For a single parent, it can seem as if work never ends. Not only do you play the role of breadwinner and sole provider, but you also play the role of caretaker and homemaker. Without a partner on board to share some of the responsibility, anything that even remotely resembles a work-life balance can seem, well, laughable.
It’s not uncommon for single parents who work outside of the home to feel guilty for having to spend time away from their children. They will often attempt to offset feelings of guilt by spending every non-working spare or “free” moment with their children.
It may not be easy, but it is possible – and necessary – to juggle everyone’s schedules and yet manage to find some time for yourself.
Here are five tips to help single parents find work-life balance:
- Plan Ahead. The best way to find some free time for you is to plan free time for you. Planning and scheduling are critical for single parents. From spending Sunday afternoon cooking some “make-ahead meals” to prepare and freeze, to coordinating carpools and play-dates with other parents, a variety of ways can help you plan ahead. Also, you could make a large family calendar and hang it where all family members will frequently see it. This is a great way to have a quick snapshot of everyone’s schedules and to identify opportunities where you might be able to fit in some quality “me” time.
- Have a Plan B. It’s Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Well, maybe not to that extreme, but even the best laid plan can go awry. When it does, it’s good to have a back-up plan already in place. To start, make a list of people you could call at a moment’s notice, and specify who you could call for what. For example, could you ask your neighbor to pick up your child at school if you get delayed at the office? Be sure to save all emergency contacts in your mobile phone and give copies to your child’s caregivers.
- Leave Office Work at the Office. Today’s technology can make it difficult to completely disconnect from the office. Taking work home is one reason why many parents feel as if they don’t have enough time in the evening. Try to make it a rule to completely unplug from the office once the workday ends. Let your boss know that unless it’s an emergency, your after-hours are dedicated to yourself and your family, and that at the office – be sure to demonstrate this – you are 100 percent dedicated to your work during working hours.
- Build a Network of Support and Accept Help When Needed. It’s simple. When friends or family offer to help you, accept! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Single parents may often feel as if they are on their own, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you don’t have a large network of friends and family nearby, you may be able to find single parent support groups in your community, such as Parents Without Partners. You could also check your local community calendar for free, kid-friendly events where you might be able to meet other single parents who are going through similar struggles. Also, consider seeking out other parents in your area (single or otherwise) and form a babysitting co-op. By taking turns babysitting each other’s children, free of charge, everyone involved can have some free time.
- Make Your Mental and Physical Health a Priority. Happy kids are the product of happy parents. If you are mentally or physically drained, your children are not able to benefit from the best of you. That’s why finding balance is so important. Physically, keep up-to-date on all of your medical checkups. Mentally, pursue interests and/or work toward goals that make you happy. Taking time to take care of yourself is one of the best ways that you can take care of your children.