I’ve often written about being a single mom. Some of the good and probably more of the bad. But the one thing that has been resonating with me so much lately is that I do not devote time to myself. Mind you this is not a “single mom” thing, it’s a mom thing. Moms in general are so many things to so many people. It is easy to forget about yourself as an individual and easier to focus on others.
How does this apply to the single mom? Well, it just takes it a step further. We are not so many things to so many people, we are EVERYTHING to some people, our kids. You are the one who provides for them 24/7/365, deals with nightmares, plans birthday parties, leaves work when someone is sick, plays tag in the yard, supervises TV, and teaches them everything about life. Somewhere along the line we become it – the everything.
There are fortunate single moms who have a great support network of friends and family to help and many ‘non-single’ moms who do these things on their own on a regular basis for various reasons. But for whatever reason, the burden for a single mom is greater mentally and emotionally because there is no spouse to share the responsibility, pick up the slack or give them a break when needed.
Some women I know lose themselves in their family almost intentionally and very happily. Some do it with a bit of martyrdom as if it is biblical to sacrifice everything of yourself for your family. So pardon me if I step on some toes here, but while it may sound all noble and Christianly, it is really a disservice to your family and God.
As a single mom, because we are everything to our kids, we have to be sure that we can fulfill that role. It’s very important to maintain our health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and this takes time. It takes an intentional plan to ensure all of these areas of our lives are where they should be.
I’m guilty of it. I don’t always eat right and I never get enough sleep. So I’m constantly working on new strategies, new plans, new drugs (i.e. Ambien) to help improve physically. But I think it’s harder to address are the areas of our lives that are not so tangible – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Taking time to attend to these areas may begin to look and even feel selfish. It can involve spending time with your girlfriends, taking a pottery class, going for long walks alone. Enter the guilt. Here’s a starter guilt list and what it looks sounds like.
- Homemaker Guilt – I shouldn’t do this because I should be doing x, y and z at home.
- Mommy Guilt – I shouldn’t take the time because the kids really need extra attention from me right now.
- Money Guilt – I shouldn’t spend the money (i.e. on a girl’s night out) because the kids need x, y or z.
- Peer Guilt – I shouldn’t do this because I know people won’t understand and will judge me.
It is this combination of things that lead us to put our needs aside and be everything to everyone else.
For me, writing, painting and socializing, were three activities I regularly took part in as my first year as a single mom. It was my sanity. It helped me develop my relationship with God and allowed me to figure out what the second part of my life was going to look like. Now, during the last year I have swung the other way. I have let my pursuits fall by the wayside to be replaced by life.
So if you are like me and need that extra push or a reason to take some time for yourself, here’s a list to motivate (both of us!)
- Just like being in a healthy relationship requires one to be whole as an individual, so does being a mom.
- Giving them the best version of me is one of the best things I can do for them.
- Developing myself sets a good example for them to be balanced and healthy throughout their life.
- Taking a few hours a week is not selfish. It is healthy. Start small and work your way up.
Now that Spring has sprung and it has breathed new life in me. I have a new sense of the importance of self and how it impacts my ability to be EVERYTHING to them. I hope this will you as well.
How do you take time for yourself? Do you feel guilty or embrace it? What’s holding you back from making yourself a priority too?