Parenting is never easy, but parenting as a single mom (or dad!) brings with it its own unique set of challenges.
Jennie Askins Irving, a Millcreek Township mom of 6-year-old Viviana and 3-year-old Abriana, started the Single Mom Empowerment Group earlier this year to bring together single moms in the Erie region. Macaroni Kid Erie chatted with her about the group ... and life as a single parent.
MK: Tell me about your family.
Jennie: My oldest daughter, Vivi, started kindergarten this year. My 3-year-old, Abri, is in preschool. I work for my family's business, Off-Road Express, and also teach private meditation lessons. I became a single mom about a month after Abri was born.
MK: What's your biggest challenge as a single mom?
Jennie: For me, it's trying to find balance and carving out time for myself. When you’re a single mom you have to carve it out, it’s not given to you. That’s my biggest challenge.
MK: How do you overcome that?
Jennie: I schedule it. It's no different than having to go to the grocery store. It's something that has to happen. It doesn’t have to be much time, but I definitely make time for myself. For instance, I set my alarm to get up before the girls every morning and do a 10- to 15-minute meditation to start my day. I also make time to exercise during the week. Finding that time for myself makes all the difference in how I feel.
MK: I'd love to hear more about your Single Mom Empowerment Group.
Jennie: Sure! So I decided to move forward with it in May because I thought it would be a good thing to help single moms connect, share resources, help each other move forward, and hopefully even form friendships. We have speakers at every meeting, and we talk about ways to move forward. It's not a 'boo-hoo' session. I mean, we talk about heavy things, but we also understand we're not victims. We're talking about how to move forward and accept where you are. Every meeting has grown in size and I'm excited about plans we have for the future.
MK: Other than finding time for yourself, what are some of the issues you hear from other single moms that they're struggling with?
Jennie: Definitely time management is the No. 1 issue. Finding help and support is another huge one. It can be financially difficult for single moms to afford babysitters and child care. Also feeling alone can be difficult for single moms, especially when the father isn't present. That's another reason why I wanted to form this group. I want single moms to understand they're part of a community and to feel like they have somewhere to go and not feel so alone.
MK: What can friends and family do to help support a single parent that they care about?
Jennie: First, I'd say offer to watch their kids so they can get something done, or even just rest. Most importantly though, I'd say is just to listen so they don't feel alone.
MK: What's the upside to being a single parent?
Jennie: I don’t have to run decisions by anyone on how I run my household. I don't have to worry about that. I do believe there are beautiful marriages, and I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but I also believe a child in a home with a lot of tension isn't the best -- for anyone. My daughters get peace every day. There's no tension or fighting in our household. It's better for all of us.
The Single Mom Empowerment Group next meets at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Juice Jar in Colony Plaza. Single moms are welcome to attend! No RSVP required. Join the Single Mom Life, Erie PA's Facebook page for more information.