Getting Real With Sara Haley

You hear it a lot, and you think it on a daily basis:

There are never enough hours in a day.

As much as everyone believes this, the same is true especially for us single moms. And what happens to us over time as we try and balance work, kids, and housekeeping? Burnout. Pure exhaustion, along with mental and physical burnout.

Unlike our married counterparts, single moms can never catch a break. We try to do it all–because we have to–and overwork ourselves to the bone because our kids come first. But remember the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” This couldn’t illustrate more the importance of putting our sanity, health, and well-being above all else every now and then.

It is essential to carve out “me time.” But we don’t have husbands to hire for nanny duty while we lounge in the tub all evening, and some of us don’t live close enough to family to ask them for a babysitting night. We never get a chance to “clock out” from being a mom and “clock in” to our emotional and physical needs. But I cannot stress how important it is to unwind and destress every now and then.

So how can you do it? If you’re a single mom like me, making it on her own and trying to raise some youngin’s, here are a few options to help you focus on YOU and learn to schedule in some time for yourself every now and then!

Enforce a bedtime. No matter what the age of your children, you need to set up a designated time for them to be in bed. If you can get your kids to bed at eight, and you don’t go to sleep until after the ten o’clock news, then you just bought yourself two and a half hours every day to do as you please (within reason, of course!) until your bedtime. Once the kids have drifted off, slip into the tub and enjoy a soak, or indulge in a glass of wine as you watch the evening news. Setting aside this time not only allows you some scheduled “me time” every day, but it ensures that your children are on a set schedule for bed and are getting a good night’s sleep.

Invest in sweat equity. As exhausting as a trip to the gym might sound, reconsider. Exercising on a regular basis is essentially your body’s natural anti-depressant, and putting in some miles on the treadmill can actually help you feel MORE energized. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your mind! Consider checking with your local gym to find out if they offer free drop-in child care (most YMCA’s do during certain times). You can head to the gym, drop off the kids at the daycare, and bust out some mileage on the treadmill, enjoy a yoga class, or swim a few laps in the pool. I myself cannot say enough about the mental and physical benefits of yoga–I regularly attend my local YMCA’s yoga class twice a week, and don’t know what I would do without it!

Set up a babysitting swap. If you have a number of friends with kids, consider doing a babysitting swap. Grab a few parenting friends, set up a rotation where one parent has the kids together one evening, and the other parents then get to enjoy a night off. If you have three friends and rotate through a month, you will have three kid-free days and one evening where you watch the munchkins. This is a great way to pencil in “me time,” and can get you on a schedule and looking forward to a night at the movies or a date night with a new love interest!

Set the alarm clock earlier. This might seem dreadful, but set your alarm clock for fifteen minutes before you get up and get your kids out of bed. This fifteen minutes of quiet time before the morning chaos starts can be enough for you to quietly sit at the table with a cup of coffee and your laptop and catch up with some Facebook friends before the hectic day begins. This is a great way to start every morning, and can help you feel awake and ready to tackle the day once the first child gets up and starts preparing for school.

Utilize visitation time. If your child’s father is still in the picture and has visitation scheduled every other weekend (or whatever you and your ex have worked out), then take full advantage of this time away from the kids. Instead of using these weekends to catch up on housework and run errands, be selfish and spend it all on yourself! Hit the spa, catch a (non-animated!) movie at the cinema, plan a lunchtime cocktail with a friend, or finally indulge in that book you’ve been meaning to read.

Cherish nap time. Does your child still take naps? If so, don’t use this time to clean house–use it to make a cup of coffee and enjoy a good book in the peace and quiet you rarely get to enjoy! Even if your children are a little older and no longer take naps, you can still use this as “quiet time.” Let your children know that they need to stay in bed for a set amount of time, and have a set activity that they can do quietly during this period. Quiet time can be a time where you can pop in a DVD movie in their room to watch, or where they can sit and read some books in their bed. Who knows, they may even get some shut eye while watching that movie!