Single adoptive parents are often very self-sufficient people accustomed to taking charge and doing everything themselves. After all, you’ve adopted on your own! But you need to set aside that superwoman/superman attitude, and ask others for help. Remember, you shouldn’t have to do it all yourself.
Creating and maintaining a support network is a good idea for all parents, but it is vital for single parents. On a practical level, you’ll sometimes need a helping hand to take care of work responsibilities, household tasks, and your child’s needs. Being resourceful and asking for help when you need it are healthy behaviors to demonstrate to our children. So how can you expand your support system?
Broaden Your Circle
As wonderful as it is to have family and close friends who want to be a part of your child’s life, no helper wants to be the only person you turn to. “I have family nearby, but they have their own busy lives,” Sarah, the mother of two girls, explained. “So, I knew I needed to broaden my support team.”
You probably have a friend who wants to help, but doesn’t know how. Don’t be shy about suggesting how she might contribute. While your child’s still an infant, a friend can come over to your house and play with her to give you an afternoon “off.” As your child grows, she might treasure some one-on-one time with a close family friend — seeing a movie they’d both enjoy or taking a trip to a museum.
Other parents, single and married, may be your best sources of support on a day-to-day basis. Margie’s daughter, Rachel, became close friends with another girl in her third-grade class. “It was nice whenever Rachel was invited for a sleepover,” said Margie. “Not only did it give me a night to myself, it gave her the experience of being with a two-parent family.”
Build Your Community
As your child grows, extracurricular activities can lead to larger circles of support. Whether it’s carpooling to soccer games or organizing a bake sale, activities can foster deep connections that last over time.
Mentoring programs, like Big Brother/Big Sister, are another source of support for your child and yourself. My son’s wonderful Big Brother took him out almost every weekend when he was growing up. They enjoyed sports, video arcades, and other “guy things” I had little interest in. Churches, synagogues, and other spiritual centers also offer opportunities to expand your network. “I am not particularly religious,” said Pam, “but we felt comfortable with the values and liked the social programs at the Unitarian church. My daughter became close to the kids, and I became close to their parents.”
Many single parents create an entirely different support system from the one they had envisioned before adopting. Some of the people whom you expect to be your pillars will recede, and new faces will enter your lives. As Pattie, a single mom of a teenager, explained, “I had single friends who were thrilled I was adopting, but after I brought my daughter home, they drifted away. Fortunately, new people came into my life — some of whom became my greatest sources of support.”
Finally, as much as we love our children, we must carve out time for ourselves. This is a need that all single parents can empathize with. Two single moms, Sally and Ruth, came up with an arrangement that gave each of them some down time. Every Friday, one would drop off her child at the other’s house to spend the night. Sally and Ruth felt at ease with each other’s parenting style and their children, though not the same age, came to regard each other as cousins. “The arrangement worked well for everyone,” said Ruth. “And, over time, it became more than a matter of convenience. We became a sort of extended family for each other.”
With luck, as you raise your child, you will be surrounded by many people who will become important to your lives. They will be your support, and also your community.