Single and Parenting an Infant

Becoming a single parent of an infant child is both rewarding and challenging. You still have all the excitement of watching your infant grow and explore the new world around him or her. However, parenting can be exhausting and difficult during those first few months, especially a single mother.

It seems like there is never enough time for any parent. You do not get enough sleep. It is hard to get to work on time and even harder to get to bed at night. Your baby may be a good sleeper, or your baby may sleep barely at all. It is a challenging for two parents to juggle the baby, work and all the other household responsibilities. This becomes an even greater hurdle for the single parent.

Parenting an infant on your own is difficult at times, but it certainly is not impossible. One of the most important things for a single mother of a baby to remember is that it is okay to ask for help. In fact, you should ask for and accept help when you become overwhelmed. Actually, you should accept help even when things are going well as this can keep you from becoming overwhelmed later on.

Effective time management is key when raising an infant on your own. Of course, you cannot plan your time completely, because as any parent knows, infants are unpredictable. However, there are steps you can take to better manage your time. For example, think of tasks that are not easy to accomplish when the baby is awake. Save these household chores for those times of the day when your baby is sleeping. Even if you do not know exactly when the baby will be sleeping, you still can plan to utilize that time wisely. Say to yourself, “When the baby takes a nap today, I will do the laundry.” This will help you to accomplish other tasks at times when your child is resting.

Being organized also will help you when raising an infant on your own. Some of the little things you can do can go a long way to making your life a little easier. For example, always keep a diaper bag packed and ready to go. By doing so, you can be ready to leave the house with your infant a few minutes faster. Clean out your diaper bag each time you return home and have it ready for your next outing.

Keep some formula prepared ahead. If you are breastfeeding, always have some breast milk in storage. There may be times when you need to leave the baby with a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or other caregiver for a little while. Having some bottles ready in advance can make it easier to leave the baby with a loved one for a time if you would need to do so. It also can help you to prepare a bottle a little more quickly for the baby if you are extremely short on time.

Be sure to stock up on the baby supplies, which you use most frequently. This might include diapers, wet wipes and baby formula if your baby is on formula. Being prepared with a few extras on hand can save you from running out. You do not want to run out of something that you need in the middle of the night. If you do, you would need to take the baby out and this is not an ideal situation. However, by planning ahead, you should be able to prevent this from occurring.

Although raising an infant will be the most enjoyable time of your life, it probably will be the most exhausting as well. Remember to take care of yourself. Have at least a couple nights a week when you call it an early night and go to bed early. Whenever possible, take some naps when the baby is napping. And always take a few minutes each day for yourself. Read a few pages of your favorite book, do a couple sets of exercise, sip on coffee or tea while you read the morning paper; but do something relaxing for a few moments each day.

Happy parenting!

Balancing Family and Work When You Work at Home

(Part One: Working at home with children under school age)

Being a work at home mom is a reality for many mothers today. The benefits of being a work at home mom are many. You have the opportunity to remain at home with your children. The children will not have to go to daycare or have a babysitter during the workday. More time can be spent with your kids. As a mom who has a home based business, you are able to stay home with the children while still earning an income.

Is being a work at home mom as simple as it may sound? It certainly is not. This is especially true when your children are still younger than school age. Running a home based business while raising your family can be highly rewarding, but it also can be quite challenging. Operating a small business from home is a challenge in and of itself. You need to be able to put in the time necessary to make your business successful. Although many people want to run their own business to get out of the pattern of working a “nine to five” job, small business owners often find that flexibility in the hours your work are still needed. Some days you may finish work early, but other days you may need to put in a very long day.

Making the time needed for your business while caring for your children is not always easy. Your children come first and yet in order to succeed, you cannot neglect your business. A work from home parent must be able to utilize his or her time effectively in order to have the necessary balance between work and family. A key factor is being able to use your time efficiently. Make the most of the time you have in which you can concentrate entirely on your work. Some of your best work time might be in the morning before you children get up and after they go to bed at night. Another time to work is when the children are napping or playing. Being willing to work during these times and being flexible with your work hours will help you to have enough time for work while caring for your family.

What do you do when you have a deadline and just are not finding enough time to work? Consider having a back up plan for those times when you really need to get a lot of work done without interruptions. There are a few possible solutions for this particular challenge. Many work from home moms are now joining together to help one another become successful. Find other work at home mothers in your area and form a group with them. You can then help one another by exchanging the occasional babysitting assistance. This is, of course, after you get to know each of the mothers well and have developed a great deal of trust in them. From time to time you can all help one another by babysitting each other’s children. This week you may need a few hours to yourself to get some major work accomplished. Next week one of the other moms may need your help. By helping one another, all the work at home moms in your group can be successful.

There are other possible solutions if you need some time here and there to work without the children. Perhaps your spouse can take the kids out for a few hours one evening or for a few hours during the weekend. This will provide you with time to work while assuring that your children are happy and safe. Your spouse also is given an opportunity to spend some quality time with the children on his own. Everyone can benefit from this solution.

As a work from home mom, you must be organized. When raising children your day is relatively unpredictable. However, your children are likely to be on some type of a schedule. This can help you to plan your day to a point. You can create a rough schedule for when you will work and when you will do your household work and run any necessary errands. Having a rough estimate of your schedule will help you to plan your day and utilize your time wisely. This schedule also can help you to stay on task and to work towards accomplishing everything you need to accomplish for both work and home.

When working from home, have a game plan for what you will do when you need to complete some work without interruption. There may be times when you need to work on a project when the children are not at home. Take the time to plan a generic schedule for your day. You probably will not be able to stick to the schedule entirely. However, having a basic plan will help you to accomplish what you need to achieve each day.

Single Parents Going Back to School

Single parents who go back to school: How they make it work

As a single parent you might ask whether you can go back to school at the same time while still trying to hold down your day job. The answer is, “Sure you can!” Furthering your education is about more than increasing your earning potential. It’s about pursuing your dreams, and feeling good about yourself. Learning is a lifelong process, and whether you are returning to school in order to change careers, advance in your current career, or update your skills to keep pace with changes in the workplace, you will need to exert a fair amount of self-discipline in order to be successful (and maintain your sanity) along the way.

Rule #1: Don’t expect it to be easy. It takes a lot of stamina (not to mention time management skills) to work full-time, go back to school even part-time, and be an effective (if a rather fatigued) single parent. But it can be done. No matter how difficult it might seem single parents do have options available to them, which will allow them to pursue a higher education should they so desire.

Although many colleges and universities now offer coursework online, evening classes, and accelerated weekend programs, contingency and back up plans remain a definite must! It is better to be prepared than to be sorry.

This brings us to Rule #2: You will need some outside help and a strong support system to make it work. If you have school age children, remember that there will be sick days, snow days, and school holidays throughout the year.

You might consider registering an infant or a preschooler for campus childcare during the day. Most community colleges and technical schools now provide daytime childcare. Many four-year universities are now offering childcare services as well. Not only will your child be nearby; you may have the opportunity to spend time with your little one between classes.

In order to manage your time more efficiently, you might want to consider enrolling in evening, weekend, or off-campus courses. Some schools are accommodating the needs of parents returning to school by offering flexible class schedules. Earning credits for independent study, and life and work experiences are other practical options.

Talk to your employer about whether the company offers tuition reimbursement for earning credits, in addition to the availability of flextime to attend classes during your normal working hours.

For mothers who find themselves single again and are returning to both the workforce and college after an absence, some states offer assistance to women who are divorced or widowed. Often there are special grants available, which support career counseling, job training, childcare, and sometimes even transportation.

Finding the time to study when your children need attention can be another huge challenge. It isn’t easy juggling work, school, and family. Trying to study late in the evenings after the kids are asleep and everything is quiet is just one alternative. Arriving to class a few minutes early is another. Squeezing in a few minutes to study here and there will add up more quickly than you might think.

Fortunately, a growing number of continuing education programs today are offering nontraditional students access to resources and support services particularly designed to help adult students reach their academic and professional goals. More schools are offering programs, which specifically address the needs of single parent students.

Rule #3: Whenever the going gets rough, it helps to remember that you are doing this to provide both you and your children with a better future. You also are setting a good example by showing your children that anything of value, which is worth having, is certainly worth the effort it takes to succeed.

Dining Out: An Opportunity for Single Parents and their Children to Spend Quality Time Together

Finding the time to sit down together as a family at mealtime almost seems impossible these days. Yet dining out with your children is part of the socialization process for which all parents are responsible. However, as children get older, it becomes more difficult to find time to spend together as a family, particularly in the single parent household. Nonetheless, nearly half of the children surveyed in a recent national study reported that spending time with their parents and siblings is the main reason they enjoy going out to eat.

Today eating out is fast becoming an important part of the family experience, even more so for households headed by the single parent. And it isn’t just about eating out either. A lot of kids say that being with their family is their favorite part about going out to eat. In fact, there are many children who count on it, as it offers their single parent the opportunity to give the child some undivided attention.

Because it is more likely that the single parent will be working outside of the home, eating out also offers a convenient way for busy families to save time. Interestingly, contrary to what most people might expect, when kids are asked where they would like to eat, more than 25% choose a family-style restaurant. In one study, less than 25% of the children surveyed chose a fast-food restaurant as their first choice.

Dining out for special occasions like birthday parties and holiday meals can be a great timesaver as well. Instead of spending time planning menus, at the supermarket shopping for food, in the kitchen preparing meals, and cleaning up afterward, the single parent has more time to spend treasured moments with their children.

Although it is important for parents who have very young children to choose a family-friendly restaurant, which can accommodate the needs of little diners, no matter where a family chooses to eat, it should be a fun adventure for both younger and older children. On those evenings when parents need a break from cooking, but are too tired after a busy workday to take the kids out, ordering take-out from a favorite family restaurant is another time (and energy) saving alternative, which still allows a family to share time together.

Since families in general seem to be eating out more often, parenting experts point out that eating meals together (in or out) helps to encourage good communication. Parent and child have the chance to share the news of the day. While there seems to be little doubt that open communication leads to bonding, research shows that there are lower rates of smoking, alcohol use and drug use among pre-teens and teens who share frequent mealtimes with their families. Even going out to eat offers families the opportunity to spend quality time together.

Dining out is an easy simple way for a family to relax and be together. Without the usual at-home distractions of television, computer or telephone, family members can work on building stronger relationships. Sharing mealtime together, whether around the table at home, or dining out at a restaurant helps to draw parent and child closer together by allowing essential important one-on-one time. The single parent can utilize these valued mealtimes together to really get to know their kids, and find out what is happening in their lives.

Eating out as a family provides all kinds of other benefits as well, including reinforcing good manners, presenting important opportunities for role modeling, and refining a child’s social skills. Learning from one another, promoting improved academic performance, and nurturing feelings of belonging are other crucial advantages not to be ignored.

A Single Parent’s Guide to Homeschooling

You might wonder, “How can I be a single parent and homeschool?” Admittedly, homeschooling can pose a challenge to any parent, but especially the single parent. However, a growing number of single parents are either already homeschooling or are thinking about homeschooling their children. The reasons for wanting to homeschool are many, but most importantly, the experience can be a treasured time that you share with your children.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible for a single parent to homeschool their children while working outside of the home. Because finances can be even more difficult for the single parent, the public library is both a practical and excellent resource to utilize. You can always borrow books from other homeschool families as well. Who says that homeschooling has to be expensive? Keep the receipts for books and other supplies that you purchase throughout the year for possible tax benefits. Still, because the family is likely making due on a single income, some financial sacrifices may have to be made.

Before you begin homeschooling, remember that self-discipline is needed on both the part of the parent and that of the children. Many homeschooling parents find that it helps to solicit outside support. You may well need the encouragement of others, so don’t be afraid to ask other parents what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Keep in mind that you can learn a lot from the experiences of others. Accept from the start that homeschooling your children is going to take time, energy, and commitment – and plenty of it. A good rule of thumb is to take it just one year at a time.

Before you begin, however, you will need time to prepare. And, as a single parent, you will have to know your limits. It won’t help anyone if you overextend yourself; therefore, it is critical that you be realistic in your expectations of yourself. Realize that it will be necessary for you to set priorities in order to remain balanced. Remember that flexibility is an important key.

You may even decide not to homeschool all of your children. You will not be a failure if you permit some of your children to continue to attend public school. Should this be the case, many veteran homeschooling parents recommend homeschooling the oldest child, particularly if you can homeschool only one child – the reason being that the oldest sibling can act as a role model for the younger children to emulate. Younger children learn a lot by watching and imitating what others do.

For obvious reasons, the single homeschooling parent must become an expert at multitasking, which may require expert juggling of your daily schedule. If your workload at the office is especially heavy, you might consider teaching some of your children’s curricula via online classes. Another timesaver is to teach certain subjects simultaneously at different grade levels. Older children frequently are able to study some material independently, allowing you more time to work individually with younger children. Another option is for your middle school or high school age homeschooler to enroll in classes offered by a community college when it comes time for learning higher mathematics, lab sciences, or foreign languages.

Some of the best advice that a single homeschooling parent can follow is not to try to model his/her technique after someone else’s style. Homeschooling success largely depends on building on your own and your children’s individual passions and interests. Since your children’s education should be considered as an investment, which will serve them throughout a lifetime, homeschooling parents need to equip their students with the resources that will motivate them to seek learning on their own initiative.

Lastly, homeschooling is about much more than educating your children in academic curricula. Homeschooling helps to foster a child’s individuality. You and your children also can have a good deal of fun learning together, as homeschooling provides all kinds of opportunities for parents and children to strengthen their relationships.

Remember, it isn’t impossible for a single parent to homeschool; the trick simply is to find the right balance.

Single Parenting Attitude

Parenting isn’t easy for anyone. It is in many ways the hardest thing a person will ever do, but it is also by far the most rewarding. Single parents face even more obstacles and potential hardships. Many single parents face these challenges head on each and every day. As a single parent one must maintain a “can do’ attitude. It would be all too easy to say, “I can’t do this.” However, looking into the eyes of your children this is not likely to be anything you will ever say even if the thought flickers in your mind for only an instant. Having a “can do” attitude will result in successful single parenting.

It is difficult to juggle running a household, taking care of your family and working a job. These jobs are hard enough to do when you are married and have a partner. They are even harder when you are shouldering everything on your own. Single parenting creates its own unique sets of problems and creates more extensive difficulties from the standard challenges. There are never quite enough hours in the day. Money always seem to be a little on the low side. A good night’s sleep is a luxury. An immaculate house might as well be a fairytale.

A single parent must be ready to face all challenges head on. You never get anywhere by saying I can’t, only by saying I can. One important step in being a successful single parent is to remember that you don’t need to be mom and dad. Do not try to fill the shoes of the parent who is absent. Instead strive to be the best parent you can be each day of your children’s lives. Your children will understand that mom may not be the best at pitching baseball or that dad is not a gourmet cook. That is not to say that moms shouldn’t throw a ball around with the boys in the backyard or that dad shouldn’t try to be at least an “ok” cook.

Remind yourself from time to time that you can be a great parent even when you have limited resources of time and money. Set aside a few minutes each evening to sit and talk with your children. The dishes can wait until later. The floor can be swept in the morning. Use that time to find out about your children’s day. Find out if they need to talk with you about anything. You can share your day with your children as well. They might not tell you this, but they like to know what is going on in your life, too. Give them an opportunity to connect with you.

Most single parents know that raising children alone can be a financial challenge. However, knowing that you can provide for your children well, even on limited budget, will help to put your mind at ease. The cost of raising children is not easy for anyone, especially for single parents. You need to have a “can do” attitude by making ends meet and providing your children with what they really need. You might even be able to provide a couple small extras along the way.

But first you must create a budget for your family and stick to it. Leave a little room in the budget for treats for the children on special occasions or when they do a job well done. Do not be hard on yourself if you cannot give your children those brand name shoes everyone else seems to have. You don’t need to buy them the most expensive bicycle on the block or ten video games for the computer. Teach your children that things are not important, but rather that family is the most important.

Time especially is in short supply when you are a single parent. Once again you need to maintain a positive attitude. You must make the time for your children that they need. In all reality, it is the quality not quantity of time that counts. Spend time with all your children together. Implement a family night or set aside a little bit of family time each day. You might have a “movie night” or a night when you all go out to dinner. Perhaps it is as simple as making sure you all sit down together at dinnertime and then later
unwind by watching some TV together. It is also important to make some one on one time with each child. You may not have the opportunity to do this every day, but you should try to find time whenever you can. Again this might be as simple as making the most of those few minutes before you tuck them into bed. For your older children it might be chatting during breakfast.

No one says that being a single parent is easy. But with the growing number of single parent families in recent years, in many households the parenting role seems to have shifted from providing a safe and secure haven to being a child’s best buddy. As a single parent, you may think that you have to compensate for your child’s loss of one parent. Wrong! Just like your two-parent counterparts, a single parent is a role model who sets firm and consistent limits and who provides their children with lots of love and support.