New single moms often find themselves living a very unbalanced life. Whether they are a single mom to a new baby or have just left a relationship and are now single, between work, caring for their child, cooking, eating, bathing (themselves and the kids) and sleeping, they can often go for days, weeks, or even months doing nothing for themselves.
But there’s something important to remember about being a single mother: you’re also a single woman. Scratch that – you’re a woman. Period.
Before you had kids, you were a woman with her own interests, hobbies, ideas, dreams, and hopes. Having kids shouldn’t eliminate those things. It may require putting some things on hold (a bit difficult to go into outer space when you’ve got kids at home, right?), but even then, it should be only temporary.
The problem is, we spend so much time doing the things we think we need to do that we never find time to do the things we want to do. Instead of creating a to do list a mile long, start prioritizing what you really need to do and what you don’t need to do – and make sure to include things that are just for you on that new list.
Take advantage of free time: Grandparents often love to babysit and will practically beg you to let them take the kid(s) for a night. But we hear so much about how independent single mothers need to be, or how they take advantage of grandparents, or any number of other things that make us feel guilty about taking them up on the offer. Kids deserve to have time to bond with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, so why not take them up on it? Let Grandma have the kids on a Saturday night and you can head over to Bonkerz Comedy Club at 1227 SW 17th Street for dancing and music. If that’s not your style, head over to Blockbuster and rent a couple of good movies, pop up some popcorn and grab a cold soda.
Enjoy your solo weekends: Depending on how you became a single parent, chances are good you’ll have at least a couple of free weekends every month while the kids are with their other parent. For many single parents, they find that they spend more time sitting around the house missing their kids or doing kid-related things (cleaning out closets, toy chests, doing laundry, etc.) than they do doing things they enjoy. When your kids are with their other parent, act like a single person! Grab a book and head to Carney Island to sit on the beach and read between dips. Load up your mountain bike and head over to Greenway Park and hit the bike trail. Get involved with a bowling league. Go out to the movies, the bar, Bankshot Billiards. If you’re reading this and thinking “But none of those interest me,” the point is get out there and do something that is for you, a single adult, and has nothing to do with the fact that you have kids.
Stay up late: The kids might go to bed at 8 or 9pm, but that doesn’t make it your bedtime, too. Unless you’re truly tired or need to get up early, take advantage of free time after the kids are in bed to enjoy your hobbies. You can hire a sitter if you want to enjoy something out of the house, but there are plenty of hobbies you may enjoy that can be done right in your own home – and without waking the kids. You can read, watch movies, play computer or video games, enjoy a number of crafts, chat on the phone with friends or long distance family. You can research travel destinations for your next family vacation or for the trips you’d love to take once the kids are grown and on their own. You can even research hobbies: maybe you’re into photography, and can’t go out to take pictures once the kids are in bed – instead, research cameras, great locations for photos, tips and information about picture taking.
Include the kids: You might be surprised at how quickly the kids could get involved in your own hobbies. I love photogaphy, and my kids both got cameras for Christmas last year – they are getting more into taking photos than I am. If they enjoy your hobby with you, then you can head off to snap photos, load up the family’s bikes to hit the bike trail, or form your own bowling team together. While you obviously still need some time to yourself, including your kids in your hobby can give you the best of both worlds.
Fantasize: Even when you’re impossibly busy and simply can’t find time to do things you enjoy, you can still fantasize. You can dream about the trips you’ll take, or make a mental list of the books you want to read or the movies you want to see. You can also think about upcoming plans – maybe there’s a concert your going to next weekend, or you have plans for a girls night out. Daydream about how nice it will be. Or remember a time recently when you did do something you enjoyed – the feelings that go along with that memory will not only get you through, but will also remind you how great it feels to immerse yourself in things you enjoy and motivate you to find time for your hobbies.
Being a parent requires a huge commitment and most of your time. But it also requires you to be a person outside of a parent. You can be a better parent by enjoying things that have nothing to do with your kids, and doing them without your kids, than if you focus everything you have on your kids. You’ll be happier, and they’ll be happier. Though they may never come right out and thank you for it, they will appreciate it.