How Can You Balance It All As a Single Mother?

Two cleaning kitchen

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Gail Cawley Showalter

Single Mom Asks:

Q: How do I balance out work, keeping house in order, spending time with kids, and other priorities?

A: This is a complex question that I will post in parts. Today I will address how can you, as a single mom, balance work and keeping house in order? Oh, how I remember those days. I’ll not pretend it is easy. I’ll not even pretend it is possible.

You have to work. Work, by the way, is a blessing. Be thankful if you have work. As tough as it may be, it is worse if you have no job. And you don’t want to get me started about using Uncle Sam as your “sugar daddy.” We were meant to work for our food and to provide for our families. I know that there are times when it is necessary to apply for assistance; however, it should not be a way of life. Paul said it better than I can here,

Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (Msg.)

So, enough from this tough old bird about being thankful for work. In that same vein, though, you can teach your children the importance of work. Even a three year old can do simple chores. Use a chore chart and start early. (Related Post) Each child ought to be responsible for something around the house. At the very least, putting their own clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, or pile if nothing else. They can help fold towels while watching a favorite TV program as a family. Then put them away during the commercials. Break all chores down into smaller ones. One child sets the table, another child cleans up afterwards, and a third, if you are lucky enough to have three, puts dishes into the sink or dishwasher, if you are lucky enough to have one. Offer praise for each chore a child completes. Do not be overly grateful just a simple, “Thank You” is enough. After all chores are a part of keeping their home in order.

The chores that children cannot help with can also be broken down into smaller ones.

  • Don’t expect perfection. If you tend towards perfectionism life will be hard for you as a single mom. You simply cannot keep a house in perfect order when you are the only adult living in it especially if you have more than one child. The more children the more complicated it will be. Decide which areas you can let slide.
  • If you plan your meals a week or more in advance, meal preparation goes smoothly. So does grocery shopping. You will also be better able to stick to a budget if you purchase just the items for the meals you plan.
  • Organize your home. I like the Container Store and wish we had one nearby. If you keep your drawers and closets organized it is much easier to manage your household. You will spend less valuable time looking for things because you will know where they are if they have a “home.” It will teach your children how to keep things in order as well. This in turn gives them a mental skill for keeping all of their lives in order.
  • Categorize items that demand your attention. If you have a stack of magazine, papers, mail, or other items to go through, put them in one place where you can go through them while watching TV or listening to your favorite CD when the kids are in bed. Do a little bit at a time.
  • Wash school clothes first. Children can sleep in their underwear. They can’t go to school in underwear, however.
  • Ignore children’s messy rooms if you can. Or insist that they keep school clothes in closet and let the toys and other items remain where they leave them. Once when I complained about all the things on the floor of my son’s room he replied, “At least I know where everything is. I can see it there.”
  • Make a few house rules that all can live by, such as, no food in bedrooms. And for every rule establish an appropriate consequence if it is broken. Make only a few rules so kids will take each one seriously.
  • Routines work wonders. We know that routines give children a sense of safety. I think they work well for adults too. You probably already have built-in routines like when you brush your teeth or shampoo your hair. Routines are helpful for household chores as well. If you always do laundry Sunday night, you will have that established and it will relieve the stress. When I was paid once a month, I knew that I would buy groceries the day afterwards.
  • Use a calendar. You may use the calendar in your phone, but have a posted calendar for the family as well. Children are involved in so many activities these days that it is difficult to keep track. If a calendar is visible for all to see you can avoid misunderstandings.

This is a start on the question. Next time I will address “spending time with kids and other priorities.”

#raisingkidsalone #parentingalone #managingahousehold

Submit your question to singlemoms@smoreforwomen.org

3 comments

  1. […] you want to make your life and household go smoothly I suggest looking at your habits. I’m telling you what I wish someone had told me oh so many […]

  2. Thank you for this post loaded with practical and do-able tips, Gail! This is what I need to help get me through this busy time as a single mom. I love what you mentioned about letting go of perfection and deciding on an area to let slide. I feel like this post is giving me permission to be more realistic!

    1. Yes, please do let go of the perfectionism that seems to run rampant in our world. Perhaps it is all the “how to” magazine articles. It is okay not to make the beds. Believe me I’ve not done it for years and nothing tragic has happened.

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