Does this sound familiar? It’s Sunday night, and your kids are finally, finally in bed. As you walk down the hall, you think, “Where the deuce did my weekend go?” even though you know exactly where it went: cheering on your children in soccer, homework monitoring, grocery shopping, two Target runs, cleaning the bathroom, talking to your mother (three times), refereeing fights between your kids, mowing the lawn, monitoring baths. And that was just Saturday.
Being a single parent – it’s not for the weak of heart. At the end of the day, there’s almost always nothing left for you. Or is there?
My single parent journey began when my son Sam was two-and-a-half and my youngest, Zachary, was just 10 months. Ouch. My husband moved out in June, a few days before my 33rd birthday and I was in a daze for weeks. I did my best to focus on the rudimentary parts of our lives: getting the boys to daycare, rushing to work, squeezing in errands at lunchtime and collapsing on the couch at the end of the day. And in between all of that life stuff, I grieved the end of my tumultuous marriage. I was ragged and jagged and to be honest, really pissed off. Everything had landed squarely on my shoulders – my ex basically disappeared for most of that summer, leaving me to handle any and everything related to the boys. Honestly, much of that time is a fuzzy blur, and all I can tell you is that I survived. With no family in town, I had to rely on friends, co-workers and neighbors — but as you know, it’s never enough. And after some time, I knew if I didn’t start taking care of myself, I was never going to be the kind of mother my boys deserved.
My self-care strategy wasn’t planned out with a whole lot of forethought, but looking back I can see where I made some changes and implemented rituals. When the boys were in bed, I would light a vanilla candle and put on some instrumental music. Sometimes I would just sit on the living room floor and try not to think about anything. Other times I would allow the frustration and the fear of my new life to erupt into tears.
The point was, I put a hard stop into my evening routine, and then I progressed from there. A lifelong reader, I challenged myself to get back into the game and tried to read one chapter of a lighthearted novel at bedtime. Eventually I found getting up a good hour before the boys did made a spectacular difference in my day. I so loved the early morning quiet, just me and the cats and a huge cup of hot coffee. I would journal, pray, and dream. That time in solitude seriously carried me through the day and I began to really look forward to it. So much so that going to bed at a reasonable time was easier, because I wanted to ensure I got that golden hour of blissful quiet.
As you review your situation right where you are, think openly about how you could make some tiny tweaks to start honoring you with some self-care. Could you ignore housework for an evening and instead, set up your bathroom for a mini-spa night? A hot bubble bath and a magazine can go miles in restorative magic. Maybe it’s watching an entire show on Netflix, with no interruptions, or giving yourself a full-on pedicure. The gesture doesn’t matter so much as the intentional nature of it.
Once you start putting yourself first in a few areas, see if you don’t notice some positive changes. When you love yourself a bit more, you start to walk taller and smile a bit more. Everything doesn’t have to center around your kids, after all. Showing your children that you matter, you have worth and you are entitled to self-love is one of the very best ways you can teach your kids how to value themselves.
After all, of all the things we want to teach our children in life, shouldn’t self-care be right up there?
About Renee Brown
Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.