When there never feels like there’s enough time in a day
As a single mom, sometimes it literally feels like I’m drowning in obligations: preschool volunteering, work assignments, grocery shopping, bills, medical appointments, and coparenting communications. (I’m aware that I am not mentioning self-care, spending time with friends, or anything remotely fun . . . that is, unfortunately, not an accident.)
It can feel like there’s simply not enough gas in the tank, not enough hands to get the job done, not enough time in the day. I’m that mom who is frantically running through my list of tasks, and often to my own detriment: forgetting to eat, overcommitting myself, and—as counterintuitive as it sounds—being too busy to slow down and ask for help.
Being a single mom has been a humbling experience in many ways, but especially in the area of time management. Thankfully, I’ve discovered some time hacks—many I’ve learned through my own trials and tribulations, and others through some of my Solo Mom friends. Somehow, we always make it work:
Amazon Prime is totally worth it
OK, so I resisted an Amazon Prime membership for a really long time—basically until I became a single mom. And then I found that running to Target for toothpaste and diapers (with two little people crying for Matchbox cars and trying to jump out of the cart) was incredibly stressful and drained my precious Solo Mom energy. So I’ve embraced Amazon Prime. It doesn’t completely eliminate the necessity of Target runs, but for $99 a year, I can order cat litter, dog food, toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, and other odds and ends with no cost for shipping—and they show up on my doorstep 48 hours later. Subscribing for various products will earn you a discount, and Amazon Prime memberships also come with unlimited photo storage and streaming of lots of great movies and TV shows that can keep the kids occupied when you need them to be (ahem, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood).
Embrace meal planning, prepping, and swapping
For so many single moms in my orbit, meals are hard. There’s no way around it. It’s hard to do it all and make healthy meals kids will eat. I struggle immensely with this, and it’s also one of the biggest sources of my “mom guilt” when I feel like I haven’t fed my kids as well as I could have.
One of my mom friends swears by Sunday meal preparation (I just love the Pinterest ideas for meal prep). My friend says she shreds cheese, washes lettuce, peels and cuts fruit, steams vegetables, and cooks pasta and quinoa. She also roasts a whole chicken and makes stock out of the bones afterwards. The chicken goes a long way and can be used in tacos, quesadillas, salads, or soup. Another Solo Mom friend swears by breakfast popsicles—essentially making a healthy smoothie and freezing it into a popsicle mold. There’s no guilt, and what kid doesn’t love a popsicle for breakfast? Yet another friend participates in dinner swaps, in which friends gather on a monthly basis to exchange frozen meals. Each friend makes several portions of the same recipe and everyone trades. I think that’s brilliant.
Do as much as possible the night before
If you engage in what I call the “kid schlep” (i.e. the transporting of children to school, day care, or other various places and events), then you’ll understand when I tell you how chaotic my household is in the morning. There is simply so much to do in order to get out the door, all while also navigating the ups and downs of tiny cranky people. Dressing self, dressing children, making breakfast, packing lunch, readying backpacks. I try to accomplish as much as possible the night before. I lay out my own clothes for the morning. I also lay out clothes for the kids (I ask for their help as much as possible). Sometimes I even decide on breakfast and ready the ingredients. In the morning, I feel more positive about the day, more peaceful, and much more prepared.
Embrace household chores
Children benefit from having responsibilities, so why not delegate some of the household chores to them? With two little ones, I’m just at the beginning of this, but my four-year-old is now old enough to enjoy putting stickers on his chore chart each morning and evening. His responsibilities include feeding the dog and cat, putting his dishes in the sink, getting himself dressed in the morning, putting his laundry away, and brushing his teeth. As his stickers accumulate, he can trade them in for rewards. I’m a big proponent of experiential rewards (an afternoon of bowling or a trip to the ice cream shop, for example), but he can also choose to spend his stickers on Matchbox cars (his current favorite thing in the world).
Stack your functions
I’ve never been a particularly organized person. And while I find routine valuable and important, it’s challenging for me. So I’m constantly thinking about how to manage my time more effectively. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of stacking functions. Stacking functions refers to the idea of killing two (or three, or four) birds with one stone—fulfilling multiple obligations and checking them off at the same time. Ultimately, stacking functions can provide more efficient solo momming, while simultaneously thriving.
In the world of function stacking, everything counts. Listening to a podcast or audiobook while cooking dinner or folding laundry makes the chore less boring and adds some intellectual adult stimulation. Making friends with another Solo Mom and getting your kids together satisfies your child’s socialization needs, as well as your own need for community. Asking a friend to ride around with you while you run errands provides socialization and someone to wait in the car with your sleeping toddler while you rush into the store, bank, or post office. I like to embrace creativity on this one.
Lastly, my giant caveat is that we cannot expect to be Superwoman all of the time. Part of retaining my sanity as a single mom is acknowledging to myself that I cannot do everything. That some of those obligations (big or small) will need to be set down—on purpose, semigracefully, by me—lest they all fall clattering to the ground.
That said, go forth, Solo Moms, and slay this thing.
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