Wellbeing Tips for Single Parents
Single parenting is becoming increasingly common as more mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other caregivers around the world find themselves having to raise children without a partner or co-parent. Single parents face several challenges that partners with cohabiting partners do not. They are more financially constrained, have longer work-hours, have less practical and emotional assistance, are subject to societal stigma, and are at an increased risk for psychopathologies such as depression and anxiety. These factors can make single parents more vulnerable to becoming chronically stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed, which significantly impacts both their mental and physical health over time.
Two of the most notable shortages that single parents are faced with are 1) a shortage of direct, daily emotional support and 2) a shortage of financial resources. In co-parenting contexts, parents can split the workload that comes with raising a child, offer one another emotional support, and enjoy the financial security and peace of mind that comes with the contribution from a second income. Given the absence of these benefits in single-parent households, however, parents who raise a child alone are considered to be more financially, socially, and psychologically vulnerable.
Prioritising your wellbeing as a single parent
As a parent, it’s easy to forget about your own wellbeing when you are trying to see to your child’s every need. This gets even more tricky when you have a full-time job and are trying to reach new milestones in your career. Often, without even realising it, parents put their own wellbeing at the bottom of their priority list, which can lead to several consequences for them further down the line. When we don’t make an effort to promote and maintain personal wellbeing, we can experience chronic stress, burnout, lowered productivity, irritability, and strain in our interpersonal relationships – just to name a few.
When you’re raising a child alone, finding the perfect work-life balance and making time for yourself may seem an impossible task at times, but it can be done with the right support and guidance. Here are some tips to help you as a single parent make your wellbeing a priority:
- Establish a support system – to help you feel less overwhelmed, reach out and connect with loved ones, colleagues, or parenting support groups who can offer you emotional support, advice, and/or practical assistance
- Create a routine and stick to it – by establishing a daily schedule with set times for homework, dinner, bath-time, and bed-time routines you will bring a sense of structure and security into your child’s life, which will in turn make your life easier and less stressful
- Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help – when someone offers assistance or asks if there’s something they can help you with, don’t be shy to take them up on the offer. Always remember the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” – find out about local resources that can benefit you and your family, such as financial assistance programs, afterschool care programs, workshops for parents, or support groups
- Schedule ‘me’ time – make time as often as you can to pamper and treat yourself – take a nice relaxing bubble bath, read a chapter of your favourite book before bed, spend some money on yourself, or watch an episode of your new favourite TV show every evening
- Take care of your body – having a healthy lifestyle is an essential part of self-care, so try to prioritise physical exercise and eating a well-balanced diet (the relationship that you have with your body will influence the way your child treats and relate to their own body when they get older)
- Take care of your mind – when things begin to feel “too much,” take a mindfulness break, take a mental health day off, talk to a friend you trust, or schedule an appointment with your counsellor or psychologist
- Drop the guilt – do not feel guilty over the fact that you can’t provide your child with the same resources or family structure as a two-parent household. Rather, be proud of the family you have built and remind yourself of everything you do for them every day
- Spend quality time with your child – by setting time aside to give your child attention and affection you assist them with their personal development and set the narrative for how they will approach other relationships in future. Don’t underestimate the power of playtime, it’s in these moments of bonding that you as a parent also get a chance to relax and boost your serotonin levels
- Stay positive – try to maintain a positive outlook on life and reflect on all the things that you’re proud of yourself for having achieved so far
- Quit the comparisons – often we are tempted to compare ourselves and our lives to others’, and this is only aggravated with the use of social media. We need to remind ourselves that every family is facing their own unique set of challenges and that these challenges tend to be kept out of the public eye – so keep your focus on your own family’s health and happiness and remember that social media is misleading
- Include your children in household chores – by involving your child in household activities such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, and meal prepping, you are not only getting a chance to spend extra quality time with them, but also lightening your own workload and helping them to develop valuable life skills and character traits like independence, responsibility, and compassion
These are just some of the main strategies for single parents to adopt if they wish to make their wellbeing a priority. One of the most important things for single parents (and parents in general) to remember is that the status of their own wellbeing will have a knock-on effect on their children’s wellbeing and mood as well, so if we want to give our very best to others, we need to make sure that we give ourselves the same royal treatment first.
Maintaining good job performance as a single parent
As a working parent, you may feel the need to go the extra mile at work to prove to your co-workers and employer that the quality of your work is not being compromised amid the full-time responsibility of raising a child. If you are a single parent, there may be the added pressure of knowing that your family depends solely on you for financial support. Whilst setting high expectations for yourself at work can be a great motivator, it can also lead to a lot of stress and guilt when you find yourself unable to reach these goals or standards. So, be kind to yourself and don’t let minor setbacks bring you down. The first thing you should remind yourself of is that you’re likely being a lot harder on yourself than anyone else at work. So do your best and let your productivity and work quality speak for itself. Because of child-care activities throughout the day, you might have to log some extra hours of work in the evenings after your children have been put to bed, but just make sure that the quality of your work isn’t being compromised as a result. When your employer and colleagues see that you are getting all your work done despite having a full-time job as a parent as well, they won’t just be impressed with you but might even re-evaluate whether they are maximising their own hours at work.
As a parent, you can only give your best to others when you’ve taken the time to nurture your own health and happiness. When we ensure that our own batteries are charged, we’re able to give our children the most energetic, optimistic, and inspiring version of ourselves. This affects our own self-perception and confidence, which flows over into all areas of our lives from our friendships to our relationships with family members and even our performance at work. By choosing to make our wellbeing a priority, we build the foundations we need not only to survive – but also to thrive.
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