One of the questions I get asked most is how I raise my son alone without losing my mind. Big topic! Through trial and error, I have learned some things over the last couple of months that I would like to share. Things that are important to me to raise a kind, loving child while staying sane. My son thinks that I have superpowers because I am a mommy and daddy in one person. He is damn right.
Talk about things honestly and openly. Whenever it comes to big subjects, like divorce, race, sex, and death, I try to be a soft landing place for him, so he can feel like he can bring up anything that is on his mind. I found that bedtime is especially good for this because when it is dark and cozy, my son seems to feel more comfortable opening up.
I encourage him to help. I have to admit, one of my pet peeves is whenever I am at a party, and all the women jump up to clean the dishes after dinner and men just sit around, chill and don’t help. This drives me nuts. So, from a young age, I have asked my son to bring his dishes in the kitchen. I made sure to tell him that it is nobody’s job to clean up after him and that kids can also help; especially since it is mostly just the two of us. Dinner is special to us and we sit together, talk to each other (definitely no phone or gadgets at the table!) and share how our day was, how we feel/felt, what was the best or the worst of the day. When he is done eating, he asks if he can leave the table and takes his dishes to the kitchen. Then he goes off to play before we watch
Model empathy. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a (hard) battle!” Do you know that quote? Well, I install that concept in my son. The other day, for example, there was a woman at the register who was very grouchy to the customers for a while. Instead of telling my son that this is a rude person or that I don’t like her, I would say that she probably has a pretty rough week or maybe she is very tired. Then he sees her still as a complex human, who is probably very sweet underneath but maybe just needs compassion or a break. If someone never calls him, then this person is probably just very busy but not an asshole.
Accept him wholeheartedly. Whatever crazy idea he may come up with, I embrace it with open arms. My son has great imagination and when he wanted to wear his Halloween costume to school, it was fine with me. Vienna is not crazy about Halloween and Trick or Treating is not a thing, so we made it fun this way. I love seeing his personality develop and feel grateful to be his mom; even if some days are really challenging.
Teach him consent. It is important to teach him that he is in charge of his body and how to respect himself. If he wants privacy when getting dressed or taking a bath, I respect that. When he does not want to kiss someone goodbye, that is fine, too. If he does not want to hug or play with someone, it is his decision. I teach him that there are different ways to say no than just saying no. I teach him to notice social cues and people’s body language by for example telling that, “Her face looks upset. You have to stop this, please!”
Teach him modesty. I love a minimalist lifestyle so he sees what I purchase on a daily basis. He knows my emphasis is not clothes, shoes, makeup or any materialistic things but that I basically buy (healthy) food, books and spend my time outdoors (which is free), in museums, bookstores, at the local pool or a Yoga studio. He knows that our financial situation is not great these days and also why that is. Of course, he is a child and wants certain toys because all his friends have them and I understand that. I make sacrifices on other ends, to make it happen sometimes.
He definitely does not like Meccano or Lego Tech because he is only six-years-old but someone very important in my life helped him build it.
Always read great books. I am a writer and my son knows that. He is proud that I published two books already and write and read all the time. You want to raise a reader, be a reader. Visit your local library. There are so many amazing children’s books; we are currently exploring all the bookstores in Vienna. My son loves it and gets lost in science, spooky, adventurous, funny and sometimes nerdy books. We have a rather big book collection at home and I think it is important to have this diverse group of books. Books are always a conversation starter and they keep his mind growing. Reading rituals don’t just happen at night either.
Single Parenting and I Have a Life, too.
Single-parenting: Being off duty feels awesome. When my son is in school (and currently I am not working), I choose to spend every moment discovering Vienna. It is so essential and important to have a healthy (work)/single-parenting balance. The hustle is fun sometimes but I also need to live my own life. So, I created space for myself and unapologetically celebrate this very concept. Do you want some inspiration on how I spend my days when I am “free” or off-duty?
Coffee, books, reading. Or, I will go to a museum and have a nice leisurely lunch alone or with a friend. I read or write at home or at my favorite bookstore/cafe/restaurant. I will go to the movies at 1 pm. The other day I saw “A rainy day in New York” by Woody Allen (whom I love), accompanied by a bag of salty popcorn. I like to do something nice for myself, like a massage, a session with a Reiki healer, swimming or a Yoga class. I will have some quiet time and do nothing but drink a cup of tea at home on the couch. Some days are all about recharging; I love to be at home. I like to sleep in on weekends. Grab brunch with a good friend, and hit some local vintage stores after. Sitting in the sun/walking around (even in the rain) followed by a trip to the farmers market to buy fresh vegetables and flowers. Or having dinner cooked by someone in my kitchen while I have a glass of wine and watch.
The next time you find yourself at a crossroads, try one of my single-parenting survival methods. There is no pressure in what we, as mothers, have to do. Just try to keep sane