Being a single mom is tough, but being a working single mother can be even harder. Of course, you are working to provide for your family which in many ways makes things significantly easier, but do not forget that you also need to find the time to bond with your children. Below are some tips to help you get through this and maintain that delicate balance.
Don’t Forget About You
One of the most important things that a working single mother needs to remember is that she needs to take care of herself as much as she needs to take care of her children. A lot of women think that taking time out for themselves is selfish; it isn’t. You cannot hope to be an effective parent if you do to make an effort to engage in a bit of self-care along the way. Some things that you need to remember in this regard:
- Make sure you eat enough of the good stuff. It is easy to forget about your own nutrition while focusing on getting your child to heat healthily, or when eating patterns are disturbed due to work. See this as a double-benefit, as your good eating habits will influence your kids as well.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. This is easier said than done when you have kids, but getting them to bed at a set time according to a set routine can make it easier.
- Make sure that you get enough exercise. Luckily you can combine this with playing with your children and kill two birds with one stone. If you do not have time or money for the gym, you can go for walks or jogs with or without your children. There are also many effective exercises that can be done at home where no equipment is necessary.
Here are some suggestions about what you could do to take care of yourself:
- Get someone to watch the kids while you spend some time alone in another room, perhaps having a nice relaxing bath or reading a book you’ve been meaning to get round to.
- Head out, either by yourself or with friends, to see a movie and recharge your batteries.
Create a Working Single Mother Schedule
Having a carefully thought out and well planned schedule can be a lifesaver for a working single mother. Being able to draw up such routines and stick to them will also be a very beneficial skill for your children to have later in life.
The first thing you need to do when creating a schedule is to write down all of the responsibilities and commitments that you will have to keep in mind on a piece of paper. This includes work responsibilities as well as the things that you are responsible for doing with your child (e.g. getting him or her to school, going to their sports games, etc.). Analyze the list, specify as to what must occur on which day, and how long the task takes. Once you have done that, revise the list and see if there is anything that:
- You can quit or suspend for now
- You can get help with from a friend or perhaps someone you’ve hired (such as a nanny)
- You can rearrange on your schedule so that it is more time efficient
It helps to actually have a physical schedule that you can look at somewhere so that you can refer to it; so rather than a yearly diary where you have one page per day, look for a larger weekly or monthly calendar with ample space. Your calendar may fill up quickly, so to avoid losing track of what is going on, use color coding to identify the different commitments. This keeps your schedule organized and allows you to simply glance at it quickly to see what needs to be done. Most importantly, once you have created your schedule, commit to it!
If your child is of an age where he or she attends school, a big part of your childcare needs are sorted. However if you have a very young child then you are not quite so lucky, yet, and will need to arrange for some form of quality childcare. You usually have two main options here:
- You can get a family member (such as the child’s grandparent) to watch them while you are at work, or perhaps even a trusted friend
- You can hire a professional service
Clearly the second option is far more expensive, so use the service wisely and sparingly if that is your only option. If you are opting for help from friends or family members, try to keep it as stable as possible so that your child does not have a different carer every day of the week. This could confuse your little one, and it’s best that he or she bonds with only one or two people as opposed to a whole handful; you want to provide a stable pattern in his or her life.
In addition to daily child care, you need to line up about 5 different people who you can call on if something comes up and you need an emergency babysitter. For example, if you are suddenly told that you need to work late to meet an important deadline, you need to have people you can call to get home to your child and put them to bed. Plan childcare as far in advance as possible, because the more organized you are the less stressful the situation will be.
At the same time, you need to make sure that you spend time with your child every day, and this should go on your schedule. You do not want to be in a situation where you are seen as a distant parent where your child is more attached to their caregiver than to you. Other things that you can do to balance work and childcare are:
- Do one fun thing with your child every week – not something expensive, just something that you can enjoy together
- Ask your boss to change an aspect of your schedule if you think that it will help you to be there for your child a little more
Of course, your children will not want you to go to work. This means that it is essential that you explain to you children what “work” is, and why it is so important, so that they do not think you are abandoning them. Instill in them a good work ethic from as early an age as possible.
Leave Your Work Stress at Work
It is very important that you do not bring home your bad mood from work and then blame it on your child. This is easier said than done, of course, but it is something that you have to work on. Think about your home as a place where the things that happen at work are not important; your sanctuary. If you can achieve this level of separation, you will find that your life as a working single mother is far easier. If your children attend school, they may also sometimes come home in a bad mood, so it is essential that your home remains a relaxing and comforting place to come home to.
This also applies to the boundaries and structures that you put into place in each setting. At work you may be governed by rigid structures and rules, but you cannot take the same approach to your home life. On your way home from work you need to start changing your mindset so that by the time you get home you are in the right state of mind to deal with family life and a family situation as opposed to working life. Your schedule needs to delineate office time and home time.
Do not schedule strict hours for work and then bring work home with you. Of course in many cases you may feel as though you have no choice, and bringing work home every once in a while is not going to make a significant difference, just do not allow it to become a regular occurrence. Make sure that you make the boundaries clear and then stick to them; your company and boss will have to come to terms with the fact that you have children and that you cannot compromise on the time that you spend with them. The balance will never be perfect, but you should try to strive towards it whenever it is appropriate to do so.
The most important thing that you need to remember as a single working mother is that you will not be able to do everything carefully, so do not be hard on yourself if you cannot always devote the amount of time to your job or your children that you would like to devote. The important thing is that you have a system in place that will allow you to spend as much time on both as you can without compromising on your own well-being and health.