20 years ago today I became a single mom. My 35-year old husband woke me up saying he was having chest pains again and within a few hours he was gone, leaving behind a devastated wife, a two year-old and a six-month old.
That day and, truthfully, many weeks afterwards were a blur. I was 25 years old and never imagined I’d have to deal with things like planning a funeral for my husband, or dealing with the multitude of documents and hurdles to settle life insurance claims, or figuring out how to explain to a two year old that daddy wasn’t coming home. The only thing I knew with complete certainty is that I could not possibly raise these two baby boys by myself. I was both wrong and right about that. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned over the years.
As a single parent, you are ALWAYS the bad guy
This definitely sucks. Two parent households have the advantage of being able to play good cop/bad cop on occasion. What? You want to go on Spring Break unsupervised at 16? Sorry, I’d have said sure but dad said no. Whoops, guess that doesn’t fly. Guess what? They’ll get over it.
One income supporting the household sucks
I’m going to put in my disclaimer here that I was fortunate to have Social Security payments until they graduated from high school. This helped to be sure but I can assure you that Social Security payments didn’t make up for my husband’s income. I quickly learned the importance of setting a budget. It’s essential to have a budget if you’re a one income family.
You need a village
If you don’t have a village to help you out then find one. I was/am blessed with family and friends that have helped me immensely over the years. Financially, logistically, and emotionally you’re going to need people to lean on.
You have no idea what you’re actually capable of until you’re thrust into it
I said earlier that the only thing I knew with complete certainty is that I couldn’t raise our boys by myself. Guess what? Michael is 22 and a year away from graduating college with a business degree. Nicholas is 20 and will be a junior in college this fall, working on a marketing degree with a minor in sales. Both have worked part-time jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, since they were 14. They have been involved in sports, and junior firefighting programs, and charitable causes over the years while making stellar grades. They are polite, hard-working, and just good guys.
Buy Life Insurance
Everyone should buy life insurance. We were young and healthy and invincible until life proved us wrong. We had a small life insurance policy Rick’s company provided but a larger policy would have made our financial life a lot easier. Life insurance is not terribly expensive, especially when you’re young. If you’re a single parent, it’s ESPECIALLY essential. Make sure your family has one thing they don’t have to worry about if tragedy strikes. You can read our story about this here.
It’s Worth It and You’re Enough
There will be tears, and tantrums, and melt-downs. And the kids might behave badly also at times… lol. You will doubt yourself and you’ll be convinced you’re ruining your kids lives more times then you can count (usually when they’re busy telling you that). My kids are in their 20’s now, they’ve not brought me onto Jerry Springer yet to tell me how their childhoods were ruined though so I’m going to say we’re doing okay. Trust yourself and know you’re enough and I will bet that once they’re grown your kids will realize how hard you tried and maybe even appreciate and respect how hard you worked to make their lives great.