Life is all about balance. Whether you are trying to balance your family with your career, or your dietary choices against your health – balance is possible. The honest question is not whether or not it CAN be done but rather HOW to do it.
As a single mom it’s important you have a stable means of putting food on the table and a roof over your heads. On the other hand, there is just one parent for your children so you end up being the chief cook, financial planner, provider, caregiver and superintendent of schools.
With all this on your shoulders, you likely have already learned the art of balance. But, what you may find challenging is balancing something just for you in a schedule that revolves around your children. In other words, it may be necessary to overcome guilt first, before you can use strategies to balance advancing your career with romantic relationships and those with your children.
While this isn’t always easy, balancing your life has significant benefits for your children and makes a long-term impact on their lives. As you survey your life and the commitments you have made, consider if you would like to change your standard of living so you can work less, or increase it so you can afford a few luxuries that give you more time with your family – such as a housekeeper, or after school sitter who drives your children to after school programs and cooks dinner.
Although pursuing a demanding career is time-consuming, it also may allow you these options that free up more of your time. The added income may also increase your own self-esteem and feelings of power over other challenges in your life, that in turn have positive benefits for your children.
But, what if you want to have it all?
Great family life
Is that possible?
The reality is that it is as possible as you are willing to compromise. There are only so many hours in each day. You won’t find more and you won’t get less. But, in order to have it all, so to speak, you have to fully use each one.
Remember the choices you make are not permanent and it’s perfectly acceptable to change your mind later. A good friend of mine chose to take a significant pay cut and put her career on hold for 7 years until her daughter graduated high school so she could attend every event and spend quality time with her. She didn’t regret her decision because she PLANNED it.
She worked in a job that kept her current and allowed her to continue to advance up the ladder when she was ready. She’s currently interviewing for jobs around the country and the salary range is more than she gave up. This does NOT mean this happens for everyone, but the likelihood you can do it is higher when you make a plan, watch your step and stick with it.
As you consider your schedule, time, children and desire for romance and career, remember you must also schedule downtime where you recharge your own batteries – away from partners, children, and your job. This means driving to work in the morning is NOT your downtime, nor is the time you spend watching movies with your children or dinners out with your partner.
You know what drives you and keeps the motor running. For me, it’s the hour I spend every day working out. When I don’t work out my whole day is different. I may not have as much patience, be as productive or even as creative.
Identify what you need, and how often you need it, to be sure you schedule it.
You will live on a calendar. It’s the only way to keep everything straight. And, with as easy as it is today to add a calendar to your phone and share with your family, it’s important to take advantage of this strategy.
Share your calendar with your children and be sure you all add EVERYTHING to it – work, school, dates, after school events, sports, and anything else your family participates in.
Talk with your boss about being able to be flexible with your schedule at work. There may be some tasks you can achieve at home, so you and your children are doing homework together. It may give you enough time to be there when school ends and attend most of their after-school events.
Find quality childcare. When you aren’t worried about your children during the day you’ll be more productive and creative and your children will be much happier when you all arrive home. Being more relaxed at home may mean organizing your morning the night before. Make lunches, lay out clothes, and have everyone shower the night before so morning is easier, faster and you and the family are not frazzled when you start the day.
Even if you can’t make changes to your hours at work, making small changes at home may have big consequences for you and your children.
Leave it at the door
When you come home, leave your stress from work at the door. You may remember how much your ex’s stress after work irritated you – well the same happens for your children. If you need to, take a 10-minute walk before getting home or a 10-minute shower after you arrive to relax. Your children will be able to pick up on your moods, so if you’re tense, they will be too. Two tense people make for more arguments and bad moods all around.
Dinner at the table
Research shows that families who eat together often have better emotional bonds and the children pay greater attention to instructions from the parents. These family dinners are a wonderful time to hear about their day, tell them about yours and share the little details that make you a family.
Spend an hour with your children
This is time away from the dinner table, just you and the kids without any other distractions. Put the electronics away to play a game, go for a walk, watch a movie or go out for ice cream. When you consistently spend time with your children, the odd days you’re out on a date won’t leave such a hole in their lives.
Make bedtime special
Your children don’t need, or want, full-on entertainment. What they want is your presence while they are playing in the tub, or have you read them a bedtime story. Even when they can read, it’s about you and them, not about what you’re doing. This gives them a foundation each evening.
Listen to your body clock
Are you a morning person? Get up early to get your workout in before work, or to finish that project. If you’d rather sleep an extra hour, then stay up to finish. The important thing is to listen to your body clock and work with it, not against it.
If moving to a different community may shorten your commute, give your children a better school system or improve your opportunities, it may be time to pull up stakes and get it done.
Your children are likely experts at using digital communication. If you aren’t, it’s time you became an expert. Staying in touch while you’re gone is one way that will help reduce feelings of isolation for both of you. Text messages, sending pictures of yourself or recording a video on snapchat for your child helps to bridge the gap until you’re together again. If you can’t be at an event, ask a friend to record it for you and watch it with your child later. If you can’t be home at bedtime, record yourself reading a book, or whatever you and your child normally do, for the sitter to play. If you have younger children record your voice in a stuffed animal for them to carry during the day.
While these strategies won’t give you more time in your day, they will help you utilize the time you do have more productively. When you want to spend time with a romantic partner your children will be more secure in your relationship and know that you’ll be available when they need you.