I became a single parent to my two children almost four years ago. Now, I write about lone parenting and relationship breakdown.
Have You Lost Yourself?
When you become a parent—particularly a single parent—it's easy to lose yourself. You get stuck in basic 'survival' mode—you're doing everything to look after the kids and the house but nothing for yourself. Whether you are separated or divorced, widowed or have been a lone parent from the outset, you might feel as though you are spinning on a constant wheel of responsibility. And when it feels as though there is no getting off that wheel, it's tough going. You might not even realise how stuck you are—perhaps you are just exhausted, coupled with an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction, and you just don't feel as though you are 'going' anywhere.
But you are still a person too. You are a parent, but you are more than a parent. You are YOU. And that matters. Everyone deserves the chance to be themselves. We are all individual people with our own unique qualities and dreams—even parents.
Being a Parent Is the Most Important Job, But...
Being a parent is the most important job in the world, but allowing it to confine you so that you live your life entirely through your children is not particularly fulfilling. Of course, you love them, but it's still probably not enough. After all, you have interests and passions too—you should not completely give up on those just because you have children.
As a single parent, life will probably feel even more of a juggling game than it does for most. You might think it's ridiculous to even contemplate doing anything for yourself. But it's just as important, perhaps even more so. Being a single parent can be a lonely experience - you might feel a sense that life is just passing by whilst you are merely existing.
Perhaps you have even forgotten who you are and what you enjoyed before life became so all-consuming. Perhaps that person feels like someone else; a distant memory. Can you remember what you loved; what made you laugh? Can you remember what inspired you; what brought you contentment?
You need to find that person again!
Do You Get a Break?
If you parent alone, you are most likely to lose yourself if you never get a break. If the other parent is not nearby or is no longer around at all, that can have a big impact on how free you are to pursue your own interests. If on top of that, you have no other family who live locally, you are probably even less likely to get a break, unless you have a very close community of supportive friends.
Taking a Small Amount Of Time Just for YOU
But even if you can eke out just a couple of hours a week to do something just for you, it can help to bring about a new lease on life. It will help to make you 'you' again! Even if that 'something' is just getting lost in an inspiring book, or creating something beautiful, like a piece of art or a flower garden. Perhaps you dream of studying or starting an online business - both of these can be done at home, so you wouldn't need to worry about childcare. Perhaps you have always wanted to make your own jewelry, or you enjoy knitting or sewing, or you'd like to try your hand at another type of craft.
If you have an older teenager who can look after any younger siblings, or someone else who can look after your children occasionally while you 'find' yourself, that's even better. Getting out on your own for a bit gives you even more options. Perhaps there is a sport you love and would like to take up again, or you feel better when you can blast it out at the gym for a bit. Perhaps you'd love to join a local choir or acting group, or you're passionate about landscape photography. Perhaps you are a secret daredevil or a budding novelist. Whatever your passion, it's in you, it's part of who you are.
Remember, life is for living. For everyone. So what are you waiting for? Do it. Find yourself again. Thinking about what you'd love to do, without ever actually doing it, is not fulfilling. In fact, it is the total opposite, because it just reminds you of what you could be. Don't go along with that 'no time' excuse, either. Rather than tell yourself why you can't, think about how you can.
Remember what teachers and our parents used to say, even though we hated it? "There's no such word as can't."
Doing something just for you can help you to find yourself again. In turn, you are more likely to feel positive about your life; as though you are actually going somewhere in your own right. This should not be underestimated - people who feel fulfilled in life are more confident, happier, and much more content than those who do not. Raising a family is the most beautiful achievement in the world, but children grow up, and you are still YOU. You can be a great parent, but being a parent doesn't mean all those dreams and passions have to be extinguished.
Have You Lost Yourself Due to a Lack of Time?
Losing yourself due to a lack of time to focus on your own needs is very common in single parenthood. The younger your children are, the truer it probably is. You might not even realise what has happened until you suddenly remember who you used to be before you gradually let everything you once enjoyed fade away.
But sometimes we can perceive ourselves as having no time when actually we just have to make time. We have to rearrange our lives to fit our own stuff in, in the same way that we make sure we do it for our children. We have to be determined. Perhaps that means that something else has to occasionally take a backseat. Perhaps, just now and then, you can leave the house in a total mess while you concentrate on something that makes you happy and fulfilled. Perhaps you can NOT watch TV, even though you're really tired, and force yourself to do something that you know would leave you with a feeling of accomplishment afterwards.
Perhaps you could ask your parents to babysit or take real advantage of that play-date instead of rushing home to do chores. Put that on the backburner. Remember, you are looking for YOURSELF here, not an accolade for being an excellent homemaker.
No one ever died wishing they'd been better at tidying up. And if your children spend alternate weekends with their other parent, then you really DO have time. Sometimes, we confuse lack of time with lack of will - but a lack of will doesn't usually equate to true fulfillment.
Have You Lost Yourself Due to Loss of Confidence or Negative Thinking?
Losing confidence in yourself can be like getting stuck in quicksand. It disables you. It doesn't take you anywhere because it makes you afraid of life and of living freely. Depressive thinking has a similar outcome since it holds you back and won't allow you to move forward.
Thinking depressive thoughts smothers belief that life is a wondrous opportunity to be explored and enjoyed. Thinking that your situation is hopeless, or non-changeable, means that you are less likely to pursue new avenues as it feels like there is no point. It's the same outcome when you allow a lack of confidence to overwhelm you. You won't reach for things if you don't believe you can have them, and therefore your life cannot change. It's a bit of a vicious circle.
Being a single parent is a difficult job, especially if you have financial difficulties. However, tell yourself that you CAN do it, you WILL do it, you are WORTHY of it. Life might be hard, but if you push yourself forwards, and start doing all those things that you want to do and somewhere deep inside believe you can do, then you can open the door to rediscovering the real 'you'.
You are someone special, with your own amazing qualities and talents. You probably knew that once upon a time, when you were young and life had knocked you down - you just have to believe it again.
Losing Yourself Due to Giving Up
Losing yourself due to giving up is what happens in the end if you don't deal with your lack of confidence or an accumulation of depressive thoughts. In the end, you just give up altogether. But you'll never find the real you if you give up—instead, you will merely survive. It's like a sandwich with no filling—none of the nice bits of life.
If you give up, you will never know what could have been—what can be. Life is full of twists and turns, highs and lows, opportunities and disappointments. It can be a hard learning curve - but it can also be utterly fantastic and deeply fulfilling. The thing is, you need to be in the game still to ever have a chance of winning the race.
Losing Yourself Due to Lack of Money
Struggling financially can be an all-consuming worry, so it's no surprise that money problems can cause us to lose our zest for life. If you are a single parent, the worry is even worse, since you're all on your own - there is no one else to fall back on.
Being a single parent on a low income is very hard, but if that is you, don't give up. The more you allow yourself to wallow in the bad parts of your life, the more the 'real you' will become lost behind the clouds. And you don't want that, because then you will be a shell of yourself.
Being a 'shell of yourself' won't help you in any way. In fact, it's more likely to hinder your chances of changing your financial situation and your ultimate enjoyment of life. Giving off 'hopeless' and negative vibes will hold you back because it will make you less attractive to other people. Think about it—the most charismatic people are those who light up the room; those who are interested and enthusiastic about life; those who make us feel positive about ourselves and the world. They are the people who look outwards; they are passionate and interested; they throw themselves into things with a smile, and they DON'T give up.
And they are also the sort of people employers love. Being a positive person is more likely to land you great things, and ultimately to improve your chances in life, than being negative.
Money isn't everything, and it can't buy true happiness (though it can certainly help to make life easier).
Your Children WANT You to be You
The truth is, we give up a lot for our children. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our responsibilities and the drudgery of daily life that we give up everything. But, really, your children don't want you to give up your whole self for them—they need you to be there for them, but they WANT you to be YOU. It inspires them. They benefit from seeing your enthusiasm; from seeing you get stuck in there, appreciating the world around you. You are their role model, and watching you enjoy life helps them to grow into well-rounded, ambitious adults. Your passion teaches them how to nurture their own and to make the most of life. And that's true even if one's circumstances are not perfect or there is not much money.
So, if you have lost yourself, you know what to do—get out there and find yourself again. Your children will thank you for it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.