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Single parent families are now the single fastest growing family type in Australia. It has been predicted that over the next 20 years, the numbers of one-parent families will soar by up to 70%. Single parents face different (not necessarily more) challenges to coupled parents. Their needs are unique. One of our working parents recently asked for some support in this area.

Here are some resources and tools offered by one of the single parents on our Parents@Work team…

Talk to other solo parents

These conversations can be a treasure trove for what works and what doesn’t but mostly it offers some solace when we feel overwhelmed or like we’re not managing well. This Australian website for single mothers has a community forum you can interact with other mums on Single Mum. Dads Online is a similar website for fathers. This list of solo parent bloggers may also offer some support.

Employ help

How much help you seek will be dependant on your financial situation however you can make this work whatever your budget. For example, I get a cleaner in once a month. My place needs cleaning more often than that but I really need to only do a top up/wipe over every week rather than a full on scrub and glisten. You could also get a baby sister for a couple of hours every so often or once a week to hold the fort while you run around and get errands done (say on a Saturday morning if you work full time). That way you don’t have to drag the kids around and it will probably take 1/4 of the time which leaves more quality time with your kids.

Reduce extra-curricular and social activities

With 3 children – if each of them are doing an activity outside of school/childcare it’s going to be a full time job in itself. If the kids are upset about reducing their activities you could talk through some alternatives with them – would they be willing to go with a friend’s parents? Would they be open to taking turns i.e. one child does ballet one term, the other does soccer the next? This can be a tricky one to negotiate but ultimately remember your stress levels are a priority and will effect their wellbeing as well. If we are fully present and stress-free your kids will reap the benefits of that – more than any sport or activity could provide.

Utilise your network

Exchange pick-up and drop of responsibilities with another parent or ask for favours from friends. It has surprised me how open and willing child-less friends have been to this. Obviously not everyone is up for the challenge (I have had a no… but this was because they didn’t feel confident in their abilities to care for a small child) however generally my experience is that most relish in the idea that you entrust them with your offspring. I like to remind myself that it takes a village to raise a child – which isn’t relinquishing responsibility – our kids really do learn from each adult they spend time with. Allowing this support has helped me see the real value in in this.

Prepare your manager

Prepare your manager for how life is going to change for you so he/she has some insight and understanding when issues arise.

Discuss flexible work options with them also. These could be anything from starting later and finishing earlier, working from home for some of the day (perhaps in the evening when the kids are in bed). Let yourself imagine the best possible work-life balance scenario – it may just be possible but you won’t know unless you ask. As they say, shy bears get no sweets. Have a few ideas up your sleeve about how you will manage emergency situations i.e. supports you can call in or a ‘making up time’ arrangement with your manager.

Simplify your routine

The small things like prepping and freezing meals on weekends ready for the week ahead, getting the kids to lay out their clothes and packing school bags the night before etc all help. With any challenge you face ask yourself: what is the simplest way to do this? (as apposed to easiest or best as these imply there is a right way to do things when really we’re after what feels most supportive).

Be consistent and open with your child/ren

Your kids may push you at times (not always consciously) especially when the other parent is absent. If what they are presenting doesn’t feel good to you stand your ground but keep it consistent and keep communication open. Explain to them the real reason why or why not you made that decision. Yes, a tantrum or argument may ensue still but if we discuss it afterwards there’s a foundation of understanding for the next round the disagreement or reaction comes up. The outcome can be significantly different.

Accept the To-Do list will never be done

And  some days the house doesn’t look and feel as harmonious as you’d like. Letting go of being it all and doing it all can give you the space to really enjoy this time as a sole parent. You and the kids have a great opportunity to work (and play) together which – amongst any sacrifice or chaos – can lead to a time of great growth for you all.

Make self care a priority

This should really be at the top because if we don’t look after ourselves how can we truly look after another. How do you find the time with 3 kids and a job? It’s a combination of utilising the above points, making the small moments count (like when you’re applying make up – really being present with yourself) and scheduling in some me-time. Me-time gives you a chance to steady yourself amongst the busyness of life. Even 5 minutes can do wonders if it is solely focused on reconnecting to yourself. The Unimed Living website is excellent for self care tips. Here is a link to ten free 5-15 minute meditations you can do before bed.

Appreciate all that you are

Take moments regularly to appreciate all that you are able to do to support yourself and your family. Despite what you think at time it’s highly likely you are doing an amazing job… you’re not perfect and things aren’t always smooth sailing but you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got most of the time. The power in appreciating yourself can, in itself, alleviate a lot of stress, guilt and worry.