10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

I pictured my life as a single parent, wearing a pile of hats: taxi driver, cook, gardener, homework policewoman, light globe changer, everyone’s diary, and pooper scooper for our pet dog! A teetering stack balancing on my one solitary head.  Single parenting involves the art of balancing – balancing everyone’s competing needs and time. You cannot care for your children without first caring for yourself.

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It is so easy as a single parent to cut back on caring for you. I miss exercise, always with a good excuse of course! I fill rest time with emails or taking the kids somewhere. I volunteer to help others when I should be asking for help. I allow work to encroach on family time.  I crowd out my hobbies and passions with kids activities. The list goes on; more hats join the wobbly pile.

You need to be intentional and practice balance. Here are some strategies to help you do this:

10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

The following 10 ways come from participants in the One Together course as we brainstormed how to achieve balance:

  1. Look at everyone’s needs – are there ways that more than one need can be met at once. eg I use to walk with a friend while the kids were in a dance class.
  2. Ask the other parent or others to help.
  3. Learn and practice time management skills. (see below)
  4. Review activities to maximise leisure time.
  5. Drop your standards of housekeeping, particularly if you are working. Encourage the children to help with household activities according to their age and development.
  6. Beware the expectation and obligations of friends, family and the outside world. It’s OK to look after you and say ‘NO’ sometimes.
  7. Review your working hours and budget so you work enough to meet your commitments but have as much non-work time to enjoy your children and care for yourself
  8. Don’t be so regimented in your time schedules…
  9. Spend quality time with each child whatever that looks like for them.
  10. Practice mindfulness.

Time management

There are many different ways to ‘manage’ time and prioritise the endless list of things to be done. Find one that works for you.  Two of the major differences in approach are working to a priorities list (however you determine them) or working to blocks of time. Described simply the blocks of time method means you allocate a specified time period to a role or task and when the time is finished, whether the task or role is completed you move onto the next. This can be arranged in your weekly schedule (see resources below).

Mindfulness

Being present in the moment is important. Worrying about blocks of time or other jobs on your list is a sure way to increase stress. Sometimes while I am cooking tea, I am also trying to wash the dishes, racing back to something on the computer and maybe even bringing in the washing. What invariably happens is I burn tea, can’t pour the water off the pasta down the sink because it’s full of soaking dishes, so my frustration level rises and I yell at the kids. By focusing on just one thing eg cooking tea, I can relieve my stress by staying in the moment and concentrating on the one job in front of me.

Putting legs on it

You can do a self-reflection exercise to see how well balanced you are.

Look at the 10 strategies list above and see what you are already practicing. Choose another strategy to try with your family and evaluate the result.

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Resources

Photo credit: Mike Birdy www.stocksnap.io

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