Being a single mom is tough work. If you’re a lone mother, you’re on the job 24-7, and all-too-often solely responsible for supporting the family financially as well as emotionally. On the other hand, if you share custody, it often feels like something so important is missing when the kids are away.
Most of us never expected to end up single parents; we didn’t sign up for this! Whether your ex is still in your kids’ lives or not, you probably often feel overwhelmed by a to-do list the length of your arm, as well as feeling isolated and like you’ve lost all sense of “me” when you became a single mom. And if you’re the only adult in the house, you don’t have a shoulder to cry on; you don’t want your kids to be worried about you, so you do your best to put on a brave face even when you really feel like curling up into the fetal position, in a fortress of blankets, with a bottle of wine (glass not necessary).
All of this is perfectly normal. It’d be hard to find a single mother who doesn’t feel this way sometimes. But so much of happiness is about outlook, not circumstances; some things are out of your control, but there are always still plenty of things to be grateful and happy for!
Kids have a way of seeing the joy in life, getting excited over little things and having fun. You’ve taught your kids lots of important things, but they have some lessons to teach you too!
1. You need to take more me-time.
A research study of single mothers in Japan found that single mothers living with at least one other adult (usually a parent) are much happier than mothers living just with their children. Being all alone in the house with no adult company and no one to relieve you of duty can really get you down. Kids usually don’t have to think about taking me-time, since they have a lot less responsibilities than you do, but if you’re the only adult in the house, you really need to make the effort to carve some out.
2. The small things in life are actually pretty awesome.
Remember the joys of playing in the sandpit as a kid? Paper-mache? Coloring? Forget the trappings of adulthood now and then, and get in on that finger-painting fun. If you’ve been too stressed to stop and smell the flowers, it’s time to do so.
3. Sometimes, you’ve gotta nag to get what you want.
Over time, you’ve probably been socialized with the idea that you should keep your head down and not make a fuss. Your kids aren’t too concerned with that when they’re nagging you for that Popsicle. In life, sometimes you have to assert yourself and protect your rights (not that a Popsicle is a right, but you see where I’m going here) instead of being worried about what people will think of you. If you’re doing the right thing, you don’t need to worry about someone else’s approval.
4. Get some exercise!
Your kids love to frolic in the playground, play chase and hopscotch. Adults tend to think of exercise as something that you do at the gym, a boring punishment for that donut you ate for lunch. There’s actually a lot of fun exercise you can do, and get the kids involved with: hiking, swimming, or even mommy-toddler yoga!
5. Learn something new every day.
If you’ve been away from formal education, it has probably been a while since you’ve felt intellectually stimulated, especially if your kids are young (i.e. you’re knee-deep in ABCs and diapers). By the end of the day, you might just feel like vegetating in front of the TV. But the world is a fascinating place and there’s always exciting new things to learn about.
Bonus: When your kids see you passionate about learning for learning’s sake, not just for grades, it’ll inspire them too, and if you share what you’ve learned it can make for very interesting dinner-table conversations!
You will still have lots of stressed, overwhelmed moments, but if you get in touch with your inner child, and remember how to play, you should feel like you can handle them better. Enjoy these years; they go by too fast!