FLY­ING SOLO

Make sin­gle par­ent­hood work for you

Your Pregnancy - - Contents - BY TRACEY HAWTHORNE

You can’t do it all alone. That’s the re­al­ity of hav­ing chil­dren – not just sin­gle par­ent­ing. But there’s cer­tainly no deny­ing that the old African adage, “It takes a vil­lage to raise a child” ap­plies es­pe­cially to sin­gle moms. There are three legs to the end­lessly com­plex job of be­ing a sin­gle mother: the emo­tional as­pects; the hands-on re­al­i­ties of the ev­ery­day needs of your child; and the money side.

BE EMO­TION­ALLY PRE­PARED

Get­ting ready for sin­gle par­ent­hood be­gins the se­cond your preg­nancy is con­firmed. “Whether the preg­nancy is planned or unplanned, the jour­ney ahead can seem daunt­ing,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Than­dazile Mtetwa, who prac­tises at Ngezwi Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices in Gaut­eng. “But when the child is unplanned, the pres­sure may be even harder emo­tion­ally. The mother needs to al­low her­self to bond with her child de­spite what may have tran­spired be­tween her and the fa­ther – and for that to be pos­si­ble, she needs a strong sup­port sys­tem, whether through fam­ily or close friends.” This self-ap­pointed sup­port sys­tem is vi­tal for all sin­gle moth­ers who, Than­dazile points out, can feel quite lonely in their jour­ney. “Hav­ing some­one to share the special mo­ments with, the vis­its to the doc­tor, phys­i­cal changes, and buy­ing the baby’s clothes, may help the mother men­tally pre­pare and even help with bond­ing,” she says. And when you go back to work – which for many South African moth­ers is when their baby is just six weeks old – it can be a huge wrench to leave your lit­tlie with a care­giver. “Moms may even feel a lit­tle jeal­ous of the daily care­giver, who may get to see a lot of your lit­tle one’s firsts – a first word or first step,” says Amanda Ro­galy, mom to two lit­tle girls and founder of on­line re­source BabyYumYum. “Know that this is nor­mal, but be aware of your feel­ings, and sep­a­rate your emo­tions and your needs from what’s good for your child’s wel­fare.” And be pre­pared to feel that ever-present work­ing­mom emo­tion: guilt. “Sin­gle moth­ers may feel over­rid­den by guilt, and there­fore want to be an all-in-all for their child,” says Than­dazile. “This is a sure road to burnout.” She says it’s im­por­tant to take breaks from the baby, and Amanda agrees. “Guilt may make a mom over­com­pen­sate by be­ing with the lit­tle one ev­ery mo­ment when she isn’t at work or per­haps buy­ing the child toys and treats,” says Amanda. She cau­tions against this, and ad­vises sin­gle work­ing moms to rather con­cen­trate on qual­ity time. “Re­ally en­gage with your child and fo­cus on en­rich­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and fam­ily tra­di­tions, rather than just rush­ing from one ac­tiv­ity to another or from one meal to another,” she says. Most im­por­tant of all, if you be­come over­whelmed or ex­hausted, ask for help from friends or fam­ily.

BE PHYS­I­CALLY PRE­PARED

“The mother needs to think about how she’ll take care of her child af­ter birth,” says Than­dazile. “Does she have a job? If not, who would be will­ing to help her fi­nan­cially un­til she gets on her feet? If she’s work­ing, how long can she stay away from work with­out feel­ing the fi­nan­cial

pinch? If she goes back to work, will she have a nanny at home, or is there an op­tion of a re­li­able day mother, and which of th­ese op­tions is vi­able fi­nan­cially and phys­i­cally safe for the baby?” Along with th­ese longterm is­sues comes a more im­me­di­ate wake-up call – lit­er­ally. “I never knew it was pos­si­ble to be so tired,” says Is­abella Kyle, sin­gle par­ent to Rose, now three years old. “Of all the ad­just­ments I had to make when Rose was born, seem­ing never to get enough sleep was the big­gest.” While you can’t stock­pile sleep, you do need to make sure that you don’t be­come so run­down and ex­hausted that you’re un­able to op­er­ate. Most new­borns do ac­tu­ally sleep a great deal of the time – up to 16 hours in ev­ery 24 a day – but the kicker is that they tend not to sleep for stretches of longer than about three hours. This means that your sleep is for­ever be­ing in­ter­rupted. The so­lu­tion? Sleep when your baby sleeps. There are also things you can do ahead of time that will help you get some down-time once baby ar­rives: Cook a whole se­ries of meals ahead of time and freeze them. Stock up on at least three months’ worth of non­per­ish­ables, in­clud­ing tinned and/or dried foods, clean­ing sup­plies for your house, and toi­letries. Stock up on ev­ery­thing you’ll need for the baby for the first few months – nap­pies (lots of them!), wet wipes, aque­ous and bum creams, one­sies, blan­kets, etc. Speak to your doc­tor about what med­i­ca­tions you should have on hand for you and the baby, and buy them ahead of time too.

BOT­TOM LINE?

Look af­ter your­self first – you need to be healthy and happy in or­der for your baby to be healthy and happy. “And if you’re un­sure about any­thing, ask,” adds Than­dazile. “Mar­ried moth­ers also don’t know it all.”

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