Messy Single Moms: Here’s How to Clean Up Your Act!
By Sandra Duffy
Being a single mom to two young children was the last thing I thought would ever happen to me. But life sometimes has other ideas. I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer when my children were 1 ½ and 3. I went back to work two weeks after my husband’s death and had to get two young children up in the morning, feed them breakfast, make their lunches, drop them off, go to work, pick them up at the end of the day, make them dinner, give them baths and put them to bed. Oh, and I needed to spend quality time playing, reading and doing crafts with them.
Here is some single parenting advice on how to handle it all:
Make your meals for the week on the weekend—when the kids were napping (well my youngest would nap, my older child would have mandated “rest time” where he would watch TV or a DVD quietly), I would cook a couple of large meals for the week, so all I had to do when we all got home was heat everything up in the microwave.
I also did this with breakfast. I would make a batch of pancakes and oatmeal, cut up some fruit and have it ready for the week. On days we were running late, I could throw breakfast into their lunchboxes and they would eat at daycare. If I didn’t get lunches packed for the week on the weekends, I would do it the night before.
Lay out their clothes ahead of time—I would plan out what they were going to wear for the week. This assured that everything they needed was clean and cut down on looking for clothes, socks and shoes in the morning. You can enlist the help of your children and tell them these are their Monday clothes; these are their Tuesday clothes, etc.
If you can afford it, get some help—I have a teenager come in the evenings who acts as a mother’s helper. Since you are not leaving your children alone with this person, you can fine someone younger than a regular babysitter, maybe an upper elementary or middle school student. This will often cost a lot less then a teenager who drives or a college student. She keeps one child entertained while I bathe the other.
Prioritize or re-prioritize—What’s more important to your children—putting all the toys away in their proper place or having a tea party with them? While I make sure I wash and dry their clothes, it’s rare they make it out of the laundry basket and into their drawers. Who cares? It’s more important for all of us that we snuggle up and read The Very Hungry Caterpillar than the clothes get put away.
Cut yourself a break—guilt doesn’t help anyone. You can’t do everything perfectly and remember that no one can no matter what her circumstances. Be there for the big moments, but don’t rack yourself with guilt for missing the smaller moments. Every year I miss my children’s Halloween parade at daycare, but I make a point of taking them trick-or-treating at our local outdoor shopping mall.
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Sandi Duffy works as a freelance writer and educator. She hosts a blog entitled A Widow for One Year where she shares her journey as a recently widowed single mother of two young children and is working on a memoir entitled Young Widow…One Woman’s Journey Through the First Year and Beyond. Ms. Duffy is also involved in raising funds for pancreatic cancer research through the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.