Life as a single parent means you rarely have time to stop and smell the roses. Juggling everything solo — school, work, cooking, cleaning — leaves little time to attend to your self-care needs. However, as single parents, it’s essential to take care of yourself in order to avoid burnout and excessive stress.
Long-term stress can impact your role as a parent as it can harm your health and wellbeing over time. If anything, taking care of yourself helps you take even better care of your kids. Still, even if you realize the importance of self-care, it can be difficult to make it a priority. So, with that in mind, here are some simple, yet effective self-care tips that can fit into even the busiest of schedules.
Take a Break from Survival Mode
So much of single parenthood is spent in survival mode. Gulping down cold coffee, eating the leftovers your kids refuse to even look at, taking a shower in record time (using your kids’ bubblegum scented body wash no less). While some days it’s simply unavoidable to rush through your routine, it’s important to treat yourself to some luxury every now and then.
Try establishing a ritual in the morning or at night — or both if you can. If you’re a coffee-lover who misses the spare time you once had to hit the drive-thru of your favourite coffee shop, invest some time brewing a great cup of joe to start your day.
There are so many useful tricks that can make the coffee made at home taste just as good as the kind you’d get from a coffee shop. Freshly ground, recently roasted coffee beans can really brighten up your morning cup of coffee. If you prefer lattes or flat whites, add a milk foamer to your coffee station. It only takes a few extra minutes to take your cup of coffee from cold and bitter to a delicious cup of happiness that makes those particularly tough days bearable.
If you like to think of yourself as a bit of a wine connoisseur, you could also try treating yourself to a parent-only dinner once a week and add in some of your favourite wine to your dishes. The kids will be fine having pizza for a night.
When cooking with wine, a good rule of thumb to follow is using bold wines with bold dishes and lighter wines with, you guessed it, light dishes. For example, steak goes well with red wine and fish goes well with white. Of course, if the last thing you want to do is cook at the end of a busy day, you can still enjoy a parent-only dinner with take-out. Try pairing an off-dry riesling with your next sushi order.
Remember, eating and drinking doesn’t have to be just for survival. As a single parent, taking some time to actually enjoy your meals and drinks can go a long way towards your mental health.
Lower Your Expectations (Just a Bit)
Plenty of couples hire a babysitter on the weekend in order to venture out and get a much-needed break. The same idea can, and should, go for you as a single parent. Get a sitter or send your kids over to the neighbours for a play date and then go enjoy some alone time. Try going to the movies, or to dinner, or even take a long stroll around your favourite park.
As a single parent, you might feel as though you are held to a different standard than a traditional two-parent household. However, the pressures we put on ourselves as single parents often create unnecessary stress. While you might think that you’re letting kids down by needing a break, in fact, you’re doing yourself and them a favour by taking time to do the things you enjoy. Not only does alone time benefit your mental and emotional health, but it can make you a better parent by reducing parental burn out. Furthermore, it’s equally important to make your alone time a regular part of your routine. Put it on the calendar and commit to it. When it becomes part of everyone’s regular schedule, you’ll have fewer excuses to cancel on yourself.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
If you’re new to single parenthood, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with this new way of life. During this time of transition, finding useful methods to re-centre yourself can help you face the difficulties that come with a divorce or the death of a partner. Taking a page out of the single parent survival guide, look into visiting a therapist or picking up journaling to help work through those overwhelming emotions and thoughts. Focus less on the clock and what you’re supposed to be doing and instead take some time to sit and reflect on your feelings.
You are not a bad parent if some aspects of your life make you feel sad or scared. Recognizing and validating your emotions can make it easier to accept the difficulties of single parenthood. Furthermore, having more intentionally positive moments can really ease some of the stress and worry that comes with raising kids as a single parent. Self-care doesn’t always look like eating your favourite junk foods and taking an extra-long bubble bath (although, that does sound amazing). Sometimes, self-care means facing the darker side of single parenthood and finding healthy ways to cope with those aspects.
Too often, single parents forget to make themselves a priority. However, self-care is essential in the world of parenthood, single or not. Raising kids is as rewarding and amazing as it is exhausting and frustrating. At the end of the day though, when we take care of our needs, no matter how small, we can better enjoy the time spent with our families.