Parenting in itself is a challenging responsibility, and if you are a single, working parent, it can often seem like you are playing a doubles match alone. That’s why we are bringing you some mental health tips for single parents holding down busy jobs.
There are unique mental health challenges of being a single parent. And figuring things out will take trial and error. While you might feel lonely, don’t forget your kid(s) is on your team. And as the captain of the team, your health, both mental and physical, is of prime importance. Here are a few tips to protect your mental health as a single, working parent-
Mental Health Tips for Single Working Parents
Prioritise your own health
Single parents may de-prioritise self-care. This is something you want to avoid at all costs. Make sure to plan your own meals, when you plan your child’s. Be regular with your health check-ups, medications and exercise. As clichéd as it might sound, a simple morning or an evening walk, can be your self-care oasis.
Don’t chase perfection
As a working single parent, you are already familiar with multi-tasking. Parenthood is a 24/7 job, with no days off. Juggling between being a working professional, a caregiver, a teacher, life coach, handy-person, chef, and playmate can be challenging.
Balancing all these roles and many more, is a taxing, tiring process. The key is to not run behind unrealistic perfection. It’s okay to have a low-key day once in a while. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Experiment with different ways and solutions. Trial and error will help you find a system that works for you. And make sure to relish the small highs: like when your kid writes you a card calling you the “greatest parent in the world”.
Establishing boundaries at work and at home has proved helpful to various parents and single working parents. While you don’t need to keep these borders rigid, make sure that your child and your colleagues are aware of your availability. This automatically cuts stress.
When you are at work, the thing that you need most is knowing that your child is safe and taken care of. Hiring a babysitter or helper at home often makes it much easier to focus on your work.
Plan your finances
Financial challenges are a common reality among many working professionals. As a single working parent, this is even more important.
Planning ahead, exploring investment opportunities, and keeping a check on your expenses will help you to stick to your budget. Talk to a financial expert if you need professional assistance.
Reach out for help when needed
Expect the unexpected. A sudden call from school, seasonal allergies, or tummy aches can throw your entire schedule out of the window. Solving these problems takes allies.
Be in close touch with your child’s paediatrician. Reach out to your parents, relatives, or friends you’re close to, and ask if they can pitch in occasionally during these crises.
Every superhero has a sidekick, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Being a single parent doesn’t mean you have to bear the weight alone.
Speak to your child
You might have the urge to protect your child from the hurt associated with the end of your relationship with your partner. However, it’s important that your child eases into and accepts this new reality with your support and love. Rather than keeping the child in a bubble, away from reality, communicate with them openly and help them understand the situation.
It is not always possible to know the right thing to say or have the correct answer to their questions. It is okay to say “I don’t know yet” and “We will figure it out, one step at a time”. Presenting a rosy picture to your child might make it more difficult for them to accept the new reality.
Consult a good lawyer
In any separation, it is important to know your legal rights and demand them. Consulting a good lawyer can ensure that you protect yourself, and your child, from the fallout of your separation. This is especially important if there was any abuse or trauma involved in your relationship.
Work out a mutually agreeable custody/co-parenting arrangement
Co-parenting or shared custody after a divorce or a separation, is going to take some time before you find the right rhythm. It definitely helps if you and your ex-partner share common goals for your child’s happiness, welfare and security.
Make sure that custody or co-parenting arrangements are clearly ironed out. Don’t let anger, resentment, or hurt get in the way of your child’s welfare. A well-defined and mutually acceptable custody/co-parenting arrangement will take away constant stress from your mind.
Dating as a single parent
Stepping into the world of dating can be daunting, but having a warm and supportive partner is great for your mental health.
When you feel ready to date again, ease into the idea. Talk to a counsellor to address confusing emotions. Questions like “Will my kids be okay with me dating?”, “When should I introduce my kids to my new partner?” and “Do I even want to be in a relationship again? are totally normal. There is no one right answer, it depends on what feels right.
Its important to keep your kid(s) in the loop, especially if/when you sense the relationship is getting serious. Feeling guilt or worry about the effects of dating on your child is completely natural, but don’t let the guilt hold you back.
Speak to a mental health professional
Battling with various stressors of a single working parent, it’s important to look out for yourself and not get anxious, depressed or burnt out. Signing up for therapy sessions is a good way to figure out the issues uppermost in your mind and to begin tackling them systematically with an expert’s help.
Did you find the above tips useful? Keep reading the Manah Wellness blog for more such parenting and workplace wellbeing resources!