Six tips for flying solo

Today's guest post is from Dorothy of Singular Insanity. I love her tips because they are practical and actually work in real life. Be sure to read more about Dorothy on her blog after you finish this post xx

I don’t think many of us ever plan to be single parents, let alone sole parents.  It was my greatest fear.  But when it happens, you simply pick yourself up and get on with it.  You have no choice.

How do I do it?

I do less; a lot less.  I completely changed my expectations of myself as a parent and learnt that there were limits to how much I could do and cope with.

1. Housework: One of the first things I did was to hire a cleaner. I could afford it at the time and frankly, it was incredibly good value for money, given how much weight it removed from my shoulders. 

These days, I have simply lowered my expectations of how my house looks day-to-day.  As long as there are no cockroaches, or other insects, crawling about, and our feet don’t stick to the floors, it’s all good.

2. After school activities: I realised that there is only so much I and the children could do in a day.  There is homework to be done, books to be read, dinner to be eaten and relaxing to be had. 

So, I reduced my boys’ after-school activities and made sure that we only did things they both could do on the same day and at the same time. Or at least close to the same time.  I just wasn’t up to multiple afternoons out and late dinners.  We also learnt to keep our weekends free to allow us at least two lazy mornings in the week. 

Most recently, I enrolled the boys in a sports program run at their school immediately after school hours.  So that’s four weeks with an extra hour for me.

3. Outside Care: I stopped feeling guilty about childcare, after-school care and holiday programs.  When it’s just you, it is easy to feel smothered and overwhelmed by the constant emotional and physical needs of your children. 

I love that both my boys are at school now and I use holiday programs to give us a break from each other during school holidays.

4. Simple Cooking: Meals are the constant bane of my life.  My kids are fussy eaters and are not keen on trying new foods.  It’s a battle I’ve chosen not to fight.  I do batch cooking of meals I know they will eat and then it’s easy to reach in the freezer and have dinner ready in 30 minutes. 

Sometimes, we do very simple meals like two-minute noodles, eggs on toast, tinned spaghetti and shop-bought lasagne.  I’ve even stopped feeling guilty about toasted sandwiches.

5. Involving the kids: From very early on I have been teaching the boys that families have to work together and help each other.  While it’s often easier to let chores and rules slide, just to get some peace, I know that, in the long term, this will just mean more and more work for me. 

They have jobs they can do around the house to earn “game time” and I often have them asking “what jobs can we do, mum?”  Hopefully one day, they will do it out of habit and will grow up to be capable young men who can look after themselves.

6. Behaviour: This is probably the toughest aspect of sole parenting.  There is no-one else to reinforce family rules, expected behaviours and consequences.  No-one to take over, even just for five minutes. 

We have always had family rules, but, as a sole parent, I constantly find myself in the role of the bad cop.  I don’t like that role and as a consequence I periodically find myself struggling with the boys’ behaviour.  Not listening, opposition, bad manners, temper tantrums, fights.. 

It’s not that I don’t know what to do, is that I need to remind myself.  I need discipline in myself, so I can help my boys to develop their own.

About Dorothy: Dorothy began blogging in January 2009, as a way to process the break-up of her marriage.  She blogs to keep herself sane, more or less.  A sole parent of two boys, Dorothy is also a freelance writer, thinker and chronic furniture re-arranger.  You can find her blog, Singular Insanity, here.