Single parent survival guide

As a single mum, you may often feel like you’re chasing your tail in some never-ending battle against the clock.

You might worry about checking everything off your to do list, or whether you’re striking the right balance between spending time with your kids and your other commitments (job, family, friends, life admin… whatever they may be).

As a semi-seasoned single parent (well, approx seven years under my belt), I thought I’d put together my survival guide….

Be realistic!

In my head, Time is personified as an evil adversary that I do battle with on a daily basis. I imagine he looks something like Skeletor or the Grim Reaper. Either way, he’s out to get me.

Part of this is my fault. My expectations are not realistic. For instance, i’ll make Saturday plans that include a cinema trip, homework, a marathon laundry sesh, four tip runs, a play date, organising my meals for the week ahead, and a couple of coffees in Costa.

Needless to say, I never achieve it all and end up feeling like Time has got one over on me. To combat my time-optimism, I try to be more realistic about what can be done in a day. I pick three activities and agree with myself that if I get those things done, I’ll have had a good day (pat, pat on my back).

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It can be hard to ask for favours, particularly if you’re very independent and used to doing things on your own. Of course no one wants to be a burden, but by the same token, people enjoy the glowy feeling of helping you. So if the offer’s there – don’t be afraid to take it sometimes!


By ‘compartmentalise’ I basically mean know when it’s time to stop thinking about (or doing) one thing and move onto something else.

So you’ve had a crappy day at work. Leave the issue on your desk and don’t bring it home with you. You don’t need thoughts whirring around your head when you’re trying to focus on dinner or bath-time.

Remind yourself that this is now family time. Everything else can wait.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

It’s taken me years to learn that, as a single parent, I just need a really simple life. For me, that means:

  • not having lots of clutter in my house
  • not owning any plants (I can’t live with the guilt of forgetting to water them) or pets
  • leaving the 25-ingredient recipes to Jamie Oliver
  • favouring clothes that don’t need ironing (I used to only wear dresses so I could get out the door quicker and not have to match up outfits)
  • Having a basic list of food items that I buy week in, week out.

OK, so maybe that’s not the most inspiring list ever – but, hey, it works for me.

Your simplifying rules may well be different, but the point about making your life easier still stands.

Don’t compare yourself to other mums. Ever.

So you’ve overheard the Perfect Mum at your child’s school regaling her playground clique with tales of how she whipped up 100 cakes for the bake sale, ran 30 miles in prep for the London Marathon, and stitched hand-embroidered name tags into ever piece of her children’s clothing – yes, including their socks and pants.

As well as kind of hating her a bit, you may be tempted to draw comparisons between her mumsiness and your own. Don’t.

Listen, it doesn’t matter if you’ve labelled your kids’ clothes with smudgy laundry pen, providing you’ve got your other priorities straight (and you can make out their names!).

Never compare yourself. You know what you need to do for your kids, so just crack on with it.

Seek out your support group (but avoid positivity hoovers)

It can really help talk to other single mums. It’s great when you find someone who has shared experiences and gets it.

However, I try to avoid conversations of the ‘aaaarrrggghhh… it’s allllll sssooo terrrribbble’ variety. It doesn’t help to have a pity party. Personally, I like to just enjoy my time with my son and would rather push on with things positively.


While I deeply wish things were different, I’ve come to accept that I’ll never own (or use) anything made by Black&Decker. I begrudge a trip to B&Q. If it comes with an Allen key, it can jog the hell on.

So I’m at peace knowing that I’ll just have to beg or bribe someone else to do my DIY.

If there’s a chore that you really don’t have the time or inclination to do, sometimes it’s better to just pay for someone to take it off your hands. Your time and sanity is often more precious.

Keep on swimming

No matter how frazzled you are, no matter what fresh disaster has fallen from the sky to derail you, keep on swimming, my friend.

Whenever some new life-crap lands on my doorstep (which often happens) I remind myself of a time when I’ve leaped over a giant hurdle and carried on.

Everything passes. Don’t sweat it and just enjoy your kids.


So that’s my two pence – what are your single parent survival tips?


9 thoughts on “Single parent survival guide

  1. This is a fantastic resource. I teach internationally and my husband is military so I have been on my own a lot as a single parent. Your tips are spot on; simplify, de-clutter, and manage expectations without getting involved in the mommy wars!! Great article!


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