Parenting is hard. Parenting kids without a partner to help can be grueling. From finding the right support to setting realistic limits, you can feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Here's how:
1 Tap emotional support. A positive support network is instrumental for stress management. If you don't have access to close family or friends, seek support from single parent or mothers' groups.
"We have discussion groups that discuss topics pertinent to single parents," says Janet Gallinati, president of Parents without Partners, an international non-profit organization, with chapters across North America. "Sometimes all you need to do is talk about it, but there may be someone in the group who has gone through something similar."
2Manage your finances. Many hardworking single parents struggle to make ends meet. If you qualify, numerous non-profit and government organizations are available to provide assistance. Also, eliminate unnecessary bills or contact the company to see if refinancing is an option.
"One of the worst things to do is to let the kids think that the only thing that has changed is that mommy or daddy has left," Gallinati says. "Explain that this is now a one-income family and cuts need to be made."
3Set limits. Say no to requests that will cause undue strain on your wallet or your time. Also, resist the urge to say yes to every activity your child wants to participate in. Make reasonable choices according to what works with your hours and available support.
4Seek flexibility. If possible, negotiate work hours or find a job that better accommodates you and your children's needs.
"Finding flexible work is realistic if you are clear about what you need, how you can be successful and matching that with the business need," says Laura Wildman, a staffing consultant with Mom Corps, which helps match professionals who are raising young families with companies that offer flexible work conditions.
As president of Mothers & More, a national organization that provides community, support and programming for mothers, single mom Jill Gaikowski says she works in the evenings and on the weekends when she doesn't have her child.
"I'm happy to make the trade-off because before becoming a single parent, I was a stay-at-home mom. I am lucky to have this option," Gaikowski says.
5Resolve guilt. Are you haunted by feelings of guilt, inadequacy and resentment in the midst of juggling parenthood and a career? Realize that you are doing your best and focus on remaining optimistic.
"You will get that important email that comes while you are at your kids' game and you will get that call from school when you are working, but your mindset and flexibility can make it all work," Wildman says.
6Ask for help. Without adequate emotional and practical support, caregiving can deplete your energy making you more susceptible to illness and depression. Utilize available resources and take advantage of any help that is offered by family and friends, says life coach Kristin Dunn, owner of From the Ground Up Life Coaching.
Also, find a reliable sitter, trade babysitting with a friend or check out area drop-in day cares.
7Commit to self-care. Engage in activities that nurture and energize you like meditation, reading or exercise, even if that means waking up a few minutes earlier than usual. Use your lunch hour to connect with a friend.
"Don't underestimate the power of human touch," Dunn says. "Schedule a massage or a pedicure. Human contact is really helpful in releasing bottled up energy and emotion that may not otherwise have an outlet for release."
8Plan ahead. Include personal time on the calendar. "Do something for yourself once a week. You will see how it makes you better in all other areas of your life," Gaikowski says.
9Integrate fun. Spend time with your kids cooking meals together, playing board games, bike-riding or watching a movie. Also plan playdates or outings with other families to build a sense of community.
10Involve your kids. Assign age-appropriate responsibilities that help children grow more self-confident and independent.
"If you over-function by doing things for your children they could be doing for themselves, you're teaching them to have unrealistic expectations for themselves and others," Dunn says.
Although single parenting isn't easy, remember that when you manage your stress and focus on creating a stable, loving home for your kids, you'll not only survive, you and your family will thrive.
Freelance journalist, Christa Melnyk Hines, is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom's Guide to a Satisfying Social Life, which helps moms connect with their tribe, while creating a social life they love. To connect with her, visit www.christamelnykhines.com.