Work-life balance 

by | Feb 16, 2024 | 0 comments

Work-life balance is a constant struggle for many working mothers, both single and partnered. Annabel Crabb, political commentator and TV host, nailed it when she said:  “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.” (The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb) 

Many single mothers agree. Having to meet paid work expectations and then supervise homework, cook and feed children, get them to bed, cope with sudden emergencies or stay up late with a sick child, and tackle a myriad of mundane tasks and decisions can be utterly exhausting.  

It is therefore no surprise that Australian Bureau of statistics shows the main reason mothers are not seeking a job is the unshared burden of caring and home duties. 

However, most single mums – 78 percent according to our 2023 Single Mother report – decide to undertake paid employment in some capacity, even though striking the balance is challenging.  

Prioritising your health

Caring for others is such a priority for many single mothers that our own health and wellbeing is often neglected. We all know what we ought to do but too often we do it for others, not ourselves. Now think about these things for yourself: 

  • Having a doctor or other practitioner you get along well with is an asset. Even better if they bulk bill, are local, and reasonably available. It is okay to shop around for a good GP who can be a link to other services including subsidised psychology and allied health sessions, specialist referrals and medication. If you feel uncomfortable with a doctor, get out of there. Your health deserves a respectful and caring professional. 
  • How about diet and exercise? We know these, along with rest and sleep, are often the first to go when life gets busy or budgets are tight. Gym or classes may not be in the budget, but walking around the block or the local park or home exercise programs can help improve your health, ease tension and make sure you are able to tackle your goals. There are free exercise and exercise tracking apps that might help keep you motivated.
  • The cost of food is making it increasingly challenging for many single mums to provide a balanced and nutritious diet for our children and too often we sacrifice our own nutrition to improve theirs. Don’t give up. Chase tips about the best places to shop, watch the specials, and don’t hesitate to access foodbanks and free services for fresh foods – that’s what they’re there for!
  • With all the challenges single mothers face, including COVID and its aftermath, the increasing rise in costs of living, and housing uncertainty, it is no surprise that our mental healthy can suffer. Be honest with yourself about your capacity to cope, do a mental health check, maintain your medication, and find out where to go or who you can talk with. An email or call to CSMC’s Support Line is a great first step. Other resources can be found here: 

Rethinking paid hours and conditions 

When working is such a strain that we can’t muster energy to play with or enjoy our kids, it may be time to consider options such as: 

  • Changing paid work hours or days. If this affects your salary income too much, consider the Parenting Payment Single if your youngest is under 14 years. There are obligations, so read these carefully.
  • Taking holiday leave or sick leave if a doctor agrees you are rundown. 
  • Using (more) childcare or after school care if it gives you more time to be focus. 
  • Accessing your support networks.  

Support networks 

Do you have close friends or family? We know many single mothers lose their networks when they move or leave family violence situations and it can be hard to rebuild them.  

Start where you are and with what you have. This might be:  

  • School mums 
  • Free community services or activities, such as your local neighbourhood house  
  • Online single mother support groups 
  • Family.

Learn to say no 

Knowing how to prioritise ourselves as single mothers and say no is a highly useful skill, as this Guardian article articulates.

Women have often been raised to be people-pleasers and learning to say no can seem daunting. Don’t worry – the more you say no, the easier it gets! Rise Women have some tips here which you could put up on on your fridge or wall. 

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