When you tell new acquaintences you’re a single parent you can always tell the ones who feel a bit sorry for you. There’s a change in their tone of voice, a tip of the head, a concerned eye. A variation on, “that must be tough” or, “how do you manage?”.
A small part of me likes these reactions the best. Because you see, being a single parent is not easy. It’s by no means the path of least resistance, the favourable choice, the chosen journey. Few parents choose to do it singularly, and every so often it’s nice to have that recognition from a near-stranger that you’re a bit of a badass for storming ahead solo parenting.
But at the same time I chuckle at those who feel sorry for me. Yes, single parenting might not be the easy path, but I have my tricks and hacks that kind of mean it’s a breeze. I mean, it’s just like parenting as a pair: you find your rhythms, your routines. Only in ours there’s just one adult rather than two.
Here are the lifesavers that mean I don’t go mad as a single parent. Maybe they’re the same as yours, too?
1. David Lloyd
We’ve been members of David Lloyd for almost three years now and our membership has become non-negotiable. There are hours of kids clubs the children can attend at no extra cost for the days I’m under a deadline, a softplay for them to let off steam when they really need to, a business centre for me to work in and – I suppose I should mention this – amazing workout facilities (including an outdoor pool!). It’s not a cheap option at around £140 a month, but I’d be paying at least that in childcare so it’s almost like the gym is an added bonus.
2. Childcare you trust
It’s invaluable to have people you can trust to look after your kids: how else would you go on dates?! I’m mega lucky to have my parents around and they’re wonderful with the children, and when they’re away my auntie is happy to spend time with them. Not worrying about whether or not I can trust my babysitter is a real weight off.
I have one golden friend who I know will totally understand when I go to her and tell her how much I love my children but, that day, it was just a bit of a struggle to like them. You know what I mean?
3. A good filing system
I’m lol-ing at this one because I had a mad scrabble to find Elfie’s paperwork for her new school this week, but when your filing system works it is priceless. Essential when you’re a strapped-for-time single mum.
4. A shoulder to cry on
It doesn’t happen very often any more, but just as much as married mothers need somewhere safe to vent about their families, single ones crave it too. I have one golden friend who I know will totally understand when I go to her and tell her how much I love my children but, that day, it was just a bit of a struggle to like them. You know what I mean?
Can be related to the above. Goes without saying.
6. Amazon Prime/ASOS Premier
God, how much would I like to be that person who only shopped local and small business? VERY MUCH. I will be trying harder in my next marriage to be that person, but until that happens when I need to order stuff online I generally need it now: anyone who’s bought a kid’s birthday present en route to the party and wrapped it in the car on your lap will agree with this one. Next day deliveries are a lifesaver.
I am not above technology babysitting my kids so I can attempt a bit of a lie-in on a Sunday.
7. Amazon Fire
I am not above technology babysitting my kids so I can attempt a bit of a lie-in on a Sunday. Not at all. I love the children’s Amazon Fires because the kids content is so tightly honed there’s no chance of them seeing something dodgy, and I can control how much time they spend watching videos, playing games and reading books on them. Plus I can see everything they’re doing remotely: they’re brilliant and I recommend to all.
8. Something for YOU
When you’re a single mum – or a married mum, actually – you give so much of yourself to other people that you really need to find something that’s only for you. A small treat, something that doesn’t involve anything but pleasing yourself. For me that’s going to the gym, a solo shop at Waitrose or buying a new dress to wear on a date. They are the little things that give an incredible amount of pleasure.
9. A clutter-free house
I can’t tell you how much clearing my house of clutter helps me on a daily basis. There’s less to put away, less to trip over, less to gather dust. I go round my house with a bin bag once a week, brutally binning anything that isn’t useful or needed anymore: it’s a game changer.
What are your hacks that give you an easy life?