Every mom should have a plan for self-care because it simply makes us better moms. But self-care for single moms can feel more overwhelming at times than therapeutic. While that may be the case, it is important that single moms (and dads) take the time to recharge and relax. It makes us better parents and sets a good example to our children.
Trust me, I’ve read all the blogs, articles and books. I get it. We need to take care of ourselves. But even those experts who are single moms and dads can make it seem simple. The reality is that sometimes there are conflicting priorities or emotions and that makes it hard. This is a significant struggle for me and has been since I became a single mom.
Here are some ideas to think about as you are trying to find some alone time:
Self-care can be simple and free.
Understand Your Priorities as a Parent
Most parents have conflicting desires when it comes to children. They want to spend as much time as possible with their kids but also want to earn as much as possible to give them a good life. Paint as clear a picture as possible to give your children what you desire for them. Quite frankly this means different things to different people.
For some, it revolves around getting back to work and making as much money to send their children to top schools and have the funds for a ton of extra-curricular activities. For others, financial sacrifices are gladly made for the sake of making it to the afternoon baseball games and dance recitals.
Some parents don’t have a choice and simply need to go to work and pick up their child when work is done from childcare, school or family help.
My choice was clear for me: I wanted to spend as much time with my son as a stay at home mom. That meant finding a way to earn enough money to provide us a good-but-not-perfect lifestyle while he grew up.
Build Routines that Care for You
Self-care means so many different things but all boils down to doing things that help improve or maintain one’s health. Health could refer to either mental or physical health. It’s a proactive approach to knowing what you need to feel good about yourself, find joy and alleviate stress for overall longevity.
Taking care of you doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. It would be easy for people to look at me and think that I didn’t take the time to care for myself. I work from home and am happy with a good Netflix binge or spending time on a nice long walk with the dog or hike with my son. I may work long hours at times, but extended hours for me usually mean I’m creating something of my own. Expressing my creativity is as much of self-care as getting a massage for me.
When Building Self-Care Routines
Life moves at a pace we can’t keep up with. There is always something a parent needs to add to the to-do list. Starting your day with the same routine sets the tone for the day. I’ve always found that I’m more productive with my work and more grounded as a parent when I start my day early in the morning before the house stirs.
It gives me the time to find clarity in my thoughts and set the momentum of the day for success. A frantic morning routine sets a tone for stress and anxiety. The long-term effects are not worth it.
Use the Custody Schedule to Your Advantage
Co-parenting and custody schedules will always be a trigger point for many moms and dads. You want to spend time with your child. You want routine every day, not three days this week and five days next week. Custody schedules can be as hard on parents as they are on kids. Use your off-parenting days to get a little extra self-care in.
Free days offer you the time to meet friends for dinner or have that date with the cute guy you met at the coffee shop. You don’t need to worry about babysitters and you can’t change the schedule so use it. It will help you keep or rebuild the healthy part of you ready to experience the world. After all, getting lost in the single mom world can feel isolating often.
Know Your Child Understands
Single parenting is hard and can consume us. Don’t forget: our children are strong. They want to see us healthy and happy. It’s no fun for them if we are always stressed and moody. Struggling with mom guilt is real but doesn’t have to be the norm. Set your priorities and develop routines then communicate with your children the plan.
Since my divorce, I really haven’t dated. Like at all. Friends encourage me to jump back in. People tell me I just need to trust in love. It has nothing to do with that. I haven’t dated because I set my priority as my son and building a stay at home work life. Mixing dating in, at least the times I’ve tried, felt like work. It felt like something in my top priorities would break.
Then it just becomes sort of the norm. But I remember when my son asked me about what a good candidate would be for me. It was cute. He wanted to see Mommy happy. Of the description, I gave, “athletic” stood out to him. It was the next day when we were walking to a local restaurant that he pointed to a homeless man with his bicycle. “He’s athletic. How about him?” Oh, the sweet words of a seven-year-old just wanting Mommy to be happy.
Self-Care for Single Moms is More than Balancing
If you’ve ever taken a self-help program or talked to time management and wellness experts, you’ll hear a lot about balance. They have wheels to show you where your time is being spent and how unbalanced you are. The goal is to make sure you are devoting the right mix of time and energy to things like family, financial, health, love, education and a myriad of other important things we need.
I pretty much get lost after family, financial and health. I see this lopsided wagon wheel cripple itself down a dirt road because it has no rounded edges for love, personal growth, spiritual fulfillment or career. I know they are important. But I can barely get the dishes done let alone take a class on jewelry beading. Angst sets in immediately.
What’s a Single Mom to Do About Self-Care Time?
Be patient with yourself. For some moms, it is easier to say, “I’m doing this for me and I don’t care what anyone thinks or says.” Others, like me, are more inclined to say, “I need to set certain priorities before I add a lot to my plate.” We all get to the end of the road on different paths.
For single parents, this path is a bit crazy at times. That’s okay.
I will say this, try things even in a small-scale way. You might find that taking that cooking class on the Friday when your kid is at your ex’s is the time you fulfill your creativity, build new skills and get excited to share something with your child. It gets you to meet more people and engage in the world again. It is important.
You will find that as you add new little things to your routine, you’ll start to look forward to them and your overall demeanor and mental health will improve.
Your Health as Self-Care
Make your health a priority no matter what. We don’t need to go into study after study talking about the benefits of taking care of your health. A healthy parent is present and able to provide for their children. When you are unhealthy, everyone feels the pain.
Here are a few things to consider about taking care of your health:
- Exercise reduces anxiety: walking briskly around the block, doing yoga at home, or hitting the gym releases endorphins which make you feel good.
- Good diets fuels life: fresh, healthy food gives you energy for long days and creates good eating habits in your children too
- Drinking water helps body and brain: we dehydrate ourselves with coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. Your body and brain need water to function and help you feel better.
Final Thoughts on Self-Care for Single Moms
Self-care is important for every parent, every mom and dad regardless of whether they are single or not. If you feel like you can’t find the perfect balance that someone else seems to have, do a personal evaluation of what is most important to you. Focus on those things and slowly start to include other ways to improve and maintain your mental and physical health.
This is important for your long-term happiness. It is also important to show your children that you really are that strong mom who deserves to be happy. Taking care of you takes care of everyone.