Being a Single Mom and Nurse is Hard, But Not Impossible - Here's My Best Advice
If you are a nurse and a single mom, you may be struggling with how to keep up with the demands of your career while also staying on top of everything in your kids’ lives. It may seem impossible at times to be able to balance the two while staying sane.
Being a single mom is far from easy. Solo parenting while also working in the nursing field is even farther from easy. You may have a super supportive co-parent who spends a lot of time with the kids and pays child support. Or, like myself, you may have experienced receiving little to no child support and having a co-parent that is no longer present in your child’s life.
In either of these situations, single parenting will always come with its challenges. It can be very lonely, isolating, and even depressing. In fact, single moms have a higher reported rate of depression and anxiety when compared to moms who are in a relationship. Coming home from work to housework and childcare when you are already exhausted, with no adult partner there for support and help, is extremely tough; I know this from firsthand experience.
There is no one there to talk to about your day, and no one to help you tuck your kids in at night so you can finally shower and eat after your long, grueling shift. Your entire workday as a nurse and single mom will be spent tending to your kids and patients, from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow at night; without anyone tending to any of your needs.
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Barriers For Single Nurse Moms
Single mom nurses may also experience barriers to success at work related to missing work to care for sick children, lack of childcare options for 12-hour shifts, or things like COVID school quarantines. Cost of childcare alone can also be a barrier for single parents, with the current average weekly childcare center rate for a toddler being $226 per week; that comes out to $11,752 per year!
For the nurse choosing a hospital career, this will typically come with a weekend and holiday work requirement; cue the mom guilt for missing out on those family holiday traditions or leaving the kids with a sitter on the weekend.
As a nurse who has been a single mom for over 8 years now, I understand the struggle. I understand the late nights, the tears, the worrying about bills, the stress, and wondering how you can possibly do it all alone. I have managed to make it this far as a nurse and single mom, and I know you can too.
Here are my top five tips for nurses to implement today as they navigate the journey of balancing a demanding career while solo parenting.
1. Make a financial plan and BUDGET
If there is anything I have learned from my single parenting journey, it is to take control of your finances. Your financial health will affect every other aspect of your life, including your children’s, and it is nothing to take lightly.
After car troubles, a back injury, and ultimately getting stuck in credit card debt that I couldn’t pay off, I eventually learned that I needed to start taking my finances seriously. I was receiving little to no monthly child support, paying for daycare 100% on my own, and I realized I had no choice but to start making some drastic lifestyle changes for myself and my child’s future.
I focused on saving, paying off debt, budgeting, and tracking my purchases. After 3 long years of implementing budgeting and better money habits, I was finally able to pay off my debt and buy my first home in early 2019.
When making your financial plan, think about all the potential emergencies or situations that could possibly arise requiring extra money or missed work. In addition, think about saving for fun things that bring you joy such as vacations, extracurricular activities for your kids, and special family outings.
Making a monthly budget, tracking your expenses, and creating short- and long-term financial goals for yourself as a single mom should be a huge priority; especially with only one income for your household.
2. PLAN AHEAD to make the most of your days off work
12-hour shifts are a whole other level of exhausting! Especially for moms without another parent at home to help with the kids. By the time you get done with report, pick up your kids, grab dinner, drive home, and put them to bed, these days can last up to 15 hours or more.
It can be SO EASY to do absolutely nothing on your days off work but lay around, eat junk food, nap, and watch TV. You’re tired, your body hurts, and leaving the house for anything at all seems literally unbearable.
While taking those days to simply relax with your kids is great, this realistically can’t be done every single day. Mom duties are still there, and you don’t want to spend your entire life away from work on the couch in your living room. Because nurses don’t get to spend quality time with our kids on our long workdays; it’s important to fit this in on our days off.
Try using a calendar or planner to organize your schedule and be intentional with every single one of your days off work. Plan out your “lazy” days, as well as days for appointments and errands, and don’t forget to designate days that will be full of fun for you and your kids. By doing this, you will get to experience fun outings with your kids on your days off, make memories, and get that quality family time in.
3. Build a support system
It is crucial for single moms working a demanding nursing career to have some sort of support system. I thought for the longest time as a single mom, that I needed to have a husband or romantic partner to fulfill my need for support.
I learned over time that a support system can look different for everyone. Your support system may be completely different than most of the other nurses you work with who aren’t single parents, and that is completely normal and OK! Your support may include family, friends, other single moms, a church, a romantic partner, a mom group, or even just seeing a therapist every week.
My family has truly been the G.O.A.T; they have been my primary support system for many years and are there whenever I or my kids need help. They even helped me with a super disgusting lice infestation that I got from my hospital unit. That’s right; I got lice from one of my patients, brought it home to me and my daughter, and my parents were at my house every day helping us with lice treatments and cleaning for almost a full 2 weeks.
I could never have succeeded and worked in the hospital as a nurse for as many years as I did as a single mom without the help and support of my family. Having a support system in place is a necessary part of the single-parent life.
4. Make time for yourself
As nurses, we serve and care for others. It is a calling and a profession that is not for the faint of heart. We may go for hours without eating, using the bathroom, or drinking water when we are in a critical situation with one of our patients to make sure their needs are met, and they are safe. As single mothers, we also serve and care for our children, with little to no help at times. We put them first and put ourselves last because we want to make sure their needs are fully met.
It may seem like there is no room in our days for anything other than work and caring for our kids. However, if you put in the effort, you will find there is ALWAYS time to do something for yourself every day. You just must PLAN the time to do it.
This may mean getting up earlier on workdays, hiring a babysitter, getting a gym membership, or asking family to help so you can go on a coffee date or have a night out without your kids. There will always be something else to do, something to clean, or another task you could cross off your to-do list as a single mom with no help at home. Plan some time for yourself to get some time that is just for you.
5. Outsource tasks to free up your time
Although this will likely cost extra money, it may be worth it to you to outsource what you can as a single working mom. If you can fit the costs in your budget, try paying to outsource any task that you know takes up a lot of your free time or any task that you don’t enjoy doing.
Maybe you can hire a housekeeper, landscaper, personal shopper, or a babysitter on a regular basis to help free up some of the time that you would normally spend doing these chores or errands. Placing online grocery orders for pickup or delivery is an affordable way to outsource your weekly shopping. Most grocery retailers that offer this service, like Walmart and Fry’s, offer free order pickup. Or you can do delivery right to your door for a charge of around $10.
Outsourcing tasks can free up time in your day to do other things on your to-do list, play with your kids, or just make your busy life a little less hectic as a single mom.
At the end of the day, juggling life as a single parent while working as a nurse is not easy. But it is possible to live a fulfilling life as a single mom while working in a nursing career you love. Try utilizing some of these tips to stay organized, free up your time, and thrive as a nurse and mom creating the life you always dreamed of for yourself and your kids.