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Creative Strategies from Single Parents on Juggling Work and Family

When it comes to handling the competing demands at work and at home, solo parents do it all — alone. While this can be an incredible challenge, it’s also an opportunity. In the face of tough obstacles, these working parents often develop unique, problem-solving skills. Solo parents realize that there aren’t enough hours in a…

When it comes to handling the competing demands on the job and at home, solo parents do it all — alone. While this can be an amazing challenge, it is also an opportunity. In the face of challenging challenges, these working parents often develop exceptional, work-related skills. Solo parents realize that there are not enough hours in one day. They capitalize on the tiny amounts of time available to them, even though that is just 30 minutes at one time. They also take advantage of special housing arrangements — if it is a family member who can help with parenting, shared home with a fellow single parent, or even leasing space out for extra income. Solo working parents take particular advantage of flexible work schedules and distant work, and design career opportunities within these chances. Finally, they construct pragmatic aid networks to share childcare, cooking, and other family duties.

The daily challenge of feeding, caring for, and educating children is difficult. Add the stress of earning enough money to sustain the family’s well-being and feeling fulfilled in your career, and it becomes daunting. And solutions that work for each exceptional family can be hard to find.

For unmarried parents — people who are unmarried, divorced, widowed, or have spouses away from home because of deployment, incarceration, handicap, or function — the challenge is that much harder. When it’s staying up late with a feverish child, having to stay longer in the office, coping with a sudden emergency, enforcing house rules, or tackling the plethora of mundane decisions throughout the day, a solo parent does it independently. But knowing it is all up to you can also be a profound, and often enabling, responsibility.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of innovation. Following my divorce, I became more self-reliant, creative, and adaptable in my parenting since I needed to step up and make it function. Since the founder of ESME.com (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere), I’ve learned that this creativity is not odd — which solo parents often develop unique, problem-solving skills in response to their unique conditions.

Here are just a couple I’ve observed through my own experience and in speaking to a variety of single parents that all working parents could learn from as they navigate work and loved ones.

Capitalizing on Stolen Moments

Time is a solo parents’ enemy — there aren’t enough hours in a day. Because of this, solo parents must identify where they can save time and prioritize what’s most important. They know they are not able to do it all and that something has to give, whether it’s a messy house, an extra hour of screen time for the kids, a shortened dog walk, or take-out for dinner (none of which impact their family’s well-being). Aware that time is a precious commodity, solo parents take advantage of small moments to connect with their children, fulfill their work responsibilities, and make the most out of their time by squeezing work and personal tasks into commutes, sports practices, waiting rooms, and odd hours. Solo mom and writer Joni Cole notes,”You are able to attain decent work in off increments, and they add up.”

Figuring out ways to remain productive without busy work and long hours, solo parents challenge long-held assumptions about workplace efficiency and dedication. Moms who have to squeeze in a school pickup or dads who need to work from home when a child is sick are equally dedicated as workers with partners — perhaps even more so. Parenting alone inspires a healthy reframing of one’s relationship to work which is both liberating, rewarding, and instructive to those of us who need a reminder of what’s important.

Setting Up Unique Housing Arrangements

A solo mom in Los Angeles posted recently to our single moms’ group: “I am a single mom of two teenage daughters, and one is going off to college. I am interested in finding another single mom that would be interested in renting together… Maybe we have opposite parenting schedules?”

The traditional nuclear family arrangement doesn’t necessarily support unmarried parent families nicely — financially or logistically. To lower housing expenses and get help with childcare, many solo parents discuss homes and rentals or move in with family. Atlanta mom Kaleena Weaver describes,”I bought a house with a basement unit so my mom could move in. I cover all the bills, and she helps with the kiddo and household work.” Janelle Hardy single mother from Canada, opted to rent a large house so she can take in a roommate or two who enjoy being part of a family atmosphere. Hardy also took a part in exchange student programs to offset costs and also have an additional pair of hands while raising her children. Another mom, Lisa Benson, utilizes a part of her house to rent out as an Airbnb for extra income.

While parents can often install extended family or friendship families organically, a federal organization known as Coabode might help. Their mission is to”connect single mothers whose interest and parenting philosophy are compatible, with the purpose of sharing a home and raising children together.” In addition to the clear psychological and financial advantages, sharing a home with another family helps solo parents solve many of the logistical issues that include raising children by themselves, such as how to cover days off from college.

Arranging Atypical Work Schedules

After his wife passed away, Conrod Robinson changed jobs to be nearer to home:

(*)I cut my commute time with over half so I could make after school events, cook dinner in your home, etc. ). This allowed me to leave for work at roughly the exact same time my son left for school in the morning. I took a sizable reduction in reimbursement to do so, but I’m happy I made the choice to spend additional time at home.

Although not all solo parents need to sacrifice higher pay and upward mobility to be more available to their kids, they may opt for night changes, flex time, and part-time work. Increasingly, organizations know that flexibility results in a more dedicated workforce, and consequently today’s unmarried parents, even more than ever, are able to create schedules around their household’s needs.

Sometimes such decisions can mean creating new career avenues. “I quit my job as a social worker to offer childcare in my home, so I could stay home with my children and pay my bills,” says Royal mother Heidi Kronenberg. “I loved being home with my son and daughter, and they enjoyed having other children around.” After both kids were in elementary school, Kronenberg returned to social work and after that ultimately started her own business focused on behavioral health and counselling.  “My experience with in-home childcare provided skills that translated well to starting a business,” explains Kronenberg.

Working from home (a necessity for nearly all of us during the Covid-19 pandemic) is another strategy that solo parents employ to facilitate the daily juggle — if that is a couple of times per week or a fully remote position. Shantell Witter, a “mompreneur” in Atlanta, made the decision to homeschool so that she could sustain her multiple companies, including Only with Love Books, a BIPOC-focused bookstore for households, and 2 education-oriented businesses. By merging her business interests with her desire to homeschool, Witter achieves a fulfilling equilibrium.

Building Pragmatic Support Networks

Solo parent imagination extends beyond time management and one of a kind work arrangements. I have been amazed at some of the smart ways that solo parents alleviate a number of their work/family grind by building support networks — a few of which include their own kids. Former solo mother Cheryl Dumesnil recalls,

(Decision )When my children were tweens, if I needed to work uninterrupted in my home, I would tell them I would pay them each $5 to babysit another. The catch was each child must tell me if his babysitter sibling needed to be compensated. Cheapest childcare ever! I’d get a few hours of work done for $10. 

I used to have the children”play chef” one night per week, in which they left dinner. They believed it was fun, and I had the time to have a little excess work done. What is more, evidence indicates that children of unmarried parents tend to be more resilient and self explanatory since they are predicted to take part in household tasks instead of just do chores.

In-person and virtual networking are also crucial for unmarried parents. The most impactful networks are a blend of close connections and people you do not understand nicely: Friends and family provide significant bonds, whereas acquaintances grant you access to advice you might not get from your inner circle. A close-knit group of parents may know the very same babysitters and after-school programs, while people outside your circle might know about resources you would not otherwise hear about, like a brand new or little-known program at a neighboring city. The exact same goes for Facebook and other online support groups. The more diverse the system, the more varied information which you have access to.

Your community and network can also alleviate some of the stress of daily foods and errands. A once-a-week potluck not just takes the burden off dinner that night, but in addition allows for support and connection. Food deals with buddies concerning the interminable question,”What’s for dinner?” Teaming up with a different parent while shopping, running errands, or simply spending some time at the park is just another effective strategy. Solo mom Chaya Beyla proposes,”Asking a friend to ride around with you while you run errands provides socialization and someone to wait in the car with your sleeping toddler while you rush into the store, bank, or post office.” You can also install clothing swaps, childcare, and carpooling in your network.

Despite all the barriers, working parents without spouses in the home have figured out how to make the most from their time, work and home , and networks. Through unique and creative problem solving, they have discovered new ways to push forward and be the best parents they are under challenging conditions.

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