“Last week I was late for work 3 times. First, my daughter left her cheerleading uniform at her dad’s house. Then, my son had a fever and I had to take him to the doctor. And the third time, I was so exhausted I overslept.” - Carole, 43
The work-parenting “balance” is a challenge, right? When you’re parenting solo, it might feel like you’re walking on a high wire. Here are 2 things you can do to make it a bit easier. Warning: both of them will require you to muster up a little humility and honesty about where you’re at.
Tip #1: Recognize what you can’t handle.
Often during a divorce, people feel like they have to be super parents. They want to show they can do it all, out of fear they won’t get the parenting schedule they want otherwise. And for moms who are used to being the primary caretaker, it can be really hard to give up any time with your kids. But sometimes, parents fight for a schedule that might not work for them post-divorce.
If you’re still negotiating a parenting plan, really think about the schedule that would work best for you. Maybe Tuesday nights have traditionally been a night you work late. While you were married, that was fine because your spouse got home before you. But now you’re on your own, and you know you won’t be home in time to get dinner on the table. Unless you’re able to make a shift in your work schedule, consider offering Tuesday parenting time to the other parent.
What if you’ve already got a schedule in place, and it’s not working? Be honest when you can’t do what you thought you could do. And look for ways to accommodate your needs. Let’s say you travel for work a couple times a month. It feels like you’re constantly rushing back into town to see your kids before bedtime. It might be better for them - and a lot easier on you - if they stay with their dad for the night. You could propose a swap, where he gets the kids on those nights in exchange for you taking a couple of his. Or you may just have to give up those nights, hard as that might be.
Balancing work and parenting means you can’t do both 100% all the time. A lot of us worry that being away from our kids means we’re lacking as a parent. But think back to your own childhood. Weren’t there plenty of times one of your parents was away from the home? Whether it was dad working late, mom having her weekly dinner out with friends, or something else that took their attention away from you. Likely your parents also had other things to do besides parenting you 24/7. And you turned out just fine. 😉
Being honest about what you can - and can’t - do will make life easier on you. It’ll also help you to be more present and focused when you’re with your kids and when you’re at work.
Tip #2: Ask for help when you need it, especially from your ex.
Balancing work and parenting is hard to do on your own. Ask anyone who’s ever done it - and is being honest!
It might be hard to admit you need help. Especially if you aren’t used to asking for it. But it’s better to get help than to overcommit and promise to do something you can’t. You might be a total superstar, but no one can do it all.
Help might be hiring a college kid to pick your kids up from school twice a week so you can finish work. Help could be from the neighbor who offers to watch your kids while you take a Zoom call from the bedroom.
But often the best form of help comes from your ex. In most cases, when your kids can’t be with you, they’ll be better off with their other parent. If your relationship with your ex isn’t great, that one can be really hard to admit. Yet multiple studies show that children do better with shared parenting, resulting in higher academic achievement, stronger mental and physical health, better relationships as adults, and all kinds of other benefits. That’s even true in high conflict situations.
So if you have a work dinner you can’t miss, consider asking your ex to keep the kids if you won’t be home by bedtime. Whatever feelings you have that you “should” be able to do it all, do your best to put those aside. Good co-parenting means turning to the other parent when you need help, and being available to them when they need it.
Not only will your kids be better off, but mama, so will you. You’ll have more uninterrupted time to focus on work. You’ll be less harried. And - maybe just maybe - you’ll gain a better co-parenting relationship by trusting your ex to be the first person you turn to for help.