Time-Management Tips for Single Parents

How to Use Strategy and Spontaneity to Manage the Demands of Family Life

By Janis Hashe

Here's an excerpt of an email exchange single mom Carol Davidson had with a friend of hers after I had interviewed her for this article:

Carol: I just had an interview for a parenting magazine about time management strategies for single parents.

Her friend: Why? Did they need a "before" example?

Carol: Ha. Ha. Ha!

Davidson, the mother of 6-year-old Nick, knows she doesn't have the time-management thing down to a science. But she does have one of the major coping components, mentioned by parents and experts alike: a sense of humor, coupled with an ability to roll with the punches.

In fact, three strong themes emerge when looking at effective scheduling and management of responsibilities in single parent households:

  • single parents need to make use of their networks,
  • they must create schedules, lists and calendars,
  • and they need to know "when to fold 'em" with grace and humor if necessary.

Networks Work

"Even newly divorced people do not need to create an entirely new support network," points out sociologist Jeanne Hurlbert, Ph.D., head of OptinetResources.com, a group that assists in building social networks. "You still have friends and family, and those ties can be augmented by new ones that you can find through support groups, church, at work or through organizations you already belong to."

Hurlbert notes that while many single parents may be reluctant to ask for help, creating the request as an exchange ("I could watch Matt on Thursday afternoon; could you watch Sara on Friday morning?") means that you are offering help as well. Even just sharing the picking up and dropping off of children can be a huge help for working parents.

"I do have several people who can help me with Sydney when I go out of town," says Candace Davis, who balances the needs of her 8-year-old daughter with a demanding job. "I always offer to help with their children in return," often taking groups of kids to the aquarium or museums.

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