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Doing it Alone On Motherhood

3 Relationships That Change When You’re a Single Mom

Getting Real with Dynisha Smith

As a single mom, I engage differently. All of my relationships have mutated, mostly for the better, but change can be a hard pill to swallow. I can only hope I’m not alone, and this resonates with the other single parents, especially mothers, out there.

My Mother & I

My own mother ended up being a single mom after fourteen years of marriage – something that I don’t think was in the cards. She is a loyal, caring, yet demanding type of mother. Her expectations were high, her disappointment worse than any other consequence, but her praise and support greatly outweighed that pressure. I would never imagine finding myself asserting my own opinions, especially when it comes to my own daughter, with my mother. Not when we grew up ‘yes mam’ and ‘no mam’. But I do. I am fiercely assertive over my domain including the way I run my house, and the way I am choosing to raise my daughter – and thankfully overall my mom gets that and respects it – but we are on a different path than she is with her other kids. Our relationship isn’t better or worse, just different.

My Relationship with Romance

Dating is harder. I don’t have the ability to swipe right and meet that same night – not that it’s safe to do that – always meet in public and drop a pin fam. The spontaneity of dating is lost when you have the sole responsibility of a five year old on your plate. It’s almost like work. You find someone attractive, have some good conversation, meet once or twice – and then amongst all of the normal ‘work’ of dating, you get to play “Tell Them About My Kid Now or Later” game. Telling them now could speed up some processes – not everyone wants to date a parent – and lead to a quick end or a beautiful beginning. But telling them later also allows you to focus on YOU and gives back some power, at least to this woman. Either way it’s a hard choice that turns dating into more work for single parents. And why yes the word up top is romance – even your relationship with the word is different. The concept seems, per the reasons outlined above – almost comical, unicorn-like, something I attain to have but probably never will again.

Old and New Friendships

Friend Envy is Real. We all have that glamorous friend who spends more on mimosas, travel, and make up in one month than most of us single parents do all year. Their hair glistens and flows, their nails are always done, and their Instagram is regularly updated. You have a love hate relationship with this friend. Maybe you were this friend pre-single parenthood. Every once in a while, childless envy can rear its ugly head. Guess what? Its normal.

There isn’t a parent on this planet that doesn’t have some sort of nostalgia when your glamourous/single/unattached/bachelor friend comes into town. But guess what else? There are hundreds of people out there who get child-FULL envy – they wish they had a small child full of wonder to go through life with. So even when all your single friends are gearing up for a festival or a trip to Vegas that you can’t attend – that’s where your parent friends come in. These are those new (and sometimes old friends you reconnected with) friendships that you’ve made through daycare, Sunday school, playdates, etc. These are the times where getting together can help cut that envy time way down. My relationship with friends is completely different, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Doing it Alone

Things That are Hard to Do as a Single Parent

Getting Real With Sara Haley

As a single parent, there are a lot of things that can be extremely difficult to do on your own. Not that they’re impossible, because parents have found ways to get around these situations in the past, but they can definitely make everyday, mundane tasks take twice as long with twice as much effort. What used to take you a quick second to do now requires herding children and finding creative ways to accomplish them without a second adult around to carry the weight and chip in. Here are just a few things that I have found can be harder to do as a single parent–but not necessarily impossible.

Running Errands

When you’ve got a list a mile long of things you need to do today, toting around a child or two can make the easiest trip to the store a daylong event.   The term “running in and out of the store” is no longer a phrase in your vocabulary. Depending on the age of your children, a quick drop-in into Walmart can end up being an hour or so of hauling a car seat with the cart, repeatedly telling your child that ice cream is NOT an option for dinner, and wrestling wandering children that refuse to sit in the cart and let you sift through your coupons uninterrupted. You may find yourself telling your child, “put that down,” “stay by Mommy,” and “no” repeatedly until even you are annoyed at hearing it.  Winding through the aisles to get to the back of the store for milk is not as easy to do as it was sans children–or with the help of your ex.

Attending “Adult” Appointments

The last thing you need to do is bring your six year old son in with you to your gynecologist appointment. At a certain age, this is just not appropriate, and fortunately, many nurses are okay with stepping out with your child and distracting them with some books from the waiting area or a lollipop from the candy basket.  If you’re a single mom needing to attend an “adult” appointment such as this, ask a nurse if they can take your child outside for a moment, or even see if you can line up a friend or relative to watch your child while you make your appointment. Return the favor when they need the same done with their child.

Strollers vs. Manual Open Doors

Have you ever gone somewhere with your child in a baby stroller and been faced with a manual open door with no one around to open it for you? Yeah, ‘nuf said.

Dating / Sex

At some point in time, no matter when your last relationship ended, there comes a point where you realize you miss the companionship of a boyfriend or spouse. And let’s face it–as women, we have needs, too, just like our children do. But we spend so much time putting their needs and desires first that we sometimes forget that we deserve a little down time and enjoyment, too. Finding time (and energy!) to date can seem nearly impossible, but this is when it pays to get creative. If your ex spends time with the kids, make this “you” time. On the weekends he has your children, schedule a date night and take advantage of an overnight without the children. If your ex does not share custody of the children and you are unable to enjoy these benefits, pair up with another single mother friend of yours and alternate babysitting nights.  Some churches also offer “Mom’s Night Out” which includes babysitting and entertainment for your children. And if worse comes to worst, there is always the option to allow “late night” dates, in which you enjoy a nice movie at home after the kids go to bed.

Going to the Bathroom

Most every single parent’s most mentioned complaint about dealing with a child in public includes the dreaded restroom break. If you’re sitting at a restaurant and one child needs to use the restroom, you have to grab everything from your table and run the whole herd back to the bathrooms.  If you’re dealing with an infant, this includes scoping out a changing table, changing a diaper, and hauling the “entire house” with you in an oversized diaper bag, aka Mommy’s Duffel Bag. Depending on the age of your children, a bathroom break can be quick or extensive, and if you have numerous kids needing to go to the bathroom, you’re trying to take care of all of them while leaving the stall doors open so that none of them lock themselves in and require an under-door rescue from mom. All the while, your food has been delivered to the table and is getting cold, and you’re contemplating a cold beer once you’ve made it back to the table thirty minutes later with the kids in tow.  Taking children to the bathroom as a single parent can be exhausting, but once you’ve done it a couple of times, you get used to it…kinda…

Emergency Room Visits

Your daughter wakes up in the middle of the night vomiting and with an extremely high fever. Instead of being able to run your daughter to the doctors while your hubby stays home with the rest of the kids while they sleep, you need to wake up the others, pack up some stuff, and head to the ER at two in the morning with all kids (sick and healthy). The night of numerous children ends up being disrupted, resulting in an over-tired mother the next day, along with all the others just as crabby and sleep deprived. A simple ER trip becomes a hassle, a mess, and a disruption to everyone in the house.

Traveling

I have recently discovered how difficult this is with a child. My mother used to travel with five kids on her own when my dad was in the military, and I wonder some days exactly how she did it. During a recent trip that involved taking my child on an airplane, I realized exactly how hard it can be to travel with a child. Though my daughter is three and doesn’t require near the “accessories” as one traveling with an infant, I had to be sure to bring her own backpack full of things to entertain her on the plane trip. Crayons, coloring books, snacks, etc., just for a little two hour flight. But on top of that, we had to bring her stuffed doggie. And don’t even get me started on flight delays! Ironically, when it came to holding anything, she conveniently made Mommy carry everything on her own, while she ran free without a care in the world.  Carry-on bags for both me and her, as well as luggage, makes for one stressed parent! I felt bad waiting in line to get on a flight where a woman had a large stroller, child’s car seat, and two kids (one infant and another probably three years of age) all while lugging a large purse, child’s backpack, a soda, and a huge diaper bag packed to the brim.

Christmas Shopping

When your child is under the age of about three, you can get away with Christmas shopping while they’re with you. Infants don’t even understand why you’re buying what you are and young toddler has the short-term memory of a fruit fly, so you can easily get away with Christmas shopping while they’re with you.  However, once they’re about three or four, this is no longer possible. You can put that toy in the cart hoping that they’ll forget about it later, or you might find yourself prying it from their hands as you leave the store, wishing they never got a glance at it.

Since becoming a single parent, these are just a few things I have dealt with on my own. No longer can I enlist the help of my husband, but I do have a network of some pretty amazing friends and family that have helped make the transition a little easier on me and my daughter!  What do you find to be a difficult task to complete when juggling parenthood alone?

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Doing it Alone Let's Talk

“Me Time” for the Single Mom

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!