Most people agree–there’s no job harder than being a parent. For some of you, that job is complicated more because you’re a single parent. Whether this is your lifestyle by choice or circumstance, single parenthood is certainly no easy task. As this new year begins, these tips will hopefully inspire and encourage you in your journey as a single mother.
Tip #1: Work a Schedule that Suits Your Life
While no one wants to feel restricted to certain choices, if your job is the primary cause of stress as you juggle career and motherhood, it might be time to consider a change. Many single parents find bosses are understanding and flexible, allowing work hours to be scheduled around kids’ school hours. You may even find that working from home can be an option. Some mothers have found success with “job sharing” where each works half the hours and share in childcare. While many careers, such as teaching, certainly lend themselves to a child’s schedule, don’t feel you are limited in your own career. The bottom line is, you never know what can be done unless you ask. Talk to your boss or supervisor and determine how you can give your best self in both places.
Tip #2: Get Creative about Childcare
While a flexible work schedule definitely helps with childcare needs, there will still be plenty of times you’ll need a sitter or after school care. Consider trading duties with a friend–she watches your child on one day, and on another day, you watch hers. If you have a friend with the same dilemma, share the cost of a babysitter. One mom, featured on Baby Center, suggests being open to unconventional means, such as having a student live with you who can babysit in exchange for rent. If full-time care is needed, look for a quality center such as Country Home Learning, which maintains high standards for a child’s development, enrichment, and safety.
Tip #3: Take Time (and Care) for Yourself
The truth is, when you single parent, you are on all the time. You don’t have the option to “tag out” that a couple does. Therefore, it is necessary to your emotional and physical well-being to allow time for your own rejuvenation. Think about what brings you joy and helps you relax. A good book? A massage? Dinner out with a friend? Then make sure you are doing at least one thing a week that gives you a breather. You’ll find this makes you more patient and ready to handle all the little crises of motherhood with fresh eyes.
In addition, moms tend to put themselves last on the priority list. However, if you are your child’s primary caregiver, you need to care for yourself so you can continue caring for him. Don’t put off your own regular checkups at the doctor and dentist, and make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, even if it’s not homemade. Exercise will give you much-needed energy, as well as good health, and can be an activity you and your child do together (i.e. walks, play at the park, swimming.) Or if you need the time to yourself and have the finances, consider joining a gym or YMCA that offers childcare on site.
Tip #4: Maintain a Daily Routine
Children thrive on routine, and while it may feel their world has been shaken up if you’ve recently undergone a divorce or the loss of your spouse, you can create a new sense of stability. Establish a regular routine so you and your child can adjust to this new normal. Consider such basics as a daily chore list and a weekly menu plan. Don’t forget a calendar to keep everyone’s schedule organized.
A routine will help your prepare ahead of time, as well. Keep an extra diaper bag or change of clothes in the car for emergencies. Maintain a stocked medicine cabinet so you’re not out of Tylenol when fever strikes at 3 a.m. Schedule bills for auto draft so you have one less chore to do.
Tip #5: Find a Support System
Even couples raising their children together need a support system, so don’t hesitate to find yours as a single parent. Accept help when it is offered and ask for it when it is needed. Begin by seeking out those who will understand your situation and offer you empathy. Groups for single parents abound among religious and community organizations. You can also find a multitude of groups online. Survey your Facebook friends and you’ll likely find one just right for your niche.
Next, widen your system by including other families or couples who can help you with pickups and drop offs for school and extracurricular activities. Know who you can call when you’ve simply had a bad day or need someone in the middle of the night, because moms get sick, too. Enrich yours and your child’s life by surrounding yourself with positive people who support your family.
Raising kids is hard, but it doesn’t have to be harder simply because you’re a single parent. You can do this. Believe it.