by Tammy Jones
Single Motherhood is probably the most challenging experience one can live through. With constant, overwhelming, responsibility you might wonder if you really will...live through it that is. Just kidding, but anybody who’s ever been a single parent will tell you “sometimes, it ain’t easy!” Through the difficulties I’ve encountered as a single mom I have found an inner strength, a resourcefulness I never knew existed. It feels good! I am in charge of my life and I like who I see when I look in the mirror. As a single mother for the past 6 years, I have put together what I call my “Single Parent Success Tips” and I am pleased to share them with you now.
2) Form a support network of friends and family. Include other single mothers in your network. Bounce ideas off of one another. Get reassurance of your own parenting skills by talking with others. Swap out baby-sitting with other single parents for time to yourself.
3) Going to the store? Form a shopping network of two or three other moms (single or otherwise) in your neighborhood. When a mom makes a trip to the grocery story, have her call the other moms in the group to see who needs what. Take turns and everybody gets a little help.
4) Got a little baby? Need to take a shower and no one to watch the child? No problem. If your baby is really tiny, bring him/her to the bathroom floor in an infant carry seat with the little toys that hang down or a favorite rattle. Make sure you have a cloth diaper or other type of rag within arms reach to wipe up spit or a runny nose. Take your shower and sing and your heart out. You'll get your time in the bath and your child will love hearing you sing! Keep your child away from electrical appliances, like blowdryers and curling irons.
5) Secure your home! Lock and alarms deter burglars, but be sure not to "invite" them into your home. Make sure your home always looks occupied, even when you're not there. Put porch and interior lights on timers. If you're running to the store, leave on the TV or radio and a couple of lights.
6) If you cannot afford to install an alarm system in your home, you can buy "alarm warning system" stickers from Radio Shack; they're less than $2.00 for a package of 3 or 4. Place them on obvious places that an intruder might try to enter.
7) Re-use old wrapping paper and decorative bags. Don't throw them out. Save paper from birthday parties and Christmas to re-use again. Smooth out and remove adhesive tape with a warm iron.
8) Try this fun experiment with your child. Take some white carnations, place them in a vase filled with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of red food coloring and watch the results. Your kids will be fascinated by the changes in the veins and stalk as the flowers "drink" the colored water!
9) Make Their Art Last - A coating of hair spray on your child’s drawing will act as a sealant and prevent the colors from fading. Hair spray will also strength the paper.
10)Caution Hot Water! Help your child distinguish between the hot and cold water faucets by placing a drop of red nail polish on the top of the "hot" water faucets in sinks and bath-tubs throughout your home. Keep the thermostat of your hot water heater UNDER 120 degrees.
11) Baby an early riser? Need a little extra sleep. Try placing a few of his/her favorite toys in the crib after the child is asleep. Upon waking, the baby can amuse him/herself for a while.
12) Where is my Daddy? What do you tell your child? I've heard many people speculate. But what I suggest is that if the father chooses to be un-involved, be honest with your child by saying something like, "Daddy makes his own decisions and I don't know why he doesn't call/come by/send cards." "Perhaps you need to call him and ask him."
13) Be sure your child knows that it is NOT his/her fault that the father is absent. Children tend to believe that divorce or the behavior of the absent parent is their fault. We need to reinforce to our children that they are OK and nothing they have done has caused the parents divorce or the absent parents shortcomings.
14) I hate my father! He's a jerk! If your kids voice anger about their absent father, let them vent their anger now as opposed to destructive ways later. Perhaps buy your child a punching bag to help! Let them get rid of the anger now!
15) Your child says, "My Step-Mother is soooo cool." How do you respond? No matter what your feelings are about the new step mom, be she the "other" woman or another, always respond positively with something like, "Really? That's great honey! I'm so glad you like her."
16) Never never leave young children under the age of 12 unattended in the car! Too many dangerous circumstances could arise!
17) There are many things you can do to have fun with your child that don't cost money! Go for a walk at the park. Go window shopping or visit a single parent friend. Be creative, bake cookies or do arts and crafts.
18) Encourage your child to talk about how she/he is feeling. Children can express themselves through the drawings and at play time. Discuss the art-work and play period with your child. It will give you some quality time with your child, and also let you inside your child’s mind.
19) If your child will not sit still while you wipe the crusty snot from his sore nose, try bribing him with a quarter or other treat!
20) If Daddy doesn't show up for his planned weekend visitation. All is not lost, have a back-up plan just in case. Since the kids will be ready to go anyway, load them up in the car and go to a movie, a friends house or other fun place!
21) Make eye contact with children. Squat down to their level when trying to explain something important. Eye contact reinforces your connection and the child's understanding.
22) If Your Baby Won't Sleep and You are Tired, there are several ways to get your child to sleep if a nice warm bottle fails. 1) Lay the baby on her stomach across your lap; give her a pacifier and gently but firmly pat her back till she falls asleep. 2) Strap the child in the car seat and go for a spin. Sometimes children have a difficulty unwinding from a busy day just like you do and many times a car ride can do the trick.
23) Have Food will Travel. Going to be away from the house for a while. Take along raisins, cookies or cheerios in a plastic bag so you'll be ready when little tummies start to rumble.
24) Baby Wipes Are a Wonderful Thing! If your children are under the age of 10 buy small purse packs of baby wipes and carry them with you all the time! Your kids will be spick and span in no time. Maybe they've been petting the baby-sitters cat and you're on your way to Taco Bell. Whip out a wipe and clean those hand and dirty faces too!
25) Toilet Paper Tubes are good for something. Carefully fold & neatly store extension cords by inserting the coiled cord into the cardboard tube.
26) Change the filter in your homes air conditioning unit monthly for optimum efficiency. This will help on the amount of energy your heater/air conditioner uses (translating into lower electric bills) plus you’ll be breathing cleaner air!
27) To dry your milk supply, apply cold, fresh cabbage leaves inside bra until they wilt, then change.
28) Crying Baby? Take her outside to listen to the birds and look at the trees. Being out doors tends to calm babies and will help your attitude too.
29) One mother says, that Vaseline on your babies butt at each diaper change will prevent diaper rash!
30) Most local libraries have FREE activities and story-times for children. This can be a fun and educational experience as well as providing you quality time with your children.
31) Be sure to form a good relationship with your child’s teacher. In doing so you are reassuring your chances of knowing what's going on in the classroom. If there is a problem and you have good communication with the teacher; a resolution will be much easier if you have a good understanding of the teachers expectations and your child performance.
32) It may be necessary to explain to your child’s teacher about your home life. If you are a divorcing parent (which is a VERY difficult time for children) let the teacher know so she can spot bouts with depression and let you know about it. It can also help your child to have other adults to talk too.
33) Join other single mothers nightly at 9pm CST in the Rose Garden - www.singlerose.com - Let's Network!
34) Looking for single parent support and understanding can be tough. Take the initiative and start a single parent support group in your home town. It could be just what you and the community need. Be assured you are not alone! Get started by going to the PTA./PTO meeting with the suggestion. Bring a clip board sign up sheet ready to go. Once you’ve got several people on the list you’ll be surprised how easy the rest will happen. Set a time and place for the first meeting, for example, the school. Call a local counselor to help in discussions. Decide what specific issues are important to your group. The possibilities are infinite.
35) Forming a single mother support group not only gives you an opportunity to affirm your parenting skills, it also gives you and as well as your children the chance to make friends with other families in similar situations.
36) Sex and Single-Parenthood! Yes, it is possible to add sex to your life as a single parent. There are creative ways to keep this aspect of your life safe and hot! The trick is to not let your children know about it. For more details visit the articles page of Single Rose - Resource for Single Mothers www.singlerose.com.
37) A child’s first trip to the dentist should be scheduled after all baby teeth have come in.
38) Never go anywhere with an infant without a cloth diaper, or other such ‘burp rag’. Always cover your shoulder with it when holding her to protect against unwanted stains, as well as to help with unexpected clean-ups.
39) Layout your children’s clothing the night before (with their help if old enough) to speed things up in the mornings. It lessens last minute frustrations and avoids morning disagreements.
40) Savings bonds are a simple, hassle-free way to save for your children’s education. The interest may even be tax free when used for education. See your accountant or the IRS www.irs.ustreas.gov for details.
41) A positive attitude is one of the best ways to help your children become happy, well-adjusted, socially.
42) Children learn from example. What did they learn from you today?
43) Being a single mother home owner can be difficult if you’re not mechanically inclined. Here’s a suggestion, barter services with a male friend or neighbor. For example: You have a leaky faucet and plumbers are expensive. Perhaps can do some mending, cooking or baby-sitting for a male friend in exchange for him fixing your faucet.
44) Every state of the United States has a Child Support Office. If you are having trouble collecting child support go the Administration of Children and Families Homes page at www.acf.dhhs.gov - click on programs, then on child support enforcement.
45) To report and see photos of Texas Child Support Evaders, posted by the Texas State Attorney General, visit www.oag.state.tx.us/WEBSITE/CHILDSUP/WANTED/wanted.htm
46) Your local child support office has an automated telephone system. Through this automated system you can receive information regarding the date your last two child support payments were posted, the date of your latest withholding order and other information. To contact your local office go to www.acf.dhhs.gov then go to “programs” and then to “child support”
47) If you are divorcing and will be the custodial parent, make certain your attorney sets up a withholding order to garnish child support from your ex’s pay-check at the same time your divorce decree is prepared.
48) Garnished wages help everyone involved. a. It helps the mother and children by not having to argue with/wait for the father to cut the check, b. Helps the father because the child support office keeps detailed records on payments received and disbursed.
49) Some attorneys actually do pro-bono work! Meaning, they take on a few cases for FREE! Just open the phone book and start calling, or call your local women’s shelter for referrals.
50) The Single Rose Resource for Single Mothers Child Support Collection Program is not possible without gifts from people like you. All donations are tax deductible. Send your check or money order to Single Rose, P.O. Box 487, Kennedale, Texas 76060.
51) To adjust your visitation schedule with your ex-husband, try and stay flexible. Trading off weekends with him when he requests it could be beneficial to you. You can be sure there WILL come a time when YOU need to switch weekends and need him to be flexible.
52) Keep your ex-husband informed as much as possible about the children’s school and other activities. Regularly send copies of report cards and pictures. Being well informed might make him more receptive to contributing (time/money) to the kids.
53) Do NOT use your children as messengers. If your ex-spouse needs to know about something, pick up the phone and call him. It is not the children’s responsibility, nor is it fair to place them in that position.
54) As difficult as it may be, refrain from saying negative or nasty things about the children’s father. Children love their dad no matter what and will look at these negative, nasty comments as reflections of themselves.
55) Keep the lines of communication open with the ex-in-laws, even if they (ex-in-laws) do not! Occasionally send photos or call to remind them of an important date, like the kids birthdays. You want to be the good guy all the time.
56) Make time for family activities at least weekly. Declare one night a week as “family night.” This will help reinforce your family unit! Let each family member have a turn deciding what activity to do for his/her night. Examples: Rent/go to a movie, bake cookies, play miniature golf, go to an arcade, visit a museum or ride bicycles.
57) Do NOT use your children as sounding boards. Do not dump on your kids about their father or your financial woes. Children have enough to think about in their own worlds! When you need to discuss these matters with someone, call a family member or friend or visit the Single Rose - Resource for Single Mothers web site at www.singlerose.com for support.
58) Divvy up the chores! School aged children are quite capable of picking up their own rooms and carrying their cleaned off plates to the sink. Have them sweep the porch or pick up the yard. My children (ages 6 & 9) make their own lunches which helps me tremendously. They also feel a sense of pride in having some responsibility.
59) Call the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in Washington at 202-401-9200.
60) For a complete listing of each states Office of Child Support Enforcement web sites and phone numbers go to www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cse/extinf.htm#exta
61) The Single Rose - Resource for Single Mothers Child Support Collection Program connects mothers/fathers with attorneys to collect past due child support. The program is currently available only in Dallas Ft Worth. For more info click www.singlerose.com
62) Decide what you are going to wear the night before. Lay as much out as you can. Lay out your child(ren)’s clothes, diapers, slippers/shoes, and coats the night before, too!
63) Have a “to-do” list laying out each morning. You will not feel so rushed and will probably be less forgetful.
64) Use a bulb syringe (dropper) to give medicine to infants and toddlers. It’s less messy and more accurate when giving doses in ml. Be sure to rinse it well with warm water after each use. Air dry.
65) Have a damp towel or washcloth ready when giving medicine.
66) Before sitting down to dinner, be sure the napkin holder has an ample supply. Also, have a wet washcloth at the table for little messes.
67) Clean pots, pans, and other cooking items as you cook. Let hard to clean items soak during dinner. If more soaking is required, gives the kids a bath then come back to them.
68) If you have a cellular phone, turn it on when you are otherwise “out of reach”. Never dial when driving. Wait until stopped at a stop light, or pull over into a parking lot. Distracted drivers cause as many accidents as those under the influence. Nothing is more important than the safety of those in and around your car.
69) To prevent accidents near the fireplace, shield edges and corners with large throw pillows. Be sure to remove them when the fireplace is lit. Do not replace them until the fireplace is cool with no embers.
70) Keep a fabric-covered ice pack ready in the freezer. Even a cold compress in an old, clean sock will do!
71) Little one teething? Have two (2) teething rings in the freezer, then there’s always one frozen. Store them in a plastic bag, as freezer items from the grocery store are dirty. Remember, this will be going in your little one’s mouth!
72) To ease teething pain, wrap an ice cube in a washcloth and secure it by holding it, or with a rubber band. NEVER leave a child alone or unsupervised with anything that might become a choking hazard. Besides, they are more easily comforted when the parent/caregiver are holding and soothing them at the same time.
73) Frame special pictures and hang in your child’s own ‘art gallery’. Dedicate a shelf or other such space to display art that cannot be hung.
74) If possible, present a united front to teenagers regarding “house rules” for both parents houses. If your teenagers weekend curfew is 9:30pm at Moms house, it need to be 9:30pm at Dads house. Children need stability at this critical time in their lives. When the hormones start to take over trouble can begin; but if both parents are openly communicating with each other and their teenager, they can help steer the child through these trying times.
75) A flexible routine is a life saver for my family. Each night after dinner, everyone does their homework, takes a bath and gets ready for bed. After that routine the children make their lunches and get their backpacks assembled for the next day. When our school-night routines are finished and we’re in our pajamas, we sit together on the couch for few moments to catch up on the days events or we spend that time piled on somebody’s bed to read or maybe pillow fight before we go to sleep.
76) Tax tip: The IRS publishes a helpful brochure on tax implications of divorce, Publication No. 504. One cardinal rule: alimony is taxable income to the spouse receiving payments, and deductible by the paying spouse. Child support is neither taxable or deductible.
77) Tax tip: For parties with children, the custodial parent claims the children as dependency exemptions unless the parent signs a release, IRS Form No. 8332, and the noncustodial parent attaches the form to his/her tax return. CUSTODIAL PARENTS: DO NOT DO THIS. You will be taking money out of your own pocket.
78) Tax tip: How do I file? Can one separated spouse decide independently to file “married, filing separately” without agreement from the other spouse? Yes. Sometimes the relationship is so bad between separated spouses for whatever reason one spouse doesn’t want to file a joint return anymore with the separated spouse even though the total tax liability would be lower on a joint return. A joint return creates a joint liability for all the tax regardless of whom the income belongs to; where lack of trusts exists, separate returns become necessary. The spouse who decides to file separately then forces the other spouse to file separately. There are several tax issues that result from this decision. One is if one spouse itemizes, the other must also. A decision about who gets what deductions also becomes an issue.
79) Tax tip: You may be eligible for the Earned Income Credit (EIC) if you have one qualifying child and you earned less than $25,760. If you have two or more qualifying children, you must have earned less than $29,290 to take this credit. See the 1997 1040A Forms and Instructions Book, page 22.
80) Use discretion when it comes to dating and bringing men into your home. You don’t want your children to see your bedroom as a revolving door.
Written by Tammy Jones, founder of Single Rose Resource for Single Mothers at www.singlerose.com