Your budget is stretched to its limits, your patience is worn thin, and you’re wondering how anyone makes it out alive. Ah, the joys of single parenthood. But does it have to be so hard? While there’s no denying that single parenthood is tough, if you’re feeling overwhelmed it might be time to step back and reassess your techniques. Here are five things you can do to reduce the stress of single parenthood:
1. Get a handle on finances
Every family should have a budget, but when you’re operating on a single income it’s especially important. Figure out your monthly take-home pay and break down where it goes. Include both essential expenses like housing, utilities, insurance, transportation, groceries, and non-essential expenses like entertainment, clothing, and eating out. Make sure you have a buffer at the end of the month so you can build an emergency fund and some modest savings. If the numbers don’t add up, it’s time to figure out where you can cut costs. Find ways to trim essential expenses, like moving to a more affordable home or downgrading your phone plan, and limit non-essential spending as much as possible. You might not be able to provide your kids with everything they want, but as long as you make sure they have what they need, you’re doing alright.
2. Create a rock-solid routine
Life throws a lot of challenges your way, but with a strong foundation you can weather just about anything. When it comes to single parenting, that foundation is your routine. When your kids know what they need to do each day, you can spend less time chasing them around and more time managing your own responsibilities. Create a daily and weekly flow for household duties and use a daily routine chart to keep expectations clear. By scheduling a few small tasks each day and asking the kids to pitch in, you can keep your home organized and prevent messes from piling up.
3. Nail down your co-parenting plan
Not everyone is so lucky to have a good relationship with their ex, but no matter how you feel about your child’s other parent, a solid co-parenting plan is in everyone’s best interest. Try to get on the same page regarding rules and routine and keep your custody schedule consistent. While adults understand that sometimes things come up last minute, unexpected schedule changes could leave your kids feeling forgotten or unloved. And don’t forget to revisit your parenting plan as the kids grow older: While young children benefit from frequent switches between parents, older kids do best with longer stretches in one place.
4. Flex your work schedule
Nine-to-five work schedules aren’t exactly compatible with school pick-ups and parent-teacher conferences. While a flexible work schedule isn’t an option for everyone, don’t assume you have to stick to standard business hours just because it’s the norm at your office. Ask your boss about working part-time from home, doing a four-day week, or another flex schedule that works for you. If the answer is “no,” it might be time to look for another job. Since 80 percent of employers offer some variety of flexible working arrangements, according to Monster, there’s a good chance you can find a more accommodating workplace.
5. Find some support
You may be the only adult in your household, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. You can find support and camaraderie at single parent social groups, take time off with the help of a reliable babysitter, and learn how to be a better parent through parenting classes geared toward single parents. Finally, remember to make time in your schedule to simply be present. Yes, there’s a lot on your plate, and yes, there are dishes piled in the sink and laundry to be done. But sometimes, the most important thing is to set all that aside and focus on connecting with your kids. After all, your toddler doesn’t care if there’s juice on his t-shirt or dust bunnies under the couch — he just wants time with you.
Image via Unsplash