Being a working mom is certainly no easy feat. After all, you're managing two jobs — your paycheck job and your parenting job. For single moms, it can be even harder, since not all single moms necessarily have someone sharing the parenting load (though they may have other support!).
At the end of the day, you're only human. But you deserve a successful work-life balance just as much as the next person! And we have rounded up some of the best career advice from successful single moms who've already figured out how to do it.
Here's what they had to say.
At the end of the day, you have to care for yourself, too. While your kids are your priority, make sure to carve out some time for your own needs. Whether this means winding down with your favorite TV show, taking a bath, hitting a yoga class, going for a run, or doing something else just for yourself, you need to find what it is that you love to do — and do it!
"Being a mom often means placing your children’s wants and needs above your own, a responsibility that tends to be intensified for single mothers," writes The Life of a Single Mom. "While good parenting involves making sacrifices, it does not mean neglecting yourself or becoming isolated from others. Every mother needs to take time to make sure her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met."
While it may seem counterintuitive, she adds that taking the time to focus on you will actually better you as a parent.
"Feeling rundown and overworked is likely to make you irritable and less patient or could even lead to depression," she says. "Children are perceptive and will pick up on your negative energy, which could lead to their own negative thoughts and feelings. In short, if mom is healthy and happy, her kids are much more likely to be, as well."
At the end of the day, you're only human. Except single working moms are a little bit more powerful than that!
"We do everything but leap tall buildings in a single bound. We are superheroes without capes," says Debbie Burgin, according to Fool.
It's always important to have a support system surrounding you. Especially if these are people who understand your situation.
"'It takes a village...' translated into your career means finding experts to ask for business or problem advice over coffee, lunch or at after-work gatherings," writes Jenn Lyons for Huff Post. "It is a waste of energy to reinvent the wheel, so talk to the experts who have been there and done that. You may find them at your company, at your gym, maybe even your next-door neighbor. Ask how they have handled tricky situations and use their wisdom to help solve your own problems as you move forward."
Always remember to pause and celebrate your own self. The little wins are just as important as everything else. Even if your win feels as small as checking off your to-do list for the day.
"For all that you did this week, and all that you do throughout life, you deserve more than just a pat on the back," writes Grace Reyes for Entrepreneur. "Frankly, you deserve a deep-tissue massage, a bottle of rosé and an uninterrupted Netflix binge. But if those things aren't possible today, just take a moment and seriously acknowledge your efforts."
It may not make sense to work all the time to support your kids if you're paying for childcare that's overly expensive. Or it may make sense depending on your financial situation. Maybe you have a parent or in-law who can babysit while you work. Whatever the case, it's important to weigh your options and find out what works best for you from a financial standpoint.
"Finances are one of the top concerns of single moms, and it is no wonder since only 32% of single mothers earn $40,000 or more a year," writes The Life of a Single Mom. "In a country where the average cost of living for a four-person family is around $48,500 a year. That means millions of moms out there are struggling in changing from surviving to thriving. There are several contributing factors. One of the most obvious is that you have to be the breadwinner and simultaneously play the part of the sole homemaker when you aren’t at work. This means less time to commit to work, or possible greater expense paying for childcare when office hours run late. Striking a balance between work and home life and still managing to pay the bills on time becomes a daunting task, but there are things you can do to ease burden."
Budgeting, spending more wisely, and "being faithful in your giving" are three ways to help your survive, she adds.
Find a job that suits your lifestyle, if you can.
"Your single-parenthood shouldn't dictate the job or career you have, but it's good to factor it in your considerations," writes Selena Maranjian for Fool. "There are lots of jobs that can be easier to manage while caring for children."
"It's easy to lose sight of yourself as a person with hopes, dreams and goals when all your time and energy is spent on job, family and other responsibilities," writes Jenn Lyons for Huff Post. "But take the time to make a list of who you are and who you want to be."
At the end of the day, always remember to be true to yourself.
Make a list, prioritize it, and check it off one by one — one step at a time.
"More than most people, single parents need to make the most of every minute," writes Selena Maranjian for Fool. "As you approach and do your work, be sure to prioritize well. You may not be able to do everything you want to do, but make sure that everything that has to get done gets done. You may need to get good at saying no sometimes."
"When you hear the term 'single mom,' what kind of woman do you imagine? Do you see a put together business woman effortlessly juggling PTA meetings, soccer practices, and preparing home cooked meals for her family every evening? Or does a woman a little less glamorous and more frazzled come to mind? The ugly truth is that sometimes people are going to judge you for being a single mom because single parenthood can conjure up a negative image in some people’s minds," writes The Life of a Single Mom. "There are all sorts of negative stereotypes and stigmas associated with single moms, and there will be people who will make assumptions about your life, your financial status, or even your character, without even knowing your story. This may seem unfair, and it is. But you cannot let someone else’s uninformed opinion of you define who you are or how you feel about yourself."
Sure, you can't change the stereotypes, she says. But you can also choose not to be one of them.
"You can choose to be a woman of high integrity and honor, full of forgiveness and compassion for others, and walking in complete freedom from past hurts or mistakes," she says. "You can be part of that change by going from surviving to thriving."
A mentor can always be of help. And you may never know how exactly they can help you until you get to know them.
"Mentors can be extremely helpful in guiding you through your career," writes Selena Maranjian for Fool. "They can offer advice, can serve as a sounding board, can offer feedback, and can even be an advocate for you to others at your workplace. If you're a single parent, finding another single parent who's willing to be your mentor can be extra helpful, as he or she will understand your situation better and may have some great suggestions."
Looking for someone in your field but who is in a higher position than you, she adds. Someone who you "greatly admire."
"Let that person know why you admire him or her and why you hope to be mentored," she says. "Be sure to get on the same page as to what you both expect from the relationship — such as a monthly lunch where you review your progress, aspirations, long-term goals, and near-term opportunities."
Find people to have in your corner who cheer you on. People who support you and who partner with you in your personal and professional goals.
"Find someone in your company who is your advocate — better yet, work for that person," writes Jenn Lyons for Huff Post. "When I was offered my first job out of college, I informed the hiring manager that I was concerned I might not be qualified. She replied that it was personality traits and intelligence that she needed; the skill set could be learned. She saw something in me from day one that she fostered and encouraged. Because she saw my potential, I was able to pursue my dream career. Everyone needs that kind of champion — find that person!"
It's easy to let the inner critic in your head get the best of you. You know, all those self-limiting beliefs? Remember that they are just thoughts, and they are only real in your mind.
"Don’t let the critical voices — whether outside or inside — bring you down," writes Grace Reyes for Entrepreneur. "You may not be doing everything you’d ideally like to do, you may be tired every day, and you may sometimes feel like you’re failing. But I’m here to tell you that I see your achievements and your sacrifices, and many others do, too. To the single working mother discouraged by the lack of support at her workplace, or the mom who is desperately reaching for a helping hand, I say: You are more powerful than you can even imagine. And you’re demonstrating your awe-inspiring power every single day."
What works for someone else may not work for you, so strike your own balance.
"While many married women have the option of staying home with their children, most single mothers don’t have a choice about whether or not they work," writes The Life of a Single Mom. "For those with school-aged and older kids, this may not be as problematic (though it is still exhausting), but for mothers of infants and young children this can be quite a challenge, considering the cost of childcare and the burden of selecting the right option for your child. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask others for help, including your kids (they are part of the family, too)."
On a side note, don't measure your success based on what other mothers you know are doing (or seem to be doing!). You never know what kind of help they are getting, too.
"Just because your child has to stay in daycare or you don’t have time to make homemade cupcakes for the PTA bake sale doesn’t make you any less of a mom," she says. "Single moms know how to be resourceful and shouldn’t feel guilty for the way they have to adapt the lives of their families to thrive within their set of circumstances. There is no perfect solution to this problem other than figuring out what works for you. You will probably never achieve the perfect work-life balance, but you can strive to prioritize the most important things in your life and develop a system that meets your family’s needs."
Always recognize your progress along the way. Take the time to celebrate yourself. You're a single working mom! There are so many achievements you make on a day-to-day basis that you probably don't even recognize. But if you press pause every once in a while, you'll be able to smell the roses.
"Take out a piece of paper and make a list of what you’ve done in the last week," writes Grace Reyes for Entrepreneur. "Start with your work tasks, the mundane as well as the noteworthy. Then start listing your household and childcare tasks. Include that third load of laundry and the second reading of a favorite bedtime story (the one in which you performed all the characters’ voices, by request)."
Flexibility is key, though it may sound easier said than done.
"It is true that being a parent, especially a single parent, is a full-time job in and of itself," writes Jenn Lyons for Huff Post. "Flexibility is no longer a ';nice to have' — it is a must-have."
As a single working mom, you need to be adaptable and open to different ways of working.
"The good news is many workplaces now offer flexible hours and/or the ability to work remotely a few days a week," she says. "Find a place that can accommodate your schedule so you maintain control over your work/life balance. You will feel better and your kids will too!"
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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