Surviving Summer as a Single Parent
I know you’re tired. I know you’re exhausted.
As a single parent, every day feels like a sprint. You’re completely overwhelmed. The challenges that come with juggling work demands and summer schedules are real.
The strain and weight of it all is pushing you to the brink of burnout. It’s not because you’re weak or failing. You have delivered over and over again, and you’re stronger for it.
Let me back up a little bit. I’m not a single parent, but I was raised in a single parent home.
My single-parent experience
Both biological parents were gone before I was 10 years old. My father quit on us when I was five. I haven’t seen him since. My mom remarried a few years after he left. She then passed away in a tragic car accident that changed my entire life.
Suddenly I was living with my mom’s new husband, who I had only known for a short time. He wasn’t my “real” dad. Randle isn’t even my biological last name, but Steve Randle showed me what “real” means.
He jumped in as a single parent and raised my brother, sister, and I while dealing with the grief of my mom’s passing, and helped three young kids through our own sorrow.
So while I’ve never been a single parent myself, I’ve seen the struggles that come with single parenting. And I’ve seen the extra challenges that summer brings.
Summer is awesome when you’re a kid. It’s the payoff after a long year of school. It’s the next step toward growing up, and a seemingly endless supply of sunny days ahead. For a single parent, it feels like a mountain to climb.
You’re expected to be in multiple places at once, multiple times a day. You have to be at work when the kids are ready for breakfast. You’re on your drive home from work when they need to be dropped off for baseball practice or dance. You’re trying to manage a one-income budget, and every dollar counts.
As busy and overwhelmed as my dad was, from my perspective as a kid growing up, he provided so many examples of how a single parent can make summer work. Here’s a few:
Give your kids routine and responsibility
If you’re feeling swamped with everything on your plate, sometimes small shifts can go a long way in allowing you some control over the day-to-day. My dad was a pretty structured guy. As a result, summer for us was fun, but it wasn’t a free-for-all.
Keep a schedule
Growing up, my dad would regularly get us up before he went to work during summer, so we could eat breakfast together. I wouldn’t say I loved it as a kid, but over time I realized the genius in not letting us slip into late nights and late starts. When school started back up, it wasn’t a dramatic schedule shift.
He used our breakfasts to talk about his schedule for the day, and ask us what we had going on. This was a great time for everyone to check in, and make sure things wouldn’t be missed or forgotten once the day got going.
If I could give my dad credit for anything while growing up, it was this. The very first experience in the mornings was that he cared.
Give them chores to own
Because summer can quickly be wasted in front of the TV, we were given chores that we had to get done before getting together with friends. This isn’t a new idea, but one thing that my dad did a little differently was he gave each of us kids a sort of ownership over certain things, rather than a list of chores.
Each of us had a section of the yard we were responsible for. My dad liked having a well-kept yard, and we were expected to keep our individual areas looking good. I didn’t want mine to be the one overgrown with weeds, so I became self-motivated to take care of my space.
Offer a monthly allowance
This may seem like a huge ask if you’re already struggling to make ends meet, but let me explain what I mean. My dad would give us an allowance, and that was all the money we had for the month.
So if I decided to spend it all on playing games at the arcade, that was it. I was out of money until next month.
This was an important lesson for me, as I started budgeting my money as a kid without even realizing it. Instead of pumping quarters into arcade games like my buddies, I would process whether that game actually was worth spending my money on.
Even if you give them a few dollars each month, you might be surprised at how your kids interact with their money. One may burn it as fast as they get it, which can lead to teaching moments about how to spend wisely.
Another might save for months to buy something they’ve been wanting. Either way, it’s a good approach to get them familiar with how money works in the real world.
Make time for the kids
My dad seemed to be endlessly busy while I was growing up. He was an attorney, and was trying to build his own firm, so he didn’t have a lot of free time. But when he did, he was always conscious of our needs.
Create quality time
My dad was always great at making the most of limited time. When he’d get home from work, or he had some extra time on a Saturday, he’d make a point of asking if I wanted to go play catch in the backyard.
We wouldn’t do it for a long time, but he would initiate it, and take the time to do it. That was important to me.
Initiating one-on-one time with your kids, even if it’s for 15 minutes is worth it—and they’ll remember it.
Take getaways, even small ones
Because my dad was busy, we didn’t really go on long summer trips. He was, however, really good at giving us little vacations when possible.
We’d do things like stay one night in a city a few hours from our house. We’d basically just stay in a hotel and swim in the pool, but it was plenty.
We had something to look forward to, even if it wasn’t going to Paris like some of my friends, but it was a break from the day-to-day, and dedicated time with our dad.
Taking a vacation doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or long. Try taking a short one-night getaway, and spend that time getting to know your kids better.
Lean on your village
My dad recognized that it takes a village to raise kids, and it’s okay to lean on them to help lighten the load, especially during summer months.
Know your neighbors
My dad had great relationships with our neighbors. He would help them when they needed it, and in turn, they were happy to be there for our family.
There were several times when my dad would tell us at breakfast that he’d be in meetings all day, and if we needed anything, we could call Mrs. Cooper, who lived behind us. In essence, he created an environment where I felt comfortable asking neighbors for help, even if it was just getting a ride to football practice.
Make an effort to be part of your community, because chances are they know what you’re going through, and are happy to help when possible.
Remember: Your efforts matter
These are just a few examples of how my dad navigated summer as a single parent. I hope they’re helpful.
Mostly, I want to express how grateful I am for my mom and dad, and how grateful I am for you. Your efforts will pay off in the end. Keep going. I see you, and I appreciate you.