Whether you're newly divorced or you have been flying solo in this mom thing all along, trying to find the balance between family life while also supporting your financial needs can be a struggle for single moms. Without having a partner to share the load of the important responsibilities you take on when you have kids, life can get overwhelming. It's hard to walk away from work to devote hours to your kids (and your kids alone) when you know that the existence of the tiny people living under your roof depends on you and your career. You are the sole provider, which means the pressure lies solely on you to get things done.
But there are things you can do to alleviate some of that pressure so that you can enjoy both your work and your family without feeling guilty that one is being neglected for the other. Here are five little ways I balance my family's financial needs with the quality time I spend with them (and the quality time I spend on myself).
1. Include your kids in your at-home responsibilities.
Obviously, you can't pack them up and send them out the door to work, but you can give them some age-appropriate tasks to complete that will help you around the house during your time off (or at the very least, help get them out of your hair for a little bit so YOU can get things done).
Giving your kids duties to complete allows them some responsibility, shows them that taking care of the home actually takes work, and gives them a sense of pride for being able to help and be useful. My kids love when I ask them for "help." I've noticed if I tell my kids to go clean up their toys or their room, I'm hit with much more disdain and pushback than if I were to ask if them something like, "hey, can you do me a favor? I could really use some HELP cleaning up these toys!" They jump all over that!
2. Make a list of everything you need to do today and actually stick to it.
Having to juggle kids and clients, work schedules and sports schedules, important meetings and doctor's appointments can seem impossible at times. Without keeping track of all of these things on a regular basis, I find myself forgetting important events.
Each night, I sit down and write out my "list" for the following day. I go through my planner and write down every important assignment, activity, and errand I need to run the next day. It might sound silly, but doing this has saved me many times from coming all the way home only to remember I had meant to stop for a gallon of milk en route and I forgot. It takes at most ten minutes of my day to plan for tomorrow, but it saves me MUCH MORE in time and frustration the following day.
3. Meal plan.
People who love meal planning will tell you so. And those who don't, love to hate it. Personally, I have an on again, off again relationship with meal planning. Some weeks, I am on point scheduling meals like a pro. Others, I find myself rolling through a drive-thru or calling in pizza delivery more times than I would like to admit.
However, on the weeks I am on my game with meal planning, I find it really helps me to balance my day and limit my stress. Less food goes to waste and I waste less time at the store because I know exactly what I'm shopping for. If I'm REALLY on top of things, I even throw a meal in the crockpot before I leave the house. One less thing I then have to worry about for the rest of the day!
4. Schedule self care (it's especially effective after the kids go to sleep).
Being a mom is a tough and selfless job. We often (intentionally) take a backseat to our children in many ways. Whether it be health, diet, or exercise, many moms would be ashamed if they gave as little attention to their children's physical and emotional needs as they do to their own. As a single mom, it's even harder to find the time, but there are ways you can accomplish little acts of self care that will do you and your self worth loads of good.
Make time to SCHEDULE self care. Even if it's just a hot bath on Tuesday nights after the kids go to bed. Moms tend to carry guilt over taking time for themselves, but taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your family and work responsibilities. Schedule yourself a massage, pencil in an hour to read or give yourself a manicure. Whatever it is that makes you tick and helps you recharge to start the grind all over again: do that. And make sure not to find excuses to skip it, it's important.
5. Ask for help.
There is no shame in admitting when you need a hand or a break. No one expects you to be supermom. And believe it or not, your kids already think you are supermom, even if most days you wonder how you manage to get it all done. If you're like me, you have this pesky thing called "pride" tugging on your conscience. You feel like admitting to needing help would be admitting failure. But, in reality, those who can admit when they need their village are the ones others admire. Having the self-awareness to know you're at your limit is an art form. It's one I haven't quite managed to master. But I am on my way, because I know that having a helping hand here or there makes for a much smoother day or week or month for me, and ultimately, a happier home life for my kids.
Being a single mom with a career and a family, a home, a pet, an endless load of dishes, and a list of clients to maintain really puts your multitasking skills to the test. But by taking some simple steps to compartmentalize your day or week, you will find it much easier to maintain the balance. It just takes a little planning, a little help, and a lot of love for both your kids and yourself.
Nicole is a Realtor, divorced mom of three, and ally to the transgender community. As a mom who achieved her graduate degree alongside growing her family, she understands the importance of finding a work/life balance. Follow her on her blog where she focuses on family, parenting, divorce, and experiences of raising a young transgender child.