Q – I’m a single parent of two young children. In addition to caring for them, I also work a very demanding job. Between work, handling the household, supervising homework and after school activities I’m completely exhausted. By the end of the day, I feel grouchy or short tempered then the guilt kicks in. I’m tired of going through the motions, I want to be more patient and have time to enjoy my kids but feel caught in a vicious cycle. Please help!
A – Without a doubt, parenting on your own is tough even under the best of circumstances. As a solo parent it’s not hard to fall into the trap of letting your own needs take a back seat while you put all your energy into doing more for your kids. Although your gut may be telling you to put your kids first, when you neglect your own needs, the quality of your parenting suffers. Practicing self-care is the cornerstone of good parenting, especially when the majority of your time is spent being the primary parent for your children.
Instead of feeling guilty about being grouchy and short tempered, consider investing about 20 to 30 minutes over the next day or so to creating a plan that supports taking care of yourself.
Here are a few tips that might help you out.
– Create routine for yourself and stick to it.
Most parents are surprised to learn that kids aren’t the only ones who need structure. Truth is parents also function much better when routines and structure are in place.
Set aside time each week to create a weekly schedule for your household. Keep in mind it’s important that you write it down and post it somewhere you and your kids will see it often. Not only does it help you stay on track, it also gives you a way to do a daily check in.
Be sure to list the “must do’s” such as school activities, work commitments, trips to the grocery store or family appointments. When possible try to combine activities and streamline tasks. Then take a look at where you have pockets of time and how you want to use them.
Also consider developing morning and evening routines with your children to make getting ready for school and going to bed smoother transitions.
-Make time for you.
In the beginning stages, start small. Schedule at least 20 minutes every day to do something just for you. Maybe you put the kids to bed early one night so you can read the paper to catch up on the news or watch a favorite television show. You could also leave the office for lunch and meet up with a friend or hire a babysitter to watch the kids while you work out at the gym. Make putting energy back into you a priority.
-Develop a network and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As a solo parent, asking for help and creating supportive network are essential. In addition to having people in your life who are emotionally supportive make sure to put time into building a good community network for yourself.
When looking over your weekly schedule think about what are your biggest stressors and where you need more support. Whether it’s having a babysitter you can trust, someone to clean your house or a reliable accountant. Seek out people who offer services that can make life a little bit easier when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that creating support could also involve your kids. Think about making a family chore chart and delegating age appropriate tasks to your kids. Not only will it free up some time for you but your children also learn the value of pitching in and gain some important life skills.
– Readjust your priorities.
Often readjusting your priorities can be a real sanity saver. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed take a step back and ask yourself, “What needs my immediate attention and what can wait?” Chances are there’s something you can let go of for the moment. For example, let’s say you need to pay the bills, mow the lawn and have several loads of laundry that need to be done. Instead of staying up until midnight to get everything done consider washing and drying one load, let the grass grow for a few more days and spend your energy on paying the bills.
After all, in the grand scheme of things what will matter most? That you raised healthy well-adjusted kids or that the lawn was always perfectly mowed?