Single moms are often portrayed as superwomen.
We manage everything, on our own. And to the outside view, it can look like we’re handling everything without a hiccup. Single parenting often magnifies the good and the bad. It makes the good days easier and the bad days a whole lot harder. But mostly, single parenting means we’re busy, and it can be hard to be present.
Life as a single parent doesn’t allow time to get sick.
There’s no one else to cover for you, so you can spend a day in bed. Bad day, good day.. it doesn’t really matter, when there’s kids to be fed and changed and cleaned up after and put to bed and cuddled, and you’re the only grown up around.
It’s a whole lot easier when you’re having a good day. On the days that you feel energetic and productive, and you get three loads of laundry done, and read stories to the kids for an hour, and made a three course meal to boot — it’s a whole lot more enjoyable being the only adult around. And if you’ve come out of a bad relationship, good days like that are a huge boost to your self-esteem.
On the bad days, you may end up on the couch, with a bowl of popcorn (that your kids eat 3/4’s of), and the kids may not actually get dressed, and supper consists of cereal and juice. And you may let them watch movies or play computer games all day, while you surf Facebook on your phone. And you just ignore the fact that your toddler spilled the cat’s water — again.
Most days aren’t either good or bad.
Most days aren’t horribly bad.. nor are they the amazing “where’s-my-super-mom-cape” days either.
To be honest, most days, I wake up and hit the ground running.
The kids are dressed and fed, the cat’s water is cleaned up and refilled, and the laundry may actually make it into the dryer, at least. I can usually read at least one story too, most days. And if supper is chicken nuggets and fries, a few cut up veggies will usually show up too, as a token towards actual nutrition. And I comfort myself knowing I remembered their vitamins that morning.
Every once in a while, my day is memorable.
But most days, it’s such a blur, that between untangling the baby, chasing the little ones, refereeing the middle kids, and dealing, yet again, with my teen’s attitude, I don’t remember much.
They say to treasure each moment.
I simply try to make it through the moments. I think if I were to stop and think about what I’m doing every day, I’d panic and be overwhelmed. But who has time to stop and think?
Single parenting is mostly trying to keep up with everything. Though, isn’t that the definition of motherhood? Moms, single or not, are trying to keep up with everything, and we often feel like we’re failing.
If you’re a mom, a single mom or a partnered mom, you may feel like there’s more bad days than good. When at the end of the day, you look around and despite cleaning all day, it still looks the same as when you started, it can be hard to see what you’ve done. Part of motherhood is this series of never-ending tasks. That makes it difficult to ever feel like you’ve actually accomplished something.
How can you know you’re doing a good job, when you have nothing to show for the work you’ve done?
This post was originally part of a journal blog I started when I was knee-deep in diapers and sippy cups. I had a cold, and I wasn’t feeling like I was able to do anything. I was, and I still get frustrated. But over the years, I’ve learned a few things about recognizing my own work and worth.
First, planning changes your focus.
I’ve become a planner junkie. I love planners, and I’ve bought several different kinds over the years. I’ve tried bullet journalling, electronic calendars, pretty planning checklists, and even created my own. Sometimes, I’ve even resorted to old-fashioned notebook and pen, and just written out a list.
What you use to plan isn’t the point. What’s important is that you plan. Getting in the habit of planning helps you see what you need to do, see what you’ve gotten done, and be more realistic about what you can do.
There’s really nothing much more satisfying than checking off items on a to-do list.
If you can’t see what you’ve gotten done (because it’s gotten all undone!), at least it will be checked off the list. And seeing a crossed off list can help you relax at the end of the day, without the guilt.
The danger is when the list takes over. When your list gets too long and you spend more time on the list than actually doing anything, it’s no longer a useful tool. Then you need to throw out the lists, and move on to another strategy for planning.
Second, taking pictures helps you remember.
I hate getting my picture taken. I have horrid memories of awful 80s haircuts and awkward teen clothing choices, and I’ve never really gotten over that. And when you’re the only adult in the house, it can be hard to take pictures that include yourself. Too many selfies aren’t a good thing, right?
My avoidance of pictures of myself can sometimes mean that I’m avoiding taking pictures all together. And when I get busy and preoccupied, I don’t always remember to reach for the camera. But I’m doing both myself and my kids a disfavor.
Taking frequent pictures creates a record of your children’s childhood.
Even if it’s just a digital record, and you have a thousand-and-one pictures on your computer, it’s still a record. I keep thinking that I’ll never forget my kids’ infancy, but seriously, there are days when I can look at one of my girls and call them the wrong name!
There are apps that help you keep a record of your days. Try a baby book app like Qeepsake, that lets you text stories, photos and videos to their online cloud-based storage, with the date saved for you. And maybe try buying those disposable cameras. Let the kids have it, and let them take your picture too! They will thank you for it later.
Third, push pause more often.
We get busy. And as a single parent, we get busier. It can be hard to justify any kind of activity that isn’t getting it done. But pushing pause is just as important for our kids as it is for us.
I have a really bad habit of not looking at the child I’m speaking to, because my mind is already onto the next task I need to get done. It creates some funny situations, because I can forget then to even finish the sentence that I’m saying. And my kids will look at me funny, and remind me to keep my mind in the here-and-now, instead of on the next thing.
When I’m deliberate about what I’m saying, I look at them and I really see them. And that’s the behaviour I want to model. Because when I pause and I stay present in the moment, I am more respectful, more gentle, more polite and more patient. I’m a better mom for pushing pause. And my kids can feel the difference too. They are less defiant, more willing to help, and less cranky.
Pushing pause improves the atmosphere of your home.
If you’re frustrated with cranky kids, with multiplying messes, and dreading even walking in your door at night, it’s time to push pause. Yes, there’s a million things to do, but sometimes you need to slow down. Take a deep breath. Go out for that ice cream or spend the five extra minutes at the park with the kids. Read that extra few pages, or linger over the coffee for just a few second more.
Push pause. Look at them. Look around you and breathe it in, chaos and all.
Fourth, gratitude goes a long way.
The end result of the planning, the picture-taking and the pauses is that you’ll end up being grateful. And gratitude turns bad days in to not-so-bad days, or even good days. Because rather than focusing on what you don’t have, what isn’t done, the guilt or the overwhelm, you’ll see what you have.
You have children that adore you, (even when they’re yelling at you!). The messy house means you have a home and possessions to get messy. And yes, I may be a single parent, but there’s a lot of perks to that. I can appreciate them more when I take the time to be present.
And oddly enough, gratitude makes it easier to get more done.