The Struggle to Juggle


My older daughter turned nine this summer, which for me made a decade of parenting. Long gone are the days of punching out at the end of a work day and going out with friends for a beer. For most working parents, that would be an ultimate luxury. Not only do parents go home to dinners to cook and messes to clean, the biggest hurdle is finding child care. Just the ability to work a full day becomes a luxury.

As a single mother who writes from home, my living room is my office. Work constantly beckons, often unattainable, so I fall behind. I have people tugging at me, requesting food and attention. I realize at 3 p.m. that I haven’t eaten much more than an apple, I am starving, need to shower, and never got around to taking the dog for that long walk I’d promised both of us. And that’s with paying for full-time daycare.


Self-care tips for single working mother

On the days I am not exasperated, and feel accomplished, it’s because I’ve done a few of these things:

Basic self-care
If I ever form a band, I’ve always joked that it’d be named Perpetual Dehydration. I carry with me, at all times, 64 ounces of water, yet I have trouble drinking it. But if I can manage to gulp down at least two of those babies along with some good quality vitamins, it’s almost better than coffee.

Find other ways to energize
Speaking of coffee, that first sip in the morning is what I live for, but I put aside the second (okay, third) cup for 15 minutes of exercise that I easily do in my living room. I rotate 10 squats, lunges, push-ups, and 45-second planks in between 20 jumping jacks.

Focus on food
My diet revolves around very few ingredients, and they are purely from the most protein and nutrient-rich at very little energy. I eat apples and almond butter, chicken and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes take-out sushi. Read up on diets that focus along these lines, like the Whole30, and find something that works.

Indulge wisely
Some people love to cook. Before I had two kids to raise on my own I could have been somewhere on the outskirts of that camp. Most days I fight off the temptation to order some variation of pizza or bad Mexican food. Some nights I’d give anything for a tall glass of whiskey. I rarely indulge, because doing these things will make me feel horrible the next day, and throw off my self-care, and consequently my work. I’ve learned a small salmon salad instead of a pizza leaves me feeling satisfied, and even energized. It takes discipline, but after you grow accustomed to it, a big food indulgence leaves you feeling so sluggish it’s easier to maintain the course.

Clean, organize, declutter
My favorite line from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is when he wipes the prep area of a sloppy employee with a bleach rag and holds the mess to his face, saying “This is what your mind looks like!” When my home is a cluttered, dirty mess, so am I.

Single parents must work with grit and persistence in their day-to-day lives. We cannot tap out, or hand off our children to someone else for a break. It’s easy to slip into hopelessness when the childhood illnesses are ruthless and sleep is minimal. A life coach, or someone with an outside perspective would help in an important reminder: this too, shall pass and nothing is permanent, but in the meantime let’s get some things in order. Hopefully, with that knowledge, a deep breath goes in, and new focus comes out.

Stephanie Land

Stephanie Land is a writing fellow with the Center for Community Change, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and several other outlets. She writes from Missoula, Montana, where she lives with her two daughters. Follow @stepville

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