As a single parent, you must learn to juggle…many balls and fast! Quite frankly, I was never really very good at juggling. I admired the circus crowd, but never quite fit in. So what is a single parent to do if juggling just isn’t their talent?
On a typical morning I must get the kids ready for school, get ready for work, make sure they eat breakfast (they are teen-age girls and skipping meals is a rite of passage), quiz them for upcoming tests, make sure they didn’t forget anything, make sure I don’t forget my office keys, supervise lunch packing, send them off to the bus, warm up my car only to find I need gas, sit in endless traffic and arrive at work to a message on voice mail from one of my daughters who forgot something and needs me to “please bring it to school, mom, and could you rush?” Sound familiar to anyone? And the evenings aren’t much better. Throw in house-cleaning, shopping, and endless odds and ends on the weekends and it is a wonder we have time to sleep!
Everything we do is important, so it is obvious that we can’t give up anything. So what do we do? Simple, in theory: We become a family.
Unless your children are infants, every child is capable of contributing something to the family dynamics. The youngest can pick up their toys so that you can vacuum. Since you are both in the room at the same time, you can supervise, but let them do the work. They are “helping” mom or dad and it makes them feel important. You are sure they are going where they should, and they are getting the idea of working together. As they progress in age, the responsibilities progress along with them. My daughters began doing laundry when they were nine and five. The youngest used laundry sorting to reinforce sorting of colors, like and same fabrics, etc. When she began sorting in school, she already had a basis for determining commonalties and differences. You may have to do a bit of checking behind them for awhile, but it is simpler than doing it all yourself and all of you in a massive folding party is a great time to hear about what is going on at school and with their friends. We’ve had many an “important” conversation over a pile of laundry to be folded.
Still older children can be assigned weekly chores that have rewards, even if they are only small ones, attached. My daughters have a list of chores that are completed every Saturday. They include dusting, mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning bathrooms. They are learning several lessons:
1. Families are all about everyone working together for the common good.
2. They are learning valuable life skills they will need when out on their own.
3. Parents aren’t supposed to do everything.
4. A job well done leaves the worker with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
5. And last, but not least, how to appreciate others by feeling the appreciation of others.
Rewards vary with budget around our house. But I have found that my words of encouragement, thanks, and admiration are often ample.
What do you get out of this: Well, perhaps a bit more time so that you don’t feel so rushed, and definitely the affirmation that you are a good parent teaching valuable lessons. There is strength in numbers, even when that number is one.