On today’s episode, we’re talking with single parent coach Jay Skibbens. Jay, a single dad of two, has tons of knowledge on dealing with the stress of single parenthood, and I’m so happy he came to chat with us and share his perspective as a Dad. As we all know, parenting can be a challenge, especially when you’re trying to do it solo. Jay and I covered exhaustion, playtime with our kids, and self care – we had so much to talk about we almost ran out time! Overall, we’re here to help you manage parenthood no matter what your situation is, and Jay gave some amazing advice on how to do this.
After the episode, I’ll be chatting with everyone about we learned on our UM Club Facbook page! If you haven’t already joined the UM Club, make sure to check it out here for exclusive content and discussions. Without further ado, enjoy the episode!
Jay Skibbens created a space for himself and single parents to truly understand what it takes to thrive. He’s a co-parent of two boys and has built up a coaching program for single parents.
In This Episode We Talk About
00:42 – Who is Jay?
03:40 -Working through your emotions.
08:01 – Letting go of the shame surrounding single parenting.
18:30 – The exhaustion of single parenthood.
26:13 – Working on independence with your kids.
35:12 – Making cleaning and chores fun, and the importance of playtime.
40:46 – Working self care into your routine.
53:54 – Where to find Jay!
Watch the Video
Listen to the Audio
Read the Full Conversation
Thank you, I was so excited when you reached out, and we made this happen. So thank you for having me.
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to chatting with you. I like everything I’m seeing on Instagram with your approach to just empowering single parents, and acknowledging the hardships, and the focus on the emotional well being as well. So I’m really excited for everything we can learn from you today.
Cool, awesome. Let’s get started.
All right. So before we hop right in, I do just want to take a moment to acknowledge that I am in a married healthy relationship. And yes, we are talking about single parents. So I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that, and I brought on Jay Skibbens, who is a single parent coach, to share his wisdom. And I’ve touched base with a lot of single parents within the community to come up with these questions. But I did want to take a message to acknowledge that before we hop on, and now we can get started. So Jay, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and why you’re so passionate about it!
Okay, yeah. So, I’m in the States, I’m in Illinois (a little bit south of Chicago), and I’m a dad of two boys, they are six and seven, they’re 15 months apart. But they’re like worlds apart as far as personality goes, which is amazing. It’s taught me a lot as far as how to handle them. And then I’ve had a teaching background, I’ve had social work background. But the reason this work matters to me, like coaching single parents, is that my mom was a single mom, she raised me – my dad was not in the picture at all. And I saw that she loved, so naturally and so easily. And she loved me very much. But there were times that it was very obvious that she didn’t have the answers for what to do, like when I got out of line, or when she needed to put down the boundaries. And I think that I saw her just be exhausted. I saw it, even as a kid. And you know, now that I’m doing it as a single parent, I’m realizing that she did the best she could with what she knew and what she had.
And that’s what most single parents do, they just do their best. And my job is to help them give them a space, and create a space for them to kind of take a breath and catch up a little bit, and then see just what is out there, what they’re capable of. Because when you’re trying to survive, it’s hard to think about what else you can do, you just kind of get that next thing. So I kind of help slow down their life and give them that space to talk and to think things through, so that they can really create the life that they really want.
I got goosebumps hearing you talk about your mom, because I think about that with my mom, too. I was raised by single parents, and my mom just worked so hard and sacrificed so much. And now as a parent, I can understand more of just the position she was in, and run down, and just trying her best. And so it’s really nice to see more people like you that are able to step in and provide that space, and help single parents so we can kind of rewrite the story, compared to the single parents we may have been raised by.
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
All right. So let’s go into the emotional side of things. I really liked a post you did recently about how we really should be prioritizing working through all of the emotional stuff. So let’s hear a bit more about that.
So, I think the one thing that we often hear is how we need to sit in our emotions, and really feel them. And it’s like, that’s cool, but for some of us, they’re so heavy, and they’re so never ending, that if I just sit in my sadness, if I just sit in my anger, then how do I ever get to the other side? Right, and I think that that’s the missing piece. What I hope for people, and what I do for myself, is to feel through the emotion. Yes, 100% you need to acknowledge it, and you need to see where it’s coming from. But what what really helps is when you can feel through it, because the answers are on the other side of the emotion. If you just sit in that anger you just get exhausted. Oh, my co-parent is just so aggravating. Everything he does seems like he’s working against me, I’m so angry. If you just sit in that, then you’re just gonna stay angry. Everything that he does, even if it’s not the worst thing in the world, is gonna feel like the worst thing in the world. And so you start to move through that.
So one thing that I’ve really started to show a lot of people is that you can just Google an emotional wheel. And it just shows you there’s layers to emotions. Because most of us see emotions as like anger, sadness, happiness, and maybe frustration, and these are the core emotions. But then if you look at this wheel, what it does is it gives you the root to those and then the one more layer. So like, yes, you might be angry. But are you angry maybe because what happened was frustrating. And then are you frustrated because you’re disappointed in that person? And if you just sit in that anger, you don’t really understand why you’re angry. And then if you don’t get to that outer layer of the emotion, then you don’t realize what it was that was causing that anger. And you won’t ever be able to recognize it again. So every time he does something, you’ll still get to the anger, but you won’t recognize that you’re just frustrated. Or, you know, one of the moms I’m coaching right now, she talks about how much she hated her co-parent, because their breakup was so messy. And it was really just because she was so disappointed that every time he could have stepped up, he didn’t. So yes, she was angry. But it was because of this disappointment that he just never stood up. Whenever he could have done something great, he backed out. And there was such disappointment in there for her.
Mm hmm. When we can take that time to really dig in, find the root cause and acknowledge it, it doesn’t have as much power over us. And when those things come up again, we’re able to kind of have the brain thinking through it a little bit more, because it’s kind of acknowledged the emotions instead of the immediate emotional reaction.
Right, yeah. Because if you can label it as “oh, I’m disappointed in this,” is this just who this person is? Yes, I’m disappointed, but this is what they’re continuing to give me. And I think that that’s the thing, something I’ve worked with parents especially, is a lot of times our co-parents are very consistent. Yes, they might be frustrating. Yes, they might be disappointing. But they’ll consistently give you that disappointment. So if they’re consistently giving you that disappointment, but you consistently have a huge reaction to it, you have power over how you’re reacting to it. And, to me, like what you just said about taking back that power, that’s exactly what it is. So if you take back that power of, “okay, I see who you are, I’m not expecting more, I’m just gonna take this as it is, and move on.”
Yeah, because you can’t change or make other people do things. I’m sure single parents all know that by getting to the point of becoming single parents. We can’t control other people, but we can control ourselves and our reactions to those other people. And when we work through the processing, it’s a little bit easier to have that control over ourselves.
So let’s dig in a little bit more to kind of the disappointment and perhaps shame that goes with letting go of the planned future that parents had for themselves. Because I know that’s a big one and can kind of carry on over with fertility issues and things like that, too. A lot of people have this picture in their mind of the family they want when they’re older, and then reality hits and often things don’t go according to plan. But we do need that space to grieve that family picture we had in our mind.
Yeah, so I think that one thing that really matters is where those ideas come from, and do they really serve us? Because a lot of times, without even knowing it – like we’re watching Disney movies growing up and we’re watching rom coms as we get a little bit older. And even just songs on the radio, or TV shows – everything just guides us towards that two parents, two and a half kids, white picket fence, wraparound porch ideal, and it’s almost like if you don’t get that by, especially our age people around your mid 20s to late 20s. If you don’t have it by then, you’ve failed somehow.
So I think that a lot of people pushed for that, with this pressure that if you didn’t get there you had failed somehow. And then you get it and maybe you realize that maybe this person isn’t what I wanted long term, or I don’t even know who I want to be long term, and you hadn’t asked yourself a lot of good questions that as a single parent you kind of ask yourself all the time. Like what does love really mean, what is love defined? And what is monogamy defined as, if you’re a monogamous person. I don’t to very many people who are in monogamous relationships that define that with their partner, because for some people monogamy could be, you know, we go out to a bar and we could flirt with other people. But as long as we go home at the end of the night, everything’s okay. But there’s some people who are like, “if you look at somebody else,” then we’re gonna have a fight when we get home.
And I think that what happens when we become single parents is that we have to redefine so much. We have to redefine what it means to be successful, we have to redefine what it means to be a parent, we have to redefine what it means to communicate with somebody that we were in love with, but now have to co-parent with. So when it comes to that future, when you have to let go, there is that grieving period. And I think that the process of grief really fits well with denial, anger, bargaining – I think that whole process fits really well with letting go of that future. But I think that what happens on the other side of that is the power to redefine what you want out of life. And how I phrase it is you choose single parenting. For me personally, I chose it in a much different way than most people do. But choosing to be a single parent is really where the power is, because it’s happening regardless, but there can be some people who don’t choose it. And if you don’t choose it, then you don’t have any power in the situation.
Mm hmm. Absolutely. I can’t think of the right word, it’s on the tip of my tongue, but like owning it, and deciding what it means for you. Do you have a bit of a process or recommendations for the parents you work with for that redefining process?
Well, I think that it really helps to sit down. It’s almost like writing out a business plan. For people who have been in a business class, or own their own business, you have to write a mission statement, and you have to write a business plan. And you have to write these things that like really point your company or your business in the right direction. So you write the business plan, and then anything that you do that’s not aligned with that, you kind of stop doing, and that’s how you get further along in your business. The same thing happens with parents; we don’t ever think like, “oh, why don’t I sit down and write down my parenting business plan.” But that’s exactly what needs to happen, you need to have a definition, you need to have something that you can look at.
To me, a parent is somebody who loves them unconditionally, and listens without judgment, and really supports my kids to be who they want to be. So that way, you have this idea of what you want to be, so that once you start parenting, especially as a single parent, and you realize that maybe some of the things you’re doing don’t serve that purpose, you can just start letting them go. Some of the things that we might do out of societal pressure, or things that we do because we think that’s what will help. What I found is that when you start asking those questions to a parent, they don’t always know why they do those things. They don’t always know why they make their kids not eat snacks in between, or why their screen time limits are one hour, or why they can’t play outside for more than a certain amount of time by themselves. It’s like why? Why are those decisions being made? Where do those come from? And once you can start defining those things, and giving reasons behind them, you start to understand who you are as parents, and to me, the more you understand who you are as a parent, the more you can get out of your own way. Because we can create power battles with our kids, because we’ll say something and they’ll be like “why?” And it’s like “uh, because I said so?” You don’t always have a good reason for it. And you can either let your kid do it or make them not do it. And I think that knowing your why, and knowing your parent business plan, is a key part of that.
Absolutely. It’s really taking the time to reflect and be intentional about the role you’re creating for yourself and defining it for yourself. And I like that you touched on the power struggles we can create for ourselves. And sometimes we just do things because that’s what we think we should be doing. But if you step back and actually think about it’s like, “oh, maybe that really doesn’t matter as much.” I believe it’s @upbringing.co on Instagram recently, I think it was yesterday posted a post about family pictures, and that it can be a really stressful time. Kids don’t necessarily want to wear the outfits you want them to wear and do all those kinds of things. But if we can kind of take a step back from it, it’s like, “well, you know what? Their Spider Man shirt perfectly defines who they are right now, and that’s okay. Does it really matter that we are perfectly matched?”
Well, yeah, I mean,that’s a perfect example. And I think the picture idea – we always want our kids to be smiling perfectly, look over here and smile, smile big for me. And I think that if we try to get that every time that that can itself lead to a power battle. And I think that there’s somebody, I forgot who posted it, but they talked about just taking pictures of your kids in whatever emotions that they’re in at that moment, and how that can actually help you remember that moment better. And I’ve tried it since, and if you let your kids make whatever face they want to make, and then ask for one good picture, you’re gonna do a lot better and have a lot smoother time than if you ask for them to be perfectly still, perfectly smiling, for like 10 pictures in a row. Let them be silly. And then ask for one, and I think that that’s, you get what you want, they get what they want. And I think that that’s, like you said, intentional.
And that’s the key word for me, as far as parenting goes, and collaboration is as well. If all of the decisions are coming from the parent, then why would the kid listen? As a person who might not have fully grown up, if I have a boss who is always telling me what to do, where to be, how to act, how long things need to be, and I don’t get any say, my work is gonna start suffering. I don’t work harder for that boss. But if that boss is like, “hey, we really need this assignment, can what do you think, how long do you think this is gonna take you?” And I’m like, “oh, two days,” he’s like, “oh, perfect.” That works. I’m going to give it to him in two days, I’m gonna work hard. I got a little bit of say, I still got to do the assignment. Right? I’ve still got to do it mostly his way or her way. And it’s just having a little bit of say – as a kid, that goes a long way.
Yeah, absolutely. I was definitely the kid that had a lot of problems with authority growing up, and my daughter is my mini me. So I try to definitely acknowledge that and be mindful of that, and try to give them their power and their choices everywhere I can. Because when you fight against it, it does not work out in your favor, that’s for sure.
Well, and I think that there’s this pressure to get it right as a parent, and I don’t know where it comes from. And I think that moms face it in a different way than dad’s face it for sure. But this pressure to get things right, to have the right answer to, to do it alone, or at least prove that you can do it alone. And I think that what happens in that is that we orget that the person we’re raising probably has just as many ,if not more, answers than we do. If we all are our own best experts, then that means our kids are their own best experts. And if I had to figure out what’s gonna work best for them without asking them or without consulting them, it’s so silly to me. I don’t say that to be insulting to anybody. But like, when you think about it, I’m going to try to guess what this five-year-old wants without asking that five-year-old. My six-year-old changes his mind all the time. So something that I picked for him this week might not work next week. And if I don’t ask that. I don’t know.
Yeah, it’s really important to include them through things. So let’s move into the exhaustion of single parenthood, not having that relief, having it on you all the time. How can we thrive under those circumstances?
So there’s different levels of it. Because depending on how old your kid is, one of the things that I believe in most, and one of the best gifts you can give your kid, is the gift of responsibility. So that could be whether you have an only child or multiple children, letting them play on their own and entertain themselves as a single parent is paramount to any level of success. Because I’ve spoken to many parents, many single parents that say, “I just have to always be on, I have to always be entertaining, I have to always be answering questions.” And one thing that we work on with them is how can we get your kid to play by themselves, even if they’re an only child? And I think that to me, you have to find those moments in time that allow you to do the things you need to do, whether that’s cooking, whether that’s reading a book, whether that’s taking like a 15 minute nap, whether that’s eating in a quiet space, whatever it is, while your kids are awake. What happens, especially with single parents, is that we try to be 100% on for our kids, from the moment they’re up to the moment they’re asleep. And then we try to cram all of the things that we need to do into their nap times or after they’re asleep, or we wake up early. And we try to get things done before they wake up. So if we’re only operating as a human, not as a parent, when they’re asleep, then we’re setting a bad precedent, because they don’t see us doing the things that we need to do. And it’s very important for kids to see their parents taking care of themselves, saying no, setting boundaries, because then we want our kids to do it. But if our kids don’t see us doing it, then there’s a very low chance that they’ll be able to do it.
Yeah, exactly. We were talking about that on an interview I had with a personal trainer with fitness goals, and for a lot of moms it’s a challenge because they don’t have the time away from their kids. And that could be an obstacle for them. But it’s really good to show our kids taking care of ourselves, exercising, getting ready in the mornings. It’s a priority for me, because it makes me feel good, it sets me up for the day. It’s prioritizing me for that time. And I’m showing my kids how it’s important to do that every single morning for yourself as well.
Exactly. So one thing that I can share with parents that really has helped me and other parents that I work with, is spending 10 minute bursts of time, with undivided attention with your kids. And there’s their specific times of the day that it really helps set the tone. So if you spent 10 minutes first thing in the morning, as soon as your kids wake up, if you do wake up and you’re getting ready before them and maybe you’re making coffee or you’re starting work or emails or whatever. If you can cut 10 minutes out and put down your phone, close your laptop, put your coffee down, and just spend 10 minutes with them, talking to them, reading a book, my kids, we wrestle almost as soon as they wake up. So 10 minutes of that. And then it’s like, “okay, now I gotta go back to do my work and you can start getting ready for the day,” that 10 minutes is really going to set the tone. “Okay, mom saw, me mom spent time with me, she was intentional with her time.” And that really allows them to be like, “okay, I don’t need as much.” But if they wake up, and you’re in your office, or you’re in the kitchen making breakfast and doing the things that you need to do anyway, but you don’t connect, that’s why they come. They come to you and they’re like, “hey, connect with me, hey, give me that time, give me your energy, give me your attention.” And that’s why it can be frustrating. I just wish that you would get ready, stop asking me a million questions. But if you just take that 10 minutes before you leave for work, or before they leave for school – 10 minutes, boom, that helps ease the transition out the door. And then when you get back from school, 10 minutes, same way. There’s just ways to spend that 10 minutes to really connect with kids. And that’s not just something that I’ve seen work, that’s research that says that.10 to 15 minutes, depending on their age, is perfect.
Yeah, that’s actually something I learned through the process of sleep training. It has helped with my kids at bedtime, wanting that attention, wanting that connection, and making bedtime drag out and be an extra hour or whatever it might be. But when you can have that intentional 10 minutes a little bit before time, it fills up that attention cup, so they’re not grasping for that other time. So we can see that it totally relates. Throughout the whole day, with the mornings, I noticed that myself – even getting the kids ready for preschool, it’s a bit chaotic. I’m going to try implementing those 10 minutes, I could see how that will help.
Yeah. Very specifically, there’s a mom that between getting home from school, and work, and bedtime, was it was just draining on her. And part of it was the fact that, say that she had three hours, she was trying to spend as much time as she could with her son, and then also cook, clean, then clean up from dinner. And she was trying to do all those things at the same time so her kid wasn’t getting the connection. So then what it turned into was a power battle over the food. And since he hadn’t gotten a connection beforehand, he was realizing that if he fought with mom over whether he should eat or not, that she was paying attention to him then. And he was getting his 10 minutes or more fighting over the food.
Yeah, because what was happening was that was his way of pulling her into his world, like, “hey, we’re gonna do this now. I’m gonna say no, I’m gonna fight, I’m gonna whine, I’m gonna do whatever takes to get your attention right now. Because yes, you’ve been in the same house as me, yes, you’ve been playing with me. But you’ve also been distracted either on your phone or going to check dinner every five minutes.” So what we did was that we set that intention. And now that three hours, she’s actually moved it up to around 20 minutes, so they will play a game, or they’ll read books together. Her kid is, I think, seven or eight, so he’s a little bit older. So they’ll play a game together when they get home. And then she’s like, “okay, now I’m gonna go read a book for 20 minutes,” and we kind of broke her time into 20 minutes segments. So that everything was kind of structured out for her, which really helped her specifically. But it also let her kid know, “hey, for the next 20 minutes, mom’s not available.” And at first, there’s a little bit of pushback. But then it’s like, “well, if mom’s not available, I’ve got to figure something out.” And she was able to like, “hey, you could be reading too, you could read right next to me. Or you can go play a game, or you can go watch a show for 20 minutes.” And since there’s that intention, the screentime didn’t become as much of a battle because he wasn’t fighting, whining, and then getting screen time, it was like, “this is your choice and screentime is an okay choice right now.”
It’s really laying out the routine and expectation, and kids and adults can thrive under those circumstances. And when they know, “okay, I get this connection time. Okay, it’s on me, we have this amount of time, I know to expect it, not gonna fight it as much.” And like you touched on, at the start of implementing these different routines, there can definitely be that pushback. But once you kind of work through it, and have it become more fluid and a part of the usual everyday, it’s not new anymore. It really does click and make things so much easier.
Yeah. I mean, I always like to take it back to work to make it stick for adults. Whenever there’s a change at work – no matter what the change is, it could be a brilliant idea – there’s always gonna be a little bit of pushback, like, “oh, I miss the old way. I don’t like clocking in this way.” But then in a couple of weeks, everybody’s just doing everything, everybody gets used to it. It’s not a thing anymore,you kind of forget how the old way of clocking in was. So there is that initial “I don’t want to do this,” but then they get used to it. So yeah, exactly what you just said.
Yeah. And we’re the same way, and kids just haven’t learned to process and express it in the same way adults have. So it looks a bit different. But we’re very similar, we have the resistance and then adaptability. I’d love to also kind of continue and touch on, say, the housework component of it, with it all falling on you. And I think that ties into how you had also mentioned that independence. And I’m sure we can get our kids involved in this to help take off the pressure. I know that’s something my mom really did and probably held on to because it was a bit of a life raft for her, that we could have that independence and help her take care of the house. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Yeah, so it’s interesting, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I implemented a cleaning list in my house that has really helped. I remember growing up with my mom – I love to vacuum, and I still really like to vacuum. But I hated doing most other cleaning, and I hated being forced to clean. So I think that since my mom would often force it, because it needed to be done, I myself don’t love it. I love a clean house, but I don’t necessarily love to clean.
Yeah me too!
Which is a bad combination! But what I found is that, with my kids, they like to do different things. I have a hardwood floor in my upstairs, and my older son really likes to mop. We’ve got one of those Swiffer wet mops, and he loves it, he loves to mop. So that’s his job. And he doesn’t love to sweeping, he doesn’t love to wipe counters, so he doesn’t have those jobs. But my younger son loves to take a wipe, and he’ll wipe his toys, wipe the cabinets where we spill things – so he loves to wipe Clorox wipes, right? So that’s part of his job. And at six and seven, they both have jobs that they do.
But then the cleaning list, and I got this one from @CleanMama on Instagram, I think that it’s pretty straightforward, it’s just very simple tasks for each day. So for me I took the six or seven things that need to be done, like laundry, vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping and mopping the floors, and then wiping all glass surfaces, like windows and our coffee table. And then just put one thing on each day. So Sunday, it’s vacuuming and laundry. Monday is floors. Tuesday is bathrooms, Wednesday is the windows and glass. So what would happen before is we would just randomly have a Tuesday night or Saturday morning, and be like “oh we’re gonna clean the whole house.” It sucks and it’s so overwhelming. And I hated it because I had to be in charge of it. And as a single parent, I know this stuff needs to be done and I don’t want to fight my kids on it and clean, because both of those things are unenjoyable. I don’t want to fight clean.
And it also really helped me let go of how messy their room gets, and how messy the toy room gets. Because on the days that we vacuum, those are the days that they have to get things off the floor so that they can vacuum their rooms. So things all worked together. Our house stays cleaner, on any given day, than it was three months ago before we started this. There’s also less time that we need to clean everything, which is nice. And then their rooms did use to stress me out, just how messy they got. And it was going back to what we talked about, why do we do the things we do? Why did it stress me out? Why did their bedroom being messy stress me out? And when I sat down to think of it, I couldn’t think of a good reason. I think that my reason was they should take better care of it. And I don’t know if other parents relate to that. But it’s just like, “why don’t you take better care of your stuff, why do you leave it all over the floor?” And I was like, “why does that matter?” So now, the days that we need the vacuum are the days they clean up their room. So it just kind of works out naturally. And they go back to the expectations that you just talked about. They know that’s an expectation. They know that’s a routine. So it’s not just like, “alright, I’m finally frustrated enough to clean or I’m finally stressed out enough to clean. And we’re gonna do it today.” It’s like they know on Sundays, there’s gonna be a vacuum day. And I think the other day is Thursday, it’s gonna be a vacuuming day. So those two days, at least their floor has to be clean enough to vacuum, and that works.
Yeah, definitely having that routine and knowing that it’s going to happen really helps relieve the pressure. I know one thing that used to be really triggering for me, kind of like you with the kids rooms, is the dirty floors. And because it’s like “oh, the dirty floors, that means I need to do this and doing all of them just take so much time and I absolutely hate it.” And so actually getting a robot vacuum for me has been life changing, highly recommend. But it’s just taking off that pressure, and now seeing dirty floors isn’t triggering for me because I know there’s something that’s going to take care of it and it will get dealt with, so it’s similar with house things if you see a certain pile or certain mess, but you know it will get dealt with at a certain time. It’s not as stressful compared to the never ending list and you’re just trying to grasp at it and there’s just always so many things. So it’s that kind of help that gives relief, knowing it will be taken care of at some point.
Right, because I think that single parents and married parents both have a running list of all of the things that they need to do. So for me, the cleaning list has really helped me. Like alright, yes, I know we need to vacuum, but I know I’m going to do that another day, right? For me what I’ve done is I’ve just been able to let go of it, like today’s not the day, today I’m not worrying about vacuuming because I know it’s coming up. And I think that just that knowledge – I think that for me, what I’ve learned (and this is a little bit bigger of a topic like through COVID) is just how much uncertainty stresses me out. So what what I learned through COVID and single parenting is that the less I have to think, and the more certain I am about when things are going to happen, the less stressed I am.
Yes, for sure.
So that cleaning list has been monumental for us, and it includes them, thinking back to how you mentioned in your question how do we kind of include the kids. They have parts of it too, and on the vacuuming days – they share a bedroom and they have a playroom, and one of them will vacuum the bedroom and then one of them will vacuum the playroom. And do I go back and vacuum after them? 100%. Because they’re six and seven, okay, they’re not doing as good of a job as I am, but I want them to practice. For me, their cleaning is much more about practice and actually getting the job done, because I want in five years, in ten years, for them when they do it to have it be a good enough job.
Yeah, I completely agree. And I think it’s never too early to start; there’s going to be some resistance or some time consuming component to it, no matter when you start. When they’re really young – I used to have my one-and-a-half year-old, sort the silverware in the drawer, because they could just match things up. And it’s something that’s easy. Yes, it was slow, it wasn’t perfect, but it’s teaching those skills. And with getting them to clean up the playroom – my kids are almost two-and-a-half and almost four now. And there used to be a lot of resistance. And it came down to those power struggles, and finding ways to actually make things fun for them and putting in the routine. So now we know once we’re done dinner, we clean up the house as a family. It’s something we all do, we’re all responsible for taking care of our space. Dad does dishes, works in the kitchen, because I cook. I sit for a little bit and have my time, so they get that play time. And then me and the kids clean up the rest of the stuff. And they know it’s part of the routine and that expectation, and then also making it fun.
One thing that we started doing that makes it fun and works, because my kids are so young, is that we kind of assign points for things. So I’m like, “okay, who can put all the stuffies in the corner, you get a point for every single stuffy,” and I’m just like yelling out points. They don’t actually mean anything, they don’t get anything at the end of it. But it’s like the excitement and fun component gets them into it. And we don’t have those same power struggles where a couple of months ago we’d be fighting, there’d be timeouts, it was like this whole big terrible thing that was not a good way to end the evening. So sometimes, like we’ve touched on, we need to take that step back, reflect, put the intention in it, check in with our kids, and see how can we make this enjoyable for them? What would they want to do, and then make it fun. But we can start right away, and as single parents, I think it would be so helpful with starting young and having them actually being more capable to fully fulfill those different jobs as they’re a bit older.
Yeah, even one thing you said, sparked this in my head, is just to also remember that for kids, playtime is serious. You know, it can look silly, and it can look just like light hearted. But with kids, for me especially my younger son, we’ve got a dollhouse for him in our playroom, and it’s where his world comes to life. He’s really an imaginative play kid. So if I just go in there like, “hey, it’s time to clean up.” He’s knee deep in this world that he’s created. And if I just go like, “hey, it’s time to clean up now.” It’s like trying to rip him out of this world. And I really think that he would like miss his characters that he’s created. So kind of giving your kid that warning. For me, like you’ve mentioned, for me choices are huge. I always kind of give a “you guys want to clean up in two minutes or five minutes.”
Yeah, we do that a lot too, a lot of timers in our house.
I often joke that Alexa is my co-parent, because Alexa is 100% my co-parent with how much I use her timer!
She’s your village!
Because they know, they’ll set their own timer. So if I’m like two minutes or five minutes, they’ll set the timer. And then, even the other day, it was so amazing because I had given my older son the choice of two minutes or five minutes to stop something and then do his homework. And I had started cooking and the timer went off. And he turned off the timer and got his stuff and started on his homework. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t always happen that well, but just in that moment, knowing that the routine and the expectation was so clear to him that he did it on his own. It was just like wow, this is why we do it. This is why we spend that initial time maybe fighting that initial push back, because you can get to the point where they’re pretty autonomous on doing the things.
So for me, I use choices on everything. Two or five minutes is like the golden thing for me, especially when they were like two and three, it would also give them the start of the knowledge about how long that is. And with things like the park too, like do you guys wanna stay at the park for 30 minutes or 40 minutes? And yes, a three-year-old doesn’t know how long that is. But if they know at the beginning that they chose the more time – because my younger son is like “which one is more, which one is more, which one is more.” And if he got the more time, he was happy, and then if I was like “okay, it’s been 40 minutes,” it connected back to that’s how much time we agreed to, and it’s just time to go. That’s how it worked for us, and I very rarely would fight a battle over leaving the park. And that was something that I would see happen with other parents is like, “okay, it’s time to go,” and then “well, let me just go down the slide three more times.” And it’s just like, “well, no, we really need to go.” But if you don’t set that expectation, and you’re not clear with it, you don’t stick to it, then that’s where those power battles are. Because if you give your kids an inch, they’ll take a mile or – I don’t know what it is in Canada?
Yeah, same thing here!
Kids will take advantage of whatever leeway they get because why wouldn’t they? If they have the chance to – they’re not being manipulative, they’re just opportunistic.
Yeah, setting that expectation and being consistent, and holding those boundaries. And, yeah, timers are huge, they are so so helpful. It’s a great way of, like you touched on, giving them control, setting the expectation, smoothing out those transitions for the different things. Definitely recommend implementing those if UM Club members haven’t already. They are very, very helpful. Yeah. So, kind of tying back to the struggle with time for yourself, how can single parents work in this component of self care? It’s such a struggle for moms as a whole, and then not having that relief, there’s so much extra pressure, I would say, there’s almost more need for that self care for single parents. And it’s even more challenging to do that. So what are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, for me – self care is tough for me, because I almost want to wage a war on the way that we think of self care, like face masks, like bubble baths, and all of that. Especially as a single parent, self care is like getting eight hours of sleep, it’s like eating three meals a day or whatever meal plan that you’re on, or whatever. So for me, all of those things come back to the structure of your life. To me self care is really figuring out what structure works best. There’s some people who their optimal time to get things done is in the morning. So they would benefit a lot from waking up two hours before the kids are up and getting as much done so that they can be present during their during that first 10 minutes. Right?
And I think that figuring out where your guilt comes from is key. Because, I’ve talked to parents, and I’ve experienced this myself that, you know, you could sit down to do a face mask, or you can sit down to read a book. But if your mind is on this list of things that you need to get done, then that’s not really caring for yourself. You should be able to be present when you’re taking care of yourself. And to me, that’s where that structure comes in, to know when you have that time. Getting to the point where you know you have 30 minutes to take care of yourself, that’s true self care. So it’s creating the structure, and creating a schedule. And I always thought it was so unsexy to have scheduled times and structure like that. But it’s how you get results, it’s how you know what’s working. It’s the fact that like, okay, if I have this schedule, and I try it for a week, if it works, I stick with it. If it doesn’t, I change it up. But if I don’t have a schedule at all, and I’m just kind of flying by the seat of my pants, and I’ve always been an “I’ll just wing it” kind of a person, you don’t have anything to build on. And you need to figure out what works for you so that you can build, because you’re never going to know what works until you try it consistently.
So I know that’s not what people want to hear when it comes to self care. But I think that, to me, self care is such a journey and such a process of figuring out how and what works that it can’t be something like “oh my gosh, tonight’s the night, I’m going to finally take care of myself and then the rest of the week, I’m gonna be fine.” It’s, “I’m going to start tonight figuring out a plan. I know I’ll have this much time for myself today, so maybe today I just read a book, maybe today I take a 20 minute nap. But then I know that if I continue with this in a week, I’m gonna have an hour and I can go get a massage.” And I think that when you build that structure, it helps so much. And as single parents, you mentioned it earlier, structure helps our kids, but structure really helps adults just as much. So for me, structure is the ultimate self-care.
Yeah, I completely agree. I think self care, like you mentioned, we see these things where it’s like bubble baths and spa days, and whatever it might be, the pretty side of it, the consumer side of it. But I think to me, and what I preach my community all the time, it’s about truly filling your cup up. So about finding what does that for you, because it takes time to even find those things that do that for you. But just getting a break, a day off, sitting on a couch hanging out, still dealing with your kids, that’s not necessarily filling your cup, because you’re still on. So it’s finding those things. And it can be really small moments, it doesn’t have to be an hour, like you had mentioned. It can be if you can carve out 10 or 20 minutes, maybe you just go into a quiet space, do some deep breathing, wash your face and hands. And that kind of helps reset your mind before you start the craziness of the evening. It’s those small things that truly fill your cup up, that I think are really important to prioritize and be intentional about. And as a single parent, you just got to get a little bit more creative and intentional with the timing and how you can actually make that work.
And it’s what you just said, intentional.
It’s the keyword today.
For parents in general, but especially for single parents. So one thing that really helps is to set your agenda or set your schedule the night before. And they’ve talked about how that even helps you sleep, is that if you have your plan for the next day and you think about that while you’re in bed, “in the morning I’m going to do this and then I’m going to do that,” thinking about your day the next day, in a proactive way, and not in a stressed out, “oh my gosh, how am I getting all this done?” There’s a big difference between going to bed thinking, “oh, my gosh, I’ve got so much to do, how am I gonna get this done,” and, “I’ve got a plan for my day. And I know when I’m going to do these things.” The stress level of going to sleep is hugely different between those two scenarios. And just taking 10 minutes, it’s surprising how much you can do in 10 minutes, if you are intentional with it. Ten minutes to write out a plan for the next day, it’s very similar to the cleaning list, so that then when you wake up the next day, you’re not like “oh my gosh, I’ve got to do so much.” You’re like, “no I’ve got to do this thing first. Then move on to the next thing. And then I’m gonna move on to the next thing.” And you cut out the uncertainty of like, if you’ve got to go to the grocery store, and you’ve got to pick up your kids, and one of them needs a haircut, and you gotta get to basketball practice. And you got to make lunch, and oh, I forgot, I guess I didn’t even make breakfast yet. So I haven’t even eaten breakfast. And as parents, you have this running list in your head. Write that stuff down; writing things down gets it out of your head. The more you can get out of here – the less you can think the better. I know it sounds weird, but the less you can think, the better.
Yeah, absolutely. And I like how you mentioned that for the night, because it really does make such a difference. And say, at the end of the night, our kids are in bed, we’re exhausted. And the thought of having to do that. It’s like, “oh, do I really want to do that, I just want to zone out right now.” But if you can push yourself and you think about that challenge of forcing yourself to sit down for 10 minutes, it sucks, you’re tired, you might not want to do it. But it’s that 10 minutes, maybe 5 minutes, to convince yourself. But think of what you’re saving, like you touched on, you’re gonna fall asleep faster, perhaps sleep better. Your state of mind is going to be so much less chaotic throughout the day. So that little bit of time pays off in so many ways.
Everything to me, if it works for adults, it works for children, and if it works for children, it works for adults. But the same thing happens, like we just talked about, is that when you initially start something like a new cleanup schedule – if you start something new with a kid, there might be that initial pushback, but then, after you do it for a few days, and you’re consistent with it, they’re doing it and it’s natural. And then like a week into it you’re not getting those power battles anymore. And with doing the list at the end of the day? It’s the same thing that first day, that second day, it might be like, “ah, I’ve got to do this. I just want to zone out.” But then that third day and that fourth day, when you started to see results and are like, “oh, I woke up and I was intentional about my day and I got a lot more done. And I felt better.” Because the flip side of that is that’s how I also feel better at the end of the day, and don’t try to cram a lot more in after the kids go to bed. Because if I’m intentional about this list, and I’ve gotten those things done, and it feeds into bigger goals – which is something that we could possibly touch on.
Those daily things should feed into bigger goals, so that you can go to bed feeling accomplished. Because I think that parents, and as single parents, one of the things that we feel guilty about is like, “I didn’t get enough done,” or, “what did I really do today.” And if you don’t write that down, you don’t realize just how much you do every single day. Like we do so much as parents that we don’t give ourselves credit for. So even if you’re struggling like, “what do I even write down,” write down everything you do, write down the important stuff. “I made breakfast, I kissed my kids goodbye, I went for a walk, I worked and I did my job for eight hours.” So we do so much that, maybe it’s because we think the parents are supposed to do that, or we don’t give ourselves credit for. The more you realize just what you do every day, the better you can feel about it.
Yeah, and it really helps mitigate that guilt that so many parents struggle with. And it’s something I try to touch on all the time, is we do so much. And if you’re searching for the things that you didn’t do enough of, or you could have done better, and all the things you’re lacking, you’re gonna see a lot of stuff, there’s always going to be more things you could do. But if you can try and flip your mindset and focus on all those things you did do. And teaching your kids sharing skills while they’re fighting is an awesome thing. That is a very productive, accomplished thing to be doing. And so when we can take that moment to reflect on that, and give ourselves that credit, it pours into that mindset, and being able to let go of that guilt and feeling good about our parenting and what we’ve done for the day.
Yeah, and to quickly touch on that guilt idea, what I try to show parents is it’s easy to get into it. It’s this idea of the 90% and then 10%. For most of us, we’re doing things 90% well or 90%, right, and we’re getting that right 90%. But 10% of time, we don’t. 10% of the time we forget to sign the permission slip, or we yell at our kids, or we forgot to pack their lunch, or something. 10% of time, things don’t go right. But when you focus on the 10% of time, that’s what you’re going to see, that’s what you’re going to feel about yourself. That’s where that guilt really lives and really thrives. So what I try to help parents look at is just focus on the 90%. The 90% is why your kids are amazing.
Because if everyone sat down and described themselves as a parent, they might be like, “I don’t do this enough, I wish I could spend more time with my kids, I wish I could do this or that.” But then if you ask them to describe their kids, their like face will instantly change. They’ll start smiling, “oh, my kids are so amazing. The best kids I’ve ever met in the world.” And it’s like, okay, so that’s the answer. If what we want our kids is for them to be healthy, happy, and safe, great humans, they are. Because we’re doing it 90% of the time right. The 10% – nobody’s perfect. So just focus on that 90% and let the 10% – it takes care of itself, it’s not as big of a deal as we make it out.
Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. We’re coming up to time. I think that was so helpful, I really enjoyed talking with you. There’s more I would have loved to cover about but there’s only so much time, so perhaps we can have you come back in a few months and continue the conversation. But thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. Where can everyone find you, to connect more, see what you have to offer, all that jazz?
Yeah, so I’m exclusively on Instagram right now. And my handle is @JaySkibbens, which you’ll probably put in the notes. But yeah, I coach clients one-on-one, I’m starting up group coaching as well and that will launch in December. So really just both of those are, like I talked about earlier, I create the space for parents and really take the time to look at what’s happening and make plans and goals moving forward. So the one-on coaching has been transformational for parents. And I think that for me, I work with single moms and single dads and I can give perspectives, especially to single moms that help them deal with their co-parent, since I am a single dad. But also a lot of the things that they see in their co-parent, I’ve grown from. I’m not that perfect, but I’ve grown a lot in my co-parenting, and I have the lived experience of doing the things that are frustrating to the now. I really have shown what can happen with growth.
And that’s one reason why I wanted to bring you in too, is because I appreciate you bringing in the male perspective as well for the co-parenting and single parent situation.
Yeah. Well, thanks again and thank you to all of our UM Club listeners. We will be continuing the conversation inside our group chat, Facebook group and our bi-weekly zoom Hangout. So I will see you guys then. Bye!
Wow, that was a lot of great information! Now that the episode is over, make sure to come join us on the UM Club Facebook page, where we’ll be chatting about everything we learned from Jay. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you at the next exclusive UM Club episode!