How to Balance Work and Single Parenting after Divorce
- Perks at work
- Healthy work boundaries
- Quality work
- Getting help
- Designated family time
- Time for yourself
If you’re navigating single parenthood after divorce or separation, you already know it can be a tough gig. You’re the breadwinner, the hearth-and-home keeper, the homework-checker, the cook, maid, accountant, and handyman. The buck stops with you, and that can be exhausting and overwhelming.
While not all workplaces care whether you’re available for your kid’s soccer practice, studies have found that working parents bring special value to the workplace. They are typically better at time management and multitasking. They tend to be more empathetic and productive and have a better grasp of what's going on in the world. An increasing number of businesses have begun to understand that providing a good work-life balance leads to greater productivity and a more positive work culture.
Learn about family-friendly perks at your workplace
If you’re a single parent just beginning to look for work, ideally, it will be with a company that has a family-friendly culture and flexible work arrangements. Online searches can be helpful, but you can further your research of a particular company by seeking connections on Linkedin who already work there or checking the company’s work-life balance reviews on a review site like Glassdoor.
If you’re already employed, you’ll want to know your company’s policies. How do they view sick time and parental leave? Do they offer flextime or childcare? Is the company culture one of cooperation or intense competition? Chances are, if competition is a driving force, employees must step over each other to get ahead. Parents who need time away from work for their families can be the first to get stepped over.
If you’ve suddenly become a single parent, to the extent you feel comfortable, it may help to be open with your manager and HR department about your situation. Sharing such information can help your manager understand what you’re dealing with, and their response can help you understand their expectations in light of this information. It may even elicit some sympathy or unearth parent-friendly policies at your company that you weren’t aware of.
Establish healthy boundaries at work
With COVID remote work, many workers felt less like they were working at home and more like they were living at work. Boundaries were blurred, and burnout was real. But as a single parent, healthy boundaries allow you to have the balance you need to take care of your family and yourself.
Depending on your work culture and your own needs, you will need to find the boundaries that work best for your situation. You may still need to answer emails from home, but you can be clear about when they will be addressed. You can establish a do-not-call time after a certain hour of the day or say no to projects that would cut into your family’s time. Outsource and delegate whenever possible, and consider taking a mental health day now and then to recharge your battery.
As a single working parent, there aren’t any one-size-fits-all approaches. While you may want to establish firm boundaries between work and home, this could work against you when you ask for time to take care of important family matters. The boundaries you establish depend on what you need to accomplish and what your company’s culture allows. If you have a good working relationship with your manager and feel comfortable, you could share how you feel your current situation violates your boundaries and try to work together toward a solution.
Be a good worker
If you work at a company with a great family-friendly culture, you still need to be a good employee and on your game when you have your employee hat on. Even the most family-centric businesses – and fellow employees – will take exception to someone who looks like they’re taking advantage or slacking on the job. Unless you’ve made accommodations or an unforeseen family emergency occurs, while you’re at work, your job should be your primary focus.
Being a good worker means your home and work life exist in harmony with each other. Plan on putting more work time in when your kids are with your co-parent or away at camp so you can feel more confident when asking for those inevitable times that require you to be away from work.
Manage your schedule well in advance. You can have better control over conflicts in your schedule when you merge your personal and work calendars. This way, you can keep your important information in one place and avoid conflicts between important meetings and the kid’s dentist appointments. Get comfortable with checklists, plan your meals in advance, and order things online instead of running out to the store. Make things you do all the time a set routine so they become a habit. If things run smoother at home, it frees you up to be a better worker.
Ask for help, accept help, or maybe even hire help
It takes a village, and having a network of others is a saving grace when you’re a working parent.
Once you find trustworthy childcare, understand their policies and schedule, and have a network of backup babysitters. While consistent weekday childcare is critical, there will be times when your child is too sick to go to school or daycare, or you find yourself stuck in a meeting or traffic and need last-minute help picking the kids up or watching them.
Speak with your co-parent, friends, family, neighbors, a neighborhood mom’s group, or a babysitting co-op so you have options for those inevitable times you will need help. If you need help around the house or with additional childcare, it can be money well-spent to hire a home helper or cleaning person to allow you to be the best person you can be for both your kids and your employer.
Designate special time with your kids
As a working parent, you already know that life is busy, and sometimes, the most important things can take a backseat if you aren’t careful. It’s vital to spend quality time with your kids amidst all your other responsibilities.
Take breaks from work to focus on your home life with your kids. Enjoy some silly playtime together. Spending time that is unstructured and fun allows you both to blow off steam. Provide structure when it’s important as well. Eat meals together. Have a bedtime ritual. Leave notes or encouraging messages around the house or in a lunch bag. Reinforce positive behavior, no matter how small. Turn off technology, and tune in to real one-on-one time daily. Let the kids decide on an activity periodically, and do it without distraction.
While you may not have a lot of time to devote, it’s the quality of your time that matters. Keeping it simple and wholehearted allows kids to understand you’re there for them, no matter how busy you get.
Find “me” time
Being a single working parent can feel overwhelming and exhausting as you juggle so many important responsibilities. Self-care is just as important as the time you devote to your kids and your employer. As they say on airline flights, put your own mask on first. Without a physically and emotionally healthy “self,” you have little to give to anyone else in your life. Understand and appreciate your own needs so your well doesn’t run dry.
Before becoming a working single parent, you may have powered through everything in your life despite feeling drained or down. But you’re not a machine, and powering through can come at a cost to your physical well-being and mental health.
Be your own best friend. Eat better. Move more. Spend quiet time in nature or noisy anonymous time in the city. Reach out to family, friends, or mental health support when it all seems too much. Shut out the negative energy. It may look like everyone else has a handle on this thing called life, but don’t compare. Everyone is dealing with their own kryptonite.
At Hello Divorce, we are committed to supporting you through divorce and beyond. We can help with affordable divorce plans, related services, and resources to help you make sense of it all. Schedule a free 15-minute call to see how we can help you.
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