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How to Deal with Daily Stress as a Single Mom
Although parenthood is amazing, and you wouldn’t give your kids up for the world, doing it alone can be enough to make you lose your mind. No one chooses to raise a family on their own without the help of anyone else, especially not a big one. There are many ways that moms get to this place.
Maybe you’re not really a “single” mom but it sure feels that way because your husband us in the military, has long work hours, or has a job that takes him away for longer periods of time, leaving you to care for the kids on your own. Maybe something happened and you lost your husband to an accident, sickness, or other cause of death.
It’s possible that you are divorced or split up, or that you had your child(ren) on your own without their father. You may even have adopted your little ones, or you may not even be single at all, but just feel that way because you stay at home with them while your husband is at work, or do all the work caring for them yourself.
Regardless of the circumstances, when it’s just you day in and day out without the support of a spouse, sometimes the doubts about your parenting choices, frustrations from the day’s stresses, and even sheer exhaustion start to creep up on you. It’s not like you can just walk away and never look back, and you wouldn’t want to, really.
So there has to be some way, amidst the chaos, the meals, the bedtimes, the tantrums, and Dora the Explorer (or Thomas the Train) to find some peace for yourself. The 30 minutes or less that you get to yourself before you fall asleep from exhaustion every night just isn’t enough every day to keep you, much less any woman, from insanity.
In this article, I’d love to share some easy tips for finding at least a few minutes of peace every now and then for yourself, even with children running around.
What do you typically do to relax?
Wake Up Early
I know this seems counterproductive, but getting an extra 30 minutes to myself in the morning without kids, without responsibilities, and without noise is what allows me to wake up, have some time to boot up my computer, get something to drink, and sometimes even get ready and make lunches before the chaos begins.
It’s so nice to have a quiet moment to wake up and make some breakfast without noise, stress, or questions first thing in the morning. I can gather myself, actually think through what I need to do to get out of the house that morning, and what needs to be done the rest of the day.
I can also prepare myself for waking the kids up and the hour long morning rush of breakfast, going to the bathroom, teeth brushing, changing clothes, getting the two of them buckled into their car seats, and off to both of their schools for the day.
If getting up 30 minutes early makes you groan, you may want to consider getting to bed 30 minutes or so earlier. Getting a good night’s sleep is also critical to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Get Out of the House
If your kids are home schooled, not going to school yet, or maybe it’s just the weekend, and the kids are home all day, you’ll definitely want to find a reason to get out of the house, at least for a little while. I know it’s difficult to find free activities to do with your kids around town without a hefty admission fee, but you can check out my article on Free Activities to Do With Your Kids Anytime for some great ideas about what you can do to entertain and excite your kids without having to pay anything more than a little bit of gas.
Even just going down to the park can be a respite. Obviously you should have the kids walk, and let them walk the dog if one of them would like to, to get them moving and burning some energy. Let them play on the playground equipment and give yourself a nice shady spot to sit and write, or read your favorite book. It’s okay if they get dirty, this is what the park and bathtubs are made for.
Allowing them to run through the grocery store, pet store, Home Depot, or even play on the playground equipment at the local Mickey D’s can give you a chance to rest while they are entertained, having fun, and burning energy doing it. And you won’t have to lift a finger, just let them play.
I use this time to continue working on my phone using an app called Evernote, which allows me to write full articles on the go, on my phone, and then just copy and paste my work right into a Word document at home, formatting intact and everything. Score!
Join a Support Group
For many moms, having another adult to talk to is priceless. What about having a whole group of women that know exactly what you’re going through that you can talk to and spend time with?
You never know, if you start spending a lot of time at the park, you may start to meet some. Look into some of the other activities these moms might be involved in, like free book readings at the local library for toddlers. You can even get online and look up some single mother support groups.
Websites like www.cafemom.com, single-parent-support-group.meetup.com, and www.singleandparenting.org offer a place where single parents can gather and talk, meet other single parents in their areas, and ask questions and advice from others in the same situation. Sometimes it helps just to have someone else to share your troubles and concerns with, someone to confirm that you are doing the right things, and someone to share the responsibilities with you through play groups, etc.
Take a Hot Shower
When I have reached my limit and simply can’t think anymore, I go get into a nice hot shower and shut the door. This is a wonderful time to refresh, get some time alone, and enjoy the feeling of hot water and steam as I clear my mind and am able to think again.
Getting out of a hot shower, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, and putting on clean clothes gives me a fresh start again. I feel like I could tackle just about anything and become 100 times more productive.
This has been my last minute go to when nothing else is working. But this might not work for everyone else. I usually shower around 2 or 3 in the afternoon when I get the most stressed and really need a refresher.
Have a Cup of Hot Chocolate
In the evenings, after I have picked up the kids and fed them dinner, just before bedtime, this is my favorite time to have a hot drink. I’ve had the whole day weighing down on me, I’m usually tired, preparing for the frustrations that sometimes come with bed time, and a nice hot chocolate, apple cider, or even a hot tea, is perfect for allowing me a nice relaxing moment on the couch counting down the minutes until our bedtime routines start.
We can get our jammies on, get our teeth brushed and even read our stories, and I’m filled with the warmth of some delicious hot chocolate, or other yummy concoction, and I’m ready for my own bedtime. This is the perfect time to put my own jammies on and climb into my own bed, already sleepy.
Write in a Journal
I’m a writer by nature. Writing gives me a release, allowing me to express myself, and even allows me to empty my mind right before bedtime. Even if you’re not a writer, writing is the therapy just about any counselor will suggest as it gives your emotions and feelings words, and allows you to rid yourself of them each day so you can move forward without the additional stress weighing on you.
Try it out for yourself. Maybe this can be in your phone, it can be on your computer at work or in your home office, or even in a book that sits on your night stand. Writing the frustrations (and even the exciting milestones) that you are experiencing each day can help you work through them, get rid of them, and even find solutions to some of the difficulties you are having.
But better than all of these things, writing frees your mind so your heart can be lighter, your mind can be emptied, and you can sleep peacefully at night.
Read a Good Book
One final thing I do before shutting my eyes at night is to get immersed in a good book. A great fiction novel lets me join in another person’s life, experience what they are experiencing, and feel what they are feeling. I get so involved it’s like watching a movie. I go to sleep thinking about whether Linda and Bob are going to fall in love, lol, or whatever, and not thinking about what’s happening in my own life.
Not that I always need an escape, but that I LOVE reading, I love great stories (especially love stories), and reading makes me sleepy. A good chapter or so into my book and I can hardly keep my eyes open any longer.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Without this last ingredient in your day, all of the rest are useless. If you are woken by your alarm in the morning and you haven’t had enough sleep, you will feel heavy, slow, and sleepy all day long. Likely your patience will be low, your tolerance for noises, questions, and difficulties will be short, and you won’t have any energy to enjoy your day.
Everyone has their own individual sleep needs in order to feel well-rested throughout the day, mine being 9-10 hours of sleep a night. Just like your kids have their own sleep needs (Sleep Training Your Toddler), you will be cranky, whiny, and unable to handle the responsibilities of the day. By getting enough good sleep at night, you are giving yourself and your kids the best YOU that you can provide.
Stress and exhaustion make people do strange things. You tend to yell, scream, make rash decisions, not think straight, and do dangerous things. By using a few of these simple tips to find yourself a relaxing place at any time of the day, you will find that you can think clearer, make better decisions, and have a more peaceful home environment for you and your children.
I know it’s tempting to find yourself something caffeinated, be it a coke or a coffee, to dose up with sugar, like donuts, cookies, or cakes, or even to get yourself a glass of alcohol to calm down or wake up, depending on the time of day.
But by simply making some of these healthier decisions for yourself, I know you’ll find a replacement you’ll feel a lot better about mentally, emotionally, and physically. For more ideas, check out my article on Ten Ways to Find Relaxation.
I know you’ll find a way to find peace, even if for a few isolated moments during the day. I’d love to hear how you deal with stress as a single mom.
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness