1. The key: organization
Routines often have negative connotations due to their lack of spontaneity. However, they are a must-have in the world of a single parent.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, chaos and stress, create a family schedule that lists the following elements:
- Extracurricular activities
- Holidays and birthdays
- Errands to run
An application like Wunderlist can also help you organize lists and errands and will even send you reminders.
The goal is to implement a routine (especially during the week) that provides your kids with much-needed stability.
This exercise requires you to prioritize and not waste your precious time on the irrelevant and unnecessary, while empowering your kids to carry out their fair share of the chores.
And if your calendar is filled with never-ending events and things to do, then maybe it is time to learn how to say no and free up some unstructured blocks of time in your schedule.
2. Keep your finances in order
Living on a single salary is no small feat! You have to pay a lot of expenses by yourself:
- Phone, Internet and cable TV
- Childcare expenses
- Bank fees
It is essential to make a budget and ask your bank advisor for help to get a clear idea about your income and expenses.
Resist the urge to use credit to maintain the lifestyle you once enjoyed. You will be faced with a few tough choices that will force you to reinvent your life and make some sacrifices along the way.
As your marital status has changed, you could qualify for extra financial support (from both federal and provincial governments), starting with the Canada Child Benefit.
3. The art of surrounding yourself with support
Living alone with your kids does not mean you are cut off from the rest of the world. Quite the opposite, your social network and family connections can help you avoid feeling isolated and allow you to take a break from your whirlwind routine.
Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather acknowledging you are a human being who can only do so much.
Your loved ones are there to support and listen to you without judgement. There are also several organizations in your community that can connect you with other parents living the same reality:
- Support networks
- Family centres
- Single-parent family associations
If your ex-partner is completely out of the picture, do not underestimate the value a positive parental role model can have on a child’s development.
4. Time for yourself
A single parent’s automatic reflex is to put everyone’s needs before their own.
In a single-parent household, there is always a long to-do list that can’t be shared with anyone else.
You have only limited time to be completely off the clock, where you can really unwind and think only about yourself.
Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to take a break for some self-care to recharge your batteries. Set aside time in your schedule as an appointment with yourself. It is just as important as a trip to the dentist or a parent-teacher meeting!
For the rest, see tip 3 above for ideas about who can watch your kids while you are taking time to focus on yourself.
5. Guilt belongs in the trash bin!
It is normal to feel consumed with guilt when your family life is disrupted after a divorce.
During this period, your internal hamster will be the most active and you will ask yourself endless questions about whether your kids will be left with scars from the divorce.
Stop running around in circles. Feelings of guilt are useless and cause you to waste time dwelling on dark thoughts.
You cannot change the past that has led to your new reality, but you can definitely reset your current state of mind to make sure that the here and now goes forward in the most positive way possible.
Remember that you were not a perfect parent even with a partner by your side.
Is that clean laundry to fold starting to pile up?
Remind yourself there are only 24 hours in a day and a cloning process has not yet been perfected.
There is no point adding the burden of guilt to your overwhelmed shoulders.
You’re already doing everything you can and it’s best to focus on the essential: the well-being of your children.