Managing rough days as a single parent

Smooth sailing ... If only every day were like that!

Smooth sailing … If only every day were like this!

Let’s talk about parenting for a minute, shall we? If you’re a parent, it is a huge part of your life. If you’re a single parent, it is likely an even be a bigger part of your life, because you are essentially doing the work of two people at once.

I’m a single parent. Some days I’m good with that, and feel I have it all under some level of control. Those are good days. You could even call them great days. For me those days look something like this: my home is relatively clean, we’ve eaten well, the kids are getting along fight-free, chores have been done without my having to yell to make it all happen, I’ve been productive in work, and there is plenty of cash on reserve in the bank. Maybe I even managed to write and exercise and do more with my hair than let it air dry all messy. Those days are the best. Drama free, good days where the world seems to be spinning along calmly and all is as it should be.

Then there are the days where I feel as though I have absolutely nothing under control. Maybe even less than nothing. We all have them, right? Those days are the worst. They’re the days when you want to crawl back into bed and not wake up until you know things are better. The days when you feel like the biggest loser on earth who can’t get anything right. When you wonder why the heck you even let yourself reproduce and wonder if your will kids turn out to be anything but criminals or homeless. The days when nothing seems to go right. The kids fight, you spill coffee on your shirt before heading out the door for a meeting, your home is a mess, and when you check the mail you find pricey bills you were not expecting.

Luckily, most days are somewhere in the middle. Where things aren’t perfect, but they aren’t too bad either. But on the really icky days, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to manage them without having a mental breakdown. Here they are:

  • Take frequent breaks - In addition to raising my kids, I also work. Thankfully I have the luxury of working from home, which gives me lots of flexibility and the ability to manage my schedule more or less how I want to. But in between managing a home, taking kids to doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher nights, running errands, and all the rest, there is almost always a lot to do. So I pace myself, and you should too. If I have a busy day ahead of me, I’ll schedule out the hours of the day first thing in the morning, adding at least two solid breaks somewhere in the day. My breaks are either a 1-hour run to my favorite café for a cappuccino, a long phone call with a friend while I’m dreading my daily protein shake (more about the protein shake below), or a nap if I’m really tired. These breaks will help fuel your day, I promise you.
  • Get enough protein - I’m a total sugar fiend. I love sweets and bread and all things carbs, and I wish we could all live off of cake and ice cream and cookies, because the world would probably be a better place if we did. However – our bodies can’t handle much sugar, so we need to fuel them well. And if you’re an active mom with a draining job and/or draining kids, fueling yourself with sugars just won’t cut it. Believe me, I’ve tried! But you need vitamins and nutrients and protein. Especially protein, something that women frequently don’t get enough of. I recently started swapping out my afternoon coffee for a protein shake (well, half a scoop of protein and half collagen) and the result is amazing. I don’t have major sugar cravings in the afternoon which lead to mindless snacking, and I end up with level energy levels all afternoon and evening. If you haven’t tried this and find yourself lagging late afternoon, try this.
  • Accept and and all help that comes your way and outsource what you can- Unfortunately, so many of us live life on our own without close-knit communities to help you carry the load of life we all have … but if you have friends or family around who on occasion offer to take care of your kids, or treat you to a drink, or whatever – take them up on it. Every time. If you’re like me and live abroad and don’t have that close network of peeps to help you out, find good people and pay them to help you. If you’re kids are little, find a good babysitter to take care of them from time to time so that you get a much-needed break. Having great sitters my kids loved is something I have always done and I swear it saved my life and sanity as a parent, even when I was married. Likewise, a good house cleaner – especially if you’re working part time – can also be worth their weight in gold. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or hiring if out if needed.

There are doubtless many more ways to keep up your mom-energy and make life work … but those are my top go-tos. What are yours?