

Keep emergency funds in the bank. As a rule of thumb, put 30 per cent of your savings into the emergency fund, invest 30 per cent in mutual funds or stocks (if you are stock market-savvy) and purchase fixed assets like property with the rest. By selecting different assets, you are hedging your investments in case of unexpected events.

Most importantly, teach your kids the importance of saving. They are never too young to learn the value of money.

"I do not tell them to save cause I am a single mom and there is no dad around to provide them financial security. I tell them they need to do it because it will help them in the long run," says 29-year-old Gauri Vasudevan, a bank employee from Mumbai and mother of two.

Maintain a relationship with your spouse

If you are divorced or separated, it is important to maintain a civil relationship with your spouse.

Bottling up feelings of bitterness and anger are detrimental to your health and your child's health.

"My husband and I are not the best of friends, nor do we agree about everything, but we do meet once in a while and have fun with our two-year old son, Anil. The smile on Anil's face helps me make those tiny compromises and adjustments," says Sharon Mendez, 26-year old-school teacher from Bangalore.

If your children do not see their father often, remind them about their dad via photographs or stories. Be careful to not let negativity seep in while you talk about him.

And, when things go wrong, don't blame everything on the absence of your former spouse. Tell your kids everyone has problems and you do too. Dealing with your problems will not be easier if you blame it on something/ someone else.

Make sure your kids know you love them

Give your kids quality time even if it means just one hour a day.

Small gestures mean a lot to kids and help assure them they have a special place in your heart.

Tell them how much you love them. The fact that you, your family, his family, your friends, all love them can make them feel less insecure and more contented.

Give your children (sons and daughters) a male role model to look up to.

It could be your brother, brother-in-law or a sincere male friend. Kids have a more rounded development this way.

Choose the right day-care centre

Choosing the right day-care centre or caretaker for your kids is one of the most significant decisions you will ever make.

Look for a person who is educated, honest and loves being around kids. If you can't have it all, then settle for honesty, the most important virtue here. Else, you will be worried about whether or not your kids were fed, changed and put to sleep at the right time.

Day-care centres must be clean, safe and have enough toys and books for all the kids.

While choosing a caretaker/ day care centre, it is best to ask around and choose the one with the best reviews.

If you do not like your caretaker/ day care centre or your kids seem unhappy, do not hesitate to look for another one until you find the perfect match.

You cannot and should not try and resolve every possible issue your child has, be it at school or with the other children at the day-care centre. Overprotected children often grow into insecure adults. In other words, treat your children like normal children. Do not overindulge or pamper them.

Don't neglect your social life

Curious people around you will often want to know why you are single. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your ex, don't. Tell your nosy neighbour it is all behind you and you would rather not talk about it.

If you are a shy person, attend only those social gatherings where you feel comfortable. People will soon understand that you are selective about whom you want to meet and will not feel offended when you do not turn up.

If you are dating someone, be sensitive to how your children feel about it. Introduce your partner to your children early in the relationship and take their opinions seriously. 

Explain to the kids that you need to get on with your life and that this makes you feel happy. Never fail to tell them your love for them will never change.

Do not be in a hurry to forge a new relationship or to get married. Decisions taken in haste can sometimes be the wrong ones.

Manage your job

Be as professional as possible at your workplace. Working from home is a great option, so is flexi-timing. This enables you to set your own schedule.

Do not talk too much about your family woes with your colleagues or your boss. "Sob-stories do evoke sympathy but sympathy might prevent people from taking you too seriously. I do not want people to look at me with pity. I want to be noticed for what I have and not for what I don't have," says Anjana Swaminathan, 26-year old divorcee from Mumbai.

It is okay to talk about it when asked, but do not make your personal issues an excuse for inefficiency.

Learn to handle your feelings

Many single moms find a lot of guilt plaguing their minds.

Guilt about the past, not being able to give the kids enough attention, not doing the right thing at the right time, not earning enough to send kids to private schools and guilt about every minor incident that occurs at home.

You cannot change the past and have to finally move on. It is difficult, but not impossible. After all, however hard she may wish it, no mom is perfect.

Family and friends can play a major role in your recovery from guilt and sadness. 

Single moms can also join Internet support groups that help them interact with similar women from all over the globe. "Blogging or writing a journal is a good way to release some pent-up feelings. I blog every week about my kids, my ex-husband, my family, my job and anything else that matters to me. It helps me get it out of my system," says Prerna Sankhe, a 25-year old flight attendant and single mom from Hyderabad.Some good links for single moms to explore:

Remember, you still have a life!

Amidst all that you have to do, it is easy to forget you need a life of your own.

Make new friends, keep in touch with old ones, go to the movies, take yoga classes, visit the gym, get a massage or do some fun thing every week.

Once in a month, plan a weekend getaway or a fun activity (like visiting a theme park or water park) with your kids. You can team up with other moms to form a group so that the responsibility is shared and all can have fun.

Being a single mom is not a deterrent to socialising or forming a group of good friends. The best way to meet more moms is at the parks, malls and schools, where moms hang around with their kids. Compliments such as "Wow, where did you buy that pretty dress from?" or "I wish Anjali were as obedient as that!" or the usual "O, your baby is so cute. How old is he?" are a good conversation starters.

Your confidence and honesty can send out the message that you have put the past behind you and now are ready to form new relationships.

None of this is as easy as it sounds. But remember that facing challenges everyday can make you a stronger person.

Are you a working, single or non-working mom? How do you cope with the demands of everyday life? Share your tips and experiences

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Dr Roopa Nishi Vishwanathan can be reached at roopa.nishi.viswanathan@gmail.com



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