Written by: Cally Worden
Any parent knows that good organisation is the secret to a calm and happy family life. Your best-laid plans will often (usually) be scuppered, but having a framework, within which to manage your busy life can help enormously. For the single working parent, this juggling act takes one monumental proportions. There is no back up. There is no other person to pick up the slack. And so, organisation becomes more important than ever in order to maintain your sanity. Well, a bit of it anyway. Here are a few tips for working single parents to help ease the pressures of the day.
Smart Meal Management
If you have a slow cooker gathering dust in the cupboard, now is a good time to dust it off. Anything from stews to spag bol sauce can be bunged into this fabulous invention, simmering slowly throughout the day. It may mean rising 15 minutes earlier in the morning to prepare, but the pay-off is more than worth it. Glorious smells greet you after a long day at work, your homemade ready-meal prevents the need to cook from scratch each evening. And, if you can afford the ingredients in advance then batch cooking for the freezer is definitely the way to go.
Having freshly cooked food that is quick and easy to serve each evening will help you resist the temptation for a costly and unhealthy takeaway. It will also help steer you away from processed ready-meals and freezer junk food, keeping you and your family healthier too.
Planning your meals a week in advance may sound dull, but it really does pay dividends. Shopping only for those items on your weekly menu will reduce your food bill, cutting out those mid-week supermarket runs that inevitably eat into your funds. Try to work out when your local store slashes the prices of items soon to be out of date, snap up any bargains you can freeze for future use. You can also save money by buying items in bulk, provided you know you are going to use them and are able to store them.
Go Back to School
Keeping a small stock of stationery items to hand will help prevent panic and costly last minute shop visits when it’s homework time. Pencils, felt tips, note pads, sticky tape and glue can all come in handy when you least expect it. Buy in advance from the large discount stores. And speaking of homework, be sure to enlist your children’s help in preparing their bags, PE kits and lunches each evening for the following day. Ironing, laying out clothes and dealing with any paperwork the night before will help ensure you all get to work and school on time, and unflustered.
Organise your Washing Schedule
Kids seem to generate volumes of washing completely out of proportion with their size. To avoid it mounting up, do a small wash every one or two days. This turns the chore into a manageable beast that you feel more in control of, than a mammoth task that swallows your weekend.
Use your Evenings
Much as you want to crash and vegetate the night away in front of the TV, do try to get into a rhythm of doing a few household jobs every night to help you stay on top of things. When you then do relax, you will be able to let go of the burden of your responsibilities more easily with the knowledge that you are in control. Wash up after dinner – get the kids to help, or even do it if they are old enough. Empty the bins if they need doing. Iron for half an hour, even if you don’t finish everything in the pile. Clean the windows in one room. Vac-round downstairs one day, upstairs the next. The more you do, the better you’ll feel.
Invest in a Notice board
A simple cork board with a calendar can revolutionise the management of the social schedules of the family. Note upcoming events as soon as you are notified of them, check the board each day for timings of documents to be signed, bills to be paid, library books to return, birthday parties to arrange presents for, after school sports and clubs, and so on.
Rally the Kids
As a single parent, you are the lone adult, but you are manifestly NOT alone. Even young children can be shown how to help around the house, having chores that are their sole responsibility. You are not exploiting your kids by doing this, but teaching them valuable life skills.
Make some Time for You
It may seem impossible to carve out time for you when your life is filled with work, home and family responsibilities. But you only function effectively in all of these roles if you have the energy reserves to do so. If you are a night owl, make sure you take half an hour ever evening that is just for you. If mornings are your thing, set the alarm a little earlier and find your quiet time then. Use this time to do something just for you – read, bathe, sit and stare into space … all superheroes need to recharge sometimes.