Becoming a mom or dad brings the biggest adjustment you’ll ever have to make. It’s no surprise that many single parents say that, in the process of adopting, their priorities changed.
Mark, a teacher, and the father of a sibling pair, said he quickly learned the importance of prioritizing and letting things go (after-school activities, daily cleanup). “I knew I wouldn’t be able to do everything I used to do, before the children came. Now I have a messier home, I can’t organize the stacks of books I have on my desk, and I have dozens of unanswered emails.”
Of course, you can’t let everything go. The following suggestions can help single parents balance the demands of family life and work against the time you need for yourself.
Building Your Team
When undergoing single parent adoption, you need a support system more than couples do. No matter how independent and self-sufficient you are, it is important to reach out and ask for help when necessary. Mark often takes his friend’s kids to soccer practice. His friend reciprocates by taking Mark’s kids to other events. Each parent has a little extra time to get things done.
Establish as broad a support network as possible. In addition to family members, include friends, neighbors, members of your church or synagogue, teachers at your child’s school, and/or the people you hire for child care. Some of the people you met in the process to adopt — fellow single moms- or dads-in-waiting and adoptive families — can be your safety net after you bring your child home.
Working It Out
Integrating work and family life is one of the most challenging tasks for a working parent, and for single parents, in particular. Because you don’t have a partner who can take time off and bring your child to doctors’ appointments or recitals, or stay with him on sick days, snow days, or early-release days, think carefully about how you can meet those needs and still continue to work.
While the level of support available at work varies with different employers, you can consider your options ahead of time. Can you ask for a less hectic schedule, cut back your hours, use flextime, or telecommute? Is there on-site day care, or will you have to line up multiple caregivers to look after your child? If you can’t find someone to care for your child, can you take your work home with you?
Some single parents keep their demanding jobs while raising their child, and some leave the “fast track,” in favor of work that’s more family-friendly. If you’re thinking about changing jobs, you may want to make that career move now rather than after your child arrives.
Organizing and Home Routines
To keep your home life as simple as possible, establish rituals that become fixed in your schedule. Consistency lets parents run their day on automatic pilot, and kids do better when they know what to expect. Mark and his kids eat dinner together most nights, but “Wednesdays are special for our family,” he explains. “We order take-out and have a meeting to talk about how things are going.”
For Ronnie, keeping to a precise bedtime schedule is key to making the most of her time. “After my daughter is tucked in, I can talk to friends, read a book, or just relax.”
Beth, a mom of two girls, ages 11 and 14, says that carefully managing her time imparts valuable lessons to her children — and it helps her get things done. “My daughters have learned that we have to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions about how we use our time. We set aside an afternoon every weekend for laundry and cleanup.”
There are many websites, such as flylady.net, to help you streamline your life. When you are organized, you waste less time looking for things and juggling too many tasks. You’ll find that there are more precious moments for yourself and your family, and, with that, greater peace of mind.
Reaching and Teaching Balance
It’s true that you will want and need a period of intensive time with your child, so that the two of you can get to know each other and begin to feel like family. But, as Bev Baccelli, the director of Southeastern Adoption Services, advises, in Adopting on Your Own, “I tell my clients that since they have wanted a child for so long, it’s understandable that sometimes they want to be everything to that child. But it’s important to have a life of their own as well as to encourage their child to develop relationships with others.”
Keep some time for yourself on a regular basis, particularly during stressful times — to connect to the person you were before your child arrived. After a night out with friends or going to the gym, you’ll be recharged, less stressed, and a better parent because of it.