Overwhelmed, mama? It won’t all go away tomorrow, but there are simple things you can do today to lighten your load. (Psst…these work for dads and married moms, too!)
On any given Saturday, my kids have been awake since 6:30am, my youngest needs his butt wiped, and my oldest is yelling at the top of his lungs “MOMEEEEE!” Living alone as a single mom with two energetic boys since they were one and three years old has been a challenge to say the least.
It’s easy to feel out of control, frantic, and exhausted as a single mom. But I’m here to tell you that no matter how frazzled you may feel, there are easy things you can do right now to make your home life more peaceful.
Here’s what I’ve learned in my years as a single mom.
Single Mom Hack #1
Institute an 8pm bedtime for all kids in their own beds.
This is the very first thing I did when I landed in my apartment as a newly single mom. You MUST have time for you. No ifs, ands, or buts—just do it. My oldest son was a sleep nightmare. He co-slept and didn’t sleep through the night in his own bed until he was 2.5 years old. I’m telling you, this can be done.
Single Mom Hack #2
Get an okay to wake light.
My kids may be awake and making noise at 6:30am, but they aren’t out of bed until 7am. That’s because I have an Okay to Wake owl light that turns green when they’re allowed to charge into my room, jump on my bed, and scream “The owl is green!”
Single Mom Hack #3
Take advantage of people.
Especially in the early days of separation and divorce, no one person can possibly fill the void that’s left from losing a life partner. At first I found myself getting angry when there was nobody willing to watch my kids or come cry with me at night. But eventually I figured it out:
People absolutely want to help you. You just have to discover what it is they have to give.
Having my mom take the kids for a whole weekend wasn’t realistic at first, but man could she whip up a week’s worth of home-cooked meals and load up my freezer. Over the tears, I’ve also had an excellent lawn mower, a friend who was always down for girl talk with a bottle of wine and chocolate, and numerous friends who knew to call and ask if I needed anything when they were at the grocery store. One of the most thoughtful, practical things anyone did for me in the early days was buy me a gift certificate to a babysitting service.
Single Mom Hack #4
Set the mood.
Use things like music and smells to encourage calm feelings and behavior. When we’re getting ready for bed or when emotions have run amok, I use YouTube to play calming music. Search “sleep meditation music” for some good options. I also diffuse calming essential oils like lavender as a cue to calm down and prepare for sleep. My boys have grown to love this peaceful practice. During a particularly stressful phase at home, I learned to have the music and oils going when I left to pick them up at school so that they would get hit with the calming magic as soon as they walked in the house.
Single Mom Hack #5
Child proof your entire home.
As a single mom there will be times when you have to shower, exercise, or do work while the kids are home. If you’ve child proofed the whole house, you’ll have a lot less to worry about and a much higher chance of showering successfully. Put crayons and markers out of reach. Cover outlets. Avoid tall, bulky furniture that kids could climb.
Single Mom Hack #6
Have emergency supplies and essentials on hand.
Raise your hand if you’ve had to visit CVS at 3am to get ibuprofen for an earache. Fess up if you’ve been stuck with no remedy for your constipated three year old on the toilet while your one year old sleeps at midnight. Think about all the things you could possibly need and get them now. Supplies I have on hand are bandaids, gauze, Neosporin, Lotrimin, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, ibuprofen, Benadryl, Pedia-Lax, Nix, Pedialyte, Gatorade, a variety of essential oils, and homeopathic remedies.
Single Mom Hack #7
Own less stuff.
The more you own, the more you’ll have to clean up on a daily basis. Keep it simple with toys because there will be days that your children pull out every single toy in the house. When you own one closet full of toys instead five, it’s easier to look at the mess and say “It’s okay!”
Single Mom Hack #8
As my children’s school principal says, if your kids can work an iPad, they can work a washing machine. Children need to feel like useful members of the household, and mamas need help. Chores are a win-win! My boys love to vacuum, sweep, mop, and clean windows. Need more ideas? Check out this list of age-appropriate chores for your littles.
Single Mom Hack #9
This isn’t a cure-all, but reward charts can be helpful in encouraging good behavior and rewarding kids for their work around the house. I use this handy magnetic Melissa & Doug chart and give my boys coins at the end of the week for every circle they earn, which gives them the opportunity to learn about money as well. When I was more financially strapped, I created my own reward chart. To get maximum buy-in from your kids, have them choose which goals they want to work on each week. Usually I choose three for them and they get to choose four for themselves.
Single Mom Hack #10
Get a babysitter.
You need to get out. Married couples need a regular date night (as a divorced mom, trust me on this!) and single moms need regular adult time. Some of us are lucky and have family to fill this role. Even though I have family in town, I’ve found it invaluable to have a paid babysitter, which takes the pressure and guilt off myself and my family. I lucked out and found a high school student at my church who brings the boys homemade cookies and even played ukulele for them once. She’s not allowed to date or go to college ever.
What hack from this list are you going to try first? And what hacks have you discovered that the rest of us should be doing?
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