Written by: Caroline Meyer
Having a career while raising kids is not easy for anyone. This becomes even more apparent when you are trying to do both as a single parent. The main problem is trying to find a balance between focussing on your family and their needs, building your professional standing and still ending up with a little time for yourself. It is possible, there are people doing it every day, but that isn’t to say that it is easy. Accept that there will be successes and failures along the way until you find a way that works for you and your family.
Schedule, schedule, schedule
A schedule for you, a schedule for the kids, a schedule for caregivers, everyone involved will need to be working on the same schedule. If you have a schedule drawn up at work, you are more likely to get your daily tasks done in time and leave with a sense of accomplishment. Setting a routine for your children will also help them get the things done that they need to as well as have time to spend together as a family. A nightly routine can include a family dinner where everyone gets to talk about their day and interacts together. A set bedtime is also great and allows for a little one of one time with story time and tucking them up before sleep. Make sure you have something up at home, so the schedule is easy for everyone to follow. You can also include other caregivers in the schedule, so they know what must happen when. This may even assist if they spend time with their other parent or grandparents so that they are kept to a similar routine. Your schedule can also include laying out clothing for the following day and packing lunches to make the start of the new day easier and less stressful.
Choose schools and childcare carefully
It is hard having someone else take care of your child when you are at work. You don’t want to have to stress that they are not getting adequate care. Do your research on the educational and childcare facilities in your area, check them out and have meetings with the principals before enrolling your child. Do regular follow up meetings at the start and discuss any concerns you may have about your child or the level of care they are receiving. Make sure you have contact numbers for all the carers/teachers involved and that they have your details to reach you if there is a need. Make sure you have a plan in place for aftercare if the school closes earlier than you get to leave work. Most schools will offer an aftercare facility, or you can arrange for the child to spend time with family or friends during that time period daily. Once your kids hit their teens, you may allow them to be alone at home for short periods. Make sure they are aware of safety precautions and who to contact in an emergency.
Build a support system
If you ever want to have some time to yourself again, you will need to have a plan to build a support system that you and the kids are okay with. Family and friends will often help out and help take some of the burden of raising a child alone off your shoulders. Friends with kids may also be prepared to have play dates and swop babysitting duties to allow you and them to have a few hours off now and then. It is important that the kids also know and get on with the people in the circle as far as possible to reduce strife for everyone. Be aware of warning signs that something may be wrong if a child behaves strangely around a person in your support structure, shows extreme reluctance to spend time with them, appears afraid of them or any behaviour that is different to how they usually behave. Go with your instincts in these situations.
Discuss your situation with your boss
When you are or become a single parent, you may need to discuss the situation with your boss as you might find that you are not able to put in as much extra time or may need time off to take a sick child to the doctor and so forth. You can explain to your boss that this does not reduce your commitment to your job but that your family is your priority. Most companies will not have an issue with this, especially for loyal, hardworking employees. They will generally appreciate being given a heads up on your situation. In some cases, you may even be able to work flexible hours or even work from home occasionally when needed. Don’t overload your plate at work. You need to ensure you can meet the requirements for your job, but still have the time in your schedule to meet your family commitments.
No one said it was going to be easy, but it is worth it! Make sure to schedule in some fun time with the kids which will also allow you to shed some stress and maybe enjoy a laugh or two. Spend a little time before bed doing yoga or meditation or simply some deep breathing exercises to relax and unwind before you get some well-deserved rest.