Major Life Challenges Blog Series

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Best Practices For The Single Mom to Stay Sane

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I love challenges. In fact, I thrive off of the really tough ones because it keeps me pushing forward and striving for more. However, I'll admit it, single motherhood is one of the toughest challenges I've ever taken on.

Yes, it is incredibly there-are-no-words-to-describe-this-feeling rewarding, but it is tough nonetheless.  

Best Practices For The Single Mom to Stay SaneI think I feel the "toughness" of this job the most during the weeks when the other parent fails to live up to his fair share of this co-parenting thing for whatever reason, and I am insanely stressed out with, well... life.  

A couple weeks ago, I was diligently trying to finish my last semester in graduate school, and really needed a break.I remember that I was just having one of those there-aren't-enough-hours-in-the-day types of day. While I waited for the load of laundry to finish, I was making dinner and paying bills online. Plus, I still had to finish a final presentation for a class once I got Aiden to bed that night.  

I was so happy when Aiden's dad showed up for his scheduled visit. I would have time for a couple of hours to get things done peacefully and rejuvenate myself for when Aiden returned home.

It would be perfect. Or so I thought.  

Not even 10 minutes after I dropped Aiden off downstairs in front of our building to meet his dad did my cell phone ring. Apparently their visit was over and his father wanted me to come back downstairs for him. It took me five minutes to get back up to my apartment, gosh darnit! Was he serious? 

Unfortunately, he was. 

I could have cried. And not only because I felt badly for Aiden's short visit with his other parent, but also because I felt badly for ME. I was overwhelmed and overworked and my fuse was oh-so-close to blowing out.  

That's when I decided that I needed to take a breather and just... be. I preach it to anyone who's willing to listen that making time for me is a top priority of mine. But sometimes during rough days when I'm spreading myself way to thin, I need to remind myself: Self, you can't take good care of Aiden unless you take good care of you.  

Single parenthood is a thankless job most days.

There is so much to do and so little time that it can make even the most effective of us loose our cool. That is why we have to take care of ourselves as best as we could. There is no Single Mommy Award for being a martyr and handling everything alone. We may not always be able to spend time away from our kids (which I am a HUGE fan of when my finances allow!), but there are little things we can do to get us through the day safely and sanely.

Here are a few things moms can do to squeeze in some much-needed and well-deserved "Me Time." 

  • Read A Book.  Well, actually I have Aiden "read" a book... or three. When we get home in the evening, one of the first things in our evening routine is for Aiden to "read." This gives me at least 10 minutes to wind down and get ready for the evening chaos - dinner, dishes, packing bags for the following morning, practicing writing with Aiden, bath, reading bedtime stories, and tucking him in. Whew! 
  • Tall. Glass. Of. Wine.  It doesn't have to be a big event or anything sexy, just as Aiden indulges in his apple juice during dinner; I [sometimes] indulge in a glass of wine. It calms my nerves, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and allows me to roll with the punches.  
  • Walk it out.  Sometimes I just put the kid in his stroller and walk around the neighborhood. If I need to think, clear my head, or just breathe, I don't even say anything to him for a block or two. I just walk and take in the scenery. 
  • Work it out.  I'm too cheap to spend money on a gym membership so I worked out at least 3 days per week before or after class at my school's gym. Now that I've graduated, I have workout videos that I use at home once Aiden is asleep. When the weather permits, I run outdoors. I love the workouts. The workouts love me. It's a win-win situation.  
  • Use the bathroom.  Well, not literally. But going into the bathroom, shutting the door behind me, and kindly letting Aiden know that I "need privacy and will be out in a minute" is my saving grace sometimes. I can meditate, take a deep breath, and remind myself that everything will be okay - it always is. 
  • Spend an extra 5 minutes in the shower.  It. Works. Wonders.  
  • Be in the moment.  It's so easy to entertain the many thoughts that are going through my mind and constantly think of the next thing that I need to get done. Instead, I try really, really hard to live in the moment with Aiden. Each stage he goes through is so precious and truly is a blessing. Before I know it, he'll outgrow this phase and move on to the next one. I don't want to miss out on it because I was too busy or too stressed or too... whatever! I just want to enjoy him, here and now, safely and sanely.  

    Alicia Harper

    Alicia is a NYC single mother, blogger, and full-time graduate student studying Psychological Counseling at Columbia University. Her life is filled with all things pink, except for the one touch of blue -- her rambunctious 3-year-old son. Together they make a great pair, and Alicia blogs about her trials and triumphs of being a young, single mom at Mommy Delicious, where she is the Founder and Editor. You can join the Mommy Delicious community on Facebook or follow her on Twitter


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  • I  loved this posting! You were right on point about everything! Great post!

  • The other option is to just be unavailable when it is the other parent's parenting time.  Sometimes I 'leave' the phone or make plans to be unavailable.  Doing this early on has helped to set a precedent and healthy boundaries.  That's not to say that he hasn't forgone time altogether or just showed up at inappropriate  times, but it has helped some.

  • I love going to the gym because it gives me time to myself and Harlan can play in their daycare area! Your tips are great!

  • Kudos for taking the high road and focusing inward instead of letting the actions of the "other parent" consume you. This is a good lesson for all moms -single, married,or partnered...when people let us down we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. we have to problem solve. thanks for setting a good example!

  • Alicia is a superstar and So inspiring!

  • You hit the nail on the simply can't be good to others if you're not good to yourself first.  xo

  • I'm so annoyed with Aiden's dad. In the end, the child is the one who really gets cheated. :( *sigh*

    Really true words - we MUST take care of ourselves first! And too often, as moms, we forget this.

  • Great post. That extra 5 minutes in the shower really does wonder. I take an extra 5 minutes on the regular.  And I certainly feel better when I work out.

  • So the comments here have certainly outdone the post. I think that it is so important to take care of yourself, otherwise it'll be way too hard to take care of a child.

    @KaneshaV -- Glad you found the tips helpful.

    @Missy June -- I'm certainly learning how to set the precedence with the other parent so that we can co-parent effectively. It's been an uphill battle, to say the least.

    @Teresha -- That's all I can do, right? I've learned that I am not responsible for anyone's actions, but my own. None of us are...

    @Yakini -- It WAS annoying. Very annoying. But *sigh... deep breath* I'm learning to take care of myself first so that when/if things like these happens, I'll be in better shape next time.

    @YUMMommy -- Those five extra minutes are HEAVENLY!

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