It's Sunday morning. Suddenly your dream is interrupted by a five-year-old who pretends that your bed is a jumping castle. And it's only 6 a.m.
If you are a single parent, you will know the desperation that sometimes goes along with this. Being the sole source of entertainment 24 hours over weekends is also no mean feat, particularly if you are also working full-time, and need to rest.
Here are a few tips on how to cope when single parent burnout strikes:
Know the signs
The following are signs that burnout might be heading your way: fatigue, irritability, tearfulness, anger outburst, disrupted sleep, change in appetite, lack of energy and concentration difficulty.
Plan the weekend ahead. Stay up to date with fun events by subscribing to the newsletters of your local museums, theatres or aquarium. If you are in Cape Town or Johannesburg, make sure that you get a copy of Cape Town's or Joburg's Child. This publication has an extensive list of activities happening in your area. Get others do entertain your children.
Organise a friend to come and play, even if it is just for one afternoon. If your child is occupied by another person, you will have a chance to unwind and carry on with other activities.
We all know the disadvantages of spending too much time in front of the TV, but drawing in the help of the good, old electronic mum for limited periods of time is a great help. Allow your child to watch one DVD over weekends. If you have more than one set, you have the opportunity to watch your favourite programme in the meantime.
You need exercise and so does your child. Plan at least one outdoor physical activity, whether it be playing on the beach, going for a walk or taking your child cycling.
Make sure you get enough sleep over weekends. Go to bed at the same time as your child – this will make it easier to cope with those early morning wake-up calls.
Single parent network
Co-parenting with another single parent is a huge relief. Team up with other parents who have children of the same age as yours and do activities together. Don't wait until burnout strikes before building these networks. If you don't know many other single parents, ask your child's teacher to put you in touch with a few.
Choose a recipe with your child and rope him/her in to help you cook a meal which you can divide into smaller portions to freeze for use later in the week.
Ask for help
Don't try to brave it on your own if you really feel you cannot cope. Strengthen your support network of family and close friends who can stand in for a short period of time while you recharge your batteries. You might benefit from sharing your fears and concerns with others at a single-parent support group. - (Susan Erasmus, May 2007 Health24)