Being a single parent is HARD, and all too often we can fall into the trap of feeling all alone in this battle to not only make ends meet but ensure that whole, stable little humans exit on the other end of this single mama journey. If you can make your life a little more streamlined, it will go a long way to making your life easier, and your job lighter, right?
Let us not deny it – being a single mom is HARD. But then again, parenting is HARD, no matter in which form you need to do it. And trying to do it right is even harder. But let me reassure you – just because something feels difficult and impossible doesn’t mean it cannot be done, and in the end, even enjoyed. Motherhood is a beautiful gift from God, one that should be cherished, and for that reason, it is time to leave the simply surviving behind. It is time to thrive!
How you might ask?
By making your life easier as a single mother.
You are not alone. The challenges that you face daily are shared by millions of parents across the globe, each with their own story, pain and circumstances. And yet, in spite of the prevalence of single parenthood, there is still a shame attached to it. Today I want to make you feel empowered in the knowledge that despite how you may feel at times, and the way the world will try to make you feel, you are not alone in your single mama struggles.
As a single mom, there is a very fine line between simply surviving, and thriving. When your life is hectic, juggling kids and work and home and other responsibilities, it is easy to become overwhelmed and then to simply revert to survival mode. Of course, we all want to survive, but life was given to us to enjoy! So if you are a single mama who feels like you are at your wit’s end, then read on for my tips on how to make life easier as a single mom.
I used to write a lot about capsule wardrobes, and with the increased interest I might start again. But until then, go have a look at some of the old posts to find out why capsule wardrobes are so awesome. They are one of my best productivity hacks, and something I need to get going again for the kids. They dress themselves, and with a capsule, I can stop getting the daily heart attack when they come out of their room looking like a mismatched clown… With my own capsule, I am in and out of my closet in 5 min flat, every morning, no matter the occasion or dress code. Easy easy, takes no time and best of all, no brainpower. So I can save all that decision-making energy for more important things.
Another one of my star solutions to busy lives. Keep overwhelm at bay by planning your meals in advance. I used to do this weekly, now I do it monthly. I know more or less what we will have, so I ensure we have those items stocked in the pantry AT ALL TIMES. The only things I buy on a more regular basis are fresh fruit and veg, and milk. The rest we have, and around those items I make dinners. If you want to know more, read more of the older posts listed below.
This goes hand in hand with meal planning, but then also takes it a bit further. When you know what you are going to make, then enlarge the recipe to make more. This is then frozen so that you can take it out to serve on one of those hectic days that we get at least 3 times a week. A few other things that are golden to prep in bulk in advance: stock and broth, tomato paste and puree, pumpkin puree (to make sauces sweet and more nutritious), pizza bases, grated cheese, veggie sauce, and chicken nuggets, to name a few.
Get one, then stick to it. I know life can change in the blink of an eye, but if you have a solid routine then it is easier to return to normal after the upheaval. Hear me out – I am a full-time single mama who does catering, for both corporate as well as private clients. My main channel of income comes from doing weddings. A normal week for me would look like getting 2 last-minute corporate functions in on Monday, for Thursday and Friday. A private celebration the Friday night. Then a wedding the Saturday. Where are my kids while I am doing all of these things? Well, depends on what time it is, either playing quietly, or having dinner, or taking their bath. These things happen, no matter if we are home, or at the venue. My kids know what to expect, and I have less stress on me because I can simply direct them to what is normal. No explanation needed, everything runs like a well-oiled machine. That is what routine gives you – freedom.
Feel like you are constantly forgetting to make that dentist appointment, the doctor’s checkup, miss hair appointments, etc.? It is because you are not scheduling them. I have a running tracker that reminds me 2 weeks before we are due for whatever checkup/appointment/annual responsibility. I also have other schedules, such as wash hair on Sundays, cut nails on Mondays, pack clothes away on Thursdays, etc. This way, even if I lose my diary, I still know what must be done. Use technology to help keep track and remind you when things are due. I also use my calendar app to remind me a week before big birthdays, to give me time to buy a present, arrange a party, and the like. And when you feel ready to start dating again, that goes into the schedule as well.
Get them to help with chores
This is something I learned the hard way. I am a bit of a control freak. I want things done just right, and right is of course my way. So I ended up doing everything for the kids. Don’t know where you left your sweater? Don’t worry, I will look for it. Finished eating? I will clear the table. Done with your bath? I will wash the bath. I was tired, irritated and felt severely underappreciated. Then I swallowed my pride and started getting the girls involved. They are still small, so nothing major. They now need to give the pets’ water, check their food levels, pack away their toys (I just close the door of the playroom when it gets out of hand – they do their best), dress themselves, pack away their own clothes (oh help me!) and find their own toys/shoes/etc. This has helped take the pressure off me and is teaching them that in order to be a part of a community you actually have to contribute to said community. And no, they do not get money for doing their chores. Nobody is paying you to be a decent human being, so start teaching them that from a young age.
Calendar against the wall
This goes with the schedule-it tip. If you have a big calendar against the wall, everyone in the household can see what is planned. I use this tip to stop the nagging “when are we going to dad’s again” question. They can now simply count the days until they see him again and leave me be. This way I can also keep track of my own work obligations, upcoming birthdays and other responsibilities. At the beginning of the year, I update the calendar with the school calendar, then add any other happenings, and then keep it updated as we go.
Mama, if you are surrounded by clutter you cannot be surprised that you are feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Clutter causes angst and stress, and since you are doing such a good job reinventing yourself and coming into your own, why not change the way you live as well? Get rid of all the clutter! It will make you feel better, and will also make it a lot easier to find things. This is not just me preaching to you because I am a bit of a neat-freak, the science backs me up. Go read up on it, it will change your life.
Keep the snacks within reach
I wish someone had told me this YEARS ago. Dedicate the lowest shelf in the fridge to kids’ snacks. Make sure your kids can reach it. If not, get them a short stool or something. If they have all the fruit, yoghurt, little cheese, cold meat, whatever, that they want within reach, you have eliminated at least 20 of the normal mama-duty questions you get every day. I keep water bottles (that they need to refill themselves) also in the fridge. Now, if they are hungry or thirsty, they can help themselves. Genius right!
Shop for clothes a year in advance
This tip is especially helpful when you need to stretch that salary that much further. Sure styles come and go, but a basic T-shirt will remain a basic T-shirt. Keep your eyes open for annual or seasonal sales, then buy whatever your kids normally need in one or two sizes bigger than what they are currently wearing. Keep these items in the closet for next year – when that season rolls around, and their old clothes are sitting too snug, you pull out these treasures. Bam, best mom ever. You only need to buy one or two trendy items and they are set, at a fraction of the price.
Stock up on gifts
Same as above. I keep my eyes open for any sales or special prices on small items that can be utilised for gifts during the year. Then when my kids get invited to the 100th birthday party of a kid that I have never even met, I have something in my gift cupboard to save me.
Spend time together
When you are a single parent, you know especially how important quality time together is. Especially when you are a full-time working single parent. When you spend time with your kids, even if just 10minutes of uninterrupted one on one time, you fill their buckets. This makes them easier to handle later on, plus the bond that forms between you will never be broken, making even the teenage years a lot easier to get through. So put down that phone and give them your all, even if just for a few minutes. Every day.
Have definite boundaries and rules
So much of what I am saying here seems like common sense, but when you are caught in the thick of it it is usually difficult to think logically. Take some time to sit with your kids and devise a few house rules. Obvious things like “handle each other with love and respect”, but also more practical things like “no sleepovers in the week” or “only visit at friends’ houses if I know the parents”. When you have set rules around things like screen time, hobbies, responsibilities and family time, you eliminate all the fights that would have had to be fought had you not have the rules. It makes for easier sailing, and isn’t that the whole point? These boundaries can also be communicated to your co-parent, which will hopefully make that relationship a bit easier.
Make sleep a priority
This one I left last for a reason. So far I am sure there hasn’t been a point with which you could find much fault. All of the above is easy enough to implement. So I got you. You believed me about everything else, so believe me when I tell you this: you need to start prioritising your sleep. Yes, there are only 24hours in a day and so much to do, but if you are tired you don’t get to everything in any case. Might as well get your solid 8hours and be more productive when you are awake. Sure, if you have small kids it can be very difficult to get enough sleep in. in that case, ensure you get quality sleep. Follow good sleep hygiene and make it count for you! I promise you, you will thank you me later.
These are my tips, things I have implemented myself, and have found they made my life easier. More predictable and easier to handle. My kids are more secure, knowing what will happen when, and I am better equipped at handling them. And when you only have yourself to rely on, that means a lot.
Did I miss anything? If you want to add, please leave a comment!