Carolyn Kesterson, M.A., LPC
P.O. Box 456
Hygiene, CO 80533
“I” is Not a Selfish Word: Some ABC’s for Single Parents
Some people think that spending time to take good care of yourself is a selfish thing to do. If you are a single parent, however, self care is not selfish—it’s an absolute necessity. Your child’s future depends a lot on how you balance your own self care with caring for your child. It’s that balance of the “I” of the parent with the “you” of the child that makes single parenting challenging at times, but recognizing that need for balance also offers daily opportunities for developing family health and well-being. This handout presents three important “I” words for exploring those opportunities.
- Identify your needs
–For being a good parent
- Remember that taking time to understand and care for yourself and your child is not a
selfish act but the most loving thing you can do. As best you can, keep things simple
as way of keeping yourself sane! Author and psychiatrist, Gerald May, talks about the
importance of simplicity in his book, Simply Sane, 1993.
- Have a list of three or fewer parenting guidelines you believe in and that you know you
can follow–stick to them.
Examples: Don’t make threats but promises and follow through. When you feel like
running away from all the responsibilities of parenting, remind yourself of your
guidelines and do the next best thing. Remember you are not both the mom and the
dad, so don’t try to do it all but give what you can.
- Rather than focus on a list of “should’s”, study each child and support him or her in
ways that will help your child flourish. Consider his or her personality, learning style,
and need for structure. For instance, help your child to be more self-reliant by teaching
her or him positive ways to self-soothe rather than having to depend on you for
comfort (this is a good way to begin “letting go” of your child and is a very self-less
–For maximizing your potential as a person
- Name three or fewer things that inspire/interest you. Sprinkle your day with dreams or
small actions related to those things.
- Be honest about what’s really going on with your feelings: for instance, is your
frustration, anger, and blaming sometimes rooted in something else you need to tend to,
like grief? Figure out a way to deal with those feelings honestly and lovingly.
- Stay realistic by staying in the moment. Remind yourself you are not just the product
of the past, nor are you an imagined self of the future. You are right here, right now.
Take a breath, pay attention, and honor the best this moment can bring.
- Invest in your self
- Spend time with people you respect and who inspire your thoughts about parenting.
- Find ways to meet your emotional needs with peers in social or support settings.
Remember, your children cannot be expected to meet your adult emotional needs; it
can be damaging to the child to make him or her think it’s their job to take care of you.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional support or organizations, if you think it might help.
- Find ways to follow your dreams. For example, if you have dreamed of being a rock
star and just can’t do that right now, listen to the music you love, sing on the way to
the store, give yourself a nod of appreciation, and feel the joy! Make the present
moment your reality, and enjoy the dream now in whatever way you can.
- Imagine your possibilities
- If you find yourself isolated or overwhelmed, rather than go inward toward blame and
frustration, consult with others. Maybe, check out Shiquita’s blog for resources, talk to
supportive family members, or trade babysitting with another parent.
- Look at a situation in a new way.
Examples of things you might say to yourself:
- I can’t always let it go, but can I let it be?
- I may not do everything perfectly, which makes me perfectly human.
- What is the most loving thing I can do for myself and my child in this moment?
- If finishing a project (even parenting!) seems daunting, take it a small step at a time.
Patience will help you win the race. Keep it simple!