Single Parent Life Hacks: Work, Dating and Wellness

As a single mom with an active career, I find myself struggling with managing my time and energy so I’m not constantly scraping the bottom, running on empty or raiding the freezer for emotional support in the form of chocolate chip cookies. I’ve read many books and listened to friends’ theories on parenting and after all of that, I defined my own style as “Survivalist Parenting.” This means pursuing the same goal of most parents — raising a happy, well-adjusted, productive member of society (or at least Pre-K) — but without the time-consuming niceties of a photo-heavy Pinterest page, homemade Halloween costumes or a perfectly prepared dinner on a nightly basis.

Instead I focus on what works — doing what needs to be done to keep my daughter and me moving forward while emphasizing enjoying as many positive experiences as possible along the way (i.e. mommy/daughter pedicures).

In the last five years, I’ve developed some life hacks I can’t live without. Each has significantly improved the balance in my life and returned much more happiness than effort. Hopefully these tips will help you confront and conquer your own single-parent dilemmas.

Work

Don’t flex on flexibility

A single working parent’s life is the epitome of spontaneity: you don’t know what will be thrown at you next and you already have more balls in the air than you know what to do with. Don’t be afraid to request work from home days or flexible hours at your job so you don’t have to stress every time your child has a doctor’s appointment or the car needs an oil change. If your work doesn’t offer these incentives, keep your options open for a position that offers a better work-life balance.

Get your groceries delivered!

Maybe I’m the last one to hear this but, just in case, did you know you can have groceries delivered straight to your kitchen counter? What a novel idea, right? Services such as PeaPod and FreshDirect and, in some cases, your local grocery store, have apps that let you add groceries to your virtual “cart” on the fly as you think of what you need. What does this have to do with work? It’s a timesaver: ordering groceries from your phone during a break allows you to focus on getting your projects done without the stress of worrying about an extra stop at the store at the end of a long day. One more thing checked off the ever-daunting to-do list.

Love what you do

It’s no secret that the more you like what you do, the better you feel about doing it. The better you feel about your work, the happier and more confident you will be at the end of the day. You don’t need to settle. Find something fulfilling and you can, in turn, give that sense of fulfillment to your kids.

Dating

Don’t waste time on low-probability first dates

If you don’t have defined criteria that someone must meet to earn a first date, then make a resolution of what you won’t settle for right now! Here are two to live by: If he or she hasn’t made you laugh or acknowledged you have a kid before you officially meet, a complex algorithm I’ve developed from years of personal experience has shown a high likelihood the date will be dull or your dude or dudette may be subconsciously distressed about the “family scene” (and is likely pretending you don’t have one).

If you’re putting in more effort than he (or she) is — cut ’em loose!

Your life is hard enough; don’t spend time with anyone who makes it harder. Some may say relationships are 50/50, but I’m a natural-born giver and I’d be happy for a 60/40 split. But there are times when you find yourself in an 80/20 split where you are exhausted from making all of the effort and your significant other is reaping all of the benefits. Cut ’em loose and find someone who can meet you in the middle. My best friend told me 15 years ago that your “debits” going out should be equal to your “credits” coming in. I wish I had listened to her back then!

Take breaks

Let’s face it, dating can be exhausting. You aren’t a marathon runner — and if you are, then you’re probably run-down from real-life running. Stop and take breaks if you find yourself overwhelmed or disenchanted. A little “me time” isn’t selfish and has been proven to help singles of any age!

Wellness

While these tips may not fit the traditional definition of “wellness,” they will help lead you to a better overall mental and emotional state.

Stop looking for a spouse and find a helper!

Many single parents are out there dating, looking for a companion or even a future spouse. For a long time, I thought this strategy would make my life easier. Then I came across the idea of a “mother’s helper” — a friend (who I pay) comes over once a week to play with my daughter while I make dinner and help me take care of “house stuff” (she even knows how to hang things with those elusive anchors.) My daughter benefits from more engagement and I go to bed more relaxed because my to-do list has been cut in half.

Buy yourself a present

There is no reason to have present-envy when friends’ significant others are treating them on Valentine’s Day or their birthday. Go out and indulge in something special for yourself on those holidays. You are to be celebrated, especially by you!

Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparing yourself to others only leads to one thing: feelings of inadequacy. There is always something someone is doing better than you. Take it from me, I spend far too much time comparing myself to others and end up drowning in inadequacy. It’s only when I stop to measure myself against where I’ve come from and look forward to where I want to go that I see the many accomplishments achieved along the path that I’m on.

In the end, the one thing that will improve your work, dating and wellness is to remember that you are enough just as you are: strong and driven, imperfect and exhausted. Cut yourself a break by following these hacks — and please add ones you have found that help create a little more sanity at the end of each day.

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