Sometimes in single parenthood, or any type of parenthood, the babysitting offers aren’t exactly flooding in and you have to figure out how to manage it all by yourself. It can be difficult, especially if your kids aren’t napping or sleeping at night or if you never get to go out without them. I am definitely not an expert on parenting advice: I feel like I’m improvising most of the time. (That was a fancy way of saying I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.) But I have had long periods of time without a minute away from my kids so I have figured out some tips that have helped me survive.
If you have more than one kid, trying to control their sleep patterns as much as possible is crucial, because without doing this you don’t have a minute alone, and if you don’t have a minute alone you get snappy and turn into mean mummy. When my second baby was born I put her down for a nap at the same time as her sister, even if she lay awake resting so that she got used to having a nap at that time of the day. They learned how to nap at the same time as each other. Have the same bedtime each night and a bedtime routine that is predictable. If they know it is approaching, they won’t fight it as much.
Have House Hobbies
It is really easy to feel like you are losing your sense of self when all you are doing is caring for kids, constantly. I think it’s important to have at least one thing of your own that you love doing that you can do at home (when you’re trapped in the house when they are asleep.) If you pick something soothing like painting or reading it isn’t too taxing and it gives you a sense of purpose outside of parenting.
Use Travel Cups
I hear so many mums talking about how they never get a cup of coffee or tea when their kids are awake because they just spill it everywhere. At least if you use a travel it reduces the chance of them kicking it all over you. Having something resembling a coffee break definitely preserves your sanity. (Even if you still need to reheat it fifteen times.)
Snack Time Is Your Saviour
When things are getting fraught in my house, I bring out the snacks. You can make it into a mini tea party so it keeps your kids occupied for a while and you get to sit down for a minute.
Have Pamper Evenings
I hate the term self-care, so I’m not going to use it. However, since the prospect of going to a spa any time soon is unrealistic, make your own at home. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can get face masks in the pound shop. Scented oils smell like spas. Use tea lights and turn the lights off; it is infinitely more relaxing. Also if you’re sitting in a dark candlelit room you can almost imagine that you aren’t stuck in your house.
Go For Long Walks Or Drives
As long as no one is hungry or over tired, long walks and drives can be a life saver. If your kids are contained in a pram it gives you much needed head space. If they are walking, there is enough happening around them to do the entertainment so you don’t have to. Plus getting out in fresh air always improves my mood when I’m losing it. Similarly, as long as your kids aren’t cranky and throwing a fit in the backseat of the car, they are safely strapped in and it gives you space and time to think.
Have Treats To Look Forward To
It is easy to get disheartened as a single parent when you feel like there is nothing to look forward to. Sometimes the days can all blend together into absolute monotony. Have a cupboard full of treats for when your kids are in bed, or for when you’re hiding from a tantrum in the kitchen. Buy packs of projects to do at home. You can easily find cheap packs of card making supplies or adult colouring books. I always find that creating something lifts my mood and makes me feel like I still have a life of my own.
Have A Weekly Tradition Just For You
This could be something simple like a bottle of wine, a takeaway night or a box set you want to watch. If you only make it a weekly tradition it gives you the impression that there is something special to look forward to. Your time is mostly divided between entertaining and caring for your kids and sitting at home while they are in bed, so you have to make that time interesting.
Community Events With A Creche
Sometimes I find that these events aren’t well advertised, but if you ask around they do exist; make phone calls and ask around. I currently attend an art class for mums that has a creche. It gives you a break for a couple of hours and allows you to do something for yourself. One thing usually leads to another, so if you go to every mums and tots available, or find a community centre, women’s centre, Sure Start or even the library, you end up with more to attend than you have days to fit them into. It is really important to talk to other mums and meet people who understand what you are going through.
Don’t Have Unachievable Expectations For Yourself
I need to listen to this one. It is easy to be hard on yourself as a mum and to feel like you are failing in everything you do, but try and remember that you are juggling a lot. You are doing a job alone that was designed for two. This could also apply to mums with partners who work a lot or aren’t hugely involved. You can’t compare yourself to other mums because everyone’s circumstances are entirely different. Forgive yourself if you snap: you aren’t a one woman show, even though it might feel like it a lot of the time.
I hope this was at least a bit helpful and gives some ideas of ways to hold onto yourself through the draining experience that motherhood can sometimes be.