Whether you are a single parent by way of divorce, death of a spouse, or as a planned event – parenting alone can at times be stressful. As you know, it feels like everything rests on your shoulders. You need to balance work, household management, caring for your children, your social life and your child’s/children’s social life. In a two parent household, the give & take of both parents makes it easier to balance. In a single parent household, the parent can feel like the “critical path” in the daily production of “git ‘r done”.
So what’s the best way(s) to survive it all? Well, ultimately that depends on you and your personality. There are various methods you can put into place to help.
1. Routines, structure and habits
Children, and even some adults, thrive on routines. Routine and structure helps your kids to create routines and organization in their lives, and helps them to know what is expected of them. If you feel you really need a boost on this – talk to your child about their day at school, or to the teacher about how they manage 20+ children. In the classroom, everything is a standard routine. The children know what the class is doing simply by looking at what time it is or noting what they’ve done so far that day. For e.g., they know that when they return from lunch, they immediately go to put their lunchboxes away and then return to their desk and begin their journal activity.
Here are some ideas on routines for your household:
a. Standard meal routines: On Mondays while you cook, little Susie sets the table and brother Dillon prepares drinks for everyone. On Tuesday, it switches. This is just like the expectations for ages as young as preschool – where on certain days of the week, each child has a turn being the leader for their group. Another really useful habit to build in is that the children take their plates and cups to the sink when they are done. This is also the same as preschool – and if you develop it into a habit they will do it without thinking about it.
b. Nighttime routines: Each child should have a place where their backpack goes after school, and is prepared for the next day before they go to sleep. Call it a “launching pad” if you will – where the stuff sits and waits for you to “take off” in the morning.
2. Less is more and more organization = less stress
a. Practice components of the age-old art of feng shui. The less you have in your home the better. Start as early as you can to teach your child to only keep around them what they truly love. Everything is made of energy and uses energy – so it is best to only keep things around you which gives you positive feelings and happiness. Clutter eats up energy, and the more children can learn at a young age to beat clutter, the better. Employ activities where the kids are expected to go through their own backpack and clean out the “junk” that has accumulated there.
b. If everything has its place, it’s a whole lot easier for children to put things back away themselves – which is one less thing that you have to do. Do what you can to set aside a couple hours every 3 or 4 months to go through things in their room that they don’t need. Be relentless about trashing paperwork that comes through the door that you don’t need. If you can make it electronic instead of paper, do it. It’s freeing and you’ll love it.
3. Take care of you
It is not selfish to practice self-care. Stop a minute to take care of yourself, set aside spaces in your home that are “parent places”. If toys stress you out, make them toy-free sanctuaries.
It’s important for you and for your kids to see you do this. It teaches them to use boundaries for their own sanity when they see you model it. It teaches them that it’s important to take time for themselves too, simply by watching you model it. You may not see that this makes a big difference when they are young, but it definitely will down the road.
If you still feel guilty about it, ask your kids to help you. Kids love to care for their parents, and happily contribute to birthday celebrations and other “I love you” moments. Even if it’s not your birthday, tell them you need to celebrate a “mommy day” or a “daddy day”, and do what is important for you. And the next day… you can pick a kid and focus some things on them, or even just emphasize that it’s their “day” by the things that you were going to do for them anyway – like taking them to play with their friends, or doing a kid activity, or helping them through homework.
4. Remember the bigger picture and enjoy yourself
On a daily basis – laugh! Have fun with your children. Play jokes on each other, laugh when someone does something silly. Focus on the fun of life rather than the stressors, and by way of the law of attraction, you’ll have even more fun enter your life than stress. You don’t need to get everything done every day – do what you can and be compassionate with yourself on the rest. And if it’s not absolutely necessary – feel free to chuck it off your to do list!
This portion of your life where you are parenting kids who are at home is such a small part of our whole life. Parenting is really the most important job we have in our lives, even if our society doesn’t always seem to back up that idea. Remember that 18 years are really fleeting moments, so enjoy it while it’s there!