Life as a single mom isn’t so bad…unless it’s tax season and it’s not your year to claim your child (yeah, that’s me). Once you get past the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs for the kiddos – you’ve fed them, kept them safe, clothed them, educated them and provided them with some stability, it’s time to get over the mom guilt and begin to rebuild your life. This means spending some of that energy on you.
Some women I know give and give and give and give to their kids which is selfless and great, but they fail to focus on themselves and end up unhappy, frustrated, overwhelmed and burned out. It doesn’t have to be this way! Being a single mom can be a wonderful and rewarding experience; it just takes a little extra effort. And though it would make things easier, a fat alimony check or trust fund are not necessary to thrive as a single mom. Here are a few things you do need.
1. You Need Alone Time
As unselfish and humble it sounds to say that your kids come first, if you put them first all the time, you’re actually doing everyone a disservice. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will find that you won’t have the energy to take care of anyone else. In the case of a cabin pressure change during a flight, you’re always advised to put on YOUR oxygen mask before assisting your children. Otherwise, you won’t be able to breathe; you’ll pass out and be incapacitated to help anyone else.
As a single mom, you need to BREATHE. You need time spent for yourself, by yourself. Whether this means sneaking in an hour after the kiddos go to bed to watch your favorite TV show with a big bowl of ice cream you don’t have to share or swapping with a friend for babysitting duties to grab a cup of coffee without the kidlets in tow, make alone time a priority.
Look, I get it. Between your work and the kid’s school, homework, extracurricular activities, you are pulled a million different directions. It is overwhelming as part of a parenting team, and insanity when it’s just you. No matter what your custody schedule is with your ex, find some time for YOU. A happy mom makes for happy kids.
2. You Need A Strong Support System
Every single mom needs a village behind her (the whole village concept is no joke, especially as an Asian). The first thing my dad said when I told my parents I was getting a divorce was an offer for me to move back in with them so they could take care of us. I’m grateful to have parents that support me 150%. My family is and has always been my rock. Though they aren’t nearby to help with things like watching my daughter off the cuff, my mom is always there to listen or whisk me off on a vacation and my dad has been known to slip me money “just to buy myself something nice.” Having a supportive family on holidays where I don’t have my daughter has made them not only bearable but still an opportunity to make memories even without my daughter.
Aside from family, you also need friends. Right after my divorce, my friends really stepped up. My best friend (who was there way before life fell apart) continued to do whatever she could from being a listening ear to baking me cookies to driving me around when I didn’t have a car to watching my daughter whenever I needed it. I had two drinking buddies and neighbors who were there to help me have fun and forget when I had to drop my daughter off for the weekend and a roommate who stayed up late talking life and watching sappy movies when sleep alluded me. All my friends where not only people I could count on to help me logistically, but I could count on them to tell me the (sometimes difficult to hear) truth, make me laugh, give me advice, help me forget about my problems, and tell me to peel myself off the floor and start being the awesome person they knew me to be when I needed to hear it the most.
3. You Need Wine Or A Dog…Or Both
So maybe you don’t drink. That’s fine (but I admit that wine really helped get me through some tough days). Get a dog. There’s something about a dog (or cat) that can put a smile on your face after a long day. Cuddling a dog who loves you unconditionally can heal a soul. If a dog is too much to handle, find something that can help you escape from reality from time to time (not anything illegal). I’m talking about a good book or movie, a walk on the beach or a strong cup of coffee. Maybe your escape mechanism is making lists (that’s one of mine). Find your thing – something that you can look forward to after a difficult day; just don’t overdo it – a bottle of wine, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or staying up until 3 am each night reading/watching TV shows will create an opposite effect. Remember, everything in moderation.
4. You Need Hobbies
Take up knitting or running or MMA (speaking from experience, that helps get out a lot of aggression) or Salsa dancing. Find something you can do for you – it can be with the kids or as your alone time/sanity saving activity. You are more than a mom. You are a woman, and you need to have your own interests and outlets. Taking the kids to endless dance lessons, softball practices, and wrestling matches is your mom duty, but as a person, you need to have some outside interests for your own mental health and state of mind. Otherwise, what’s going to happen when your kiddos grow up and move out…you won’t know who the heck you are, and you’ll struggle to find your purpose. Carve out some independence for yourself within your role as a single mom. Your identity is more than just your children.
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5. You Need Creativity
As a single mom, you’ll find lots of times you’ll need to be creative. Whether it’s to make this month’s paycheck stretch or to figure a way to juggle any number of things you have to juggle. Perhaps you’re on a tight budget, and your kid is begging for a new Xbox for his birthday, finding a suitable alternative – negotiating to split the cost with your ex or finding a way to put in a few overtime hours at work – you’ll need to be creative. Maybe you have a box of macaroni and cheese, soy sauce and an apple in the house, and it’s two days before pay day – you’ll need to be creative. You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t get your child during a holiday or their birthday or some other special occasion – you’ll need to be creative. Creativity goes a long way to thriving as a single mom.
Being a mom is tough, being a single mom is even more tough, but you can do it and do it well. I believe in you and one day when your kids are grown, they will look back and appreciate all that you sacrificed for them to thrive…but it all starts with you. Go forth and thrive!