Everyone says it: Being a single parent is HARD. But does it have to be? Is “hard” inevitable? No. There are ways to make your life easier. I’ve done it and you can too. Here are a few tips:
1. Automate as much as possible!
Yes, schedule bill payments and that sort of thing. But more importantly, establish habits and routines that make your life run smoothly.
One of the best things I ever did was establish a routine for our meals. I wouldn’t say I hate cooking, but I do not love it. So I kind of stuck my head in the sand when it came to meal planning. I used to do a weekly shop without a clear idea of what I was going to cook each week.
At some point I got tired of getting home from work and staring into the abyss of my fridge wondering what I was going to make for dinner. It was exhausting!
So I designated Thursday as meal planning and grocery list day. Friday became shopping day. And the rest of the week we just follow the plan. I can’t begin to explain what a difference this has made in my life.
Do this with as many areas of your life as possible. Once you establish routines, the words “I don’t feel like it” will rarely be uttered. I expect you may even feel more energized because you’re not spending precious mental energy on these daily or weekly things that are now nearly automatic.
2. Put your self-care in the calendar first
Your mental and physical well-being are critical. And regardless of whether you are the only adult in the house or not, no one else is going to prioritize your well-being, so you’d best do it for yourself.
The alternatives are stress, overwhelm, burnout, exhaustion and resentment. Not very happy states to be in.
The first step is to identify what self-care looks like for you. Some ideas: meditating, running, smashing a tiny rubber ball across a squash court, reading, playing the guitar, soaking in a bath…
For me, self-care is largely in person social interaction and exercise, preferably on a bike. And yes, these go in my calendar. When I don’t get them, I’m less happy, I’m impatient, I feel like crap and I start feeling sorry for myself. Why put myself through that?
So find something that makes you feel good. Block off time for it a few times a week. And then do it! Make it non-negotiable.
And I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time for it. We all make time for what’s important. Decide that your well-being is important.
3. Ask for and accept help
So many people have trouble with this one. But the reality is that none of us are meant to raise kids alone. Heck, we aren’t meant to live alone! Period.
We thrive in communities. We shrivel in isolation.
I saw a post recently from a new mom asking how she could do all the childcare and household stuff on her own. She had family offering help, but she wanted to do it on her own. Every comment in the thread practically pleaded with her to take the help.
Of course, if you don’t have family around, help can be a tall order. Instead of getting offers, it’s on you to ask. We tell ourselves that asking for support is a burden on others. But it’s not.
People want to help. Generally speaking, it makes them feel good. They just don’t always know what to do.
If straight up asking for help feels too uncomfortable, propose an exchange with someone. My son routinely goes to his friends’ houses for play dates and sleep overs and his friends come here other times. The parents all get a break now and then and the kids love it. Just keep in mind that help doesn’t have to be quid pro quo.
4. Stop trying to “do it all”
This one is related to number 3. A question I’ve seen a lot on social media is “How do you do it all?” My answer is always “I don’t.”
My activities and my son’s are limited to what’s manageable for our family. Someone else might be able to juggle more, and that’s nice for them. I know what my limit is and I (generally) stay within it.
Before you say yes to anything, hit the pause button and:
1. Decide whether you actually want to do it. If you find yourself thinking or saying words like “should” or “need to”, that’s a red flag.
2. If you truly want to say yes, check your calendar and decide whether you genuinely have the time and energy for it.
Learn to say “no”, guilt-free, to anything you don’t want to do, or don’t have the time or energy for.
This includes requests from your kids!! There can be a lot of guilt around not giving your kids the same experiences their friends are getting. That kind of thinking just makes you feel crappy and doesn’t change your situation.
Instead, focus on a few awesome things you CAN give them and make the most of it. Doing less can bring your family more ease, energy and joy.
These are just a few tips for making your life easier as a single parent. Got tips of your own? Share them in the comments.