The Ultimate Single-Parent Guidebook
20 Ways to Reduce Anxiety, Boost Energy, Thrive Financially, Master Relationships, and Kickass at Parenthood.
Hey mum, hey dad,
Join the club! Everyday we get emails from single parents who are suffering from low energy levels, a great deal of stress, difficulty entering back the dating life, and more.
Today’s story will sound at best, relatable and at worst, quite familiar.
As a child of separated parents, I swore to myself that I would never allow my future family to be broken in the same way. I had gone through the pain of living under a house with a set of parents that would fight over absolutely anything and everything – from which jam flavor to buy at the grocery store to what time the kids should go the bed. I hated the buildup of stress in the household, and I genuinely promised myself as well as all my friends that I was not going to follow the same path my parents did.
But the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, right?
Long story short, in May of 2007 my (ex) husband and I decided that continuing our toxic relationship was going to end up in one of us killing ourselves or killing the other person. I was crushed. I felt lost and hopeless. My nights were spent tossing and turning in bed analyzing our relationship and pinpointing what exactly went wrong to make it such a mess. But the biggest problem was, Sam aged 4 and Melanie aged 6 were not too happy about daddy leaving the house.
Dealing with the divorce itself took a big toll on my love life. Thirteen years of love and care just went down the drain, and I was heartbroken beyond belief. But as a parent of two beautiful little girls, I could not spend my Friday nights crying on the couch while watching rom-coms and eating Ben & Jerry’s directly out the tub. I was to prepare dinner, ask the kids about their day, get them to shower, and turn the channel to Cartoon Network – all whilst having a big smile on my face. So trust me when I say that you are not alone. I had gone from marrying my soul mate and thinking life was going in the right direction when reality hit hard. The first year after the divorce felt like a complete blur; I honestly don’t know how I managed at the time with barely any support from my (all recently married and happy) friends.
This survival kit is designed for us single parents who are trying to make the ends meet and keep the kids happy but also need time to reconstruct our own personal lives. Despite any of the obstacles that have or will come your way, constantly remind yourself that you are a strong human being who loves the kids dearly and would do anything it takes to rock parenthood.
The following guide is basically organized into 5 different categories (as you may have read from the above-written subtitle). Each category is going to go over 3-5 tips on how to survive the single-parent journey.
Category 1: Boost Energy
Of course, here at TopEnergySupplements.com we focus on bringing you the best and most effective ways to boost energy levels. Without having the proper morning boost, your days will be unproductive and your mind will be unmotivated. The amount of energy you have really determines the quality of your life. If you wake up feeling groggy and uneager to greet the kids, you’re already setting your day to a bad start. This will lead to negative thoughts, a lack of drive to succeed and essentially a major defeat in the quest to become a better person and parent.
Seriously, energy is related to everything in life. If you’re being outperformed by a colleague at work and you don’t have the mental energy to fight back or do better, you’ll easily decide to give up. Lack of energy can often cause relationships to suffer as well, mostly due to your increased irritability. If you wake up feeling exhausted and anxious then you will begin to focus on the negative aspects of your partner, meaning all those things you once saw good in them are no longer there.
I know it feels like you’re dead battery that simply can’t get recharged, but here are four ways that are guaranteed to make you have brighter, more energized days.
- Fit in Home Exercises.
There’s always an excuse to miss that gym session. “I’m too tired”, “I’ve had a rough day with the kids so I deserve a break”, “I don’t feel like driving to the gym in this weather”, “The babysitter is not available tonight so who is going to watch over the kids?”
Well, you don’t have a chance to make excuses now because here are five different exercises that you can do right in your living room:
Lie down on a mat and lift your knees up, put your hands on the sides of your temples and sit up towards your knees. Do 3 sets of 15 crunches.
- Superman position
Lie down on your chest and stretch towards opposing walls with your fingertips and your toes. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat twice.
- Squat jumps
Squat jumps are exactly what they sound like. It’s like doing a regular squat but incorporating a jump into each one to really work those glutes. Do 3 sets of ten squats. Make sure to really get down there!
- Hip Abductions
Lie down on one side and lift your outer leg slightly up. Begin to form small circles with this leg. The keyword here is small, because large movements won’t actually target your hips as effectively. Do 15 times on each leg and repeat twice.
- Side lunges
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be facing forward. Make sure your back is straight and your core is tightened for better support. Then take your right leg and take a step to the right while bending your knees and pushing the hips backwards. Keep in mind that pressure should be left on the left leg. Do this 10 times on each side.
If you don’t like these exercises then feel free to look up some more! Seriously, though, no excuses! A set of 5 exercises will only take you 20 minutes max. Do it in the morning before taking a shower or squeeze it in the evening before dinnertime. Exercising daily will make your body more active and ready to seize the day.
- Don’t overdo it with the coffee.
A cup of Joe can be a great way to start the day, but too much caffeine is going to stuff your body with unnecessary sugar and give you that unwanted crash at the end of the day. Stick to one cup a day (preferably with no or limited sugar) and don’t drink any more past 2PM.
- Take cold showers.
Cold showers have been proven to be able to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. I always start my day with a cold shower and although they may seem overwhelming at first, you will begin to embrace that exciting rush.
Category 2: Thrive Financially
So the house bills are no longer shared and the savings account seems to be deteriorating by the minute. You have a part-time job (that you hate!), which gets you by but the salary is only just enough.
Many parents who experience divorce often find themselves nervous about future finances. This is completely understandable, because you’re moving from two incomes to support the household to one very limited salary. While monetary stress can often encourage people to give up and start moving to their parents’ basement, it’s imperative to understand that there can always be a Plan B. In order to be successful, however, you need to believe that you’re going to make it happen for yourself. You will make the dough come in, you will be financially stable (or better, rich!), and you will be so proud of yourself for achieving your goals.
- Focus on making more money.
I worked as a part-time substitute teacher at a small school for 3 years before I realized that it was time to get up off my ass and do something about my life. Money will not come to you if you don’t focus on getting it. So the first step that you should take is eliminating any negative connotations you have with money. Loving money does not make you a greedy person nor does it make you a bad one; it simply makes you realistic enough to understand that money does to a significant extent, make life a lot more convenient.
If you’re working at the same job you were 5 years ago and are not happy with the pay you’re getting, stop and think about what your next step should be. Go home tonight and look through your old files to find that dusty résumé. Start making a list of your strengths and search for jobs that allow your abilities to shine through. Or better yet, find the success-driven entrepreneur inside of you and begin gathering ideas for a new business. I know it’s not easy and I know you have a lot of things going on right now, but putting energy into this will be worthwhile in the long-term. If there’s no one to help you take care of the kids then take advice from Lauren Thom (founder of Fleurty Girl, a successful New Orleans-brand) – “You have to make family part of your business.” Get them involved, ask them for ideas (kids have the best creativity!), and include them throughout the entire business journey.
- Cut down the shopping calories: save more.
I know your eyes light up when you see that big, flashy, red 70% discount sign, but calm yourself and walk away. I know it’s painful and I know how great that sweater will look on you when winter comes. But saving is a priority right now, and you have to think about the kids and their future.
I love shopping. I truly, genuinely do. So when I made the enormous effort of discontinuing my weekly shopping sprees, I expected to see massive changes in the bank account. But there really weren’t any for the first two months. Numbers stayed the same and I didn’t manage to save any more than I had previously, so I grew frustrated and wondered where all my freakin’ money had gone! I then realized that losing track of your payments is the biggest crack to monetary failure. You stop by at the gas station, that’s $50 to fill the tank and $20 on candy bars to ‘surprise the kids’. You go to the mall to make a copy of the house key and end up buying a new watch that was on sale. But you forget all about it. You’re not keeping tabs on all your expenditure, so they pile up and start hurting your bank account.
My solution to this is to use a money application – basically, you download an app that allows you to set each month’s saving goals and maximum spending. Each day you log in what you spend on and this will make you realize just how much many you waste on absolutely irrelevant garbage.
- Create long-term goals and write them down.
A problem that many people have in terms of finances is the lack of having a long-term goal. If you don’t know how much money you want to have in 5 years, that money is never going to come your way.
Get a piece of paper or a notebook and start jotting down ideas of what your long-term financial plans look like. You can even hire a financial advisor to help you through it, but if you’re confident enough to do it yourself then go for it. After you create the goal, make sure to take that piece of paper and stick it up on your bathroom mirror or on the fridge. You need to see that goal everyday and become obsessed with it.
Once you really understand the importance of this goal then begin to write down ways of achieving it. Remember, taking baby steps is the best way to go. If you know you don’t have 5 hours to work on your business ideas today, then set the goal to be more realistic – perhaps 30 minutes before bed once the kids are sound asleep.
- Be proud that you’re financially independent.
Please do not victimize yourself for having to support the family out of your own pocket. It may seem like a lost cause at first, but it’s really a blessing in disguise. Being financially independent will teach you how to be more responsible, how to multitask with different responsibilities and how valuable your time is.
Remember, you will succeed.
Take pride in that.
Category 3: Master Relationships
So a lot of single mums have written in to ask questions concerning relationships. E-mails that touch on the topic of relationships bring up a multitude of concerns, ranging from insufficient energy to start dating again, nervousness of going out into the world and meeting someone for the first time, etc. By following these four tips, you will find it much easier to jump back into the dating world and hopefully find a supportive (aka better!) partner.
- Be confident and overcome post-breakup blues.
The key to getting over the divorce is to never remain stagnant. I don’t mean this in the literal sense, so sure you could spend an hour watching TV on Saturday afternoon if that’s what you really want. But in terms of how you feel about the relationship, you have to keep sailing the boat.
Don’t lose sleep over heartbreak. Don’t jeopardize reading time with your kids because you decide to cry for half an hour in the bathroom before coming out with big puffy eyes. You need to keep moving, even if it’s in miniscule amounts.
For example, stop checking your ex’s FB, stop waiting for a call, stop re-reading old messages, stop thinking about the ‘good old days’ because you are clearly too vulnerable to deal with those things right now. Instead, distract yourself with more satisfying, life-rewarding activities. Perhaps it’s time to get that puppy your son has been begging to have for the past 3 years. Or maybe create a fitness goal for yourself and spend a few days a week working towards it instead of calling your girlfriend Cassie to rant about how terrible you feel.
Keeping yourself busy and setting goals will provide you with the boost of self-esteem that you need. Just because the relationship did not work with one person does not automatically make you any less worthy. It also doesn’t mean your partner is full of crap (although this may be the case for a few couples). See the situation as two people who were simply not compatible. This should be seen in a positive light, because it suggests that you still have a chance to meet someone else, who is more suitable and like-minded. And when you do go on that date, you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable and on edge. This is completely normal. You are used to the familiarity of spending Friday nights tucking your daughter in bed and then popping in a movie with a glass of wine. So it’s understandable why you would feel nervous to lean in for that first kiss or even hold hands! But the trick is to embrace the butterfly feelings and believe that you’re making positive progress.
- Tackling the BIG question: when is the right time to start dating?
This is a question that we get a lot of from concerned single parents all around the world. And although I would love to give the simple answer of 4-6 weeks, the truth is that it really depends. First of all, we need to take into consideration the fact that some divorces are worse or better than others. This plays a large role in being able to get over the other person and going out to find someone new. Another aspect to keep in mind is that people function differently. Some are more emotionally unstable, some are more sensitive and some are more indifferent to divorces.
The answer is within yourself. You need to ask yourself questions everyday: “How am I feeling today?”, “How do I feel about meeting other people?”, “Do I need or want to meet other people?”, etc. By analyzing your own situation, you will be able to determine when you are strong enough to overcome vulnerability and meet other people. But remember to go at your own pace. If you push yourself beyond your emotional abilities then your dating life will not be satisfying.
- Find potential partners by going to the right places.
Aim for places that are inviting for both kids and adults. As a parent, we are used to going to child-friendly places, which is of course great for young Sarah but you surely you want your share of the cake too. Places like museums and farmer’s markets are great spots to bring your kids and still have a chance to exchange eye contact with a cutie.
- Be careful when introducing your partner to your kids.
Kids can get very attached very quickly, so it’s important to assess your relationship with your new partner before introductions take place. If you’ve only been on a few dates with your new partner, don’t make the mistake of bringing them home to meet your kids. When the relationship is more stable and serious, then you can begin to consider introducing your partner to the kids.
Category 4: Kickass at Parenthood
It’s hard enough to raise children as a couple, but alone? It’s definitely nowhere near easy. But rise up to the challenge and don’t be scared of ‘failure’.
- Read to or with your child.
I cannot stress enough the importance of reading time with your kids. It promotes basic speech skills, can improve logical thinking, will increase concentration and is a great time to bond before bedtime.
- Positive reinforcement.
Always use positive reinforcement when you want your child to do or stop doing something. This is the act of rewarding good behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. Kids respond more and will respect you more when you treat them kindly. For instance, if you want James to stop playing video games, tell him that you will take him to the water park this weekend if he listens. This will encourage the child to listen to you more. Also, don’t forget to always show affection by hugging and kissing your child.
- Dinner is family time.
It’s hard to have family time once the kids start to grow up and ‘want their space’. One thing that you should always opt for is setting dinner as family time. This will teach your child the importance of spending time with the family and make them appreciate the effort you make to provide them with good food.
- Don’t focus too much on the report card.
Grades are important, but they should never jeopardize your relationship with your children. Encourage studying and working hard but never make them feel bad for not performing well on a test or assignment. Instead, give them the confidence that they can do better next time.
Category 5: Decompress & Relax
The biggest problem that you’re probably dealing with right now is stress. As a single parent, trying to juggle everything at once can feel overwhelming. Not to mention that you’re in it by yourself. Sure, your friends may come off as sympathetic during the first few post-divorce months, but all that hype quickly fades and you’re back to square 1. Anxiety and stress become worse when you don’t get proper sleep. And let’s not kid ourselves here, you’re not ever getting 8 hours sleep again. Five to seven hours if you’re really lucky, but even those might be interrupted by the kids coming in your room crying from a bad nightmare.
One of the first things I did after my divorce was make sure that I was getting enough sleep. No matter how busy I was, no matter how stressed and depressed I was, if it was bedtime, it was lights off, eyes shut. If you struggle to fall asleep and are experiencing minor degrees of insomnia right now, fear not because there are definitely ways to help you push through this issue. There are lots of different yoga positions and sleeping aids such as Kirkland sleep aid that you can take to induce sleep, but here are a few of my favorite options.
- Get a Sleep Mat.
Sleep induction mats look like regular yoga mats with a pattern of circles on them. Their mechanism is similar to that of acupuncture, whereby it targets your muscles and nerves to produce calmness, reduce anxiety and promote blood flow. When you lie on the mat, blood flow is stimulated along your spinal cord and your acupuncture points are palpitated up and down. This does two things: Firstly, it releases endorphin hormones, which make us feel good, and secondly your body clicks into a deep relaxation mode.
I was recommended to try this product by a friend who has been suffering from severe insomnia for years. Although the mat does not actually put you to sleep, it signals your body that you are ready for bed and allows you to relax. It’s basically a tool that helps induce meditation and a calmer state of both the mind and body. You can lie on the mat around 20-30 minutes before bedtime to prepare yourself for a dreamy journey.
I have to admit that I don’t use the mat every single day, but I do grab it from my closet during those hectic days when your boss was being a terrible prick and you come home to naughty kids who just won’t cooperate.
If you are interested to try this mat then I say go for it. You can buy it online on Amazon.com, and the price ranges anywhere from $10 to $90. Be careful, though, because higher prices do not indicated higher quality (I had to learn this the hard way).
- Turn off all electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime.
In case you still don’t know, watching TV or scrolling through your e-mail on the iPhone prior to bedtime is not conducive. This goes for both you and your children. Teach them that it is better to engage in calming activities such as reading or listening to soothing music before sleeping rather than laughing at funny cartoons. This is because technology stimulates cognitive activity and causes our brain cells to fire, which is not the ideal state that your mind should be in before you sleep. Watching exciting TV shows has actually been shown to increase the release of cortisol – our stress hormones –, which completely goes against quality sleep.
- Opt for separate beds.
Whether you’re sharing the bed with the kids or a potential new partner, it has been proven that sharing a bed with anyone can hinder sleep. Anything from micro movements to snoring to farting and other ungodly things that go bump in the night can all cause restless sleep. While sharing a bed with someone may not wake you up and make you pace the floor for an hour, it can cause you to roll over, which actually prevents REM (rapid eye movement) or deep sleep.
A sleep session without REM is practically useless. REM is the stage of sleep that allows our mind and body to recharge and gain back all the energy it lost. Lack of REM sleep can also lead to age-related memory loss and deterioration of other cognitive functions.
- Go Ayurvedic.
Now this might be a little bit of an overhaul, in which case skip directly to #1. But if you’re up for the challenge to restyle your life then the Ayurvedic system may hold the secret to unlimited daily power and better sleep. This is for people who constantly feel lethargic, who can’t stop thinking about sneaking in that 20-minute midday nap, and who experience constant brain fog and clouded thinking.
An Ayurvedic cleanse believes that our bodies should be able to digest and get rid of every single kind of pollutant that we come across. This is not restricted to our diets, but also includes everything we see, hear and smell. Ayurveda claims that a progressive buildup of toxins in our body is the main reason why we experience tiredness and anxiety.
The Ayurvedic cleansing system can be adopted and exercised by meeting with a professional Ayurvedic practitioner. This advisor will typically start by asking you questions to find out who you are, in attempt to suggest the perfect routine that matches your needs. Ayurvedic cleanses were developed 2000 years ago but are still used today by important leaders, presidents, politicians and even celebrities who want to tune-up their bodies.
If you can’t be bothered to search for an Ayurvedic guru, be grateful for the Internet because you can try the cleansing plans offered online. When you start searching for Ayurvedic cleanse routines, you will come across the suggestion of trying a kitchari diet routine (mostly vegetables, some rice, spices), detox teas, triphala powder (cleanses digestive track), and self-massages.
- Take nootropic sleep enhancers.
When you’re not getting sufficient sleep, the kids aren’t getting the best of you. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love my children I sometimes feel like I’m a little shorter with them than I’d like to be. I’m not saying I’d like them to get out of the way, but after a bad night’s sleep, I sometimes wish they could be seen and not heard.
Nootropics are NOT sleeping pills! If you’re looking to knock yourself out but don’t like sleeping aids then be happy because there are alternatives to melatonin…like a baseball bat! Just kidding.
Nootropics are cognitive enhancing supplements like Sominex, Neuro sleep and Nytol that can help boost focus, increase memory, improve mood, and enhance sleep. The best thing about them is that they power your brain and improve cognitive skills all while you are sound asleep.
Let’s be honest, no amount of herbal tea is going send you off to deep, rejuvenated sleep, no matter what the manufacturers claim. If you’re to consume something to elicit good quality sleep, it will most likely contain melatonin. But there are now options that offer more than just sleep, such as products that provide better tolerance for noise and a better ability to multitask.
Not that I disagree with thousands of years of research done by shamans, yogis and voodoo doctrines, but currently as it stands, there is little evidence to suggest that drinking a cup of chai with bobbing dandelions and Chinese twigs and berries is going to give you a return ticket first class to the land of nod. I know this works for some people but when put up against a titan like melatonin, there’s no comparison.
So why am I recommending nootropics over a standard melatonin? Because if you’ve ever taken GNC melatonin you will remember (or won’t) waking up feeling foggy, lethargic and like you could probably use another 3-4 hours sleep on top of what you just got. Progressive companies such as Avanse Nutraceuticals with their Luna product have paired melatonin with brain enhancing nootropics that will not only send you to restful, rejuvenating sleep but also have you waking feeling recharged and energized. This will prepare you to handle the most demanding moments from the little munchkins, have the mental clarity to easily remember and organize the days’ commitments and chores, and may even prevent age-related memory loss such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Lumonol Luna by Avanse Nutraceuticals combines a blend of powerful herbal extracts and lab-made nootropics to increase your quality of sleep and provide you with a clearer head in the morning. Take action and get yourself a bottle now.