JULIE STAFFORD: Single parents: How do they do it?

By Julie Stafford • Last Updated 10:26 am on Monday, January 16, 2012

Julie Stafford

I stand in awe of single moms who successfully juggle jobs and family. And I’m trying to figure out how they do it.

Since my son was born 14 years ago, I’ve been lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom. Sure, I always had a freelance writing job or two perking, but those could be done any time of day. And my schedule was open for school drop-off and pick-up, last minute doctor appointments, sporting events, and play dates.

Now I’m working in a job I love, but it requires more than full time in an office. And I’m struggling with how to balance family and work. In my first full week on the job, I’ve found I arrive and leave in the dark. Most days time passes before I know it and I’m rushing home so that we can sit around the dinner table together.

Thankfully my oldest daughter is a driver and can pinch hit on picking her younger brother and sister up and schlepping them to activities. My mom, too, has been a godsend cooking dinner, running laundry through the mill and taking care of dog Lucy. Not to mention her extreme patience while we live with her during our hunt for a house.

What I’m wondering, though, is how I’ll piece it all together when the kids and I are on our own. How do moms — and single dads, too — plan meals, get kids too and fro, take care of pets and work long hours? As an observer during the past decade or so, I’ve seen moms go back to work full-time and have to learn a whole new routine. Most of them struggle at first, but eventually figure out a system that works.

One friend got her teaching degree when our kids were young and took a full-time job three years ago. She’s extremely disciplined and figured out she had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out, plan a week’s worth of meals in advance, and orchestrate rides for her kids every day.

I know somehow my kids and I will find our stride eventually. It’s the getting there that worries me. How do single parents effectively divide their energy, attention and love among kids, work and home? I keep telling myself that we’ve survived, quite literally, a lot more difficult circumstances. And I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to suggestion from those who have walked this path before me.

Julie Stafford is publisher of The Daily News. She can be reached at juliestafford@staffordgroup.com or (616) 548-8260.

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