Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, and never more so than if you are a single parent. Maintaining a sensible divide between work and home life can feel impossible, with the varied demands of your employer and your family squeezing your precious time.
There is no simple solution to balancing your work and personal life as a working parent, but rather each individual family circumstance needs a unique approach to make things as simple possible, in a way that works for you. If you’re looking for ways to strike the right balance for you, then some of the ideas below might help.
Building a strong network is crucial for all new, or newly single, parents. It can be pretty daunting as an idea, especially if the people in your regular social circle are not parents themselves, but getting to know other families locally can be a lifesaver. Get to parent and baby groups if you can, try to be involved in the school PTA, and even without being a regular feature at the school gates, you can quickly build relationships with other parents in your area.
Having a local network can help with simple questions, but can also allow you to plan – as far as possible – for the odd emergency. Have the contact numbers of local friends who could help you out easily available, for if things go wrong, and don’t be afraid to accept help when you need it.
2. Ask for help
At work we tend to be all so busy that we might not even notice when someone close to us needs some extra support or flexibility. Help your boss and colleagues understand your needs. If you need some short-term support, like a slight tweak to your shift pattern to allow you to settle your child in a new school, then ask – and don’t forget to say thanks when they cover for you!
Working parents often feel under pressure (not least from themselves) to ’pull their weight’ at work, sharing additional overtime or workload with other colleagues. It can be tricky to fit in overtime or changes to regular working patterns as a single parent, but be as flexible as possible, and make sure you know and demonstrate your worth in work to keep your boss and colleagues on your side for the times you need extra support. Being a working parent can bring you a whole range of unique advantages, such as greater emotional intelligence, influencing skills, and a massive head start in your organising abilities – don’t underestimate this!
3. Know your rights
In the UK, working families have certain additional rights, such as the legal entitlement to unpaid parental leave, and you should also not be discriminated against because of your family situation. Parental leave gives you the opportunity to take up to four weeks a year additional leave from work to look after your child under the age of five, up to a maximum of eighteen weeks per child, and can be a useful way to help settle your family into new arrangements, or make time to cover school holidays when childcare might be difficult to find.
4. Find the organising hacks that work for you
As a parent, you are going to be an organising guru anyway – but don’t be afraid to use whatever shortcuts you can, ensuring they balance out any additional cost. Consider using online grocery shopping, hiring a cleaner, and getting whatever home ’admin’ work you can manage done in your lunch breaks to give you more time free at home. This will help you relax more when you do – eventually – have free time.
5. Learn to switch off
Have a mental divide so that you can leave work at work, and enjoy your time at home also. You might benefit from some set routines, such as writing your ’to do’ list for the next day on the way home, listening to relaxing music on your commute, or taking up a hobby which allows you to switch off for a while. Remember – it’s not a luxury – you have to look after yourself so you are well enough to look after others.
And finally; go easy on yourself. Whatever happens, you’re not alone. Balancing work and life is difficult for every parent – more people than you might think will understand, and be willing to support you when you need it.