Are you a busy solo parent? Here’s how to save time and stress as you care for your kids — and try to juggle all your other responsibilities!
1.Stop being a perfectionist.
As author Anne Lamott writes, “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Nowhere is this more applicable than with single parenting. Trying to be Super Parent will just add another layer of pressure to your already stressful life.
Instead aim for “good enough.” Let go of the belief that you’re defective if your living room doesn’t resemble something out of a Pottery Barn catalogue — and watch your stress levels drop. Another stress-buster: if you can’t afford a cleaning service, assign your children age-appropriate chores so you’re not shouldering all the cleaning duties.
2.Leave important items in designated spots.
The last thing you want when you’re trying to get your kids out the door is to run around searching for your keys. Have designated spots for must-have items: keys, umbrellas, children’s backpacks, your purse. Try to place these items close to the front door, if possible. Having smooth exits will get your day, and you’re children’s day, off to a good start.
3. Have your kids take care of their own rooms.
Being a single parent does not mean you must be responsible for making beds, picking up toys, and putting away clothes. Teaching your children age-appropriate living skills will boost their sense of self-agency and lighten your load. As soon as children are big enough to reach the washing machine, they should be doing their own laundry. Bigger kids can add vacuuming, dusting, and emptying the trash can in their room to their chore list. If they’re not used to doing these tasks, they may put up a fight, but its important that they learn that family members chip in to keep a house running smoothly, instead of relying on adults to do all the work.
4. Have your groceries delivered.
Food-shopping takes up an inordinate amount of time. The last thing you want to do after a long day at work is to have a long wait in the grocery store check-out line. Signing up with a grocery delivery service will save you time and hassles. Some services even discounts for placing regular orders. So make your life easier and let someone else do the shopping for you. And don’t forget to have the kids help you put the groceries away!
5. Switch to texting with your ex
When you call your co-parent to arrange custody pick up or pass along information about school, does the the original 5 minutes you had intended for the call turn into an hour-long full of critiques of the other’s parenting? Try making the switch to texts only for all day-to-day information that needs to be shared. It’s more difficult to have an argument via text as long as you stick to short, neutral messages.
6. Keep your boundaries.
Be realistic about what you can handle. If you were the go-to volunteer mom when you were able to stay at home, you’re going to have to step down from that perch. Politely decline school commitments that take up a lot of time; sign up for one-day events such as Hot Lunch or the Spring Carnival. The same goes for outside commitments; you are not a lesser person if you relinquish your post as head of the Neighborhood Watch Committee. The most important thing is that you know your limits and maintain them so you don’t burn out.
7. Keep work in the car.
So much of parenting involves waiting in the car for your children to finish their activities. Make the most of that time by tackling items on your to-do list: paying bills, writing thank you letters, figuring out your monthly budget. Or — just relax and read a book or magazine. You earned it!
The key to managing time as a single parent is letting go of how you used to parent and accepting your current circumstances. You don’t have to be perfect (no one is!); just strive to be good enough.
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