Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Balancing Act


One of the biggest battles as a single parent is  finding the right balance between life and kids.  While the two kinda go hand-in-hand, it's still important to have a life outside of your children, whether you're a single parent or not. 

Work.  For some parents, working is optional.  If it is for you, great!  But the reality is, for most single parents, we are working out of necessity.  We have to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs...and if we have a little leftover money for some fun, it's like a bonus!  The thing is, regardless of your job, it's so important that you are able to step away from it from time-to-time.  I've heard stories of single parents that have to work 90 hours a week just to make ends meet and if this is you, finding a way to get away from work probably seems next-to-impossible.  The thing we have to remember is, in the grand scheme of things, work is (probably) always going to be there but our children aren't.  During my own daughter's formative years, I made the (tough) decision to live on a little less and spend a little more time at home, working only 3-4 days a week instead of 5.  But even if you can't cut back on the amount of hours or days that you work, you can make a commitment to focus on your children and spend some quality time with them at home.  Build the bonds and the memories that will last for their lifetime.

Housework.  Then there's also the work that we come home the house, laundry, washing dishes, etc, etc.  I think one of the greatest things you can do is get your children involved!  Just this week I heard on the radio that 1 in 4 children today do nothing to help around the house...but not at our house!  My own daughter, Libby, has had a "chore list" since she was 3.  Of course, it's not like I had her scrubbing the toilets that she had just gotten the hang of using.  We started small - things like picking up toys and feeding our pet cat (which has since run away, but she is now in charge of feeding our dog).  Every year or so I try to reassess her capabilities and her responsibilities in the home.  For instance, when she was 4 years old, Libby also had the job of matching socks when I did laundry.  It was a good, simple learning task for her at the time.  But last year, I started having her fold the can't really go wrong with folding socks.  It was a great way to get her to help around the house.  Not only does sharing the housework with your child take some of the load off yourself, but it also teaches them responsibility and builds character. 

Kids.  Sometimes it can be tough to figure out how to spend some quality time with our kiddos, especially when the budget is tight.  But one of the best things any parent can do for their child is to make sure that you eat meals together as a family.  At our house, I try to make it a priority for us to share our mealtime.  And if dinner is going to be pretty simple to put together, I'll even let my daughter help, which she absolutely loves!  Other things that we do together include her swim meets (I try to be at every one to show my support for her...after all, I'm her #1 fan!), "movie nights" (where we either rent a movie or watch one from our personal collection), reading together, and just going to local parks and hanging out.  Sometimes I wish I could do more things with her that cost money like amusement parks, zoos, indoor playgrounds, etc...Not that we never do those things but for us they are kinda few and far between.  But what I have to remind myself (and maybe some of you need this reminder too) is that taking time out of our busy single parent lives may be tricky but it's well worth it when our children realize just how much we value our time together.

Other relationships.  As much as I love to spend time with my daughter, I also realize that there's a value in spending time away from her too.  When I go on trips or spend some time hanging out with some of my girlfriends or go on a date with my awesome boyfriend :), I revitalize myself.  It keeps me sane!  I don't necessarily enjoy having to pay for a baby-sitter but I know that we need that time apart (aside from the time spent working).  I treasure that special time that Libby and I spend doing something special together (like our "bucket list") but we both need some time apart.  Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?  :)

Anything else I'm leaving out that's hanging in the balance?  How do you handle everything on your plate?  Please may help the rest of us out!


  1. I'm not a single parent, but I want to mention that one of the ways I find balance as a mom is in using periods of "unavoidable delay" as times to connect with my child. For example, when he was 2-5 years old he went to a preschool that was near my office but a two-bus commute from home, so we spent long portions of each weekday waiting for buses and riding buses. We spent that time talking, playing certain games (these went through phases) at the bus stops and on the walks between places, and reading aloud. Of course there were some days when I felt like we'd never get home and he was really getting on my nerves and I'd rather be thinking adult things--but overall, it was a very special time for us and a major tool for shaping him into my kind of person.

    And then when we got home, I didn't feel guilty about turning him over to Daddy for a while, and I didn't feel pressured to work in some "quality time" amid all the things I had to do at home. The quality time was built into our routine.

    He's 7 now and goes to school near home. Our walk there each morning is a special time when we sing a certain song together and then talk or I tell him stories of my childhood. His walk home with his dad is a special time for them. By making the travel time double as bonding time, we have a little more freedom in our management of the rest of the time.

    1. Becca,
      Thanks so much for sharing! What a fantastic idea to take advantage of that time that you are already spending together during commutes! I have to admit, I am very guilty of hopping in the car with my daughter and cranking up the radio but I'm going to think twice before I turn the radio up tomorrow...