Single Parent Survival Guide: Newborns to Toddlers

A baby!
Take a moment to smile and feel blessed beyond measure. You have a baby in your home. You can do this. Single moms and single dads have nurtured infants and toddlers since the beginning of human history. We have the advantage of living in a generation that has resources and supportive communities that will rally around single parents to help you and your little one thrive.

Parenting is a challenging venture. There's no reason to deny that single parenting intensifies most of those challenges. Statistics shout that you and your child are vulnerable. A quick glance at your laundry pile and bank statement suggests that, yes, you and baby just might be at risk. It's time to embrace the chaos and flourish. Here are some tips that may help.

Make wise decisions for your health and wholeness.
I would like to say, "Take care of yourself"; but that advice is typically accompanied by a picture of mom at the spa or dad at the sports bar. Reality -- you may not relax at a spa or watch an uninterrupted game for years, but you can make wise decisions.

You can eat right. You can guard against fatigue. You can stimulate your mind with inspirational reading or take an online class. Some parents can dovetail errands and exercise by pushing a stroller. You can make meaningful connections with friends and family. It is wise to assess your screen time and use of social media. Consider whether that time brings peace to your soul.

You can be honest about your status as a single parent - let people know: "I'm a single parent." There's no room for guilt and a lot of wholeness in welcoming the place life has brought you to.

Assess your need for therapy, counseling, or a parenting class. If you're coming out of a hurtful relationship or reeling from the death of a spouse, you don't want to pass your adult pain on to your child. Professional help, now, while your baby is young, can make a lifetime of difference.

Love your baby.
Infants and toddlers require care every minute of the day. That simple fact means that your child must have a competent caregiver at all times. Leaving a newborn or toddler alone is not an option - not at home, not in the car, not ever. Be careful about relying on siblings or new friends.

Savor the routines. You and your little one need the security of scheduled meals, playtime, and bedtimes. You can help head off some behavior problems later on by making some parts of life predictable from an early age.

Build a support system.
You need to join forces with people around you. First, plan for emergencies. Sickness, jury duty, and traffic jams happen. There may be an excellent 24-hour childcare facility available, or you may be near family. You'll need an adult on-call who can help you out in an emergency.

There are no reliable statistics on how many single parents live alone - just parent and newborn or toddler. Single parents may have a nurturing environment living with their parents, with another family member, with a partner, or with a same sex or opposite sex parenting partner. A single parent may go non-conventional and invite a college student to board with him/her in exchange for some babysitting and support.

In addition to making your living conditions suitable, you'll need day-to-day connections. Popular places to make that first contact are at your baby's childcare center, at your place of worship, or in your neighborhood. It may be a widow or a grandma whose grandchildren are in another city who can offer you support. You may know a homeschool family with an older teen experienced in childcare who would love to babysit and has time available. Trading childcare is popular in parenting communities. The parent you trade off with may be single or may be married and want a date night with a partner. Sharing childcare works well either way.

Well-established online communities can help you meet people and connect to resources in your community. Some of the better known groups are Parents Without Partners and Single Parents. Build connections. Accept help.

Know baby milestones and safety measures.
Babies change quickly. An important step to thriving through the baby and toddler years is to know characteristics of the age. When is a baby at risk for rolling off the bed? When will you need baby gates? What are the best food choices? The What to Expect series has educated a generation of parents. Information is conveniently available for the first year and the toddler years. You're not as likely to feel isolated and alone when you recognize that other parents are going through the same stages with their babies.

As a single parent with an infant, you want to avoid last minute anything. Planning ahead for changes in your little one's feeding or mobility can reduce stress and improve health for you and him.

Watch your finances.
In a world of two-wage earner families, you and your baby are going it on one, or possibly one plus some child support. You'll need to live smart when it comes to money. Make every effort to stay out of debt and live within your means. Use your money for what matters. Quality childcare is costly, but your baby needs to be nurtured, and you need to know they are in loving hands.

If a more expensive brand of diapers means your baby can sleep through the night (and you get a full night's sleep!!), it's probably worth it. If the cute name brand shoes mean your social media page lights up, no deal.

And so prepare to do more than survive the baby years; start to thrive. Oh, you may not feel like you're thriving today or tomorrow, but you will. You're going to stay educated and connected. You're going to make wise choices that bring you and your little one to a place of strength and beauty.