All parents are working parents--whether they have careers in addition to their kids or not--and all parents have a lot on their plates. But when you're a single parent with a full-time job to boot, your list of responsibilities and scheduled to-dos may feel overwhelming at times.
While partnered parents have built-in back-up, single parents must do it all, both at home and at work. Although you may be responsible for getting it all done, you don't need to take on everything yourself. It may require more advance planning, but you can create a support system to help get over the humps of your busy days.
1. Build your team.
It takes a village to raise a child, and when you're a single parent, you must create your own village. Though this may seem like an ambitious undertaking, don't despair: potential helpers surround you! You just need to determine who they are and what roles they might be willing to play in helping you meet your goals.
Your first tier of supporters may be immediate family members, such as parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, or cousins. Having familial help nearby can be a lifesaver for successful single-parenting. If you don't live near your extended family, you might want to consider relocation, even if it means getting a new job in a different area. The difference between having help with childcare can make the short-term logistics of moving worth the effort.
If family isn't an option, consider close friends--especially other single parents. Swapping babysitting duties on certain weekend afternoons or weekday evenings can allow you some breathing room for errands and personal time.
2. Join or form a support group.
If you find yourself light in the support department, join a support group for other single parents or working mothers. If an internet search for a group in your area comes up empty, consider forming your own. It can be as simple as posting an ad on a bulletin board at your child's school or on the school's website. Prepare some snacks, get some extra chairs, and host a meeting in your living room. You may find the support you need.
3. Manage others' expectations.
As a working single parent, your boss and colleagues may not fully understand the demands of your juggling act. For example, when your child is sick and no one in your support team can help, you may need to leave work early more often than most people. Communication is key: be sure to manage the expectations around what you can and can't do when it comes to your job. By explaining the particulars of special scheduling needs up front, you can often gain support--or at least understanding--at work.
4. Seek flexible arrangements.
Some companies are known for their progressive corporate policies and benefits for working parents. Check with your employer about flexible options, such as working from home on certain days of the week and daycare services. Maximizing your resources can help cut down on the stress of trying to do it all by yourself and keep your family happy, healthy, and running smoothly.