Ways for Single Moms to Find Time
Q: I am a single mom trying to balance home, school, sports and activities of my 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. This is overwhelming. I work full-time and am struggling to keep my job, keep up the house, and keep up with their school assignments and activities. Do you have any ideas on how to support them while keeping my sanity?
A: Your question is one of those that test the 68 percent of all parents who have been at one time or another a single parent. Recent statistics show that 84 percent are moms and 16 percent are dads. As you tackle the job of what your family can handle this year, don’t be afraid to confront the possibility that everything won’t fit in. You want your kids to know that you are all a team and, as team members, everyone has a role to make the team’s goals work. In the beginning of the school each year, each of you can prioritize what you want from this year and what time commitment it will take.
Once you tackle extracurricular activities, then it is time to look at the big picture of family life. Together, your family can define how the maintenance of daily living works so it is shared and fits in to a weekly schedule. These tasks include transportation, eating, cleaning, and taking care of school, work and family commitments.
Cell phone calendars can come in handy to organize everyone’s activities and to avoid conflicts in scheduling. The morning routine may include a check-in for the entire family regarding that day’s plans, followed by a quick nightly review about how things went and what new things are coming up.
No matter how well you plan ahead, sometimes plans will fall apart. Be prepared to handle problems. They may or may not be in your control. Cars break, children misbehave, last minute events occur. This is the opportunity to teach and show coping skills. Using logical consequences can keep things working. Make sure that you never feel apologetic for setting limits for yourself and expectations for your children’s behavior.
Once the family has a routine for communicating and planning, it is equally important to find a way to make sure play time exists. This is the memory-creating time. Your family could cook and eat together, listen to music you enjoy or find other ways to create your own end of the day routine. Make sure it is fun. Marking the end of the dinnertime (once the kitchen is cleaned by all) with a 10-minute walk outside or game with a pet can help everyone shift gears. Let your kids assist you in determining what might work.
Research shows that children from single-parent homes fare just as well as those from two-parent homes when there is one consistent, loving and supportive person in their lives. Make sure you are that person by both your emotional and physical presence. As your children get older, you may not need to be physically present as often as you have in the past if you and your family and friends are keeping in touch by phone and text. As your children get older and need more spending money of their own, you may want to give financial incentives for them to help with special chores around the house if your budget can handle it. If your budget can’t, it might give you a great opportunity to teach your children budgeting skills.
Most single parents will tell you that isolation, exhaustion and not having enough support makes life especially difficult during these times. You need to accept that any of these feelings are normal and not part of you failing in any way. In fact, those feelings might help clarify what you need to do. Keeping a positive attitude isn’t something you can do alone. That is why a critical parenting skill includes being able to ask for help. If you are lucky, you may have helpful family members that live close by who are willing to be an active part of your children’s lives. They can help by giving you a break from time to time on weekends or even assisting with transportation to practices, lessons and games. If family can’t help, then friends and your children’s friends’ parents are the next go-to resources. Don’t forget that often you can help with their kids when they are involved in the same team or club at school.
Find a way each day to do something that renews you. Whether it is walking, reading, listening to music or talking to a friend, take good care of you. Good luck!