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

(55 Posts)
CharCharGabor Thu 27-Feb-14 09:10:40

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?

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

CharCharGabor Sun 09-Mar-14 21:01:16

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

CharCharGabor Thu 13-Mar-14 22:18:01

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.

CharCharGabor Sun 16-Mar-14 12:13:45

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!

CharCharGabor Sun 16-Mar-14 14:51:55

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!

CharCharGabor Mon 17-Mar-14 12:57:50

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 : )

CharCharGabor Mon 17-Mar-14 23:55:25

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

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