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Single parents who work full-time, please tell me how you do it - how you juggle everything and keep smiling

40 replies

Rumbled · 22/03/2010 01:20

So far as a lone parent, I've been able to work part-time, which has worked well around DS going to school - I've been able to see a lot of him in the gaps between school and him visiting his dad. I have found there's enough time to do housework, errands, cook some decent meals, and also see friends and enjoy some down time when DS's been with his dad. It feels balanced. Given my/our circumstances, I feel very fortunate, and DS and I have a lovely relationship.

My financial circumstances are changing, however, and in a few months' time, I'll know if I'll need to switch to working full-time, which is looking likely. I realise a lot of lone parents work full-time, and I'm in awe. I don't know how they/you do it.

I'm so afraid that, if I work full-time, I'll see so little of DS (nearly six): four rushed mornings and tired bedtimes a week, and every other weekend only. I won't be able to organise playdates (we have a few a week at the moment), and DS - who tends to be withdrawn in big groups and clubs - will have to go to after-school clubs because grandparents can't help five days a week. I worry that I'll struggle to keep on top of things to do with the house - housework, maintenance, paperwork/admin, cooking, etc - and errands. I'm worried I'll be tired and grumpy, and see less of friends/pursue fewer interests because I'll need to catch up on chores (and sleep!) when DS's with his dad.

I know I'm being really negative about this and worrying a lot. I suppose it's because life feels manageable now - balanced - and is far better than I ever imagined it would be as a single mum, and I'm reasoning that working full-time will surely upset this balance. My best friend works full-time. She's single too, and her life seems exhausting - and she doesn't have kids!

Please tell me it can be OK; how I can view this likelihood more positively. If you're a lone parent working full-time, tell me how you do it - how you juggle everything: being a good enough mum, doing a good enough job at work, keeping your home more or less in order, getting enough rest and having a life outside of all of this. Is it possible?!

Thank you.

OP posts:
Niceguy2 · 22/03/2010 06:57

Hi Rumbled

I've been a single parent for 7 years now. During which time I've always worked full time. Now I work mainly from home but for quite a few years I had to work in an office.

You've pretty much got the theory right. It's all about juggling and being happy at being just "good enough". If you are one of those who expects the house to be sparkling, kids to get home cooked food each night whilst be on top of work then you will just simply burn out.

What I will say is that now I am totally glad I continued to work even when at the beginning I used to wonder why since financially it wasn't really worth it.

The reason is that now my kids have hopefully seen their dad work, sacrifice and juggle. All useful skills for them to have.

In addition over the years I've worked my way up a bit and whilst I won't be driving a Ferrari anytime soon we are more comfortable now. My kids are older now and don't remember being the first to arrive at school and the last to leave. That guilt is all mine.

So in answer to your question about how to view this more positively, I'd say focus on the long term, not the short.

I remember someone I used to know telling about when she was a single mum many years ago. She sacrificed a lot to be a stay at home mum, lived off benefits so she could be with the kids as much as possible. They grew up and left. What they remember is not the times they baked, went to the park etc. What they remember is they grew up poor.

I guess that was a big reason why I persisted in working.

BelleDameSansMerci · 22/03/2010 07:13

In all honesty, you probably will find that some things will have to either go or get less attention. And you may well be grumpy and stressy for the first few weeks as you adjust to your new schedule. If you expect this, though, you can watch for it and not let it affect DS. Once you get used to things, though, I'm sure you'll both be fine.

I've worked full time since DD was 4 months old. She's now 2.6. Economic necessity, of course. I should say that I do get some help towards her nursery fees from her dad but that's all. Anyway, my DD has absolutely thrived at nursery - she's a healthy, happy, chatty, affectionate little girl. She's also very confident. You may find that your DS flourishes in his after school club.

I am lucky in that I have a good job and can afford a cleaning lady (and she does everything) to come once a week. I don't have family around so do have to rely on friends and my DD's favourite carer from nursery for babysitting, etc. I don't go out much and I am tired a lot of the time but I assume this will get easier as DD gets older.

And with regard to personal relationships, fortunately I'm too tired to care!

Rumbled · 22/03/2010 10:11

Thanks, Niceguy2 and BelleDameSansMerci.

I'm not "one of those" who expects the house to be immaculate. I'm a bit messy, TBH. But I do treasure the time I have with DS, feeling that I can keep more or less on top of domestic stuff, and I enjoy cooking, and gardening, and helping with a couple of community groups. Some of these things would have to give, I suppose.

That's a helpful way to look at it: thinking long-term. I think about the time I'd miss out on with DS now, feeling tired now. But you're right in that there would be some long-term gains, for both DS and I. I do want to be working BTW, and I agree it sets a valuable example to our kids. Working part-time, I feel I could model providing, balance and effective juggling; working full-time, I suspect I'd be demonstrating burn-out, stress and crappy work-life balance! I can be quite a scatty, easily overwhelmed person, so am not as efficient as I'd like to be.

It's encouraging, though, to read that you have both made full-time working work, as single parents. I'm fearing the transition, change, but perhaps it won't be as bad as I'm imagining.

OP posts:
LadyBiscuit · 22/03/2010 10:22

I also work full time but do work from home one day a week which I find helps in terms of reducing stress levels - sometimes the getting us up and out is the worst bit of it! There are times when I feel like I don't do anything very well - I'm not a great parent nor am I committed 100% to my job but those are rare. My DC are used to being picked up at 6pm and that still gives us a good amount of time together. We do baking and I spent all afternoon gardening yesterday while they played so it is possible to maintain interests! I would probably drop anything that requires a certain level of time commitment from you - not sure if that is the case with your community groups - but I've found needing to be somewhere at a specific time on a regular basis just added to my stress. Like belledame, I use pro babysitters when I go out and have a cleaner for a couple of hours once a week, both of which I think are critical to my happiness. Relationships aren't!

cestlavielife · 22/03/2010 10:43

yes cleaner is essential!
what will your full time hours be?

i ahve changed my hours to 0930 to 4.30 which means i can drop off to school and pick up from after school club. it finishes at 5.30 rather than 6 unfotunately!

generally they enjoy after school, tho occasionally they complain... so-and-so always gets picked up at 3.30. i just say: that is life, i have to work, so we can afford to go to xxx and yyy and zzz and buy your new bike and your nintendo and xxxxx etc,etc.

also they have to go to holiday playschemes - but again, while occasional complaints thay ahve a great time - and sometimes other parents will pick them up etc for playdates.

that's the two "typical" kids - with my ds who has special needs i need full care in holidays - he has just moved on from really good playschme and into teenage services - so using his after school carers to assist with that . he also goes to respite once a month for fri evening-to sunday.

agree take long term view on it. it is tiring... but if you will be able to recharge every other weekend i think you will be fine!

elastamum · 22/03/2010 10:54

I am a LP and I work full time in a pretty full on job that involves some travelling and a 1 1/2 hour commute. I have a cleaner and an au pair and i try to work from home as much as possible. Im not particularly houseproud and I spend all my spare time with my kids, no hint of a relatonship here atm I did think about reducing my hours but like niceguy I need the money to maintain our standard of living so I decided that I would grit my teeth and go back full time so the kids could stay at their priviate school and not lose their friends as well as their Dad. It is tiring, but it works for us and I reckon I can just about keep it up until they leave home and I retire, at which time I will collapse in a heap and they can bury me under a pile of dirty washing

BelleDameSansMerci · 22/03/2010 11:47

Oh elastamum - I fear I have at least 16 more years of this to come (and I'm already 44)!

I should say, though, that I think DD and I do get a some lovely time together. We get up quite early in the morning (she may have been a lark in a former life) which I hate but I just grit my teeth smile and tell myself it's more time with her. This morning, for example, we played with her train track at 6:15am... Peep, bloody, peep!

newyorkshire · 22/03/2010 21:38

I work full time too and you do get used to it and I agree with what everyone else has said on here! It just becomes a habit after a while [that feeling of being like a hamster in it's wheel].

Yes some things have to give and by Friday my house is a complete tip so I blitz it friday night or saturday morning in about two hours and then its FREEDOM! I sometimes get up before the children to do it just so I can have more time relaxing with them. I guess my social life has slid away from me and I haven't been ''out out'' for about a year I guess.
And yes, it's really tiring but I think it's how you deal with it and I just think it's better for my children to see me working hard and they understand that money dosn't grow on trees etc.
They have always had a childminder [since 6 months old] and they just accept it. Sometimes they question it, but they know that is the way it is and deal with it too!
I am sure you will be fine, like evryone has said, prioritize and enjoy!

Monty100 · 22/03/2010 21:53

I'm a lp and work full time. I can't afford a cleaner, and I'm quite fussy and houseproud. I try and cook in advance, I always double up and freeze leftovers. You get used to it all. Hang up washing straight away so it doesn't all need ironed, just fold and put away within reason. Tidy round bathroom in the morning, I've been know to do it at the same time as brushing my teeth! My biggest downfall is staying up too late mning 'cos I like some space, when going to bed early and getting up early and getting some stuff done would be much more productive.

Good luck anyway, just try and stay calm and go with it while you're getting used to it working out shortcuts.

pertbootywish · 22/03/2010 22:14

I'm a LP and work full-time, dd 4yrs goes to nursery and grandma helps out (a lot at the moment as I've recently changed jobs and will be travelling quite a bit).

I do find it tiring and there is the guilt thing (esp this week when we've had the "I don't want to go to nursery" tantrum mornings!). I don't even contemplate housework in the week, I leave it till Friday or Sunday night (sometimes dd and I do it together like a game). Not very many nights out either....

but I do relish the time I spend with dd and hope I'm providing a good role model for her, she said she wanted to be just like me for the first time the other day and to go to work aw

I know before I started my new role I agonised over what my working pattern would be like, the logistics and the effect it would have on dd until I was almost ill. But I did learn that it's wasted energy to stress about the what if's, just go with the flow and I'm sure you'll find something that works for you.

BelleDeChocolateFluffyBunny · 22/03/2010 22:21

Ds is 10 and I have raised him by myself since he was born, I went back to work when he was 2 and have had a few jobs and studied at uni since so I tend to do things that work around nursery, now school hours (with the help of a babysitter/after school club). If I were you (and not me, I give out advice but I don't take it IYSWIM), I'd spend the weekend you have free meeting up with friends, cleaning the house and making batches of food which are then frozen so you can eat them during the fortnight. I find that I am too tired to cook from scratch during the week. Ds and I do fun stuff (cinema etc) at the weekends, week nights we get home, he does homework whilst I cook the supper, we eat, chat, watch TV, he bathes most nights then goes to bed.

LadyBiscuit · 23/03/2010 15:56

Ah pertbootywish - I get a splendid variation on that as my DS goes to a CM part of the week and to nusery the rest of the time. When it's a nursery day, it's 'I want to go to XX's!' and then when it's a CM day, I get 'but I want to go to nuuuursery today!'

Can't win

maristella · 23/03/2010 18:07

when ds was at primary school he went to an after school facility which also gave him tea. i did my best to make sure we chatted lots on the way to school and on the way home from his after school place.
now he's at secondary school he goes home before me, which was a big scary step, but one that he was ready for.
i blitz the house on the weekend, and when he's in bed i sort out the washing and the dishwasher (dishwasher is essential as a single working parent!), but do everything else on the weekend.
i also cook up some nice meals for him on some weekends that i can freeze, so he can have nice meals served up as quickly as possible when i get home. i make up puddings on the weekends too.
hope it works out well for you

notevenamousie · 23/03/2010 19:56

It is very hard.
I have never had the feelings you describe - it's never been manageable or balanced, nor have I ever felt I have a life of my own.... But, I guess, having always had to work full time I have a DD who has experienced a mummy who has to explain that if I don't work we don't eat/ keep warm/ thrive..... etc...

She has a good work ethic from the cradle.
She talks about nursery daily and there are many things we tackle/ introduce/ consider.

I can only do so much. I have to do everything for her. So there is less I can do elsewhere. And I have made my peace for now, though it is always under review... (( for example, do I need 8 hours sleep??? at the moment I dream of it, once I am getting it, I'll add in some extra working hours, for example)).

spursmummy · 23/03/2010 20:07

If you will still be working with the same company when you go full time see what your options are regarding working flexibly (if it's viable). I technically work full-time hours but quite a few of those hours are worked from home, and on Mondays I work from home in the mornings while my dd is at nursery and then I have the afternoons off with her. I make up those hours and the balance of hours for the other 4 working days (where I get in late and leave early to pick dd up) in the evenings. It is tiring and I don't have a social life - moving to commutersville at the start of 2008 and not knowing many people locally hasn't helped! - but I find keeping up with mates via facebook and on the phone keeps me sane; quite often on my work-free evenings I end up ironing while talking on the phone, it does stop it getting boring!! And I love spending time with my dd at the weekends, we get outside as much as possible even if I feel wiped out.

I've never been a particularly houseproud person but I have found that at least keeping the living room, kitchen and bathroom tidy (if not gleaming) keeps me sane. I get dd involved in cooking as much as I can and I'm not above parking her in front of some telly while I hoover etc.

I have very little time without dd, she's only stayed overnight with her dad once in nearly 6 months, but the time she did stay with him I pottered in the garden, ate the sort of rubbish I'd never eat infront of her, went to bed early, had a lie in, and by the time dd came back in the early afternoon I really felt like I'd had a proper rest. As you have every other weekend free I'd suggest you make the most of it by seeing friends, going to the hairdressers, doing any work you need to do, and getting your chores done so the next weekend you've got plenty of time to spend with your ds.

I think feeling tired is a fact of life whether you're an LP or married/with a partner and have kids, but you do need to look after yourself a bit more when you're an LP. Some nights I have loads of energy and feel like superwoman, some nights I plod through my work, and some nights I'm in bed before 9! It varies from one night to the next, and I've learned never to try to get stuff done when I feel a lot more tired than usual.

Hope this helps! Good luck

AlwaysTheMummy · 27/03/2010 20:17

I'm a LP and work full time, it's been 4 months now lol. It certainly is a juggling act, I work 8.30am til 4.30pm monday to friday then during the week my ds has beavers and swimming lessons, it sometimes seems as though i hardly see them during the week but it's how it has to be for now.

We have a lazy day on a saturday, where we will watch dvds, or play with toys or bake or the kids will just chill out in their own way and in that time I will blitz the house, then on Sundays we go out for the day, to the town past the boating lake for messages and treats then we may visit family members before bathtime and bed.

I try to do all my housework on a saturday so that its just minimal during the week, maybe half an hour clean up if that, so we can spend at least an hour together having dinner and chatting about our day.

I always book my holidays to coincide with school holidays but I have excellent support from my family and they will happily step in when I can't be off or need to take ds to beavers or swimming or if ds has a school event I can't attend I always ask either his dad or my stepmum to go so at least he has someone to wave to.

It all boils down to doing what you have to do really, some days you will feel on top of it all then others you will feel like you're drowning.

Oh and I'm always in bed for half 9 on a school night, not through choice but b'cos I can never eep my eyes open long enough

lollyhop2girls · 30/03/2010 12:32

Hi There,

It is hard no one will deny that and I have the huge benefit of now having a new partner who plays a very equal part in all of the household chores/ admin etc. But I was a single mum for quite a while and it is do able! We mothers are very resilient creatures and can adapt to anything for the good of our broods/ our own sanity!

(sorry if I sound smug with the new partner thing - just dont want to mislead in to thinking I live alone with kids when I dont - Also, with the new partner came a step daughter so that has its own issues!)

First of all regards the housework, with no one at home all day its a damn sight easier to keep clean! You'll very quickly get in to the habit of doing chores as you see them rather than setting time aside.

I plan a weekly menu and then have online shop delivered on a Friday night.

I think its all about routine, you'll find yours in no time.

Your DS will grow up to be so proud of his mummy and all that you have acheived. I have always worked full time and my daughter is the cleverest, most confident and most articulate child in her class.. ok, ok, all mums think that I know... but im pretty sure im right

Good luck, think of it as an exciting new challenge! God I sound like a life coach - of course it doesnt seem exciting now! but it will, I promise.

And as for personal relationships, any new guy worth his salt will find the fact that you work so hard and have such a full life incredible, and rightly so xxx

babyowl · 31/03/2010 20:32

I used to think I was organised until I gave birth.

What has worked for me is trying to keep things as simple as possible. I don't live too far from work & nursery (so working full-time is managable). It takes me an hour to walk to work via the nursery (no need for gym membership or transport costs/frustrations). I have come to terms with living in a messy flat & only consider other mums to be true friends if their place is just as messy as mine (or more if their place is bigger).

My employers are quite flexible & child-friendly, if only my job was more fulfilling though...

pinkheart · 31/03/2010 20:58

also LP. have 2 ds's (11 &3)the older one tends to help me out now, he does his own packed lunch, sorts his bedroom and cleans the bathroom not a proper clean that we would do, but tidys and rinses the sink out etc. Order shopping online, dont havea cleaner so live in a bit of a mess, but tidy mess iyswim. and do all ironing on a sunday afternoon in front room while we all watch a dvd together.
ds2 goes to nursery 4 days a week (his dad has him 1 day a week, no maintenance out of him as yet but one day nursery saved a week equals £160 a month!)i already have ds2's name down for the before school club when he starts next spring, i work full time 8.30 to 4.30 and am at uni 1 day a week doing a post grad course.
i wont deny its hard work as it bloody well is, im shattered but were all happy most important part i think

nighbynight · 31/03/2010 21:19

Well, from my experience, everything the OP fears will probably come to pass. But dont worry, you will be too tired, and too pathetically grateful for half an hour on mumsnet when youre knackered at the end of the day to feel bad about it. Smiling? Ha.

I think if you have got to do it, you'll do it, and cope. If you don't need the money, then you can stick happily with your current situation.
Everything changes though, your ds gets older and more independent, you may get a better job, or meet someone nice.

alwaysindoubt · 02/04/2010 17:15

I do it. I'm newly single. But to be honest, I found full time work and children pretty tiring before I separated.

I think a cleaner would help. I can't afford one right now but will find one as soon as I get a pay rise. Little and often with housework and turning a blind eye to lots of things. Always putting time with the kids over the Hoover.

Knowing lots of super-fast recipes. Taking time to exercise helps me. Friends and a bottle of wine.

Every Friday, I think "Phew. Made it.

Dollytwat · 02/04/2010 22:48

I've done it on my own since DS2 was 6 months old, and I think you have to accept that you physically can't do it all.

So, my answer to my life being managable:-

  1. Get a cleaner, I have someone come in once a fortnight, so I don't worry too much about it in between times. I do bathroom and kitchen cleaning and tidying, but leave the beds etc to her.

  1. Try to get some flexible working hours, I now work from home all the time and it helps as I can put a wash on while I work (and MN!)

  1. Get as much help as you can, accept all the help that's offered.

  1. Try and find someone to babysit regularly for you, I have a teenager who is cheap, so I feel like I have a life as well.

  1. Double up and freeze as much as you can, so you have ready meals if you need them, and don't feel guilty if you have a pizza or take away once in a while.

  1. Don't feel guilty about anything, you are doing the BEST you can do

I now employ a nanny 10 hrs a week as I can now afford to do it, so she does 3 school drop off's for me and a few hours on the weekend. I've decided that the quality of life that gives me is worth the money. I do appreciate that it's a luxury though, but it takes the drudgery out of being the sole carer (my xh contributes nothing).
Justthetwoofus1 · 05/01/2017 20:39

Help please!

Searching, searching but can't find the answers.

I'm newly single parent, full time working mum with a 20 month old. Was living with his parents but of course can't now. Going to move into Mum's for support but she is also on benefits.

Well this affect her benefits and then what can I claim if living with a parent who is on benefits themselves? Can I claim housing benefit for my part of the rent?

Any advise on my next steps would be greatly appreciated.

TurtleIsland · 11/01/2017 13:03

Justthetwoofus - look for the entitledto calculator online and call the Gingerbread helpline for advice x

Potentialpoochowner · 18/01/2017 21:22

Lower your standards. That's my main piece of advice. If I get to the end of the day and can say 'everyone fed*, no dead' then I give myself a smug pat on the back and await my Mother of the Year award in the post.

*even that bit of the clause had wiggle room

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