This weekend we had a wonderful dinner with old and new friends and I brought up the topic of “Margin” (see our post: MARGIN). It is one of my essential topics because so few people seem to have it in their lives. One of the participants suggested that it is especially challenging for single parents.
It struck me that maintaining margin is especially hard for single working parents and perhaps to a lesser degree, singles in general. The Bible states that two are better than one for the simple reason that they can help each other with life challenges. Tasks can be shared, someone is there to care for them during sickness, and often there may be two incomes sharing the financial burden.
Single parents frequently carry the whole load – finances, chauffering the kids, shopping, cooking, cleaning and disciplining. If there is to be any recreational time, they also have to play “cruise director”. When I suggest building margin into their lives they look at me like I just let my cheese slip off my cracker.
What can single parents do?
The first thing I can think of is to build relationships with others. There might be a tendency to isolate and try to do everything by oneself. Even just the company of others may bring some relief. Can you trade babysitting? You need to carve out time for yourself in any way that you can. Don’t use down time to clean – spend time with God and others.
Next, as hard as it may seem (and you might feel guilty), really limit the extracurricular commitments of your kids. Some kids are actually burdened by the quantity and expectations that come with being overly committed. Sometimes they will agree to activities solely to gain approval from their parent. Even if they feel disappointed by the limits placed upon their choices, they will feel even more let down by an irritable, impatient and overwhelmed parent. Train your kids to be a team with you in the household chores, but be reasonable and encouraging, not an angry taskmaster.
Set a realistic standard of living for yourself and your kids. Simplify. Do everything in your power to make the tasks that need to be performed as quick and easy as possible. Ruthlessly cut out complexity. Eliminate as much clutter as you can. Don’t become a world class “collector” and don’t let your kids become one either. Create systems that can be performed without thinking. Automate bills. Let friends know you are not available to text all day long. There are probably a million other ways to simplify life. What might you add to my list?
Lastly, give yourself grace. I can do finances and taxes easily. Nan would struggle. I would probably nuke every meal. Nan loves to cook and make food look appetizing. If you are single there’s only one person doing everything. Graciously ask for assistance or budget for tasks that overly challenge you if you are able.
Most importantly know that you are loved and that it’s likely that things will get better in time.