Single parenting is a challenging task in and of itself, and if this is your first time embarking down such a path, it will likely take some getting used to. To help make this transition easier, we’ve assembled some information on what you can expect and different things you should consider, as well as some of our best tips on how you can alleviate the burden of caring for kids by yourself.
- Expect a period of adjustment
Parenting when you do have the kids may be more intense, because when you’re exhausted or need a break, there’s nobody around to spell you. There’s nobody to keep an eye on the kids while you run in to use the bathroom, and nobody to back you up when the kids won’t listen. So don’t be surprised if you’re more exhausted than you typically are from parenting duties. After a while, this should start to ease as you get more accustomed to juggling several things at once, but it can be a slog at first.
- Have back-up
Establish a buddy care system for emergencies. You may not always be able to reach your ex should something come up or a medical emergency arise, so have back up care arrangements for those situations. If finding this among current associates is difficult, there are also emergency child care services that you might want to consider registering with. Though expensive, these can be valuable in a pinch.
- Rethink how you do things
Since parenting when you do have the kids will be fundamentally different, you may want to rethink how you do things. Here are some ideas for altering your lifestyle that can help make single parenting a lot easier on you and the kids:
- Re-think meal preparation
Meal preparation is one of the aspects of daily life that is a magnet for stress and turmoil, so much so that the period in the early evenings when kids are home from school and parents are preparing for dinner is often referred to as “the witching hours.” This period of transition can easily throw the rest of the night into chaos, and it causes parents a great deal of stress.
One way to alleviate this chaos is to take meal preparation out of the equation. Think about what meals you can prepare ahead of time and then stick in the freezer (such as lasagna, homemade pizza, pot pies, or other pan dishes), so that serving meals is as simple as taking something out and sticking it in the oven. Then use one of your days away from the kids to prepare these meals, so that serving dinner is as simple as taking out a pre-prepped dish from the freezer and then throwing it in the oven. It will give you much needed relief so that you can help the kids with homework or simply enjoy some quality time together.
Roasting Crockpot dishes are another favorite. You can cut up all the meat and vegetables and freeze each one in a bag with all the other spices, so that all you have to do is take out the bag, throw it in the pot in the morning, and let it cook throughout the day. The Internet is a great resource for recipes, many of which are quite good. You could easily assemble enough recipes to allow you to serve prepped dishes like this every meal. But even putting together two or three meals like this is a major help – it will save you a lot of stress on days when the schedule is hectic and you don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking.
Here’s one more time saver: Many parents find that keeping a stash of disposable dish plates and utensils is a help on hectic nights. This allows you to throw everything away without having to do the dishes. We wouldn’t recommend doing this every night; there’s something about eating from actual plates that just feels better. But it helps alleviate the burden on those days where you have enough on your plate already.
- Rethink school prep
Whereas before you got the kids ready for school in the morning, you might now find that it’s easier to do most of the prep work the night before. You can have kids get their lunches or backpack or school outfits prepped and sitting by the door so that there’s less stress in the mornings.
- Alter technology & Internet use
When you only have the kids for certain periods of time, your time with them becomes more valuable. So during these periods, adjust the amount of time you spend on unproductive pursuits in cyberspace, such as Facebook or other social networking time leeches. We would recommend updating the status of your Facebook page to “spending time with the kids” during your custody days, just as you might check the box to let others know you’re out on vacation. Then stay off these sites during this period. Trust us: your social network won’t collapse because it spends a week without you. You’ll probably even find that after taking these breaks, the time you do spend on them is more novel and enjoyable.
Also reconsider implementing some basic rules on technology use in the home for the kids, so that each of you isn’t walking around distracted by a screen all the time.
Need more assistance? Our Divorce eBook is loaded with additional information on adjusting to life as a single parent, everything from specific meals and activities for the kids to time-saving advice that has worked wonders for other parents. It’s just $4.99 and your will be helping kids in need through your purchase.