My kitchen floor has become my go-to crying spot. This wasn’t an intentional choice. It’s not like my kitchen floor is particularly comfortable or cushy. I just have a knack for falling apart in my kitchen because I spend most of my time in there either cooking, cleaning, and apparently contemplating all my life choices while sobbing my eyes out in front of my dishwasher. There’s something comforting about the warmth that emanates from a running dishwasher. Yes, I realize how sad that sounds.
It’s also typically my first stop after I get the kids in bed, and I finally feel like I can let loose because they aren’t watching. Or I run out of the energy I need to keep it together.
I’m one of those single moms that felt like a single parent long before I really was one. Not to say my ex didn’t do anything with the kids, but his idea of spending quality time with them was laying on the couch watching tv on his computer while they were somewhere in the same vicinity. There’s no big tragic story to the breakdown of our marriage. It became abundantly clear he didn’t really want to be a partner. He wanted a maid, babysitter, cook, and paycheck that he didn’t have to be responsible for earning on a consistent basis. At least, that’s how I was made to feel.
A result of not having a true partner I could count on was the neglect of my own self-care. I’m a former social worker, so self-care is one of those things we preach a lot about but are completely hypocritical about doing ourselves. The last nine months have been brutal because I don’t have the support or means to take time for myself. Babysitters these days aren’t making what I made as a babysitter. It’s nice to know someone has gotten a cost of living raise through the years. Still, it makes it practically impossible to get away and recharge because I can’t justify paying a babysitter when my ability to put gas in my car through the month is questionable.
This means I’ve had to get creative, and while I can’t say I’m doing a bang-up job, I can share some of the thing I’ve done that have been helpful: 1. Getting Active: I will never be a body builder, but 2018 was such a traumatizing year that I ended up gaining a significant amount of weight. I noticed health issues popping up that I’d never had before, and I just felt awful and my energy was suffering (more so than just from being a sleep deprived mom). Time and resources were/are tight, so I committed to 10-15 minutes of exercise per day and started with a burpee challenge (I’m a wimp, so Day 1 was literally 1 burpee). I have also made it a point to get out with the kids more. We’ve started hiking local trails and greenways because I want to set an example for them. My progress isn’t fast, but it’s steady, and I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel. If all you can do is 5 sit- ups, it’s better than the nothing you probably felt like doing. The other night, all I could muster the energy for was 5 burpees.
2. Saying “No” without guilt: It’s easy to feel like we have to overcompensate for the absence of the other parent, which makes it hard to say no when our kids just want us to lay in bed a little longer or read one more story. I had to learn my limits (the hard way) that I need alone time to recharge, and after the kids’ bedtime is the only time to do that. So, while there are nights I gladly snuggle longer, there are also nights where I tell them “not tonight.” It’s ok to explain to them that you’re tired, and you also need to rest. They aren’t going to remember the few nights you took to yourself when you are consistently engaged with them. It’s also modeling to them that it’s ok to do things to take care of yourself. 3. Rediscovering passions: Once I learned how to write words, I was a writer. I loved to write as a kid, as a teen, and up until parenthood took the time and energy from me. I can’t go out and learn new hobbies yet, but I did buy a bunch of notebooks on sale and started writing again. Hobbies are typically the first thing to go when we get overwhelmed all our responsibilities but find 10 minutes of your day to do something you enjoy. Whether that’s settling in with a book (libraries are great for parents on a budget), turning on a cheesy Hallmark movie (don’t judge), or pulling out the dusty guitar and strumming a few cords.
At the end of the day, we must watch out for ourselves because nobody will do it for us, and we won’t be any good to anybody if we let ourselves burn out. Finding ways to manage our own mental and physical well-being is tough when you don’t get any kind of break, but there are ways to slowly build those into your everyday life. What is something you can do for yourself today?
Courtesy Kaycee Shiley IG:kayceelvs