As a paralegal, I try to control everything around me. A co-worker recently commented that I was a “control freak” and, to be honest, she is correct. For single parents, it may feel as if they are out of control most of the time as they struggle to balance home and work. When they are at work, they worry about home and vice versa. Single parents struggle with feelings of guilt because they must be away from home to support their child but, at the same time, they know they need to be an active parent in their child’s life. This can create a significant amount of stress for single parents. However, there are ways that single parents can balance work and home successfully.
Learn to pick your battles
Accept the fact that you are not perfect because neither is life. You are not able to control every thing that comes your way at work or at home. No matter how many hours you work, you will never be the perfect employee. Likewise, no matter what you do at home your child is going to make mistakes. Learn to pick the battles that make a difference in the end. Using all your energy proving you were right and your co-worker was wrong really will not amount to much if you miss your kid’s soccer game. At the same time, who cares if your son is eating his broccoli as long as the two of you are eating your meals together?
Have a support system
There is no shame in asking for and accepting help. As a single parent, there will be times when your work life and your home life clash. When this happens, you need someone that you can count on to pitch in with some help. Whether it is a co-worker that you can count on or a friend who can pick up your child at school, you need to develop a circle of friends and family for support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it shows that you love your child and can put your pride aside for his benefit.
Make time for your health
As a single parent, it is tempting to place your health on the back burner. Putting off routine checkups, going without sleep and not exercising is bad for you and your child. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Choose an activity that you can do with your child to get exercise – – walking, hiking, swimming, bicycling, etc. You can exercise while you spend time with your child. Schedule doctor’s appointments for yourself on the same day as your child’s checkups to make it more convenient.
As a paralegal, you are already familiar with time management skills so apply those to your home life. Create routines to provide structure for your child – – having scheduled times for meals, homework, bedtime, etc. helps avoid chaos. Schedule blocks of time for grocery shopping, paying bills, doing homework and cleaning house but do not forget to schedule time for having fun with your child. The key to balancing work and home when you are a single parent is time management. Apply the same skills you use at work to your home. However, remember to be flexible, even the best plans occasionally go wrong.
Join a single parents group
Realize that you are not alone – – there are other single working parents out there in need of support just like you. Instead of doing everything alone, join a group of other single parents for trips to the playground, movies or museums. Having others to socialize with who truly understand the challenges you face is comforting. It is also nice to do things with other parents without feeling like a “third wheel” because you are the only single parent in the crowd.
Find a work schedule that is best for you
As a single parent, working full time is a challenge; however, because of technology we no longer are tied to an office desk. If you need flexible working hours, discuss telecommuting with your employer. Even if you cannot work from home full-time, you may be able to find a work schedule that is more flexible. For example, you may be able to leave the office in time to pick up your child from school and finish the day from home.
Let go of the guilt and plan for the inevitable
There will be times when your work life encroaches on your home life and you will be unable to avoid it. This is not a failure on your part as a parent – – it is simply a fact of working. Remember that working is also important as this provides for the needs of your child. You should not feel guilty for promoting your career and taking steps to ensure your job stability.
The key to successfully balancing your job and your child is planning. Assume that things will occasionally fall apart and have a plan in place for those times. When things go wrong, deal with it and move forward. Becoming bogged down in feelings of guilt and regret will only make tomorrow more difficult. Providing a safe and loving home for your child is your first priority. Working is part of how you accomplish this.