8 Tips for Maximizing Your 5-to-9 as a Single Parent

The most difficult and rewarding job on earth is your job as a parent. And while your 9-to-5 is important, the time spent with your kids – your 5-to-9 – is even more important. 

If COVID taught us anything, it’s the need for a better work-life balance in our lives. How can you optimize what little free time you have as a single parent so you can give your kids the time and attention they need and still have time for yourself as an adult with your own needs?

1. Don’t compare

You’ve seen those other parents. You know, the ones who work full-time and still have time to be the soccer coach, room parent, and bake a few dozen cupcakes for their kid’s school party on the side. 

You don’t need to compete with that parent. You are the one and only, and your work schedule and family schedule are already full 24/7. Give yourself grace and patience, and, by all means, don’t compare yourself with a “Super-Parent” who juggles the impossible. Remember that perfectionism is its own kryptonite. 

2. Declutter 

You’ve heard that a calm environment creates a calm mind. But when you look around you, calm may not be the first word that springs to mind.

You don’t have to be a hoarder to feel overwhelmed by stuff. While you love many of your belongings, you can probably admit that a lot of it is pure clutter. Maybe Marie Kondo is right: If it doesn’t bring you joy, why are you holding onto it? Chuck it, or pass it on to someone who needs it more.

Decluttering doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Take it in tiny bites. It’s amazing what you can accomplish 10 minutes at a time. Have a big clutter box, and make it your personal goal to fill it. Enlist help and make it a game. Set the timer for 10 minutes, and get the kids to declutter their own stuff. Maybe even offer a little incentive. 

3. Get organized

Decluttering your space is one thing. Decluttering your time is another. A family calendar helps everyone schedule their important events and responsibilities and stay organized. 

When your kids are young, you can use a big poster calendar and assign each kid their own color. Let them mark off each item as they’re completed. Stickers and stars? Of course!

For older kids, there are several family calendar apps available that can keep you all on the same page. Not only does this keep you organized, but it helps your kids understand the value of organizing their own lives. If you’re co-parenting, this can also keep your co-parent in the loop. 

4. Delegate chores

One way to balance work with the other aspects of your life is to get the kids to help with housework. Depending on their age and maturity, enlist the kids in regular household duties. At first, it might seem more work than help to get them involved. But eventually, they’ll get the hang of it. Allowance? It’s a great incentive and also teaches them about how work equates to having things they want. 

For chores that are too time-consuming for you and a little over the kids’ heads, enlist the help of others. You might hire a neighborhood kid to cut the grass or walk the dog, or call a housekeeping service to come in to clean your floors and windows periodically. Hiring outside help every once in a while can be worth its weight in gold. 

5. Prioritize

You can’t do it all, especially single-handedly. Fortunately, not everything on the to-do list has equal importance.

Budget your time. When you have more on your list than hours in the day, decide what’s most important. Take care of the big stuff. Make time for things that prioritize your family, like the simple act of spending time together for a family dinner. The other stuff? Fit it in when you can. Your house might not be vacuumed, and maybe you’re eating on paper plates again, but you’re less stressed and a good parent to your kids.

6. Create new rituals or traditions

For many of us, family traditions made certain days and holidays special as kids. But rituals don’t only have to be centered around holidays. Your family deserves to have special any-days every once in a while. 

Bring out the grill when you’ve had enough of winter, and grill up some hot dogs on the snowy back porch to remind the kids of summer. Celebrate half-birthdays with a cake and silly gifts. Have a family game night once a week, and let the kids choose the game. Print out photos, and work on an old-fashioned family scrapbook together. Learn about holidays around the world, and make a simple “international” dinner for each. Put on a family play, complete with old clothing costumes and handmade tickets. 

You don’t need a holiday to make life memorable. Low-key times together can make memories just as special as the big holidays.

7. Accept help when it’s offered

It takes a village, especially when you’re a single parent. 

Just because you’re flying solo doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Share school pick-ups with neighbors and childcare with other single parents. Offer to babysit or pick up items at the store for someone else, and accept the same offer from others. When others need help, be there to reciprocate. When parents help each other be strong, families are better for it. 

8. Prioritize time for yourself when you’re co-parenting

If you’re co-parenting, you get some well-deserved breathing room, however meager. When your co-parent has the kids, use that time to the maximum. And that doesn’t necessarily mean using it to clean out your closets. Focus on your mental health, your physical health, your hobbies, or even just sleep – whatever your own well-being needs.

As a single parent, you don’t have nearly enough time for yourself. While it’s important to focus on your kids after a divorce to maintain a sense of balance and security for them, you also need to carve out time for your own needs. Whatever it is that feeds your soul, dive in. When you’re feeling happy and healthy, that translates to how you show up for your family.

Post-divorce life as a single parent can feel overwhelming at first, until you work out the details and create some boundaries and balance. It can be helpful to get some help and advice from supportive friends and family members or even a divorce coach

At Hello Divorce, we understand that the legal business of divorce is only a fraction of the process. While we offer a full platform of legal and professional options, we also offer an extensive library of resources to help you navigate the before, during, and after of your divorce. Have questions? Schedule a free 15-minute call to learn more.