Parents have hundreds of things vying for our time and attention. As a single dad, chaos seems to multiply! Between work, friends, hobbies, dating, housework, health, children, relationships, finances, safety, and social media (just to name a few) it is easy to get out of balance!
There must be some middle ground, right? I have learned to conquer single-dad chaos using Structure, Time and Happiness to create balance for me and my kids. This is how I did it, and you can too!
Take Stock of Your Chaos
The best way for me to find balance is to know what I am balancing. Sounds easy right?
A typical day in my life goes something like this:
- I get ready for work and feed the cats.
- My day is packed with meetings galore and we all know how exciting those are. Not!
- My son reminds me to stop by the bank and cash his check. I remind him I need my book cover done by the end of the week.
- Work ends and my house is a mess: dishes, dirty bathroom, messy bedrooms, and laundry.
- My oldest son has bought a car that is already acting up – Dad to the rescue!
- Writing deadlines. Bills to pay.
- I try to watch a movie with my fiancé. Throughout the evening I receive text messages from my mother wanting to visit. I’m there to give advice about the car to my oldest, then advice about life to my youngest. I have a conversation lasting an hour with my fiancé about eating better and being healthier.
- More writing fits in there somewhere. Then I’m off to bed around midnight.
Whew! I don’t begrudge any of it- but I sure need balance for days like this! Sometimes I fail miserably. More often than not I find room to get it all done.
If you’re a single dad, you are bound to have chaotic days, too! So how in the world can any of us balance this mess?
Structure, Structure, Structure
When we try to balance everything, giving it structure can even out the rough spots. Teaching my kids structure helped them (and me) to achieve balance.
Rules and Routines
Structure happens when you have routines and house rules. Here are a few that I came up with:
- Homework was done right after school
- Bedtime was a constant time
- Chores were shared and done on time
- Friday was cleaning day
- Family dinners
- Family meetings
- “Unplug weekends”
- My kids had to call or text when leaving or arriving somewhere
Structure Changes as Your Kids Grow
Our rules and routines changed as my kids grew older. My boys are 19 and 20 now, and that structure still follows them today. Helping them find balance started early.
Tip: Dads, don’t be afraid of “growing pains”! This can take time, but if you stick to your plan, the moaning, groaning and arguments will soon be a memory.
It doesn’t matter if your kids are still young or ready to start their own lives. Using structure will have a positive effect, not only in your life and their life, but the life you now have together with them.
I am chained to my planner. It keeps me focused on my work-related tasks at hand and the tasks and appointments ahead. I also make a point to schedule time that I will be spending time with my kids and only them, because those times with my kids are important to me.
And you know what? Sometimes that planner and time schedules are thrown right out of the window. But that’s okay too!
I also have a list in my head. It is made up of important parts of my life and how I see them. How important those items are dictates how much time I spend on them. You may have your own list already.
If you don’t, stop! Take a few minutes and think about the areas in your life that require your time. Things we need to do, places we need to be, people we need to spend time with, and our own personal needs.
Work and Family
In my life, time spent at my job is the easiest time block to schedule. Work is a necessary evil to live. My children come first after that. This is not always easy, but I try.
I have a duty to teach my children how to be adults, how to deal with work issues, relationship issues, even financial matters. A father’s work is never done and it takes time.
From there, my list becomes skewed.
Time for the Single Dad
I have been lucky enough to find a woman who loves me, faults and all, and loves the boys like they are her own. I look forward to spending time with this special woman.
My close friends I can count on one hand, but that is by design. My friends understand my priorities.
Finally, I choose to spend time on a hobby that I want to eventually develop into a career.
This is my list. The areas of life that take your attention, and how you prioritize those areas will be up to you. Find what works for you and is most comfortable.
Find the Happy
Quick! Think about your kids. Imagine their face, their laughter, the way they smile. Hold that in your mind. Guess what?
You’re smiling. Yes, you. The one who thinks his stress level is too high to find balance. You smiled when you pictured your kids.
I smiled too.
Defining Your Happy
My fiancé turned me on to the concept of finding your happy a few years ago. Her “happy” is riding her 4-wheeler through the fields. Mine is sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and listening to the waves. Your “happy” is what causes your soul to calm and helps you focus.
Dr. Christopher Peterson wrote an entire book on the benefits of positive psychology! It works!
What is your happy? When are you in the zone? It could be while playing or listening to music, actively engaged in a sport, chopping wood or tinkering with old cars.
Whatever it is, practice going there in your head. Mentally recreate the touch, sounds and smells of your “happy.” Soon, you will be able to go there to get yourself balanced.
I have used this technique numerous times:
- During an argument
- Relieving stress at work
- When I need to relax after a long day
The possibilities are endless. Using your “happy” to keep your cool is good for you and your kids!
I want to leave you with a challenge. A challenge to conquer the chaos in your life!
How does a single dad start to conquer chaos? Asking yourself some questions will give you an idea of areas to tackle:
What is the most important thing in my life?
What am I already doing to achieve balance in my life that is working?
Is there even a way to do all the things I want to do today?
What can I cut out to make sure everything gets done?
Is there anyone I can lean on for help?
What rules and routines can I use to help myself and my kids?
Have I defined happiness in my life?
Once you start answering these questions, I would bet that conquering the chaos in your life will be easier. I was for me.
Remember to not only look for the balance, but create it.
My children are the reason I am here today. It is a pleasure to be a father. I cannot imagine what this life would be like without my boys.
Our kids deserve balance in their lives. I can give them that … you can too. I show them it is okay to have friends, a hobby, and a social life.
What about you? Leave me a comment below and tell me how you achieved balance in your life today … this week … this month. Tell me what worked and what didn’t in the comments below.