Finding a True Balance: The Single Parent Formula

You get home from a long day of work – you’re tired and hungry and just want to put your feet up and relax, but you can’t. You have to begin your other full-time job – parenting. You have dinner to cook, homework to complete with kids or diaper to change, dishes and cleaning to do. As a parent, your job really doesn’t end until the kids have been completely settled in bed. Where does a parent begin to define what a balanced life is when we all just strive to get through the day!

Balance can mean many things to different people. By definition, balance, as it pertains to lifestyle, is a physical equilibrium – a mental and emotional steadiness. To achieve a balanced lifestyle one must develop of a formula that produces a healthy mental, physical and emotional outcome.

This is not always so easy to follow if you’re a parent, but it seems near impossible if you’re a single parent – like me. It can take years before we find our comfort level.

For parents of families, “balance” is a formula with many more factors to the equation than for a single adult individual. There are the kids (who will take a good chunk of your time), the career, the spouse, the friends, the extracurricular activities, the extended family and of course, yourself.

Single parents by far have the toughest job on the planet. Some days, it’s like riding a unicycle on a tight rope while juggling balls at the same time. Where married couples with children would have the luxury of time-share in fulfilling their commitments and sometimes more economic means, a single parent struggles with the lack of resources. Many times, a single-parent is torn between two places and almost all the time, the single parent is doing the job of two people on his or her own. As a single parent, the ultimate balance can sometimes boil down to mastering the art of successful management of time and money without sacrificing health and well being.

During my transition from being married with children to single parenthood, I experienced a great “unbalance” in every aspect – emotional, spiritual, and physical. This was partly because I was still learning about my new role and all the responsibilities that I have acquired on my own. It took about three years for me to achieve a true “balance” that I would define as a state of contentment. Though for the most part, I feel comfortable about the amount of time I spend on each of the things I enjoy and are necessary for my survival, there are times when my equilibrium is unbalanced. But this is something to be expected as life is unpredictable.

What I can share is the process of how I achieved my balance through the process of ranking life’s priorities and choices. Hopefully, I can help others to achieve a happy balance:

Identify the priorities of your life in categories:

Write a list of the factors that make your life complete, enjoyable and healthy. This can be categorized as health, religious, children, career, friends, family, yourself and hobbies. Don’t feel guilty if you put yourself at the top of the list. After all, without taking care of “you” there would be no one to take care of “them” – the children. When you make your list identify the obvious ones, like your job, for your economic survival, then list out all the other factors that satisfy the non-material aspects of your life, like developing your spiritual side and spending time with friends. These are all factors that contribute to a healthy mental and spiritual self.

List the various topics that fall into the categories of priorities:

To be clear on what you are trying to achieve, it’s important to define the actual activities that make up the category of your life that you’ve identified as a key ingredient in creating balance. For example, under health, you can list exercising, eating a balanced diet (you can break down this formula even further), sleeping an average of 8 hours a night, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, taking vitamins etc.

Rank the categories of priorities according to their importance to you:

Figuring out what is at the top of the list will help you to decide what factors takes precedence over the other when you are faced with a trade-off (which will happen often).

Define how you came to the ranking of priorities:

By justifying your choice in ranking these priorities, you will feel less guilty when you have to make tough decisions. You may find yourself in a position whereby you want to be at your child’s concert but you are also needed at your job in the same day and the same time. As emotionally tormenting this may be, you may not be able to find a compromise that suits both parties. Defining your choices will help you achieve peace of mind.

Once you have your priorities straight, don’t forget to always make time for relaxation so you can recharge your batteries and look after your health and welfare. As parents, we are accustomed to looking after everyone’s needs and putting ourselves last. We must remember to look after ourselves and find time, at the end of the day, to reward yourself with something enjoyable and relaxing. Some suggestions can include:

  • Drinking tea while reading
  • Listening to jazz or classical music
  • Soaking in the tub
  • Giving yourself a facial
  • Getting your children to massage your back
  • Writing in your journal
  • Reading an enjoyable book
  • Watching an entertaining program

Good luck and happy balancing!

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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