Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Egg Timer, Soup Nuts, and Dance Shoes: A Single Mom’s Survival Guide

Rivky Winter

“How do you manage?” is usually the first question I’m asked when people find out that I’m the single mother of five young children. The second response is often: “But your kids seem so normal!” Most time, I suffice with the short answer: “Hashem helps me.” Recently, however, I realized that others — both single mothers and those women thrust to the helm of their family due to illness, travel, or any number of reasons — might benefit from the longer answer.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Five Keys to a Smooth-running Household 1.     Organization I need to stay organized in order to juggle all my various roles and goals. I make use of a small loose-leaf binder, a calendar, and tons of lists. Each day (sometimes many times a day) I go back to my lists and calendar and try to figure out how to shoehorn all my obligations into the measly hours of each day. Often, items get bumped along the days of the week, but having a system in place definitely helps me stay on top of my game. 2.     Shared responsibility My kids each have chores at home, and they know they all need to pitch in to keep things running smoothly. My eldest takes out the trash and does the dishes Erev Shabbos. My four-year-old is in charge of putting the shoes in the shoe drawer and is great at collecting Legos and Clics. My five-year-old collects the bath toys and takes the laundry from the bathroom to the laundry room. My eight-year-old is very helpful in caring for the two year old. I find that if they understand that I really need and appreciate their help, my children feel like responsible partners in keeping our home a pleasant place to be. 3.     Efficiency Even with my salary and child support, the budget is still tight. I sew a lot of clothing for myself and my daughters. Once a month, I stock up on nonperishable staples at one of the cheaper supermarkets, then each week I pick up bread, milk, eggs, and veggies locally, or order those items over the phone and have them delivered. 4.     Downsizing My home doesn’t belong in Better Homes and Gardens. We downsized significantly from the home we lived in before the divorce. I try to have as little “stuff” as possible. If I don’t use an item regularly or have an emotional attachment to it — out it goes. There are few gadgets in my small kitchen, and I prefer keeping the laundry in perpetual motion to having tons of clothes. The living room doubles as my son’s bedroom when he is home from yeshivah, and my room is also my office, sewing studio, and library. The kids’ bedroom is also their playroom. Our apartment is small and unceremonious, but functional and warm. 5.     Self-care Since I’m the lynchpin who holds our whole family together, it’s important I take care of myself. After all, “If I am not for myself who will be for me?” Investing in my physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing allows me to nurture my kids and I clearly see how my mood is reflected in my children. There are many aspects of self-care, and for me staying social is crucial. When the kids are home for vacation, days go by in which the average age of everyone I converse with is about six. I noticed a pattern: when the average age of conversants decreases, so does my patience and my mood. Even if it is inconvenient, I make a point of scheduling in some adult conversation each day, especially when the kids are home a lot. It might be a Shabbos meal with friends, a trip to the playground with a neighbor and her kids, or a phone call to a friend. I enjoy going to friends for Shabbos meals, but also enjoy hosting others. Having a full Shabbos table makes us feel like a normal family. Every now and then I treat myself with a massage, crafts supplies, a Shabbos away, or an educational seminar. When I take care of myself I’m able to use my humor and creativity to get through the rough spots and be the kind of mother that I want to be. 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"