Coping with Work-Life Balance for the Single Parent

Some full-time working parents may find themselves torn between work and family commitments. Though the demands of the job depends on the nature of the work and industry, in most cases a desire for career advancement usually requires increased work hours and more time away from family and personal life. How does a working parent cope?

Most two parent families have the advantage of shared domestic responsibilities. Between the two parents, they can take turns in fulfilling tasks such as making dinners, preparing the kids for bed, helping with homework, and bringing the children to after school activities. Single parents are disadvantaged as they often don’t have the resources and support that will allow them to satisfy both their family needs and their work commitments.

Single parent families with younger children are probably the most challenged in balancing work and family needs. These parents have the least flexibility in work hours as their hours are dictated by the availability of their daycare facility. With these constraints, there is little opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their employer and to advance their careers. How can single parents especially those with younger children create a balance that will allow them to satisfy the dual responsibilities of work and family while advancing their careers?

A typical workday may allocate 10 hours to working at the job including commute time, about 2 hours to domestic tasks (including cooking, preparing lunches), perhaps 2 hours to after work meetings or activities for kids, leaving only 2 hours of quality time with the family if you want to squeeze in an 8 hour sleep.

An extra 30 minutes to 1 hour more at the office may easily translate to two hours of lost family time especially if traffic is an added time factor. No doubt that increased work demands can rob the working parent of personal time and attention to family and to him or herself in maintaining a healthy body, mind and soul.

Stress in the form of irritability and impatience will manifest itself in the home through the parent’s reaction and interaction with family members. Balancing work and family is a work in progress for most of us. It will depend largely on the needs of the family which, in turn, depends on the age of the children and the types of extra curricular activity commitments each family member has. For the most part, here are some suggestions in coping with the domestic demands:

An extra 30 minutes to 1 hour more at the office may easily translate to two hours of lost family time.

Work

Telecommuting

If work can be done at home via internet or remote e-mail access, this would allow you to be at home while still being able to attend to work needs. A phone, a fax and a computer with internet connection is all you’ll need. Of course, it only works if your employer allows you the flexibility and that you have the ability to multitask.

Flex Time

Ask your employer to be flexible with your work hours so that you can satisfy your parenting duties. This may not be seen as a form of dedication, but your needs are valid and any employer who’d want to keep good employees will make concessions.

Communicate home

Contact the kids when they get home from school. Give them a cell phone if you feel they are responsible enough so you can hopefully contact them (if they remember to turn it on).

Scheduling meetings

Try and schedule your meetings to times when you are least expected to have home or family related emergencies. Sometimes the 3 pm and later timeframe and the lunch hour is usually the most likely time a parent may get called to pick up a child from school or for other reasons.

Work

Arrange pick up of children with family or friends

One of the biggest dilemmas can be arranging the pick up and drop off of kids to daycare or school. If you work across town from where you live and your children go to school, you will need to create a network of parent support for pick up and drop off to alleviate your stress in worrying about the kids while at work.

Do preparations the night before

To cut down on the preparation time in the morning before rushing out the door, prepare lunches and breakfast to cook the night before.

Train kids to clean up

This is probably the most difficult task to tackle, but training the kids to pick up after themselves reduces the domestic duties that welcome you after a hard day’s work.

Discipline the kids to do homework after school

It’s not impossible to discipline the kids to do their homework right after school. When you get home, you will just need to review and answer questions they don’t understand.

Arrange for after work help

If you have a family member or neighbour that can help with looking after the child after the daycare closes and before you get home from work, this may be a resource you can take advantage of.

You’ll find a balance that will work for you. The bottom line is that the family is the number one priority and finding a family-friendly employer who believes and supports your lifestyle and values will make you a much happier, healthier and successful parent.

Chanelle Dupre

Chanelle Dupre is a writer of parenting articles and was a single parent for 20 years to two sons now in their late 20's. She had a column in 3 newspapers and this blog is a curation of old and new stories around the challenges of single parenting and ideas on how to make life easier.

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