Five Ways Single Parents Can Balance Work and Home Life

LifeWay Christian Resources - Written by Michelle Medlock Adams

Kara King, 34, of Dallas is a successful realtor, a manager of several investment properties, a college student, an active church member, and a single mother of four children.

In other words, she’s busy.

And according to recent U.S. Census findings, King is not alone. Single parents head up about 9 percent of households in the country, and the reality is that the vast majority of those parents have to work. Since both jobs and parenting are demanding, that leaves them trying to figure out how to get it all done. Following are five strategies single parents have found helpful:

  1. You Got to Pray.
    “It can get pretty crazy,” King admits. “People are always saying to me, ‘I don’t know how you do all that you do with four little people in your house.’ And to be honest I don’t know how I do it all either, but there’s one thing I do know – you have to start each day with prayer.”

    Sabrina O’Malone of www.workingmom.com  and author of “Moms on the Job” agrees.  “Prayer is the key to godly wisdom,” she says, noting that she’s also the mother of four. She adds that parents need support. “I think it’s very important to find a prayer partner,” she says.

    Starting each day with prayer can give you a sense of focus and peace. This is a reminder that you’re dependent on God, not yourself. You’ll discover that you’re able to prioritize your days, and you just might find yourself crossing off more of the things on your to-do list.

    Tip: The Bible says to pray without ceasing, so try it (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Don’t wait until you can hide in a prayer closet for 30 minutes because that time may not come. Pray while you’re in the shower, walking the dog, doing the dishes, on the commute to work – all throughout the day.
  2. Delegate and Conquer.
    We know it takes teamwork for an office or factory to run smoothly. That same logic applies at home, according to O’Malone. She says that most single parents have a built-in team. “It’s called the kids. All children should be required to do regular unpaid work around the house as preparation for adulthood. … Even a 2-year-old can help pick up toys,” O’Malone adds.

    Tip: Stop begging and bribing. Teach your children that the work has to be done, and it’s a family responsibility. Then, when they have finished their part, spend time doing something together like playing a game or watching a family movie.
  3. Stop Wasting Your Time.
    “You have to eliminate the extraneous,” O’Malone says, “which is anything that is a time-waster.” Give yourself boundaries to cut out anything that’s unnecessary or could be taken care of in less time.

    Excessive phone calls, for example, are definite time-stealers, and cell phones have made telephone time even more draining. As a realtor, King can relate. “When you sell houses for a living, business doesn’t stop at five o’clock,” she says.  “I have adopted a ‘no phone after school rule’ at our house,” she says, adding that the minute the kids arrive home, she turns off her phone and puts on the tea. “We always share a snack together and talk about our day,” she explains.

    Another idea is to cut back on TV consumption. Allow yourself and your children to watch for only a certain number of hours each week. That way you don’t end up wasting precious time that you could be using to connect with one another.

    There are also those times when sports and church activities take up the evening hours, so when time is short King initiates the “high/low” game. “Instead of telling about every aspect of our day, each of us shares the high point and low point. Of course, with tweenage girls, even that can take awhile,” she adds, smiling.

    Tip: Set aside a specific time each day when the traveling office (cell phone, Blackberry, and laptop) are turned off, and you’re tuned in to your kids.
  4. Take a Day Off.
    If you’ve been going into the office on Saturdays to catch up or offering to pull an extra shift on Sundays to make more money, O’Malone says that you’re headed for a crash. These decisions hurt your family instead of help. 

    “Taking a day off each week is paramount to being fully recharged and refreshed,” she emphasizes. “You will accomplish more in six days when you are sharp and refreshed than you would in seven days working dog tired and sluggish.”

    Tip: God took a day of rest as an example for us. He wants you to honor that day of rest too. Do all of your office work and housework in six days so that you and your children can have one no-work day each week to rest, reflect, and re-order your lives.
  5. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.
    Setting both daily and long-term goals is essential. “You’re making a plan for your future,” O’Malone explains. “Setting goals now helps you lay the groundwork for the future you want.”

    King is in the middle of laying that groundwork herself by going back to school two nights a week in order to earn her teaching certificate. She plans to leave behind the stressful realty world and work the same hours her children are in school.

    “It may mean a cut in salary, but the whole family will be happier,” Kings says. “We don’t need all the extras. All the things that money can buy, they just don’t measure up to the time you can spend with your children.”

    Tip: Set a time with your kids to discuss long - and short - term goals. Many times you’ll find that your children’s input is valuable to your decision-making.

    If you’re looking for perfect balance, you’ll be disappointed (it doesn’t exist). But a few simple choices can help you smooth out the chaos as you move between work and home.

    Michelle Medlock Adams is the author “Daily Wisdom for Working Women" and the proud mom of two tweenage daughters, Abby and Allyson. Her favorite way to de-stress after a long workday? A hot bubble bath while listening to a Frank Sinatra CD.

    Used by permission of LifeWay Christian Resources. For online information on LifeWay and a catalog resources, visit www.lifeway.com.