If you’re like me, you never in your life thought that this would be you. Sitting here, staring at a screen, weary from a rough day of raising kids by yourself, blurry-eyed…wondering how you got to this place needing to read (or write in my case) a post about surviving your first month as a single parent. But life happens…and here I am trying to raise four kids by myself and you and I both must learn to roll with the punches. It sometimes helps to hear things from someone else that has already gone through it, so I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned over the course of the last couple of months. Because I don’t want you to just survive it…I want you to maybe find a little happiness or even some joy this month, and during the tough months to follow.
Keep in mind, that I am still technically married…we’re waiting for the house to sell before we can divide the finances and such so fingers crossed that happens soon so I can push the paperwork through and start to get on with life going down my own path. But in every other aspect besides that paperwork, I am a single mom so I will be writing as such…until I remarry, who knows when that will be.
Anyway, I thought it would be an easier read to break my thoughts up into sections so that you can read whatever part may apply to you. Everyone has a different situation so I realize that some things that fit me as a single parent, will not fit you. Just take what you need from it and make sure to share this post with anyone else that may need the advice. Here goes…
Cut yourself some slack
Divorce is a hard thing. It’s going to take some time to figure out the new rhythm of your life and there will be even more juggling than you can imagine…especially if you’re a work at home/stay at home parent like I am. Not to mention that the more kids that you have, the more activities there are so make sure to just take it one day at a time. Put down the pen a couple of tasks after the necessary items are checked off of your to-do list every day. There is always more that can be done, but do your best to not let yourself get overwhelmed. If in doubt as to what the minimum is, just cover the basics. Are the kids bathed, teeth brushed, hair combed, in clean clothes, happy, not living in filth?…then pat yourself on the back, you did a good job today. It may sound sad, but the beginning is kind of survival mode but it gets better.
Let people help you
This one is really hard for me. I really try to be independent and do it all by myself, but trying to orchestrate a move, and get a house ready to put on the market, while taking care of the kids, and still working from home…I could not have done it without the love and support of my family, friends, and ward (church congregation) members. Don’t feel stupid asking for help. This is a BIG time of need and is not a time to even think about doing it alone. My loved ones really stepped up to help me get situated and I have never felt so loved in my entire life…thank you all that helped out and are reading this.
Enjoy those kids!
It is very easy to get caught up in getting settled in and everything out of boxes and where it all goes…but at the end of the day…all that really matters is that those little sweethearts felt loved, were disciplined as needed, and got plenty of snuggles. The kids do need to come first in many instances. Beyond unpacking your basic needs, the boxes can wait. The transition can be really hard for children, but luckily mine have been handling it beautifully. I made sure to find a place to rent that looked very similar to our house so that they would feel at home right away, and talking openly about the situation has helped too. My ex and I are trying to be as friendly as possible, so that the kids will have minimal long-term issues over the whole thing, but it is still a hard change, no matter how mature we are trying to be about it. So, I make sure to hug, kiss, snuggle, and listen as much as I can while still trying to juggle all the other tasks that I have on my plate.
Try Not To Dwell on How Hard It Is And Look To The Future
You could sit around all day wallowing in self-pity or you can do something about it. Get up. Get planning what you want to do with your future, because it is ultimately up to you now, and you need to start making it happen. I make sure to ask myself every day “did I do anything to further myself towards my goals?”. If the answer is no, I take at least 15 minutes and think about what little things I can do to get me there. You’ve gotta have a go-getter attitude about it to make your dreams come true when you are raising kids. Luckily, I’ve been working on this blog for almost six years, so now I have a full-time career that I can work on as much as possible. It was my “plan B” in case anything ever happened to my husband…and something did end up happening to him. He’s not going to be my husband anymore, so I am super thankful I had the forethought, work ethic, and perseverance to get this site up and going.
Take Time To Relax
The first weekend that my kids were at their dads I went nuts cleaning, working, getting caught up on laundry, and unpacking and by the time that I got them back I had scarcely spent any time doing anything even remotely fun or that provided much relaxation. I did have a friend over to watch a movie and we did some much-needed chatting, but a few hours was not enough to last me a couple of weeks until I got my next break.
It’s important to remember that you need to rest. You need to give your mind a break from the craziness of daily life, from the stress of doing it all alone, and you need to take some time out for you. Since your kids are only getting attention from one parent at a time…it is even more important that they get the best of you. Take the time that you need to care for yourself. Happy Parent=Happy kids…at least it should.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep
This is one that I cannot stress enough! It is really tempting to stay up really late every night vegging, once everyone is asleep, and watch your favorite show or just while away your time on the internet because you are not being nagged by anyone (which feels glorious), but don’t do it on a regular basis. You work hard all day and both your body and your mind need the rest. If I am not getting enough sleep I end up being a super grouchy mommy and that is not fair to the kids to get what’s left of me after I gave most of my cognitive energy to Netflix the night before. Don’t be a zombie parent…
Get lots of exercise
Get out of the house and stretch your legs. Burn a bunch of calories. Let out your frustrations. It’s a good way for the kids to get their wiggles out without trashing the house and the exercise and sunshine is good for everyone. TMI here, but the lack of physical intimacy, from the split, is just about killing me. Yes, I went there, and that is a hard, and unexpected, part of being single. Touch is one of my top two love languages (probably why I have four kids ;)) and so I have to burn some calories and push my physical limits in order to be able to concentrate at all…another way that I become grouchy mommy if I don’t get the frustration under control. Let’s just say that I am going to be doing a lot of hiking this summer;). I think I need to invest in a punching bag as well…at least burning all the extra calories will get me ready to enter the dating scene again in a couple of months. Dating…now that’s going to be scary after a 12 year break.
Take it one basket at a time
I could be doing laundry or cleaning non-stop and barely keep up with the crazy amounts of work there is to be done…but the kids would be neglected and so I am just doing the best that I can to tidy up a room and put away everything that fits into one basket and put it away. Or attack one laundry basket when I have a few minutes. Then when I have time a little later on in the day, I do another basket or unpack one box. That’s really all that I can do and no, the house will never be perfectly clean, but I find that giving it a consistent concerted effort will at least keep our heads above water in the cleaning and laundry departments.
Get ready for the day, everyday
or at least the majority of the time. This one is really important too. Not only do I want to make a good impression on all of the new people that I meet in my new town (I moved to be closer to my family for support). I need to feel good about myself now, more than ever. When you don’t have a significant other telling you that you’re attractive on a regular basis, your self-esteem can sometimes take a hit. No, your self-worth shouldn’t come from an outside source, but it is really nice to hear it a lot. “Look good, feel good” is not just a quote. It actually works and I find that when I am feeling pretty is when I gave my hair, make-up, and outfit a bit of effort and I end up carrying myself differently. I stand straighter, I feel more attractive, and then I radiate that feeling everywhere I go. You should try it. Just get up a little earlier, or let the kids watch a show for 20 minutes while you worry about you for a bit. It will make your whole day better.
Learn To Manage Your Time
I think that it will take me a few months to perfect this one, but I have already found ways to maximize my efficiency trying to make the most of those snatches of minutes there are here and there throughout the day. I find myself attacking the car with a trash bag any time that my older two children are taking their sweet time to come get buckled up…by then I have already got the younger two buckled in, so they can’t get in the way and that gives me a chance to clean for five minutes here or there without anyone going behind me to mess it up. My parents, and sister, are awesome and watch the younger two while I take the older two to Karate. While at karate, I bring my phone and laptop and hotspot an internet connection to get a bit of work done. It’s only about a 45 minute chunk twice a week, but that will really add up over time. Heck, I even edit photos when I’m trying to unwind at the end of the day watching a tv show. It’s all about thinking ahead and making the most of your time and planning out your day. Obviously, things never go according to plan…entirely, but just make sure you are working in the right direction that you want to be heading.
That’s all I have on this particular subject, at least for today. Of course I will still be learning and shaping my day to day routine as time goes on, but I think that I shared some good info for any of you that may be floundering trying to figure out what you need to do.
If any of you have something to add, please make sure to comment it. I’m trying to get caught up on moderating comments, so don’t feel badly if it takes me a little time to publish it. Like I mentioned earlier, if you found anything about this post helpful, please share it via social media. It’s a free way to show your support of me and this site. Have a great day everyone! ~Sarah
P.S. Simplifying your cleaning routine can help keep your sanity too. Make sure to check out my cleaning section, found here. I’m always trying to simplify the mundane everyday tasks.