Self-care for single moms during the festive season – yes you also need it, you deserve it, and you can make time for it. Here is how
Parenting is tough, especially when you really really really want to be a good parent.
Focusing on your kids while focusing on your career, your finances, your responsibilities, and all of those myriads of other things we inevitably end up having to deal with, can leave you drained and depleted. Especially when you need to carry these burdens by yourself as a solo parent. What most single parents, and single moms in general, forget to focus on is themselves. There never seems to be enough time or space or money or whatever the excuse is to take care of themselves. And then the festive season rolls around, aggravating everything.
Yes, our lives are busy. Yes, we do have seemingly more important things to focus on. Yes, we are allowed to live for our kids. But no – you are not allowed to forget yourself. And no, self-care is not selfish. You are not taking time or money or space away from the people you love. You are not neglecting your kids when you take care of you. In actual fact, you are improving yourself for them. You are ensuring that you have the mental clarity, the energy, the patience and the willingness to give them more of yourself, more of the time.
A recent study has shown that moms work an average of 98 hours a week and that the average mom only gets about 17 min of free time to herself every day. And that is for the typical mom who has a coparent who helps! That means she works an average of 16 hours a day, 6 days of the week. If you remember that a day only has 24 hours, and she spends 16 hours working, that leaves a meagre 8 hours to live her life. And of those 8 hours, only 17 minutes are spent on herself. That is nothing! But if you are working those type of hours, and you only get a few minutes of alone time during the day, then let’s figure out ways to make those minutes count.
Luckily for all over-worked and stressed-out single moms out there, self-care doesn’t have to be expensive (or cost anything), time-consuming, or scheduled. Basically, self-care can be anything, or any scenario, where you place your own needs first. It can be something as small as stopping for a coffee and sipping it in silence, to buying a tub of your favourite ice cream and eating it in bed (after your kids have gone to bed), or putting lotion on your whole body. Nothing major, nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking, just small gestures that make you feel recognised and appreciated.
In a nutshell, self-care rests on 5 pillars, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual.
• Physical self-care – This refers to making sure you get enough rest, eat healthy and nutritional foods, drink enough water, and exercise. Incorporating these things into your lifestyle are more than just healthy habits, they help you be at your best each and every day.
• Emotional self-care – This type of self-care involves recognising and acknowledging your feelings and working through them. Sharing your thoughts with others or writing them down can help, too. Journaling is a very effective method of self-care.
• Social self-care – This taps into your sense of belonging. When you’re in contact with others who care about you, your responsibilities feel less overwhelming and the challenges you’re facing can be put into perspective.
• Intellectual self-care – Often ignored, this refers to your need to continue learning and growing, improving yourself on the way.
• Spiritual self-care – Broaden your sense of self in relation to the rest of the world. This can involve regular practices like meditation and prayer, being out in nature, or going to church.
Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to self-care, but if there were, the first rule most likely would be: Forgive yourself. With so much responsibility placed on your shoulders, having to care and look after a family, it is not surprising that many moms feel excessive guilt over insignificant things, such as a messy house, unwashed dishes, or laundry that needs folding. Really, unless your home is unsafe, a bit of disorganization is to be expected in a household with children.
Here are a few of my suggestions on how to incorporate self-care into your daily lives when you don’t even have time to eat breakfast:
Scrape out 20 minutes for yourself daily, then do one of the following:
1. Go somewhere local that you’ve never been before—explore your local attractions. Take the kids with for those attractions that are kid-friendly.
2. Decide on something that you’re going to savour today—taking a shower, walking, making dinner, or reading. “Savour” it instead of just “doing” it.
3. Think of one activity you could cut out of your schedule that you wouldn’t miss at all. Then actually cut it out of your schedule.
4. Write down one goal or intention you have for the week and post it on your fridge. Take everything else (like magnets, pictures, art projects, to-do lists, etc.) off your fridge.
5. Follow the “rule of three.” Always be consciously aware of three things you’re looking forward to.
6. Get your nails done, or do it yourself. Even if you just slap on a coat of colour, you will feel miles better.
7. Let yourself be blue for a bit – having a pity party can be wonderful for the soul. Cuddle under a blanket, play sad bluesy music, eat chocolate ice cream, or cry. But then pick yourself up again and look the world squarely in the eyes.
8. Sit on the couch and put your feet up and close your eyes. Take a catnap or a daydream nap. Notice what shows up when you close your eyes.
9. Do a single tiny household chore that’s been bothering you—clean and organise one cupboard, clean the microwave, do your filing. Pat yourself on the back for completing it.
10. Do a short meditation by closing your eyes, breathing deeply and focusing on your breath.
11. Download a gratitude app or get yourself a gratitude journal, and record what you’re thankful for—e.g. a short commute, a great babysitter, a cosy home.
12. Go for a walk (preferably in nature).
13. Plan a special one-on-one date with your child—drink a milkshake, go to the library, or swing in the park.
14. Make yourself something enjoyable to drink, such as chamomile tea, hot chocolate or juice, and savour it sip by sip.
15. Listen to music.
16. Listen to an inspirational podcast.
17. Go ahead and make your annual doctor or dentist appointment. Don’t see it as a chore or a bother, rather see it as an investment. After all, you are giving yourself the gift of health.
18. Say “Yes” to something you’d really like to do!
19. Exercise your creativity. Do some colouring, paint something, or write something. If you are not creative (everyone is creative in some way, but if you do not feel creative) then find something that you are comfortable doing.
20. Hug your kids!
21. Surround yourself with pictures of the people you love and the things you care about.
22. Give yourself permission to say “No” to something you really don’t have time for or are not interested in.
23. If you like to cook, find and try a fun, new recipe, or make yourself a special dessert.
24. Do a “home spa” treatment with some scrub, clay mask, good lotion, soothing music, and some candles.
25. Take an extra-long shower or bath.
26. Take a nap. Just remember that in order for it to be truly restful, the nap should be limited to a 20- to 30-minute “power nap.”
27. Grow something – plants, herbs, or flowers. If you do not have a garden or access to one, you can create a window-sill garden.
29. Exercise. Even if you can only muster a long walk.
30. Call a friend or loved one and say, “I’m having a hard time with this. Do you mind if I talk this out with you?”
Self-care is just that — taking care of yourself. I am now in my early 30s, with 2 kids. I have realised that as my responsibilities grew, and I have gotten older, it takes a bit more effort to make me look good, as well as feel good. There are a few things that I have incorporated into my own life to help me look and feel good, and I have become very conscious of my decisions and their consequences. Some of the things I do regularly, if not daily: I get up at 5 a.m. to give me enough time to exercise, read the Bible, and plan my day before the kids wake up; I take a long bath once a week; I take out library books and try to read at least 1 book a month; I cook from scratch 6 days a week, with the 7th being open for takeout or whatever we feel like. Having a schedule but enough grace to allow for flexibility is also helping to make me feel important and cared for.
I want to emphasise the fact that self-care is not selfish. When I take care of myself, I’m a happier person, and when I’m happy, my family is happy. You know what they say – “happy wife, happy life”. Since that does not apply in my scenario, I need to change it to “cared for mom, content kids”. Taking time for self-care is not taking time away from the children; it’s actually to their benefit, and very necessary.