Most of us are single parents at some point in our lives. Maybe it is just for the day while our significant others are at work. Maybe it is Monday through Friday while our husbands travel on business trips. Maybe it is full-time, 365 days a year, for one reason or another.
In my case, I am a single mother for 6 months of the year while my husband travels for work 60 days on and 60 days off. My mother, who raised my sister and I, was also a single mother, but for 365 days a year. Now that I have my own children and have had a small glimpse of exactly what single parenting means, I have gained the utmost respect for you full-time single mamas. Your accomplishments in raising your children as the sole provider day-to-day and everyday are nothing less worthy than a Nobel Peace Prize or an Olympic Gold Medal. You deserve them both!
Whatever the amount of time it may be and whatever the reason it may be for, there are five things I find vital to surviving as a single parent for any length of time; the fundamentals of single parenting, if you will:
1. You need a friend who is also a mother.
Let me preface that by first saying friends who are not mothers are equally as important in life, but for this purpose, you need someone who is both. This can be your life-long best friend or a mother you bumped into at the park just last month. The only requirements she should meet are that she must be a loyal friend and she must be a mother. In turn, she will be open to hearing anything you feel the need to say regarding motherhood and she will be able to fully appreciate all of the emotions involved in motherhood. This person will be there for you on your good days and bad. She will send you birthday cards and just-because cards. If she is far away, she will be the one that you will call without realizing 4 months have gone by and the conversation will start just where it left off many moons ago. You need this to be a successful single parent. You need an outside person to pat you on the back on the happy days and to pick you up off your sticky floor on the not-so-happy days. You need someone you can call to rescue you mentally, emotionally, and if you’re lucky enough to have her nearby, physically, when the Mommy SOS goes out! This is vital! This recharges you to make you a better you and a better mama!
2. You need YOU time.
(I heard you laugh, like yeah right, maybe in 18 years!) But no, this is serious! And believe it or not, it is possible no matter the circumstance! Wake up early. Stay up late. Leave the tornado-stricken house just the way it is one extra day and while the kids are napping, do something for you. If your children are at an age that you are sure a disaster will not strike in 5 minutes of them left alone, lock yourself in your bedroom or shoot, lock them in their playroom, for 5 minutes of quiet or to catch up on e-mail or to watch a show DVR’d weeks prior. Call in a trustworthy friend or neighbor for an hour. If you can, take turns with your husband to have a couple hours for yourself and allow him to do the same. (This works wonders for both parents!) For small periods of me time, I like to indulge in celebrity gossip and read People magazine with a cup of tea. When I’m on my single-parenting stretch and I have family come to town, I happen to enjoy lollygagging around the aisles of Kroger searching aimlessly for nothing, I mean milk and bread. I also like to leave for work a little early and run errands or do some leisurely shopping while childcare is already arranged. Do what works for you, but make your time a priority so you are capable of being the happiest, most patient mama you can be. (You can refer to our series “Making Time for Mom” for more ideas!)
3. You need routine.
This is one I struggle with most. I try my best and do what works for our family, but I often wonder if something a bit more strict wouldn’t be better some days. However, we have our own routine and it works well for us, most days. I made coinciding naps for our almost 2 year old and almost 4 year old an absolute must, no ifs, ands, or buts about it (and trust me, 3 year olds will give you a lot of buts). It doesn’t work everyday, but it works many more times than not. If one child didn’t sleep well the night before, if I didn’t sleep well myself, if I had to work late, if the children were being their atypical devilish selves, this nap time allows me to catch up on my own sleep, make important phone calls (you know, the kind that you would prefer to not have screaming children in the background), or take my me time. My number one recommendation for a mother crossing into the zone of no longer having an only child is to have your children on the same nap schedule. It is a life saver! In regard to the routine for the rest of the day, the stricter you can be, the more your children will know what to expect and the less they will dispute. As I’m sure you have heard time and time again, children thrive on routine.
4. You need a happy place.
For all of you. Snuggled on the couch watching movies and eating popcorn. Splashing in the pool. Playing catch in the backyard. Boating on the lake. Swinging in the park. Or in our case, wandering in Market Square.
It’s a place where you are all comfortable and happy. You all have things you enjoy doing in this space. Find your happy place and go there once a week! We crave our happy place when we have skipped a week or two and it feels that much better going back when we do!
And I don’t just mean that in a survival sense. I mean that in a therapeutic sense. This is not meant to translate into eating your way to happiness. I want this to translate into when you are having a rough day, nothing is going how you imagined and you are so very desperate for a pick-me-up, eat (or drink) something that makes you happy. If you need coffee, then have a cup, or a pot. If it’s hummus and pita chips that make you happy, have them on hand, just try not to eat the whole bag. If it’s 3 scoops of ice cream, then stack those babies up. I personally lack the healthy options when it comes to soothing my soul and resort to apples and Nutella too often to disclose. My point is if you’re looking for something to give you that last little pep in your step to get you through the day, dig deep in your pantry and find your euphoria! This post is not sponsored by Nutella, but I highly recommend having a jar on hand at all times!
Are you single-parenting for a period of time or all of the time? I am eager to hear…do you have your own fundamentals of single-parenting? Please share!