The unthinkable has happened. Whether through death, divorce, or separation, you’ve become a single parent. From now on, for the foreseeable future, it will be your children and you against the world.
Along with the other adjustments you’re making, you should rearrange your living space to accommodate your new family structure. A little planning now can make life easier for you and more pleasant for everyone in the household in the challenging months ahead.
The pleasant part of this operation will be that you, as the sole adult in the exercise, will be the boss. You can set things up according to your preferences, to make your life easier. You’ll be assuming extra responsibilities in the days ahead, and time-consuming housekeeping chores should not be a high-priority.
Let’s consider a room-by-room makeover. Changes don’t have to be all made at once, but if you have a final outcome in mind, you can take small steps toward its fulfillment as financing and opportunity become available.
Your bedroom: this is going to be your refuge, your retreat from the hustle and bustle of the world and from the challenges of your new life. It should be decorated in your favorite colors and as comfortable and welcoming as you can make it. Nice to have: a phone, a TV, good books, lots of pillows and whatever else will help you relax. You should have a desk or table where you can keep important papers, records, pay bills, and take care of correspondence.
The children’s rooms: they should choose the color schemes. There should be a desk for each one to do homework, lots of shelving to make tidying up easier, and a laundry hamper for each child to deposit his dirty clothes. If the child is old enough, he should be responsible for keeping his own space tidy.
When the child can read, it’s helpful to label dresser drawers with what goes into them. Then, they can put their own laundry away.
If children must share a bedroom, they will have to agree on a color scheme and present you with their decision. They should also have input into how the furniture is arranged. They will be jointly responsible for keeping the area tidy.
Kitchen: meals may be less regulated than before in your former well-ordered life, and that’s OK.
Purchase a good bottle of vitamins and resign your job as kitchen wench. Keep lots of raw fruit and vegetables on hand for healthy snacks. Peanut butter sandwiches and chunky soup are perfectly acceptable as a meal on a busy day
Living room: this should be kept in reasonably-presentable shape for visitors. If the children are old enough, they can share the dusting and vacuuming chores.
Recreation room: unless you’re having a party, this room will mainly be for the children and their friends. Furnishings should tend toward comfort rather than elegance. They’ll probably want a TV, a computer and something which will produce music. If you’re really flush with funds, you may want to install extra insulation to reduce the noise level.
Washroom: cleanliness and utility are the priorities. Keep cleaning supplies handy in the cupboard under the sink. Save the fancy hand towels and white bath mat set for special times when company is expected.
Laundry area: Prepare a list of detailed instructions “Laundry 101” and affix it to the wall at child-eye level. With modern machines, doing laundry is hardly rocket science, but it is time-consuming. After a few supervised sessions, intelligent fifth-graders can do quite a respectable job.
As you work toward establishing your single parent residence, it’s important to avoid feeling guilty about the extra duties your children must assume, compared those of their friends whose parents are still together.
You are teaching your children responsibility, a quality of which many of today’s over-indulged youngsters are sorely in need. The skills they are learning now will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
Of course, some days will be better than others, but when parent and children practice mutual cooperation, consideration and maintain a sense of humor, a single-parent household can run just as well, if not better than many of the traditional family homes in the same neighborhood.