Single parents - what are your tips for making life easier?

(55 Posts)

I've been a single parent for almost a month now. I have 3 dds - 6, almost 4 and 15 months. It feels like I never sit down because there is so much to do.

DD3 doesn't sleep very well. She sleeps with me, but in the evening I am often up and down settling her. She is also quite clingy in the day, and tends to scream at the safety gate if I am in the kitchen preparing food etc.

DD1 is in school and DD2 is in preschool, so I need to prepare a packed lunch and uniforms. Then there's cleaning, cooking, and everything else that needs doing and it just feels so overwhelming.

Add to that DD2 and DD3 both being quite ill with a virus (I'm assuming, anyway, we're off to the doctors in a bit). They both want to be lying on top of me, which I can do up to a point but other stuff needs doing too.

It just all feels a bit relentless atm. So I was wondering if anyone who has been there had any tips for making life a little bit easier please?

princessalbert Thu 27-Feb-14 11:47:05

Oh, sounds busy in your life at the moment,OP.

I only had the one DS - but I found that just being generally very organised kept me sane. Any notes from school I dealt with the same day. Got uniform ready the night before. Made sure the book was in bookbag etc. Packed lunches were made up the night before. I also trained up DS to get himself ready from a young age.

I did get a cleaner for a short time. just once a week to do all the jobs I found that I didn't have time to do because of work and childcare. I was in no way rich, but it was worth it for the time saving.

Perhaps at the moment it is all a bit much, with them just getting over an illness. they will take up much more of your time and energy - which is draining on you.

Oh, and I used to go to bed at 9pm myself - in order to have enough energy to see me through the next day.

JammyPodger Thu 27-Feb-14 11:52:05

Agree with dealing with letters etc as soon as you get them. Get all school/pre school stuff set out the night before.

Doesn't work for everyone, but I don't battle over bed time with my DD. If she wants to sleep in my bed then I let her. When she was a toddler I'd let her sleep on the sofa with the tv on low for me.

I think it will get loads easier for you, you're all adjusting to the new situation.

Thanks so much for your advice. I am trying to get a bit of a system in place, so that everything is ready the night before. I end up staying up late though because resettling the baby slows me down! I am lucky that the older two are pretty good at getting themselves dressed, I just have to wipe their faces and do their hair.

I am trying to avoid any major battles as well. DD2 has been in bed with me and DD3 the last few nights as she has been waking herself up coughing. At the moment she is flopped on the couch with a blanket watching tv, and DD3 is taking a brief break from screaming and hanging off my legs to play. She is full of conjunctivitis and looks monstrous but at least is happy for now.

I have told XP to pick DD1 from school tonight so I don't have to drag the little ones out again. Hopefully a good night's sleep will leave them all feeling a little healthier smile

JammyPodger Thu 27-Feb-14 16:47:50

I empty bags and lunch box as soon as we get in. Clean lunch box and put fruit, juice and crisps in ready for the next day.

Dd wears a onsie at home after school so I put uniform in the wash basket and hang a fresh one up.

School bag, shoes and hair things are all kept in a drawer in the hall so I'm not trying to hunt them down in the morning.

Sounds a bit mundane but once DD is asleep I just relax because everything is done. I used to work longer hours and just leave everything until morning but was always running round ironing blouses and looking for books etc.

JammyPodger Thu 27-Feb-14 16:48:28

Sorry forgot to say, hope DD gets well soon.

Thank you smile she is tucked up in bed now and hopefully asleep, I am praying that she is brighter in the morning. It is her birthday on Sunday as well. So I am running round preparing for a party that I might end up having to cancel sad

I will definitely put some of your tips into place, I think a strict routine is what I need!

CagneynotLacey Thu 27-Feb-14 20:14:32

My best piece of advice is going to bed super-early every few nights. My DS is a toddler so my sleep is often disturbed, even if it is just by him climbing into bed with me in the middle of the night (I don't mind this at all apart from the fact it sometimes means my sleep is a bit crap).

Every four nights or so, I'll go to bed just after him and can be tucked up at 8.30 or 9. I find having sufficient sleep makes the challenges much much easier to handle.

Monetbyhimself Thu 27-Feb-14 20:38:51

Definitely get as organised as you can. I set the table for breakfast as soon as I've cleared up from dinner the night before.
Online shopping as much as you can.
Rope the kids in to putting dirty washing in basket etc.

Lower standards grin I ran myself ragged initially and then realised that cuddles with the kids were more important than hoovering every single day.

That sounds like a good idea, Cagney. I'm a bit of a night owl though, and I tend to do the packed lunch, dishes etc once the kids are asleep, as well as trying to wind down a bit! I'm not very good at going to bed early! I am normally good at surviving on very little sleep but I am rather overstretched atm, as well as being full of cold. It's a right pity party in my house right now :D

Ooh, xposted there Monet. I will definitely steal your laying the table for breakfast idea, that would surely speed us up in the morning! Right now it's taking ages to get downstairs as the two small ones have stuck together eyes when they wake up, which need to be bathed so they can see where they're going. It's not normally this crappy though.

I am training the kids up to be a bit more helpful too. They were already quite good, but I'm giving them a bit more responsibility, especially DD1. I think my standards are set too high, really. I am so busy trying to prove to myself that I can do this that I am doing too much.

ballstoit Sun 02-Mar-14 21:24:44

Go easy on yourself. The months between dc3 arriving and dc1 starting school, I really tried to keep the mantra 'all fed,no one dead' at the front of my mind grin

Time to relax and look after yourself is as great a priority as the house and DC.

And if anyone offers to help, let them and be specific about what they could do to help eg drop a meal in, take the dcs out for a walk for an hour, come round and help with bathtime.

Sorry, just seen your message balls, thank you smile "All fed, no one dead" is a great mantra! :D And one I am sticking to religiously at the moment. I am having a truly crappy week, the DC have all been ill and in and out of the doctors. No one is sleeping and I am shattered! Please let next week be a great improvement.

newsandreviews Tue 04-Mar-14 20:33:32

Have you thought of having a HomeStart volunteer? Its what i did when things felt like to much - they are just a friend, a pair of hands to play with kids whilst do some chores, someone to accompany on a day out and good advice on stuff. They are national charity so should have someone in your area www.home-start.org.uk/ You can just phone your local one yourself and say you would like a volunteer. Really highly recommend. It gets better smile

That might be an idea news, thanks smile I am a Homestart breastfeeding volunteer though, so I know a lot of the local vols. I wonder if that might make me feel a bit awkward?

milkysmum Tue 04-Mar-14 23:11:55

I'm a new lone parent. H left at the weekend and I'm in the early days of adapting to a new routine. I work full time Monday- Friday 9-5 and have two children age 5 and 2. I'll definatley be watching this thread for tips myself if that's ok?!

Hi milkysmum! Sorry that it's happened to you too sad I hope you manage to get a few tips from here, and also share anything you have worked out helps a bit smile

sleepdodger Wed 05-Mar-14 00:49:22

Banana cookies blush
Make mornings quicker for breakfast on run and totally healthy with bonus of kids thinking they've had a treat...
Mash 2 past it bananas with 100g porridge oats, chuck in handful of rasins and half a teaspoon ground ginger and ground cinnamon
Make into shapes put on baking paper bake at 200 for 10-15 min

So we do get up get dressed, glass of milk and BC in car... Saves about 8 min of porridge cook and cool time plus endless pre and post breakfast faffing

AnandaTimeIn Wed 05-Mar-14 00:57:13

It WILL get better as they get older not much use now I know

One of the best tips I got from an American single MOMs smile site is to MAKE YOUR BEDROOM INTO YOUR APPARTMENT.

Get all (only) your stuff in there, books booze etc. Anything you need to chill out in there and lock the door

Yes, it works.

Ooh, that is a fab recipe sleepdodger, I will give them a go one I've picked up some bananas.

I still have DD3 in bed with me Ananda, so my bedroom is not much of a safe haven at the moment! But I am trying to make a bit of time to look after myself, in amongst all of the child-wrangling. It's a good thing really, as I didn't do much of it before this happened.

milkysmum Wed 05-Mar-14 14:35:56

HI Char. Yes when I have any tips I will definatley share! I contacted tax credits today (not thinking I would be entitled to any but someone advised I check). Looks like if i reduce to 30 hours tax credits would top up so i wouldnt really lose much! I am thinking of asking my boss if I can do 9-3 which would make such a difference rather than getting in at 5.30- 6pm. I would actually get some quality time with dc's as could pick the eldest up from school rather than her having to always do after school club etc.. Fingers crossed my boss goes for it.
I am also loving the sound of those banana cookies to save time in morning!

I hope your boss goes for it, that'd make your life a bit easier. I'm not working at the moment, have been a SAHM for 6.5 years. I'm hoping to get back into the workplace though, just need to figure out what I want to do first!

foolonthehill Thu 06-Mar-14 09:55:38

My tip;
if there is a milk round where you live then sign up even if it is just for one (expensive) pint a week...it means if your life goes terribly wrong/you are ill and you can;t get to the shops mr milk and more can deliver bread/eggs/etc to your door

i have 4 DC, no family near and work from home....if I don't/can't get out then once or twice this has saved me (no delivery charge and offers are not bad...doesn;t have to break the bank.

Obviously this is just more immediate online shopping but helps

Monetbyhimself Thu 06-Mar-14 19:10:33

All fed, nond dead. I love it grin

milkysmum Thu 06-Mar-14 19:44:29

meeting with my boss tomorow to discuss reducing hours- fingers crossed we can agree on something thwt will mean life feels a bit less hectic.
kids love the banana cookies that someone posted a recipe for- and so easy and quick to makesmile

milkysmum Thu 06-Mar-14 19:44:56

thwt?? that!

NoodleOodle Thu 06-Mar-14 21:46:51

Brilliant, I'm stealing "All fed, no one dead".

My tip is to be kind and forgiving to yourself.

NoodleOodle Thu 06-Mar-14 21:52:10

Ooh, and the bedroom as own apartment thing is good too. I have unconsciously done this, and now that DD is old enough to not need to come in to my bed to sleep, I've even got a teasmaid - never need to leave my room, can leave the kids mess out of sight and out of mind, and chill out on my own. DD has to knock and wait to be allowed to come in, and then only to the entrance, and has learnt that I will come to the door and talk to her in the hallway or hug her in her own bed.

I think I would be more insane than I already am if I didn't have this little bit of space that's my own. It might sound mean, and it's probably impractical to go as far as I have done when DCs are so much younger, but if you get start getting them used to the idea that your bedroom is your private space early (obv. not when they're still at co-sleeping stage), then you will have somewhere to retreat to when it all gets too much (just a couple of times a day currently).

LizCurly Thu 06-Mar-14 21:57:41

Internet shopping. More expensive but maybe not that much more because I am careful. It saves me the nightmare of dragging children to shops and home with bags of shopping.

Also, I make ten sanwiches on sunday evening.

LizCurly Thu 06-Mar-14 21:59:29

I need to start making my bedroom nicer so that I can watch tv in there, or just read in a nice space. In peace. In private.

LizCurly Thu 06-Mar-14 22:03:38

when you fall behind with the washing, drop a bag in to the launderette. I wouldn't do this all the time but I do do it about once every 6 weeks I'd say.

I only work three days a week, and my children are both at school, so I have it easy compared to OP I think. Three children and one a toddler. Argh!

NoodleOodle Thu 06-Mar-14 22:21:08

Oh, and work -it's a great idea to cut your hours don to more practical child-friendly hours BUT if you do manage to negotiate this, also make sure that your duties are reduced relative to your hours. Other friends and I have found with working part-time hours that if not negotiated carefully, you end up expected to do a full-time job in part-time hours, working from home effectively for free.

Not meant to scare you but just some thing to bear in mind. If it does seem like the duties cannot be reduced, perhaps ask for the hours at work to be 9-3, but keep your pay the same and arrange to work a couple of hours from home? Working from home with children is difficult though so I would recommend you aim for the first option, lower hours and less work, if at all possible.

Good luck smile

Monetbyhimself Fri 07-Mar-14 08:10:52

Finances-set everything up to be paid monthly by direct debit or standing order. Use online billing so no mountains of phone bills etc cluttering up the kitchen work surfaces.

milkysmum Fri 07-Mar-14 11:39:10

just discussed reducing hours with my boss. only way I can do it is if I am sure I want the reduction to be permanent so my hours could be given to someone else in the team who is looking to increase to full time. I could then either do 4 full days or 5 9-3 days. I work as a community nurse and my cadeload would reduced accordingly. going to have a furthet think over the weekend and let her know next week what I would like to dosmile

mumandboys123 Fri 07-Mar-14 22:15:34

If you have high housework standards, lower them. A bit of dust isnt' the end of the world, nor is not hoovering every day or changing the beds every week. Do the necessary but don't go overboard.

Get a dishwasher if you have space and don't already have one - I wish I had done this sooner. I only have space for two appliances so had to save up enough to change my washing machine to a washer/dryer at the same time as taking out the dryer and putting in the dishwasher but it has bought me a good half hour in the evenings and just seems to make everything easier.

I second the milk delivery - it also saves a fortune when picking up a pint or two and you end up buying other stuff you really don't need.

And be kind to yourself - it is early days. It takes time to get in a new routine but you will get there xxx

Lioninthesun Sat 08-Mar-14 21:54:38

Yes to getting a dishwasher. Also see if you can not iron things by shaking them out properly before drying or folding/hanging up straight from tumble dryer. If the kids will sit to watch something that will give you 15mins of sanity time, don't be worried to put it on and leave them to it. If it means you can throw all of the veg that looks a little menacing and a lump of meat plus stock cube into the slow cooker and run a cloth over kitchen work surfaces and stick a wash on, DO IT!
Vis-a-vis the above, my other love is the slow cooker - nothing goes to waste and minimal effort.
Freezing left overs as quick meals for yourself or a fussy eater is also handy and means no waste.
Meet friends of kids in parks/outside/play gym - anywhere but not your house! As often as possible, anyway. So many times I've spent half a day cleaning only to have glitter upturned on carpet/food mashed into cleaned rug/paint on walls literally seconds after someone else's kids come to play...<sigh>
Definitely be nice to yourself. Someone has to be! grin

Hi, sorry I'm late coming back to this but I've been running round getting ready for DD2's birthday party today, which I had to postpone for a week as she's been too ill.

It's been an utterly hellish two weeks tbh, everyone has needed me so intensely, no one has been sleeping or eating and I've been worrying about all of them. But, fingers crossed, they are all on the mend now.

Am just going to go back and read all of your posts now, some great tips here smile

LizCurly Sun 09-Mar-14 21:59:09

I totally transformed my bedroom yesterday morning. Bagged up loads of crap. Moved the furniture round a bit. It's far from being an apartment! I think AMericans have bigger houses?! but it's a more pleasant place to hide with a book now.

taratamara Mon 10-Mar-14 17:24:08

[smiled] well done liz that's great
and thankyou to the banana cookie recipe poster thanks have made those what a fab idea
hi to everyone brew

taratamara Mon 10-Mar-14 17:24:25

blush smile even! I did smile

Sorry, I am coming back late to this thread! Some fab ideas and tips, thank you so much. I seem to be slipping into a slightly easier routine now. And the children are all healthier and sleeping a bit better, which helps. It does feel like an awful lot of pressure, knowing that all of the dreary day to day tasks fall to me all of the time, but I think it is running a little bit more smoothly.

Thanks to this thread I am also planning to redecorate my bedroom and make it a bit more welcoming for me smile I dream of having a diswasher, that would definitely cut down on the evening work. The tumble dryer is coming in very handy though. And the milk delivery tip is genius, I am definitely going to do that as I can foresee times when it will be difficult to get out of the house. Not least because only DD1 has had chicken pox so far, so I have that to look forward to.

Well done on the bedroom sorting, Liz! And hi to tara as well smile

I know I haven't mentioned a lot of the ideas on the thread, but they have all been so useful, thank you smile

NoodleOodle Sat 15-Mar-14 16:59:15

I'm in my apartment now smile just chilling, dinner half cooked. Half cooked is ok isn't it? lol

Banana cookies sound genius, I have to try that.

Recipe wise, frozen meat replacement stuff is great (quorn chunks and similar), cooks much quicker than real meat and it's convenient. Leave fruit in easy to reach places so they can snack without having to ask you every time they're slightly hungry, and it's fruit too so, pretty healthy unless they go overboard, and if they're in danger of doing that, just leave out the right amount.

Teach them to get their own drinks, always using a plastic beaker part filled with water. Never full as they won't drink it all, and it'll get left and spilled, plastic so that when they do drop it, no harm done. Or if they're not old enough for that, give them a sports bottle type thing with water in it when you get home. This way you're not forever getting milk out of the fridge or mixing up squash.

I need to get this apartment thing sorted grin I have been looking at paint colours this week, and think I've settled on one. Now just to find the time to buy it and get painting!

(And a half cooked dinner definitely counts.) wink

Will pick up some quorn, that would come in handy when I'm pushed for time. I have the fruit bowl in reach, just have to watch out for the apples with one bite taken and replaced smile Will pick up some sports bottles as well, and must encourage DD1 to help herself. Not that she needs much encouragement, she's in an extreme independence phase right now!

Monetbyhimself Sun 16-Mar-14 12:17:53

Am on a spring cleaning mission as well! My bedroom is last on the list and I am having to smuggle broken crayons out of the playroon but I'm determined to be clutter free by summer!

Nice one Monet! I have the same goal. Most of the house is a lot less cluttered but there's still a way to go. I did a stealth sort out of the playroom a few weeks ago when the kids were in bed. It's the only way!

Monetbyhimself Mon 17-Mar-14 12:14:58

I think I might hire a skip!

I am so tempted, I would love to just lob almost everything we own in one and start all over again with barely anything!

gilmoregirl Mon 17-Mar-14 13:54:25

I have been a single parent for many years and although still have some times when I find it hard I am generally pretty organised. I do most of the things above along these lines:

Do everything in bulk - EVERYTHING:

Food shopping: buy everything on special offer that is not perishable and some things can be frozen - I have practically a life time supply of baked beans, chopped tomatoes, loo roll, Weetabix, pasta, kids yogurts (the tube or sachet kind - buy when on offer for £1 and keep in freezer - take one out each day for packed lunch acts like a wee ice block)

Clothes shopping: Buy next size up in clothes so you always have stuff for them to grow into. I can get a bit carried away but buy stuff in sales such as cords, shirts, school uniform, shoes etc. I also buy myself pretty much the same clothes again and again as I know fits me so just buy more dresses in different colour.

Cooking: make double or triple of recipes and freeze the rest so you always have something for tea. I do soup in individual portions for my lunches at work, pasta sauce, chilli, lasagne etc. Any perishables you buy in bulk can be split into portions and frozen - I do this with things like sausages, chicken kiev, chicken breasts (I pre chop into portions so can just defrost then cook).

Packed lunches: on a sunday sort out the week's lunches, I pre-make sandwiches (I used to freeze them in bulk but have not done so lately), do wee pots of raisins, fruit, play time snacks etc all laid out.

Washing: I do it all at the weekend. I avoid washing DS's uniform items unless it is essential - I try to wipe him down with a damp cloth where possible. I make sure that he has tons of pants and socks and enough school uniform (bought in bulk in the sales - sainsburys and M&S have great uniform sales so I just buy stuff whenever I see a bargain).

Presents: always have a gift cupboard of items for your children and their friends - I buy books from book people, when I see toys such as lego on offer I buy a couple, shamelessly put items given to DS straight into the gift cupboard...... I also have some items for adults such as stationery, jewellery etc just buy stuff in sales again. Plus always have a selection of birthday cards and gift wrap on hand.

When a child gets an invitation to a party: ask child if they want to go, if yes reply to say they would love to come, at that point go to gift cupboard/card selection and wrap suitable gift/persuade child to scrawl in card. Stick card on gift and leave in prominent position. Add party time date location to calendar / electronic diary.

Toilettries: buy in bulk when on offer so you always have soap, deodorant, shampoo, painkillers, tampax etc. Sometimes I worry when I look in my bathroom cabinet and see six boxes of ibruprophen and five bottles of calpol but in an emergency at least we would be ok : )

Wine: buy by the case and always keep a bottle in the fridge.

Chocolate: always have some in the house.

A couple more tips:

Don't iron anything. Ever.

Use baby wipes for house work. I use them on the floor, to dust, to sponge marks off clothes etc etc. You can never have too many baby wipes (even if your child is no longer a baby)

Register with your local pharmacy for the minor ailments - this means that the pharmacist can prescribe medicine for things such as head lice, thread worms, veruccas, allergies etc. The pharmacist in my local chemist is lovely and we seem to end up in there every few weeks so she knows us well..... saves on having to make a GP appointment for those little things that children pick up on a regular basis.....

I work full time and find the best way to be organised in the morning is to get DS up and sitting with his breakfast and school clothes laid out while I shower, on a good day he will eat his breakfast and get dressed before I am out the shower : )

Hi gilmoregirl! Thank you so much for your fab massive post, I am reading and rereading, as I am the whole thread smile

Will definitely take your tip to do everything in bulk, that will make everything a lot easier. And the gift cupboard too, genius!

I do use baby wipes for a lot more than just baby arse wiping, they speed up the cleaning process tenfold :D Will get down to the pharmacy tomorrow and register for that, that would be really helpful.

I have managed to get everything ready for the morning tonight, including breakfast things laid out and I grabbed a shower in between DD3's wake ups so hopefully tomorrow morning will go nice and smoothly smile

Monetbyhimself Tue 18-Mar-14 10:05:50

Definitely second not ironing! In fact on the rare occasions that I DO set up the ironing board, the kids are intrigued grin

See, I don't know how people manage without ironing! It is my most hated task, and frankly I'm a bit shit at it. But however much I shake and immediately fold out of the dryer, everything still looks like a crumpled mess. I draw the line at my stuff though, I use my body heat and excess padding to get rid of the creases grin

gilmoregirl Sat 22-Mar-14 18:44:43

Yes I am rubbish at ironing too (prob out of practice !) I am sure DS and I would look far more well groomed if I were to iron but sod it, I have very little time and would far rather spend an hour sitting on sofa watching Gilmore girls and drinking wine than ironing. The amount of effort required is just too much. As all our clothes are pretty much the same just in different colours it's just part of our look.

Corduroy does not need much ironing so makes up most our wardrobes....

mineofuselessinformation Sat 22-Mar-14 18:55:53

Totally agree with online shopping, bulk cooking and making the house feel 'yours'.
The other thing that saved my sanity was that I sat down and planned a three week menu so I knew what to buy and cook in advance. The dcs never knew until I told them a few months ago!

hopea Wed 26-Mar-14 00:41:14

Hi. How are you all? I am Hope and have just a 6year old daughter, but it sometimes seems like having a few kids.

milkysmum Fri 28-Mar-14 21:51:41

gilmoregirl that post was great- really helpful advice. I have a 5 year old and 2 year old. h moved out a month ago so still getting used to our new routine

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