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Parenting and Caregiving: You Don't Have to Go it Alone

Over the years, I have discovered an interesting new trend among parents and caregivers, going it alone.

 

The reasons for doing so vary from bad breakups, being too busy to make connections, or just being downright distrusting of other people. All these situations are unfortunate and have devastating impacts on health and wellbeing, and this makes me sad.

 

When we get married or commit to a partnership, the best of intentions is assumed. No one starts a relationship with the end in mind and when you find yourself alone, with kids or caring for others at the conclusion, a fair amount of dissolution, or anger is not unexpected. It can be hard to stay open but going it alone can make the pain worse.

 

Also, as we progress through our careers, it’s natural to want to do the best we can and advance in our chosen field and many of us will attempt to balance this rise with being an engaged parent or supportive caregiver as well.


Eventually, the pursuit of excellence in our field while trying to keep all the “after-hours” balls in the air as well can also contribute to isolation. Working long hours, being preoccupied, putting work first and overscheduling any free time you have left is a slow, insidious process that builds a divide between you and connecting with others. Soon, you may find yourself obsessed, exhausted, and disconnected.

 

Finally, whether its past hurts, current slights, or trauma carried from your own upbringing, the inability to trust others will always leave you in a position of fending for yourself and experiencing sadness, anger, anxiety, and fatigue.

 

I know life moves fast and it can be stressful. but going it alone no matter what the origin of the circumstance should never be an option.


While we may have convinced ourselves that it’s the best way, isolating ourselves from those willing and able to bring support, joy, advice, and adventure to our lives is being shortsighted for us and those we love.

 

Let’s examine some of the reasons choosing to go it alone may be appealing initially, but always falls short in the end.

 

Breakups

 

This is likely the last reason you want to be parenting or caregiving alone.


No one desires to raise the children you created with someone you once loved, or support family members that need care all on your own if you don't have to. But unfortunately, this is the case for some.

 

Before you decide to take everything on yourself consider the reasons why you would do so.

 

Do you think no one will help?  Is it a control issue? Is it payback?

 

There are resources available to you including your estranged spouse or partner. The simple act of staying connected with your estranged partner or spouse can help you feel less alone and burdened in parenting. It also allows you the opportunity to continue connecting with others as you will have time to pursue interests and activities with friends and family when your spouse or partner has responsibility for the children.

 

Whether the issue is parenting or caregiving, if the issue is control, this is way more about you than it is about your spouse, responsibility, or whatever happened.


The need to control parenting will only cause you worry and stress and the need to control someone else's life could be about perfectionism. If you have a responsible ex, family, and friends that are willing to help in either of these situations, there’s no need to go it alone.


Also, control is an illusion and, in your attempt to have it, your kids, or the loved ones in your care can feel the strain. Don’t put them in the middle.

 

If you’re going it alone to get a little payback, the only one losing in this deal is you.

 

Yes, something happened, and the relationship is over. Let it be over. It’s time for forgiveness, so YOU can move on. Forgiveness is tough. But if you can forgive, and move on, it will end up being a positive thing for both you, your partner, your children, and other family members.

 

I'm not saying you must forget what has transpired, particularly if it was hurtful or harmful to you, your children, or family. If you are in a situation where co-parenting or co-care responsibility is an option and does not put you, your children, or other loved ones in an uncomfortable position or in danger, it makes sense to stay engaged with your partner to parent the children equally and meet the responsibilities of those needing care.

 

And finally, if the partner or spouse is no longer in the picture, accept support offered to you by friends, family, and neighbors during and after a breakup. Being able to connect with those who understand what you're going through can help with feelings of isolation and provide an outlet for when you need to talk.

 

You can also seek out single parent support groups. caregiver groups, and services provided through local resources like churches and local government programs.

 

Just because you lost the relationship doesn’t mean you should close other doors in your life. That only harms you.

 

Being Too Busy

 

As parents and caregivers, we have many responsibilities and sometimes too aggressively adopt the attitude of #all the things. One more meeting, one more event, one more appointment, one more thing. This keeps us busy, and alone.

 

We fill our time and then lament that we have no friends or outlets. One of the most harmful ways we do this is by overcommitting to our careers and then trying to make up for it by overcommitting our evenings.

 

Burnout anyone?

 

We’ve all seen the quote that says, “The only people who will remember you working late will be your children.” While sad it's quite true.

 

For parents, it’s also true that your kids want to spend time with you and not spend their whole evening in the car running from soccer to dance and to dinner from Scouts. They have interests, but they also want to chill, and sometimes that means chilling with you.


For those in our care, they want time to themselves as well to pursue the things that are important to them and not be fussed over or squeezed in when convenient.

 

As we move, move, move, how many times have we been happy that the kids were occupied so that we could get more work done?  See the problem here?

 

When the schedule gets tight, we complain that we must do it all, but we’ve brought it all on ourselves. This is where we need balance.

 

Yes, you can pursue your goals. Yes, you can be an involved parent and thoughtful caregiver. And yes, you need to ensure that you continue to grow as a person and an individual.


You can only do this by allowing time for interaction in your life in a non-business, non-committal way. That means, spending time with people to, well..., spend time with people!

 

Getting a raise is nice, getting a promotion is nice, getting a certificate for school play coordinator is nice, taking time for you to truly connect with yourself, your kids, and others, is better.

 

Work and obligatory commitments are not a social life, and that’s why you may be feeling alone. Stepping out of this cycle will be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your family.

 

Lack of Trust

 

If you don’t trust people, it is what it is. When you don’t trust, it’s difficult to let anyone in, even when they have your best interest at heart.

 

You don’t have to trust everyone, but widening your circle of those you can trust can be a lifesaver.

 

What are the reasons you don’t trust others?

 

Have you been hurt in the past? If you are afraid of being hurt again, it will be difficult, but you must find a way to reconcile those feelings, give forgiveness, and move on and take a chance on someone new. Your new best friend may pass you by if you’re too closed off to let anyone in.

 

Do you have unreasonable expectations? Remember, not everyone can live up to your standards and requirements. Be flexible and accept people for who they are. Your complete opposite could be the missing piece of your puzzle.

 

Can’t accept the perspectives of others. You’re not always right. Remain open to the ideas and experiences of others. Just because you thought it, think it, or feel it, doesn’t make you correct. And you can actually push people away that want to help by being too ridged. No one wants to keep banging their head against the wall.

 

If you don’t trust, you don’t get hurt. However, your lack of trust is limiting the joy in your life.


For parents, you are possibly planting a seed of fear in your children as well. Children are born with a natural sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and people and while you may think you are protecting them; it could be just the opposite. Don’t limit their world by having them see and experience it through your fear.

 

Remember, you can be both open and cautious.

 

A Few Final Thoughts

 

Regardless of the reasons you chose to embark on your journey of parenting and caregiving alone, know that a key element of this path will likely be loneliness.

 

Loneliness and isolation are now being found to be an epidemic, not to mention that going it alone builds anger and resentment. These strong emotions can show up in our parenting and caregiving, impacting our relationships with our children and loved ones. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

 

Reach out. Don’t be too proud.

 

Work with your partner or spouse, work with family and friends, or work with neighbors to find ways of staying connected and getting supported.


Look for others in your situation. People who may be untrusting or think they can or have to do everything on their own. Find ways of being there for others and having them be there for you.

 

Look for resources for ideas, tips, tools to find balance in your life. Ask for help with emotional and mental health support if needed.

 

Learn to trust others. You don’t have to give everything away but open up enough to get the relief, support, and connection you need.

 

You may move faster alone but, in parenting and caregiving, you’ll always be tired.

 

Whether it’s a partner, spouse, friends, family, neighbors, or community, when it comes to parenting and caregiving, life is better with company. ❤️

 

Take care and be well,

Courtney

 


Single Dad carrying baby.
It’s admirable to want to take care of things on your own but you simply don’t have to.



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