Being a single mom, I have learned to accept that some things will go undone, incomplete, or just simply ignored. I came to a realization very early on that I can’t do it all – and it has become the most stress-reducing realization ever. So I decided to share in that revelation and help you to create a stress-free environment as a single mom.
1. Bath time doesn’t have to be every night.
I have a 2-year toddler…does that answer a lot of questions you may have right now? This tip is for the moms of toddlers and preschoolers. A full bath is not necessary every night for your toddler or preschooler; actually, baths tend to dry out their skin. Now don’t get me wrong, he does get cleaned up every morning. I get him in the tub and do a quick wash and rinse, then we’re off to get dressed. It really saves time and also it reduces the likelihood that we’ll have to fight every night. He doesn’t like taking baths at all.
2. The dishes can wait.
Honestly, I don’t like washing dishes. I didn’t like it, even before I had my son, but now I dislike it even more. It seems as though the moment the last dish or cup is put in the dish rack, there is a sink full of dishes. It seems to happen so quickly that for a while I was washing dishes every hour. I got really frustrated with it and eventually decided that things needed to change in order for me to keep my sanity.
I don’t wash the dishes every day – it may happen every 2-3 days if I’m lucky. I make sure to rinse off each item before putting it in the sink. Just want to clarify that for those that might be thinking that I’m completely disgusting.
3. Laundry is every mom’s nightmare.
Laundry is one of those things that you never can finish. Just like dishes, you can have piles of laundry forever! Accept it…you will have laundry forever. When I lived in my old apartment, I didn’t have a washer and dryer so I would go to the laundromat once a month. Yep, you read that right – I went once a month. There was no need to go more often than that. Now, I’m in a new apartment with my own washer and dryer – now I feel that I’m washing every day and I always feel like we’re running out of clothes before the next load is washed.
Instead of driving myself batty, I put a load to wash every night when we arrive home. Before I even take off my coat or turn on the TV, I put a load in the washer. When the washer beeps saying the load is washed, I throw it in the dryer. I fold the clothes in the dryer when I need to fill the dryer. In this way, I’m only folding one load at a time. It takes maybe 15 minutes a day…and all of the clothes are washed. Plus, my son helps me to put away all of the clothes by opening and closing the dresser drawers.
4. Cooking can be quick and easy for everyone involved.
As a single mom, there is a high likelihood that you are working full-time and possibly even working 2-3 jobs. At one point, cooking became that chore that I just didn’t enjoy doing at all. I was exhausted when I got home and still had to get prepared for the next day, enjoy some time with my son, and relax a little. So when does cooking come into play?
I cook on Sundays…I make 2 big meals on Sundays and it normally lasts us throughout the week. My son loves to help me cook, so it is still a fun experience. Once or twice a week, we head over to McDonald’s to buy a Happy meal, just to break up the week. He loves McDonald’s! Leftovers every day for lunch and dinner becomes really boring after the 2nd day! On Friday or Saturday evenings (when he is not with his father), I usually order out and we sit around eating our food and watching our favorite shows.
4. Clean-up is for everyone…and can be fun!
Every day I look around my apartment and there are small toys, books, pretend toys, clothes – you get the picture, there is always something somewhere around my apartment. It drives me absolutely crazy sometimes because all I have to do is just pick it all up and it would be done. As my son has grown older, I have learned to accept that it is just the way that it is.
Instead, my son and I clean up the entire apartment one day a week. We dust, scrub, pick up, vacuum, and re-arrange. I enlist my son to clean up each room with me. I turn on some music and we start in the living room, then make our way into the bedrooms, bathroom, and the kitchen. We laugh, sing, and dance the entire time. We are both doing it together and it makes it a fun experience for us both. We have quality time cleaning up the apartment.
5. Be the best mom that you can be.
I wish I could provide my child with more – a house, an intact family, more time, fun opportunities. How many times have you thought like this? If you’re thinking like that right now, STOP! Our children do not think about these things like we do. Yes, we want to provide them with the world, but we can’t kill ourselves in the process.
You can only be the best mom that you can be. You can only offer your child the things that you can. But you know what’s even more important than a house? It’s your love and attention. And I know that he will remember that I gave him loads of love and attention even more so than the number of toys that he has or a big house to go with it.
6. Don’t rush through life – enjoy the little moments.
Sometimes I get into a slump just rushing through each day – I can’t wait for the weekend to come, then I rush through the weekend, only to start a new week feeling unaccomplished.
Even if I am writing a blog post or washing dishes or folding clothes, my son is right with me enjoying those moments. And although it completely drives me nuts sometimes (lol), I love the time with him. But I wouldn’t change it; one day, he’ll be in his room all the time and want nothing to do with me, and I’ll have memories of him wanting to be with me and helping me do chores around the house.
7. Get the majority done the night before.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say this before, and they were absolutely right. You would not believe how stressful our mornings are. If I have a plan for how the morning will go (and most times I do), my son will just come along and put a monkey wrench in the entire plan. Some mornings are smooth and we have extra time left over to watch some television before we head out; other mornings consist of me yelling for him to sit still while I try for the 90th time to get his shoes on. It all depends on the day!
Recently, I have been getting the majority of the preparation the night before. What a difference this has made! I pack his lunch, lay out his clothes, decide on the menu for breakfast, and pack his nebulizer (oh yeah, I haven’t shared that yet – I will share in an upcoming post). Everything that I need for my son is normally done the night before. As for me, it takes a little bit more legwork to be complete. Plus, I can never decide what I’ll wear the next day so I just hold off on that little task until the morning.
8. Make time for fun…and some exercise.
I am really bad with exercising during the winter months – who wants to exercise when it’s freezing out? Not me! This winter has been unusually brutal and I’ve gained a couple of pounds from being really lazy and lounging around the house. But during the spring, summer, and fall, I really kick it up into high gear. We get outside very often – we head out to the park and run around, we head out to the numerous free outdoor events and sweat a little bit, we go for a walk around the apartment complex. It’s important to me that we get out and be active – it’s healthy for both you and your child. Exercise and increased activity really helps to reduce stress.
9. Your memory is shot – don’t depend on it!
This is a tip that I got from one of my dear friends when I was pregnant and I absolutely live by it. Write everything down – don’t depend on your memory! At first, I was like what are you talking about? But now, I live by it each day. I have a board on my refrigerator that helps me to remember exactly what I need to walk out the house with. And I’m planning to put a chalkboard on the back of my front door so I make sure that I remember any big things happening for the day. I can’t emphasize how important writing things down will help to reduce stress. Even this list was built by writing down each tip in a small notebook that I carry everywhere. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you don’t have to remember every little thing.
10. Find a decompression chamber.
Have you ever been in the situation where work is more stressful than home? Or vice versa? Or sometimes both is equally stressful? You have to find a neutral place that will help you decompress and relax. The locations can change depending on the situation, but you do have to find a place to go when everything is crazy.
At this moment, home is very relaxing and comforting…I can find a place anywhere in my apartment to just lay down and relax. In the past, work has been the place I could go and just lose myself in the day’s activities. When I feel ready to burst when I think of going home or going to work, I find solace at my dear Titi’s house. I’m guaranteed to have a good laugh whenever I’m around her and her family. Plus, she loves my son dearly and will entertain him to give me a moment to think and breathe.
11. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
Repeat after me: No one is perfect…let’s say that again – no one is perfect!
So stop beating yourself over the head to have everything done and in the right order. Every now and then, I do this to myself, so I’m repeating it to help you but also to help myself. Don’t look at other moms and think they are perfect; honestly, they may be pulling their hair out at the moment – you just don’t know it. I am nowhere near perfect, but I can only do my best.
12. Let your hair down every now and then.
Yes, life can sometimes be stressful, unrelenting, and downright depressing. I know it and I feel it at least 50% of each day. But every now and then, you have to release that frustration and angst – turn on a movie, start a Family night, invite some friends over, or go out with some friends. Do something that will help you to relax and be better prepared to handle all of the issues that are bound to come tomorrow.
13. Foster positivity and optimism; rid yourself of negativity and pessimism.
This is definitely a big tip and possibly one of the most difficult to maintain, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is incredibly important to your ability to be stress-free.
Do you use destructive self-talk? “I can’t do this…” “I should’ve done better…” “I don’t know what I was thinking…” “What is wrong with me?” Stop that talk now! It does nothing for you, your situation, and surely nothing for your kids. Encourage positivity and optimism in your life and it will be less stressful.
Surround yourself with people that are positive and optimistic. Just recently with my birthday debacle, I realized the importance of creating some emotional distance from my mother. It was a hard decision to make but one that had to be made in order to remove some stressors in my life. Once I made the decision, I felt the stress roll off my shoulders. That day, my dear friend Marie took me out to lunch for my birthday and even let me get anything I wanted (yippeee!). I also spoke to my dear friend Titi, who can crack me up even when she’s dead serious. And I realized that the friends in my life are positive and influential in my success at being stress-free.