Strategies for finding better work-life balance as a single parent.
Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash
Maintaining a household as a single parent is a full-time job. You have to cook all the meals, clean all the rooms, make all the school runs, and still find time to give your kids all the love and attention they need. At the same time, you have to go to work and keep up high performance to ensure that you are advancing your career. If you’re career-driven, it’s easy to become stressed out and ignore your own well-being while you strive for a promotion or big opportunity at work.
However, ignoring your own needs will only lead to stress and burnout. Instead, you need to find a work-life balance that suits you and your children.
Career advancement opportunities
You may feel conflicted about pursuing career advancement opportunities while looking after children by yourself. You don’t want to add more responsibilities to your plate, but you do want to achieve your goals and increase your income to better support your family. You may even feel a sense of guilt when taking time away from home to better your chances of promotion.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to advance your career as a single parent that doesn’t require you to forgo your responsibility to your children. Once you’ve assessed your career goals, you can set about earning certifications and attending conferences that make sense for you. Lean on your personal network to get help from family and friends, and consider seeking tuition assistance from your employer if further education will make you better at your job.
Pursuing career advancement opportunities will take you away from your home from time to time. Depending on the age of your children and your ability to find support, you may need to forgo some of these opportunities for the time being. However, if your children are old enough to care for themselves for an evening, don’t use them as a crutch to hold yourself back from advancing your career.
If conferences or training days do take you away from home, explain to your children why you won’t be around. Clear communication with your children will help them understand that you’re pursuing opportunities to better provide for them. This will set a positive example and help them understand why they’re spending a few days with their grandparents or babysitter.
Working from home
Working remotely can be a great way to free up time and spend more of your day on yourself or your kids. Cutting out the commute can also save you money, which you can reinvest into things like health clubs, trips for your family, or simple self-care goods.
Further, commuting to work is bad for your health — mentally and physically. You can feel uncertain and anxious about traffic. Commutes are also often confounded by poor infrastructure and high rates of accidents. Public transportation can even open up the possibility of infection. Without that burden at the beginning and end of your work days, you will be more mentally and physically healthy to deal with work tasks and child-rearing duties.
Mental health days
Nixing commutes and exploring further education opportunities can help you be more productive during the workday. However, you are still liable to get burnt out as a single parent and need a little extra time off to help recover from a particularly challenging school run or week at work.
When you start to feel burnt out, consider taking a mental health day. A mental health day can help you maintain a healthier work-life balance by giving you the space you need to refocus and recharge your batteries.
Try to plan mental health days for weekdays when you know your children will be at school or otherwise occupied. It may sound selfish, but taking a day to decompress without the stress of childcare can help you see more clearly. In the long run, this will help you become a better, more engaged parent as you won’t be chasing your own tail while you should be caring for your kids.
When to say “no”
It’s sometimes hard to say “no” when everyone around you is advancing their career or taking their kids to exciting events. However, if you are constantly available to everyone, then you are making yourself unavailable to the most important people in your life — yourself and your children.
As a working, single parent you may even find that saying “no” does more to advance your career than agreeing to everything. You have a limited amount of energy and time, so protecting that time should be your priority. If you are constantly working on side projects and extra tasks, your day-to-day performance will slip. Learning to say “no” ensures that you have an impressive body of work and remain able to find time for interests and hobbies outside of that work.
Finding a work-life balance as a single parent is tough. No amount of planning can account for rush deadlines, school buses that break down, or conference requests. You can protect your free time and get more from your personal and professional life by learning to say “no” and taking mental health days when you need them.