Just making it to the end of each day can be an achievement as a single parent. By the time you get in bed, you’re usually exhausted from a day of making packed lunches, doing the school run, completing housework, and taking your kids to after-school activities. Somehow, you also have to complete a full day at work.
As a single parent, you may believe that this hectic schedule of child-raising and working means you cannot attempt to advance your career, as doing so would increase your stress and make your life that much harder. However, there are ways to advance your career without sacrificing your mental health as a single parent.
Assess the Challenges
Before you start applying for new positions or promotions, you need to assess the challenges that stand in the way of your next big career move. There’s no point overworking yourself without a clear idea of the challenges you need to overcome. An honest assessment of the challenges you face will also ensure your child receives a high quality of care while you work on yourself and your career.
Start by listing the time-oriented challenges that exist in your life. Try not to become fatalistic while listing these challenges, but be realistic about the days when you simply won’t have time to work on advancing your career. Note down a time to complete miscellaneous tasks too, as you’ll always need extra time in the week to run errands and take care of unexpected issues.
You’ll also need to identify barriers to your career advancement like a lack of education or experience. Go online and look through as many openings and job adverts as possible. You need to know if the next step in your career requires an MBA or experience with particular tasks or tools before you start making applications.
Plan Career Moves
Start turning your time-oriented challenges into a weekly schedule. Include blocks of time for every major commitment you have and colour-code each commitment. This will make it easier to spot any free time you already have. If your weekly calendar is completely full, you’ll need to get imaginative to start creating free time for yourself.
You shouldn’t sacrifice your own wellness to find extra hours in the day. Instead, try following in the footsteps of other single parents planning career advancement. Ask your manager about opportunities like remote working, flexible scheduling, and funding for further education and training.
Even if you can’t work remotely, you may be able to grow remotely. Online universities and digital training programs are easy to access and usually accommodate busy learners with asynchronous learning opportunities. So, if you find yourself needing extra training in management, graphic design, or accounting, you may be able to find an online course that fits your schedule.
Care for Your Child
Your child’s well-being will always come first, regardless of your career goals or work schedule. However, there are plenty of ways to ensure that your kid is well-tended while you attend workshops or complete some college credits.
Start by telling your child why you are spending more time away from home or at the desk. The way you have this conversation will depend on the age of your kid. Focus on reassuring them that you’ll still be around for them, and try to talk about the skills and work you’ll be doing — they’ll probably be interested to learn about the college classes you’re enrolling in or the new role you are taking.
You can avoid burnout as a single parent by leaning on your support network to help care for your child. You shouldn’t feel bad about asking trusted friends and family for a little help along the way — you’re already doing your best for your kid, and asking for extra help is just another way to advocate for them. Getting the help you need, when you need it, can support your mental health and ensure you have time and energy for yourself and your child.
Prioritise Mental Health
Many single parents undervalue their own mental health or feel they don’t have the time or energy to practice self-care. However, taking the time to care for yourself will pay dividends in the future. You’ll be able to respond better to challenges when you have strategies for stress management.
Start by reaching out to see what support your employer can offer. Most businesses have strategies to protect employee mental health as mental health programs can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, and reduce turnover.
If you start to feel overwhelmed while advancing your career, it may be worth asking about employee assistance programs and extra training to help you work more efficiently. Some employers even offer subsidized access to mental health therapists who can help you work through stressors. Taking an hour every week to connect with a therapist can greatly improve your productivity at your work and set a great example for your children.
If you’re already at the end of your rope, try some calming “Mother Om’s” to practice mindfulness and reduce your immediate stress. A few deep breaths and a good cup of tea can go a long way during a weekday that just won’t end. Even a tiny break like this may help you stay on track with your career progress and busy schedule as a single parent.
As a single parent, the idea of career advancement can be daunting. However, by identifying the challenges that stand in your way, you can plan your way towards a more prosperous, happier future. Just be sure to practice self-care as often as you need and don’t feel guilty if you need to lean on your support network a little more than normal.