Being parents can be hard. But now just imagine this: Enduring the long commute coming home from a long day, no dinner ready, and having to cook. Then after that, you have to bathe and then put the kids down, all the while, doing this alone. Free time? Social life? What’s that?
Take heart. Many have succeeded before, and you shall, too. What follows are some helpful pointers to help you get through the day:
1. Breathe: Countless medical and therapeutic research has documented the real, tangible benefits to slowing your body down and breathing, regularly if you can. Breathing can actually bring positive changes to the heart and brain (it’s not for nothing that a major focus in meditation is mindful breathing).
2. Playtime: Every child is different and has unique needs. For instance, some kids can go to a park or play in their rooms for hours and not need any accompaniment at all, while others (due to a variety of reasons), may need a watchful eye. Whatever your case, remember that the more you watch, it is the parent’s instinct to get involved, to demonstrate, to advise. Sometimes—but not always—this leads up to challenges. If your child can play alone for a bit, (of course all the while in a safe, secure environment where you’re not far) take that time to relax and recoup. Treasure those minutes alone! You deserve it.
3. Rely on Family: If you are one of the lucky ones who lives close to your family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles), you can ask your relatives if they could take the kids for a bit so you can go do whatever it is you need to do. Find a night off or even a few hours off for a “child detox.” Asking family to watch your kids also has the added benefit of reinforcing familial relationships—which is always a good thing.
4. Build Your Support Network: If you don’t have family near your home, try to build a support network of trusted and loyal friends and acquaintances who you can turn to when you need a break or need help. For example, try your best to find people within a five-mile radius of your home so you can build deeper connections with people.
5. Sitters: Consult with family, friends, your network, and find the best babysitters in the area. It’s always advisable to know of two or three sitters at a minimum in case you need to go out for a night.
6. Chores: If your kids are old enough where they can contribute around the house, then they should. You should not do everything. Even if it’s not done “perfectly,” or “the way it should be,” getting them started so they understand, try, and get better is the goal. Setting the table for dinner, taking out the trash, making beds, vacuuming, going to get the mail, and helping with dishes are just some of the ways young people can help and relieve the burden from any parent.
7. Strategic Planning at Home: Think about your activities at home and what you need to do and what time you need to do them. Besides helping out, is there anything your little one can do to help versus get in the way or even reduce the load? For instance, if you know you have a work call after dinner and can’t arrange for a sitter, work out an agreement in which your child can play quietly for “x” amount time. That way, you have a plan upfront, and your child will get some quick electronics time while you are busy working (and can’t be interrupted).
8. Parents’ Groups: Even if you can’t physically make it to the parents’ group to introduce yourself, you can still follow the groups online using their Facebook pages and MeetUps to garner information and tips on what they are doing to cope.
9. Be Kind to Yourself: There’s going to be great days, and then there are going to be days when you’re not state of the art. Every parent loses it, and no parent is a saint. It’s not realistic to think that way. So, do yourself a huge favor and forgive yourself of the little things. This will allow you to focus on keeping your relationship healthy, fun, and positive with your child.
10. Economics: As a single parent, no one needs to tell you that money is always on your mind and that you are always trying to find ways to beat the system and stretch your dollar. Here are some good tips for being smart about your finances and how to teach your children about finances as well:
-Sign-up for online coupons and rebate websites that offer percentage discounts and free offers.
-“Like” and “Follow” your favorite stores as they sometimes only offer unique sales and discounts on Facebook only.
-Shop for expensive items during holidays (bigger sales deals).
-Try to leverage your friends’ Costco membership and stock up!
-When dining out, only buy food which can be used the next day as leftovers (not salads, etc).
-Talk to your friends and ask them how they save money.
-Teach your children what a budget is. Give them $10 (or so) and have them buy some groceries; they can do it!
Raising a child is one of the most rewarding endeavors for many people. We should not beat ourselves up in the process if we are going it alone. There are ways to help yourself and to get others to help you too.