It is not a ground breaking discovery that self care is good for one and all. It helps you feel whole and recharges you to be a more effective version of yourself. This is especially true for single parents who are shouldering so much on their own. Now, here’s where I have to laugh. If you are anything like me, you are a single mom with 100% of the day in and day out responsibility of raising children. I’m in charge of feeding and caring for the kids, helping with homework, maintaining the house and anything that goes wrong with it, maintaining the car in the same way, making and taking to all appointments, and being nurse to the sick. I also have to work and chauffeur to all practices and activities, as well as handle all errands. I’m not saying all of this to get any kind of praise. I’m laying the groundwork for understanding why I want to laugh uncontrollably when others say that I really need to take time for myself.
When exactly am I supposed to do self care? With the age of my children, I am with at least one of them from 6:30am to 9:30pm. By that time, I’m lucky if I get a few dishes done before I shower and go to bed. There just doesn’t seem to be time for this illusive self care others speak of. This is when I said to myself, I’ve got to find a way to blend the proven benefits of self care with the chaotic life of a single parent.
I realized that I cannot schedule and pay for a babysitter every time I want to go for a walk or even go to the grocery store alone. I needed to be more creative that that. I’ve come up with some real life self care items that can be easily added right into your daily schedule, kids and all. These may not strike you as the “day at the spa” or “girls weekend” types of self care, but they are better than nothing!! While they also might not give you total relaxation and time away, you are acknowledging yourself as a person and the need to pay attention to your needs in any way possible.
Find Something that Makes you Feel Put Together
This is something that will keep giving back to you for only a limited amount of time commitment. For me, this is painting my fingernails. Yes, something as simple as that. I don’t have the time or resources to schedule a weekly manicure, but I do enjoy a pretty set of nails. I make sure to carve out a bit of time to file and paint my own nails to achieve this goal. It’s something I see everyday and gives me a little boost of feeling more put together. Find your little thing that can be a daily boost to help you feel put together and more than just a single parent scrambling to get it all done.
Make Your Favorite Dinner
If you are like me, dinner plans usually consist of trying to make something that all three kids will eat. This will make things easy and ensure everyone eats something. This also often puts my likes last or not even on the menu. My kids like plain food and I like a little more seasoning. Typically, I forego this to make dinner time less stressful. I have found that one way to add a little self care into my day is to make MY favorite meal every once in awhile. Even if the kids eat chicken nuggets or PB&J for dinner, I am acknowledging my likes and treating myself to that meal. I also have come to realize that it’s ok if they don’t eat it because then I have delicious left overs!! Win!!
Listen to Music You Like
My kids role their eyes any time they hear “music from the 1900’s”- meaning 80’s and 90’s music. This is my music and nothing puts me in a good mood faster than hearing a great throw back tune. For a bit of self care, I will tell the boys this is mom music time and they can find another room to go to if they don’t want to hear it! So, go ahead, put on your favorite tunes and just let yourself go. If spontaneous dancing begins, just go with it. You are basically leading your own private Zumba class!
Connect With a Friend
Single parenting can be very isolating. You have to make a conscious effort to look outside of the home for adult conversation. You are making all of the parenting decision by yourself and have no one to develop a parenting game plan with when dealing with a difficult situation. Adult conversation can be so helpful and can add a level of solidarity to your life. It is so restorative to carve out time to connect with friends. This can fit right into your schedule with some creativity. We all know that as soon as we get on the phone, everyone needs you and starts to whine to get your attention. Therefore, get the kids interested in doing something, even if it is some electronic time, so that you have a block of time free to reach out to someone. I use the bargaining chip of screen time to ensure everyone is guaranteed to not bother me unless it is a crisis. Trust me- they will be just fine with a little extra screen time and you will get some needed “alone time”.
Simplify Your Life
This one is a little different than the other action items. This is not one specific thing that you will need to carve time for. This is something you will have to practice regularly to feel the self care effects. The need for self care comes from feeling stressed and overwhelmed. One way to decrease those feelings is to simplify your day. This may mean meal prepping or planning for the week, keeping a to do list to avoid trying to remember everything you need to do, or prepping lunches for the morning. Also, find ways to take things off your plate. I’ve found grocery delivery to be a game changer. This creates time to do other things and removes the weekly struggle of grocery shopping with children. I even found that with the fee and tip included, I even save money doing this because I’m not impulse buying! This also forces you to do some meal planning, which we already discussed as being helpful. These individual items don’t necessarily fall into the self care category, but collectively they will help reduce your overall stress.
Ask for Help
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Listen to your body and recognize when you’ve hit your limit. We all need a break from time to time and that’s ok. Nobody is made to do this all alone! Lean into your tribe of support and ask for help with a difficult task or help watching the kids while to take some time to just breath. You will be surprised how many people want to help you, they just don’t know when you need it if you don’t ask!
So, the next time someone flippantly tells you that you really need to add more self care into your chaotic life, you are armed with realistic things that you can do to meet you needs and not make self care another added stress!