– By Allison
Juggling soccer, gymnastics, Spanish class, swim lessons and homework in addition to daily tasks like working, cooking and conquering the never-ending laundry pile can be a challenge for any household. Add in that you are a single parent and the workload triples.
You are the only one there to run children from one activity to the next, feed them a healthy meal, wash the uniform, remember to pack lunch and cheer on your favorite goalie.
Is it possible? Can the kids still stay active? Can you still be on the PTA and run a household? Sure, but it takes flexibility, organization and the guts to ask for help when you need it.
“You have so many things, and people, that pull you in all different directions. I learned that it is okay to say ‘no,’” said Tracy K., Sheboygan Falls, Wis. She was a single mom for 10 years, since her children were two and four. Throughout the years she kept her children involved in extra-curricular activities while encouraging them and helping them do well at school.
Not only did Tracy help the children with their activities and school, but she also worked fulltime and went to college full time. In order to accomplish it “all” she learned to let go of the things she couldn’t get done or the events that she couldn’t attend.
“Because of school, I missed some meetings, and some games. I was very lucky that I had my parents to step in and attend on my behalf. My kids have a great relationship with their grandparents. My parents have always been there for them and me,” she said.
Being organized with a master calendar that allows room for detail is critical to keeping your head on straight. I write down everything from game times and locations to doctor appointments, library book due dates, snack days and so much more. Should I forget to put something on the calendar, it’s likely to be forgotten.
Tracy made lots of lists to keep herself organized (I do too!). “Being organized and prioritizing tasks around the house is key,” said Tracy. “You can't get it all done...and you need to be okay with that.”
Calling in your resources for backup can also be helpful, and might involve swallowing your pride, because really, who wants to admit they need help?
If you have the option of calling upon the children’s father for help in transporting to and from games, or watching the children while you run out, all the better. Inlaws, grandparents and siblings can also be of help; and don’t be afraid to ask parents of those on the team to drop off or pick up if you aren’t available. Because ultimately, it’s not about your pride, but about doing the best for your children.
Tracy hopes that her children learn from her experiences. “I think by me going to college while they were young, they were able to see how important it is to go to college right after high school,” she said. “They could see my struggles of balancing work, school and my kids and our home and all the extras.”
Through the years Tracy’s children have continued to thrive, do well in school, stay active and enjoy spending time with their grandparents, mom and stepdad.
“What I learned most during those years, is that my children are what’s important,” Tracy said. “I kept the lines of communication open by eating dinner with them and reconnecting by asking about their day and reviewing our plans for the next day.”
In our house, dinner also serves as a time to connect. We have one meal (no options for anything else!) and we fold our hands to pray, with each child having the opportunity to add their concerns or goodwill. Then we take turns throughout the meal, going around the table discussing our best and worst parts of the day. It’s a great way to learn about what they did, and for them to hear about what made my day too.
So can you be a single parent, work and still let the kids participate in activities outside of school? Yes, but be willing to suck in your pride and ask for help when you need it!