How to juggle solo parenting and work life
Parenting while working at the same time can be really tough. Worries about balancing work and family life, maybe financial challenges and career fulfilment can add a lot of extra stress to our daily life. But add doing it on your own to all that and these challenges shift to a whole new level!
You do have a choice
There’s no one to help you with a crying toddler or deal with an angry teen, only you. When a child is sick you are the one to stay home and maybe have to work at the same time too. You set the rules, carry them out and get things done. Solo parents do it all by themself. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a say in how you want it to look and how to make it a bit easy for yourself.
Maybe there are benefits too
And maybe knowing it’s all up to you CAN make you feel more empowered! You are responsible, capable and resourceful and sometimes it’s easier not having to involve another adult in the decisions; you can do what you want. So let’s work on becoming more creative and flexible.
Tip 1: Time is your enemy
While we can’t make more time in the day, we can choose how to use it and with whom.
Learn to prioritise:
- Agree with yourself (and write it down) when you will be working, doing household jobs, with children and attending to your own needs (self-care). And don’t fudge this last bit, it is NOT a luxury to schedule some time for things that make you feel happy and well. It is even more important for single parents as they don’t have the buffer of a 2nd parent to hand when things get tough so keeping well and looking after yourself is vital.
- Delegate: even though you are a solo parent you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can ask your kids to do some chores (walk the dog, set the table, bring down the laundry, set own alarm clock etc.). And there are people out there who would love to help you if you just ask: pick up your kids from school, take them to activities/playdates or perhaps have them over on the weekend so you can get on top of your work or simply spend some time with yourself or friends. You are not alone. So, if you’re not doing it already, get better at reaching out and asking for support; it’s not always easy to ask and many of us feel we need to be a superhero all of the time! It’s a strong (and smart) move to ask for help so try letting people know you could use some assistance, get specific with what you might like help with and put it out there. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the response!
- Be strict with your time: once you have done this try to allow yourself to give each task your full attention, where your mind is full of what you are doing in the here and now. When working, allow yourself to be 100% focused, the rest is scheduled for later. When with your child, give him/her your full focus which sends a signal that he/she is the most important thing in your life, right now.
- If you get distracted: physically or mentally, STOP and BREATHE and have a re-think. Write down what just popped into your mind (call school, laundry, send an email etc.). Add it to your planner for when you will attend to it and go back to what you need to do right now. Try to let it go, knowing that you will come back to it and get it done later.
- Embrace the stolen moments: once you know what will be done when and by whom you can leave the rest. If you see something that needs to be done you CAN leave it for now and go and spend some time with your kids. Go out in the garden for some air, sit and rest – don’t feel that when you are doing ‘nothing’ you need to do ‘something’. You can relax with your kids and yourself and recharge your batteries. Sometimes, doing nothing is the right thing right now.
Tip 2: Radiator friends, not drains
Choose your friends, carefully!
You really can’t afford to waste time on people who drain you, suck your positive energy or always want something from you without giving in return. You need people around you who give you energy, make you feel good and who can support you as a solo working parent. Surround yourself with people who make you happy, make you laugh and help you when you’re in need, who genuinely care about you and your situation!
Tip 3: Work as a team
You are not totally solo!
To make solo working parenting work you need a team behind you, your kids, your friends, family (and maybe even a new partner).
- Have weekly family chats where you create a structure of teamwork and co-operation in your new family life.
- Talk about your ‘special’ family/work/life structure and what your family life looks like.
- Explain what you have to do and the expectations from work and towards your children (according to age).
- Talk about how you need them to support you, respect and accept your family structure.
- You can talk about your boundaries and how you plan to manage: ‘I will be working so I really need you to be part of the responsibilities in this family so we can have some time to be together as well – I can’t do it all alone and I need you’
- You can discuss how you might have to cut down on certain expenses in order to afford a holiday. Maybe you have downsized and need to share and respect each other’s space more etc.
- If you need support from other family members or friends, have regular communication with them so you are all clear about the setup and your needs. But also, how you can support them back in return, it goes both ways.
Tip 4: Let go of perfection, comparison and the SHOULDs
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
We are often our own worst critics and as a single parent you might feel like you are falling short in some areas as you just cannot do everything with or for your kids that other families seem to be doing. One pair of hands and one income has a practical impact, and you (and your kids) need to accept that. Often your greatest weapon in single parenting is the ability to let go and just be OK with ‘enough’.
- The house doesn’t need to be spotless at all times, you don’t need to break your neck keeping a show home. Focus on the important things to you and get ok with clean and tidy enough!
- Every birthday cake and evening meal doesn’t have to be home made; it’s ok to grab a ready meal or a cake from the supermarket or go out for a burger instead after a long day working. CLICK here to read ‘The first of everything after separation
- And your child doesn’t need to be scheduled for every activity, event or club going, no matter what other families are doing. It’s OK to say no and keep things manageable for YOUR situation.
And lastly, please take a moment to acknowledge yourself for the amazing job(s) you are doing. You are working, running a household, AND raising a child. On your own. And that is something to feel very proud of.