Sunday, August 3, 2014

Juggling Acts

As anyone knows who has children, sometimes you find yourself wearing different hats and juggling multiple things and priorities at once.  Mutlitasking almost becomes innate when you become a parent, especially if you have more than one child or a child with special needs.

I know some of you may think I am nuts.  Like how are you supposed to continuously juggle everything and be everything to everyone.  For one thing, you do not have to be everything to everyone all the time.  Sometimes you have to hone in on certain things and put others on the back burner to simmer for now based on where you are and who you are with.

For example, if you have a big project at work and you are currently there, focus on that!  It is the squeaky wheel at the moment and your priorities have to be on that.  After all, baking cupcakes for your kid's bake sale or picking up snacks for the soccer team are not the priority at the moment.  Change gears when you leave work and focus on those things at that point.  Sometimes you have to tune out other things to focus on the task at hand.  However, keep in mind you still have those other things to come back to.

Some of the tools I have used and still use to keep myself on point are:

  • Making lists and/or using a day planner (personal favorite is Franklin Covey...just from my many years working in the corporate world and needing to ensure I stayed on task and prioritized tasks).  Basically, you list out the tasks you need to complete and then prioritize from there.  Include in those tasks though time for you to recharge, you will thank yourself later for that.  
  • Take advantage of what normally would be down time.  When getting a pedicure (one of my favorite things to do to relax), I might read up on stuff I need to study for a class (did I mention I am a student as well as a mom and working).  Or I might read through the stuff I need to deal with to help one of my daughters with an upcoming school project.  Or call/text friends that I have been remiss in talking to lately because of other things going on.  Or of course update your blog/online diary.  So many options.  Basically still relaxing because you are not being pulled in five directions and someone else is pampering you as check off something from your to do list or simply reconnect with those you care about.  The only things I generally will not do during that time are things that really stress me out.  After all, I want to recharge while still being productive or social.
  • Delegate things you do not have to do.  I know single parents have a harder time with this, but I will tell you bonding with other single parents and other people who can empathize and you can trust can be helpful.  I have gone so far as trade off duties with other parents.  For example, the place I need to go pick up something for the soccer team is across town and the other parent will be there anyways and they have something they need from where I am at.  I just offer to pick up or take on their errand if they will take care of mine.  This has worked multiple times.  Other options are trading babysitting services for something you hate doing or could not do on your own in a reasonable amount of time.  Pretty much every parent I know can use free evening babysitting so they can have a date night or enjoy some me time.  I did this once when I had moved (kids were little) and needed help getting my yard on track and knew I could not afford a professional.  I knew a couple of single moms and a single dad who loved gardening.  I watched their kids for an agreed number of evenings, etc in return for help with getting the stuff I could not do by myself in a reasonable amount of time done.  Plus I provided a nice home cooked dinner when we were done.  Win win for everyone!  
  • Learn to say NO!  Politely of course!  This is a hard one for me!  But again you cannot be everything to everyone!  It is okay to say no, especially if your platter (not a plate) is very full at the moment and you are feeling like you are treading water.  Taking on one more task at that moment is not going to do anyone good, especially you and your family.
Basically, juggling and multitasking can be done and done sanely!  The key is to setting yourself up for success by finding the things that work for you.  Try out what others have done and tweak it to fit your life and approach to things.  More importantly allow a little time for things to gel and tweak some more if need be.  But do not rip yourself to shreds or carry a mantle of guilt.  It is exhausting and does nothing but drain your energy which could be much more served enjoying your kids and other loved ones in your life.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Life of a Single Parent

As many single parents will say, most of us did not anticipate becoming single parents when we had children.  We had partners in parenting, whether they be husbands, wives, life partners, or what have you.  We were excited and scared to become parents and were instantly in love with our kids.  This love has definitely helped many of us get through the break-ups, divorces and other upheavals that turned us into single parents. I know it did for me!

As a single parent, I am constantly looking at what I am doing and how it will effect my daughters.  Yes, you read that right.  I have three daughters.  They can be crazy and chaotic at times, but that is part of life.  They can frustrate me at times.  However, many times they inspire me to be a better person, to learn and grow, and keep pushing forward through challenges I run into.  This is something I think ALL parents can identify with.  Our kids can be, and often are, our greatest joys and motivators!

Having said that, I will tell you some days are smooth sailing and everything just seems to fall into place and other days it is like being in a row boat with one oar and bailing water out with a sippy cup.  I find that your attitude and how you handle things though will dictate how long you sit in the row boat.  After all, you can keep doing the same things and bang your head against the wall or try something different to get through the situation and move to calmer waters.

Having a sense of humor about things and picking your battles are key!  So what if your kid does not want to eat breakfast.  I bet you when they go to school and are hungry before lunch, the next day they will eat breakfast.  So what if they do not want to wear a winter coat and would prefer a sweatshirt instead.  If they find the weather is too cold, they will wear the coat tomorrow.  Natural consequences sometimes beats out arguing with a kid, especially teenagers, and getting into power struggles.

Setting limits on the important stuff and sticking to your guns is also important.  I know we all have guilt about not having the white picket fence and two parent home we envisioned when we became parents.  I know I definitely do!  This cannot keep you from doing the most important job that you will ever do....be a parent.  Just be realistic in the consequences.  They should fit the crime so to speak.  I do allow time off for good behavior (i.e., doing extra chores, showing through their behavior they get why the consequence and how serious the situation is).  Of course this all depends on what they did to get into trouble in the first place.  You have to know as the parent what your deal breakers are and what things are the more serious crimes.  In our house, disrespect, violence, dishonesty, and such are the big ones.  Other things like forgetting to do an assigned chore or bickering with your sister are not as heinous.  You have to be flexible but not too flexible.  You do not want to be a warden but you do not want to be a door mat either.  You have to have balance.

Speaking of balance, one thing I think I finally learned is balance is important for your mental health.  I have learned it is okay for me as a woman to take some time for me.  For one thing, this allows me to charge my batteries, which means I will be able to have the energy needed to meet the needs of my kids.  It also teaches my girls not to be everything for everyone to the point of wearing yourself out.  I will get into how to do this in an upcoming blog.

My goal for this blog is to share some of my adventures as a single parent and hopefully inspire and help others, whether they be single parents or not.  I welcome questions and feedback and will be happy to answer emails and comments as much as I can.  I am of the mindset that we are all in this crazy thing called life together.  Until next time.....Chele