Single Parent – 7 Tips for Handling the Double Load
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
Albert Einstein described the three rules of work:
- Out of clutter find simplicity
- From discord find harmony
- In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity
Apparently, he was addressing the single parent. A single parent has to clean out the clutter, not just the physical mess, but the mental clutter. The discord that could arise from balancing work, child care and dating needs to be transformed into positive energy. In the middle of these great challenges lies the opportunity for a single parent to be creative and happy.
One does not take a licensing exam, or get a prescription to become a parent and there is no warning label either. Alright, everyone knows how hard the job is, here are seven tips to de-stress, find your balance, and live fully.
- Express your true feelings. Say no when you don’t feel like doing something. When you say no, you set positive boundaries and say yes to self-esteem. Being assertive does not mean that you are aggressive. Ask for help from family, friends and babysitters. Align yourself with affirming people who lift your spirits and make you feel better just being around them. Attend or develop a single-parenting support group.
- Simplify your existence. Write a daily list to break large tasks into manageable chunks. If you find housework overwhelming, break that into manageable tasks, too. For example, every weekend clean and organize one closet or cabinet at a time. Clean out your pocket book. Don’t let mail, bills, inessentials pile up. Keep things you need within reach, i.e. keys by the door, or stamps, address book and tape in a specific place. Cook multiple portions of meals and freeze leftovers. Use an answering machine to screen phone calls. Write a to-do list with the most difficult tasks first.
- Schedule time for you on your calendar!! Before you became a parent, you were a person and guess what you still are. Do something pleasurable for yourself everyday. Here are some possibilities: an auto massage with warm olive oil, a desert tea and a portion controlled treat—preferably fruit, curling up with a good book, or turn your bathroom into a spa retreat with scented candles and a warm bath. Treat yourself to flowers. The color orange triggers cheerfulness.
- Exercise away your stress, release endorphins, boost energy levels even when you are tired and bring you back to the moment. The moment is very important for a single parent. When a single parent goes to work, he or she worries about the job, co-workers and supervisors, and takes the child(ren) mentally to work. If one just does the job, one does not come home tired. Being in the moment is a great stress reducer and a source of energy. An energy booster translates to better interaction with children. By the way you can exercise with the kids or use them as weights lifting them and lowering!
- Keep a stress file. Clip articles on stress management and take notes on what you read and hear to help you handle your personal stress. Memorize an affirmation to uplift your mood—when you memorize, it is readily available during tumultuous times.
- Let go of the myth of perfection. Don’t be so accommodating to everyone. Change your vocabulary from “I should” to “I could.” Choice provides empowerment.
- Cultivate a comic eye. Pretend your life is a sit com. If it were happening to someone else, I am sure you would be laughing. Humor activates the immune system, elevates serotonin, and cheers everyone up around you. Release your inner child with your child. Try to be more playful. The more you practice, the more it becomes second nature.
Become aware of your earliest physical symptoms of stress before you erupt. Some of us experience headaches, stomach aches, backaches or just plain irritability. When that happens begin to practice conscious breathing, inhale two counts through the nose and exhale four counts through the nose. Then objectify the conflict or situation and reinterpret it with compassion and forgiveness. Reinterpreting will help you turn stress into strength and keep you in the moment. A happy parent means a happy child. It is your moral obligation to be happy…
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIR 92.7 FM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com