Single parents are pulled in many directions.  There’s so much demand on your time and attention, and sooner or later you’ll get overwhelmed.  Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be.  Implement these 5 important “must haves”, and start living life instead of life living you.

1. A Schedule

There are some activities that just have to get done daily, monthly, and yearly.  If you know ahead of time what and when things need to get done it places you that much further ahead.  No longer will you spend all your time putting out fires and addressing issues as they come up.

Of course you want some flexibility in your schedule for the unexpected, but if you’re living too spontaneously, important tasks will get overlooked.  You don’t want to be driving to work and get pulled over because you forgot to renew your license plates.  You don’t want your child to miss a field trip at school because you didn’t fill out the permission slip.

Having a family calendar easily accessible to everyone is a great tool.  If you have an uncertain work schedule that changes from week to week help your children, sitters, and others plan their activities by posting it on the calendar.  Keep track of seasonal chores, when bills are due, and school activities.  People will start seeing you as the “Supermom/dad” you really are.

2. A Menu/Meal Plan

Stopping at fast food joints is expensive and unhealthy.  Schedule one day each month, or every other week, to plan and cook for the entire month.  Chop vegetables, make homemade sauces, and prepare meals to freeze.  If you have items ready to throw together it not only makes food preparation easier and faster, but it also saves on you money.

If you aren’t sure about making a meal plan, start writing down everything you eat for a month, or ask your children for menu ideas.  You probably already know their favorite meals, but having their input makes it simpler for them to accept homemade meals.

Knowing what your menu/meal plan helps you schedule your shopping trips.  The last thing you want to do after a long day at work is spend time at the grocery store.  Not only will you have to unpack, put away, and then cook what you bring home, but you’ll save money and the physical stress to your body if you go shopping on a none working day.  You want to be rested and mentally prepared to navigate the grocery store isles.

3.  Sounding Board or Confidante

If you have a good relationship with your ex-spouse, or the other parent, then you might be temped to go to them for support and help in trying times.  This is not a good idea in the long run.  It is important for you to co-parent with your ex, but you’d do well to leave it at that.  You will need a trusted friend or family member to rely on.  Decisions, tasks, and situations will arise where you’ll need someone to talk things over.  Having a shoulder to lean on with an objective view is invaluable.

4.  Schedule Play Time

Providing for the physical needs of the children dominates a single parents life.  If you are taking care of their basic needs of a roof over their head, food on the table, and clothing then the worry and guilt should be minimized.  But when they complain about not having wants and desires we become consumed with wanting to please them.  What children really need is emotional and spiritual support through interaction with us.

Spending lighthearted, fun, playful moments with them will increase their self-esteem.  Getting down on the floor, jumping on a trampoline, winding your way through a jungle gym, and swinging to great heights with your children shows them how important they are to you.  Taking time from a busy schedule to meet them at their level will go a long way in strengthening that child/parent bond.

5.  Personal time and space

Everyone needs alone time to function properly.  Having your own room, or quiet space, to purge the angst and worries from your mind is an absolute necessity.  Single parents protect children from the cares of the world by hiding fear and worry, but when emotions build up you need a place where tender eyes and hearts will not be party to the release.  While sharing some issues with children may make them more resilient they can become overloaded if too much worry and fear are heaped upon them.

You should also schedule once or twice a month time away from the children.  Spend an evening with friends, go out on a date, or better by far get some daily exercise.  Take opportunities for alone time to build your own self-esteem.  Most of all remember mistakes will be made, but they do not define you as a parent.  You are doing the best you can, and that’s all anyone, even you, can expect.

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