There are more single moms in the workplace than ever before. A recent survey revealed that working moms have increased significantly in recent years. It was once thought that this trend was largely limited to the poor and minorities. In this “new age,” single motherhood has become the new norm. This is due largely to the shift in our society that it is socially accepted to be an unwed mother. This was virtually unheard of a decade ago.
Often, being a full-time mom and the only breadwinner can lead to feelings of guilt and stress. Life can become difficult when you have to divide your priorities between work and family. The key is to develop a plan, get organized and find the right balance to keep your life centered.
1. Get Rid of the Guilt
Instead of concentrating on the time you’re not spending with your children, be grateful that you have a job to be able to provide for the things your children need and want. It might be something as simple as buying that costume for the school play or saving for your child’s college education.
Successful single moms have found ways to be efficient in both of their worlds. That requires you to come to terms with the choices you have made and then to focus on our priorities at the moment. Is it better to spend time with your children and not have the sufficient means to enjoy that time or to spend quality time with you children and be able to truly enjoy the experience?
You are going to have to accept the fact that you will have good days and some not so good days. You are not alone in this situation. If you are having trouble balancing these two worlds, reach out to other Mothers. There are local Mom blogs, such as www.workingmomsagainstguilt.com and Lisa Pierson Weinberger: Mom Esq. that you can reference for support.
2. Good Childcare
This is probably one of the leading indicators of your inability to balance your work and family. You have to be 100% satisfied that your children are in a safe, clean and positive environment that holds similar principles to yours as it relates to child rearing.
Solicit input from your friends, neighbors and family members for a reference on a good day care, nanny and babysitter. Sit down and come up with a list of your criteria that is important to you. Make appointments to sit down and interview qualified day care providers and tour your area centers. It is recommended that you hire nannies that have a long history with one family. This will show you that the prospective hiree has experience with multiple age groups. This shows that they are adaptable to the varying demands of a wide range of children. The needs of an infant is far different that a child coming home from school with homework.
I would recommend that you schedule a paid play date with center or home care provider that you are considering. This will allow you to observe and evaluate the child care provider whether in the home or in a day care facility. How does the child care provider interact with your child? How is your child reacting to the environment? I would recommend that you visit facilities during meal times. This will let you see the nutritional value of the facility.
A good day care provider should have extensive experience, excellent references, and a record to prove it. A good day care facility should have flexible hours, a good teacher to child ratio, outdoor space, up-to-date licenses, and employees who have had their backgrounds checked.
3. The Mornings Can Be Easier
You can make your mornings a lot easier if you begin to get organized the night before. There are a lot of tasks that can be completed before going to bed:
- Pack the kids’ lunch
- Lay out their clothes and yours
- Have everyone shower
- Decide what you’re going to prepare for breakfast
- Repack diaper bags, backpacks, purses or workbags and place at the door. This way, you can grab everything on your way out.
You would be surprised at how much time this will free up in your mornings with these “small” tasks already completed.
4. Create A Family Calendar
You probably have quite a lot going on in your life today. It’s very easy to become totally overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything. A family calendar helps you to identify your family priorities on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. A family calendar can include:
- Dates when bills are due
- A chart listing chores for your children
- Family and school events
- Extra curriculum activities
You can use “google calendar” or just an old fashion paper calendar to keep track of your life. I would suggest that you set aside about 15 minutes every Sunday to review and update your upcoming week’s calendar of activities. This will help to minimize any surprises that might crop up.
You should discuss and share the calendar with all family members that are impacted. This keeps everybody up to date on what activities are scheduled. It will also allow you to consider over-lapping activities. Being organized also means having designated places for things. Decide on a “family command center” that you keep keys, chargers, batteries, etc. in. This will save you time and improve the efficiency in your home and your overall well-being.
5. Talk To Your Employer
Every employer is different and you should check with HR to see if there is any policy regarding your ability to be flexible. If your job allows you to work from home, you might present a plan to employer to cover days that your child may be sick and unable to attend day care. It might be helpful to talk to other mothers in your office to see how they have handled unforeseen situations with their children. This will give you an idea of your employer’s tolerance and attitude towards single parenting.
Moms inquiring about maternity leave should ask some specific questions when speaking with your Supervisor. The two most important questions are, “how much time can I take off” and “how much of that time will I be paid for?” You might want to also ask if you can use short term disability or vacation/sick time to cover some of your time off. It’s always best to get everything clarified to cut down on any confusion later on.
6. Minimize Distractions and Time Wasters
There are so many distractions during the course of your day that if you are not careful, you will not have accomplished anything by the end of your day. Can you wait until the children are asleep before you check your emails and return phone calls? How much time do you spend watching television when you could be spending quality time with your children?
When you’re at work, be mindful of time wasters. You want to have a good rapport with your co-workers, but those water cooler conversations usually aren’t productive and waste a lot of time. If you have a chair in your office, try putting papers in it. This will keep people from sitting down and getting comfortable. Be mindful of your email exchanges, internet surfing, and office gossip. These are known time wasters.
7. Special Family Activities
It’s important to spend time with your children, but, like everything else, it must be structured. If you’re like most parents, your children are involved in after-school activities that might consume most of your weekday time. Try to schedule some family activities on the weekend. It does not necessarily mean going somewhere. It might be family game night on Friday night. As your children get older, you might let them accompany you to the grocery store and make it a fun and learning experience. Create games focusing on health and nutrition. It involves your children in meal planning while also making them conscious of good eating habits.
8. Make Time For Yourself
Single parenting can be one of the most stressful jobs you can have. If you don’t carve out some time for yourself, you’ll burn out and not be good for anyone. If you learn to manage your time wisely, you can fit in valuable “me” time. A refreshing break might be all you need to re-charge your battery. You must manage your energy well since you are dividing your time between your family and your career.
Do you like to read? Lose yourself in a book before going to sleep or take a bubble bath. You have to fit in time for you. Many women spend their entire lives taking care of other people, only to have those people grow up and leave to live their own lives. Exercising, hobbies, eating well and getting your proper rest are simple things that the smartest Moms sometimes forget.
9. Learn How To Say No
Have you ever wondered why women feel like they have to be all things to all people? If you are having a hard time staying on top of everything you’ve got going on in your life, it might be because you have over-committed If you’re like most Moms, you don’t like to refuse favors, casual requests or even additional responsibilities. You’re afraid that it will make you look bad or that you’re not a team player.
Get out of the habit of accepting “to do’s” just because someone asks you. You have a right to say “NO” without feeling guilty or as if you have disappointed someone. Always check your calendar before you agree to something. It is far worse to commit to doing something and not coming through than it is to turn it down in the first place. When it’s too much, don’t be afraid to refuse. Just say, “NO!”
10. Have a Conversation With Yourself
Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I happy?”This may not be the life that you thought you would be living, but it is life. Sometimes life won’t turn out like you planned it but the key to happiness is accepting what is and making the best of it. No one is happy all the time, but you should feel a sense of balance and order.
If you aren’t happy with your life, determine what areas you’re dissatisfied with. Then come up with what you can do to make your life better. Be honest with yourself; this is your life and you are the only one who can make it all that you want it to be. If you can’t admit the hard questions to yourself, all the organizing and time management in the world won’t help you.
Achieving balance between your work and family life is a long and sometimes, tedious process. The only way to achieve that balance is to make a conscious decision to work at it to achieve it. If make wise decisions on the important things in your life, you’ll make great strides in achieving the balance you need to live a life that you can love and enjoy.