Don't Do the Dishes: Single Parents

A Park Slope parents asks, any suggestions for helping to organize life - from finances, home, work paperwork,  playdates... and especially time for myself ?

Dear Rahti,


I am a single mom...mostly...and have a terrible time organizing all that needs to be organized...including my finances, home, work paperwork, and my son's playdates..which don't really exist...and especially time for myself and also quality time for my son and myself....without always feeling like I should be doing something else. Am also dealing with a messy custody/separation issue which takes a lot of energy and priorities have shifted because of that...any suggestions for helping to organize life???? -- G

Hi G,

Wow! Balancing a career with parenthood is challenging at the best of times but your situation is downright humbling. In some ways nothing could equip me to sufficiently empathize with being a single parent embroiled in messy support and custody issues, but I'll do my best to respond based in large part on what I've seen work for other single parents. Use these ideas as a here to help you come up with a recipe that works for you.


BUT FIRST, to lighten your load, you do need to deal with your core paradox: needing to be organized when you’re not feeling organized. What to do? Remember: necessity is a MOTHER. All you need are your bottom-line policies (AKA boundaries) and the rest will take care of itself.

Here are some examples of what I mean by bottom-line policies:

• If my son or someone else can do something for me, I will let them
• I will take myself on a date or out with friends every week.
• I will find activities or places to share with my kid that will allow me to enjoy him once a week.
• No one may yell at me

….and when the old ‘I’m doing this here when I should be doing that over there’ tape starts playing, PAUSE. BREATHE. ASSESS. DECIDE. Then stay or go and repeatedly leave yourself alone about it: its basic cognitive therapy; neurons that fire together stay together, and vice-versa.

Now, if you’re ready to be at least somewhat ruthless about your policies, here are 3 tips that have worked for others in your situation:


#1: Throw money at the problem.

I know one freelance professional/single mom who has someone come in on Sundays to prepare meals for the entire week, and on that or another day has someone come and clean. It is money well-spent if it affords you quality time with your kid or yourself

(NOTE: I believe she has had to refrain from spending money on eating out, as well as other areas in order to do that, so your priorities will be important to assess here.)


#2: Barter

I know, I know. Like you have time to give away that you don’t even have for yourself! Don’t look at it that way. If bartering is painful, then you’re doing it wrong. Check out http://www.OurGoods.Org. Thanks to this amazing website, I now have a personal organizer and Pilates coach. In return I offer coaching, or home-made chocolate spoons if that’ll get me what I need. I am also a ‘designated laugher’ for rehearsals and performances as this site was launched with creatives in mind. But no worries; if you’re surviving as a single mom without being at risk of harming yourself or anyone else, then you’re creative. So start thinking of stuff you like to do and put it out there in exchange for some hands- on help.


#3 Find a Village and be PUSHY about it.

The cruel irony of your situation is that because you don’t have a spouse you need a team. But teams are good: Many hands= light work. See my article on sitter-debting. Assuming you’re not one of those, ask ask ask ask ask for kid coverage or whatever else you need when you need it. Join some communities (single mom groups, 12 step groups, churches, ashrams, whatever..) or MAKE one because providing what you need rather than trying to find it is another one of life’s little paradoxes of design; it counter-intuitively gets you what you want. And don’t gimme ‘there’s nobody around here’…you know villages don’t have to be geography-reliant anymore. You can all Skype in at once or teleconference in and then avail each other of support and wisdom.

Bottom line:

FIND YOUR TRIBE. It’s how we all survive, in one constellation or another.



Rahti Gorfien, founder of Creative Calling Coaching, is a Life Coach whose practice is primarily comprised of group and individual sessions for artist and freelancers, and while her client roster includes artists of all persuasions, she specializes in those that are parents. She also coaches adults with ADHD, their spouses, and parents of children diagnosed with ADHD.


As a mother who coaches other moms, she believes that balancing domestic responsibility with vocational goals is a crucial component of our ability to connect to, and be present with our families. www.creativecallingcoaching.comPH: 917 804-9572 You can hear her every week on Radio Rahti AKA Making It: A Show for Creative Thinkers and Doers at: