Notes From a Single Mom: Build a Village—You Simply Can't Do it Alone

Multi-tasking has become my religion. Sometimes I amaze myself with everything I can accomplish in one day: cooking, cleaning, writing, chauffering children here and there, paying bills and doing the never-ending load of laundry . . . and that’s all before 9 in the morning.

I am woman, hear me roar.

Actually, I’m a single parent and I don’t have much choice. Either I do it, or it doesn’t get done. Period. I’m learning, though. Slowly, I’m turning my daughters into the spouse I never had. They take out the trash, fold clothes, rinse dishes. We’re still working on that breakfast-in-bed thing.

I’ve never been one to rely too much on other people. Turns out, it was good training for single parenthood. But lately, I’ve come to realize that admitting you need help doesn’t make you helpless. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was onto something when she entitled her long-ago bestseller, “It Takes A Village.” Parenting is at least a two-person job.

It takes two cars, anyway. One morning, I got in the car to take my daughters to school. But we never left the driveway, thanks to an unexpected flat tire.

I am woman, hear me groan.

I looked up and down the street hoping to hitch a ride with the first white knight that galloped around the corner. I was desperate . . . and delusional. Cathy, my bathrobe-clad neighbor, was watching the melodrama from her window while feeding breakfast to her sleepy toddler. She graciously offered to take my kids to school while I waited for AAA.

My support system, once a tiny village, grew exponentially that day. I realized there is kindness everywhere, people willing to help you in a pinch. You just have to be willing to ask for it. Sometimes that’s the hard part for single parents—admitting that we can’t do it all. But no matter how carefully we orchestrate schedules, life happens. Kids get sick, cars break down, meetings run late. Sometimes we need a last-minute sitter or someone to pick up our kids.

If you don’t have friends or family in town, build your village from within the community. Churches, even your own tribes, usually have single-parent groups that provide tremendous support, encouragement and resources. Three words—join, join, join! Decide what your interests are and look for organizations that meet those interests.

I don’t have family close by, but I’ve been blessed with amazing friends and neighbors who have willingly jumped in when I needed them. Cathy’s husband, Joe, even lugs my Christmas tree into the house every year. (That, unquestionably, is a man’s job.) What’s more, I have an incredible boss who understands the importance of family and has developed my work schedule around my obligations as a mother.

Be honest—you can’t do it all. But you can start building a village of family, friends and community who can help you raise happy, healthy, confident children. Kindness is all around you. Just look for it.

Most important, join an auto club. They usually change flat tires for free.

Lynn Armitage is a syndicated columnist and freelance writer. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She welcomes your comments at: Boatfolk@aol.com