When You Feel Like the Only Single Mother at Your Kids School: A Survival Guide
Single parenting is challenging enough without the added stress of feeling isolated at your kid's school events. You and your kids are both exposed daily to a world where 2 parents are the norm. Even with the many changing traditions in modern societies, single parents are still in the outlying minority. Do not let this be a discouraging factor when it comes to getting involved in your child's school activities. There are some subtle ways to make life a little easier for the entire family.
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Instead of focusing on what you do not have (a husband), get people to notice what you do have. If you make the best oatmeal cookies on the planet, bring them to every event at the school where food is involved. If you have great organizational skills, offer your services to help coordinate the class volunteers. You may have less time than the stay at home moms, however, you can still take home things to cut out or papers to edit when the teacher needs some help. Contribute what you can and make a name for yourself that has nothing to do with having a significant other.
There will, inevitably, be events at school that are focused on fathers. There may be a special breakfast morning or extracurricular event that revolves around kids and their dads. There is also the dreaded father's day card or craft making. If your child has a relationship with their father, these things will still be appreciated. If the father is absent, this can be a bit tricky. If you have another involved male in your child's life you can direct these activities in a different direction. Grandparents and Uncles can be great substitutes and role models.
Some children are better at handling adversity than others. Start early on giving your child the confidence to deal with questions about the absent father. Make sure they understand that they should never feel ashamed about having a different type of home life than the majority. Help your little one see the many similarities they share with their friends, instead. You can focus on pets, dance classes, and shared favorite movies. In the end, however, your child may still feel somewhat left out. Be sure to listen to them and validate these feelings. It may take time for them to adjust to being a little different. Go about your days with confidence to set a good example.
Do not avoid social situations at the school because you are a single mother. Your child needs you to show up to open house and other events. Even if you feel out of place; do not allow the other parents to be the reason you stay home from the science fair. Attend any event you wish to be present at and hold your head high. Show the other parents you and your child are just as capable as they are.
Single parenting comes with challenges ranging from scheduling problems to financial complications. Most schools are equipped with a guidance counselor for each age group. If there is something you cannot figure out how to handle on your own, make a meeting with this person. Many of these counselors have been educated and trained in some type of social services. They will be able to help you find the resources you need to get things under control. Many schools offer free school supplies and back packs to children in restricted financial situations. This will not only help your personal budget, but will ensure that your child does not feel singled out as the only one in the class without proper supplies. It can be very beneficial to have someone to confide in that can help with these difficulties. Work with the school counselor to find ways to get your child into sports, clubs, and tutoring, as well. Be sure to introduce your child to the counselor. Explain that this person is helpful and can be sought out when needed.
If you manage to get to a daytime event or PTA meeting, you need to look at the other parents attending. In the majority of cases, there are mostly mothers involved in these situations. You still have the advantage of being the female parent. Mothers all over the world are volunteering, coordinating, and planning school events. Tradition still holds in many ways when it comes to the duties of a mother. Many married mothers are still juggling a career, as well. You may have more in common than you first thought.
If you can get away at lunch for the occasional visit, or take the morning off for a class party, do so. This will help you to get to know the other parents and their kids. Your child will love introducing you to his school environment and friends. If you take the time to be friendly, you have a better chance of finding a group of parents that you fit in with. Avoidance will only breed misery and isolation. Your child will ultimately suffer if you give to your fears and choose not to attend school activities. By making regular appearances at the school you are allowing both you and your child to be a part of the social circle.
Some things will always be challenging as a single mother of kids in the school environment, however there is a lot that you can gain control over. You still have something worthwhile to contribute as a mother, with or without a spouse. By focusing on your strengths, you will give yourself an opportunity to flourish as your child's parent. Your child, in turn, will benefit greatly watching you persevere. Be yourself and tackle this challenge with grace and perseverance.