Shifting the narrative of the single parent

All Woman

IT is no secret that at least 40 per cent of Jamaican households are headed by women. It is also known that single-parent households are more the rule rather than the exception in Jamaica.

Being a single parent is not unique, nor is it the end of the world, but raising children on your own is not an easy feat. I have also discovered that single parenting has varying shades —from the single parent who lives with children with financial support from the other parent; to the single parent who receives both financial and emotional support from the non-resident parent; to the single parent who balances the roles of mother and father and finances children on their own.

One of the main stigmas surrounding single parenting is that children who are raised in single-parent homes are disadvantaged across a broad array of outcomes.

How do we as single parents shift this narrative and ensure our children live happy, healthy lives?

I was invited to be a part of a panel of single moms on a popular television station a few years ago and immediately regretted my decision as soon as the conversation began. As I listened to the narrative of the other guests, and the framing of the conversation by the host, I made a conscious decision to share how I make life normal for my children. I was empathetic to the stories the women shared as I had been there.

There was a period when I felt so pressured, I snapped at the girls for everything, so much so they were afraid to speak to me. I felt like parenting on my own was a constant, unabating stress. How could they not see the pressure I was under?

They noticed. I remember the tipping point. I got home one day to a tidy house, dinner, and the offer of a foot rub. They understood and I knew then that they were perfectly good children and I was doing a good job at raising them.

As single parents we can change the narrative. Rather than get caught in the story of the poor, overworked single mother, I suggest that women raising children on their own consider the following habits:

Plan

It is twice as important to plan as a single parent. I plan everything, from doing laundry, going to the market, to getting them to their extra-curricular activities. Planning allows you to be organised and less frustrated. It is amazing what difference a shopping list makes and how much time you save by creating a plan for main meals for the week.

Create and maintain a schedule

Creating a schedule allows children to develop an appreciation for routine. The biggest payback for me is that it makes for a calmer household. Developing a schedule for homework, playtime and bedtime encourages good habits. Children who have a consistent schedule develop a sense of security and normalcy.

Assigning chores

Assigning children specific tasks around the house not only reduces the stress on you, but allows them to develop a sense of responsibility. Be mindful of your child's age when assigning tasks, but it is important that they are assigned chores such as sweeping the yard, feeding the dog, making their beds, washing dishes, and folding and packing away clothes.

Single parenting is made easier once we understand that we are not alone in the journey, embrace the status, and practise positive parenting to raise happy, well-adjusted, independent children.

Coleen Antoinette is a lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Share your experiences with her at coleenantoinette@gmail.com.

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