Can single moms have balance?
Can working moms juggle career and family and still find time for themselves? Finding balance needn’t be a dream.
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It’s 6:30 pm when you finally arrive home, having rushed out the front door at the crack of dawn. You’ve had an exhausting day at the office but had to collect your son from rugby practice and go to the mall to buy him a new pair of school shoes. Now there’s supper to prepare and then the kids’ homework has to be checked. It’s no wonder that later you just feel like collapsing into bed!

Is it possible to find a balance between work, kids and your own needs? Working mom Christelle Fourie of Cape Town and Joburg life coach Simangele Mphahlele share their advice.

1. Plan, plan, plan

Christelle is a single mom with two young children and managing director of a Cape Town insurance company. She says she balances these two aspects of her life by planning.

“I organise my private life the way I organise my work life. Every appointment – from parent evenings and exam dates to hair appointments – is entered into my calendar,” she says. If she doesn’t do this, things get out of control.

“I’m very efficient at work but if I arrive home and my 11-year-old son says he has to prepare an oral for next week that I know nothing about, it feels as if the stress is getting too much,” Christelle says.

She advises moms to carefully study the calendar schools hand out at the beginning of the year in order to be prepared for important events on their children’s school programme.

2. Speak to your employer

As a parent you have to ensure that the company you work for knows about your family obligations, Mphahlele says. “There are several companies that have flexitime and their rating of you is based on output rather than time spent at the office.”

Talk to your manager about your needs, Christelle says. “If, for instance, you work half an hour extra every day, you can leave work earlier on a Friday afternoon and pick up your kids at school.”

The same applies when your child becomes ill, she says. “It’s difficult to care for your child if your employer doesn’t respect the fact that you’re a parent.”

3. Turn everyday activities into quality time

Everyday activities such as preparing a meal together or doing homework can be valuable moments in your child’s life, Mphahlele says. “Use mealtimes to chat to your children about their day.”

Christelle spends an hour every evening with each of her children helping them with their homework. “We also use the time to talk about what happened at school,” she says. “My kids even look forward to doing homework because it’s their mommy time.”

This might mean sacrificing pastimes such as watching TV, Mphahlele says. “On average TV can take up two hours of your time a day, which you could easily have spent with your children.”

4. Get a support system going

The life coach and mother agree: every working mom needs a good support network. “Family support is important if you want to maintain balance,” Mphahlele says. “You can for instance arrange that your kids visit their cousins if you need a break.”

There are also people in your community who can ease your load.

“I befriended other moms at my kids’ school from the time my kids were little,” Christelle says. “Many of them don’t work and are willing to help with lift clubs, for instance. Ask for help when you need it – it makes it that much easier to cope with everything.”

5. Make time for yourself

It’s important to make time for yourself and your partner. “Choose specific days to spend with your partner on your own,” Mphahlele suggests. “Ask friends or family to look after the kids so you have the peace of mind they’re safe and in good hands.”

Sometimes me-time means getting up early, Christelle says. “I go to the gym at 5 am because I want to spend time with my kids in the evening. It’s my way of unwinding.” 

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