“You’re not really drinking alone if your kids are home“
I saw that statement on pinterest yesterday, and it was just one of those things that you read and laugh, re-read, laugh again, think about it more and laugh some more. It was funny on so many levels that move way beyond face value. And oddly enough if I had read that statement a year ago (#throwbackthursday anyone?) I would not have found it that funny actually. I might have even rebuked it a bit because in my then opinion- “what kind of mother drinks home alone with her kids! So irresponsible!” But . . after a year of learning to CTFD, my perspective has taken a 180 degree turn for the better (and arguably, not so much for my wallet but FOR SURE for my Total Wine membership point status).
When I was done laughing and identifying available wall space (because let’s go ahead and admit I am totally going to print it and hang it in my kitchen. Not even going to pretend that’s not happening), I spent some time reflecting on how that statement actually applies to so many other parts of this single parent life. As in, swap out the verb for about 90% of the other things you do and it sums up your current reality.
Think about it. Try using “doing housework,” “dining,” (and by the way, that word makes eating sound so much more sophisticated), or say… “using the bathroom,” “talking on the phone,” or “working.” Pretty much those are never solitary activities anymore, right? Unless it’s like midnight or you’ve managed to negotiate some peace and quiet with your kids by engaging them in some quality activity that does not involve any of the following: glitter, glue, glass or supervision. So you know, apple tv, I mean um, like reading a book and stuff.
But really, the current status of being single involves well, you. All day, every day, doing your thing, with your kids,alone. Or does it? Because, are you really alone? Really? Sometimes it just takes a little reflection, five minutes pulling yourself out of a PLOM moment (Poor Little Old Me) to realize how many truly amazing things are going on in your life and how many resources and lines of support you have, or with a little effort, can have. That can be just enough to help you remember that the reason you moved all twelve wine glasses with you was not so you didn’t have to wash wine glasses for almost two weeks (although that is pretty awesome, just sayin’), but so you could share them (and your wine, so you know, make some room in the recycle bin), with other adults.
When I’m there, in that moment when I become overwhelmed with emotion, experiencing what feels like a fresh sense of loss on occasion, I take a few minute to reset. I journal, I list the things I’m grateful for, I pray or meditate or get myself into some heart opening yoga poses like camel, bridge or wheel, I read back through my journal, I look at my vision board (go ahead and scoff. Then acknowledge that you totally want one too so I’ll just drop the pinterest hidden board hint right here…), I look at my crazy, beautiful, ridiculous and loving children and I breathe. And I fall in love with my life all over again.
Outside of those moments when I am in a more strategic and day-to-day rather than in-the-moment frame of mind, I plan and acknowledge a couple of things that have a huge, positive impact on my life. And since I absolutely adore lists (yes, I’m a bit of a planner. And, yes, I am a virgo, is it that obvious???) here are my top ten Single Mama’s Finding Your Groove Tips:
1. Plan a regular family dinner with a friend and her kids. Another single mom is great but even dining (there’s that sophisticated word again) with your married friends is awesome. The chance to take something routine, like making, serving, eating and cleaning up dinner with another family is such a huge stress reliever, even if it’s only once a month. I try to do this once a week when I can but I don’t set any rules to it. When it works, it works. When life is too busy, it’s too busy. Listen to the universe, let it provide and make plans to socialize during mealtimes as much as is reasonable.
2. Hang out with people who offer something different that you can. For example, I love going over to one particular friend’s house and watching her husband play with my kids. It’s so wonderful for them to get some silly man time in and do things that I quite honestly, as the only parent in my household with my kids full time, don’t really have the energy or desire to do. Like wrestling, for example. That shit is just not gonna happen with this mom. I can try, but they see right through me. I prefer to stick to things I can be authentic with. So being a good housekeeper, rough play, pushing kids on the swing – those are out. Baking, cooking, reading, dancing badly, wit and sarcasm and generally holding it down – so in.
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Find a Meetup group(s). Honestly, I didn’t really know what meetup was until last winter. Go ahead and laugh if you will but it had never occurred to me to even look into something like that. It has been so worth it. I found a group for single active parents (as in the kind who don’t like to sit around on their couch all day and actually prefer going out and doing things with other, gasp, real people and their children), a group of parents who hike with kids, a running group, even a women’s golfing group (that one is just for me, obviously). But seriously, there are groups for just about any interest and they are a fantastic way to meet new people and try new things. The kids love making new friends, we go on fun trips and playdates and I get to socialize with other grown-ups, which as someone who works primarily from home (alone….), is a serious bonus. So suck it up, put on your big girl panties, join a group and then JUST DO IT. Wear Nikes if you are really feeling the need for support.
4. Go Adventuring. There really are no reasons your kids can’t go with you pretty much anywhere. Your excuses are YP- Your Problem. Take your kids for a walk, a bike ride, a hike, to the duck pond to throw foul bread at waterfowl, to the park (just don’t make promises about those damn swings or you’ll be stuck there all day). Create a scavenger hunt for them in the neighborhood, go to Farmer’s market, take a yoga class together, go to a museum, see a play, hit the drive-in movies on a weeknight. Get out and explore your world, it’s there, waiting for you. My kids and I love to go to a different place every time and discover a new part of our city. We have our favorites to be sure, but my enthusiasm for building our urban street smarts and cultured knowledge base while maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle are rubbing off on my children. Not a day goes by without them asking “what are we going to do today mom? Where are we going?”
5. Meet your neighbors. Seriously. They can hear you yelling at your kids. You should at least take the time to get to know them and let them meet your children so they’ll understand the regular fluctuation in volume in your casa. . . But really, they are a resource and in modern times when we get so absorbed in what we are doing, it is essential to stay connected to those around us, literally. Even if you don’t end up being besties, this is important to do, especially if you have recently moved. I’m currently working on a block party with my neighbors. They rock. And I never would have known it if I hadn’t taken the time to meet them.
6. Get a good babysitter network. Especially if like me, you don’t have family in town. There are going to be times (probably more often than not) when you need a sitter. Ask those helpful neighbors for names (and SUPER BONUS if one of them is a teenager who babysits. SCORE). Another good source are parents from your kids classes, both for names and for trading. I have setup trades with several sets of friends over the last few years. Currently I have a once a week trade with a new neighbor friend of mine. I take her kids Wednesday afternoons and she takes mine on Thursdays. It’s free, the kids have a great time (I even get work done- both days- whoo hoo) and the two of us usually end up socializing and having a glass of wine at the end of the day so it’s a win,win, win.
7. Take them out to eat. In public. Regularly. Okay, so the first few times aren’t that much fun. But eventually, they get it together and it’s awesome. This is partly for you (food you do not have to prepare, serve or clean up the mess from) and partly for them so you can socialize and teach them good eating out manners so that a) you don’t have to live in a box for the next ten years and b) someday when they grow up and leave your side for more than 30 seconds at a time they’ll be able to take someone out to dinner without total humiliation My favorite time to do this is during happy hour, and at a restaurant we can walk to. Not only are the drinks at least half price ($4 wine anyone? $3 well specials? Gee, twist my arm), but they are offering some sort of small bites on the cheap too, which means I can order a few plates for my kids and bam- dinner is done and the bill is usually under $30 for all three of us, including my mommy juice. Happy mommy, happy kids, happy waitress, happy other customers. This is one damn HAPPY hour.
8. Stay connected but not dependent. In these times of struggle it is easy to either totally shut down or to become super dependent on a few friends or family members. Don’t. Spread the love. Take time to see people who are important to you and let them know it. Appreciate them and make an effort to keep up with what’s going on in their lives. With the full blown infiltration of social media in our everyday lives, it is increasingly easy to stay in touch with friends. However, be careful not to let that replace actual conversation and face time (and I don’t mean on your iphone). Try to call one friend a week and have a good old fashioned conversation. If you have to do this at 9pm when the kids are in bed then do it. Otherwise, there’s always the hall closet where you can snuggle with the winter coats and wax nostalgic about your high school days, assuming you can find room on the floor anyway.
And while you’re at it, work a little bit to hide your crazy now and then. Take the opportunity to give back. Let a friend unload on you and just listen. Don’t give your opinion or listen only to essentially “one up” her by sharing how not only do you know how she feels, but “listen to how this same thing happened to me!” There is give and take in a conversation to be sure, but if you take the time to listen, without judgement or agenda, to listen for the purpose of allowing them to be heard, rather than for planning how you will respond, you will both grow in more ways that you can possibly imagine.
9. Don’t overschedule. Activities, good. Google Calendar, amazing. So many colors on google calendar it looks like a godamn rainbow- no bueno mama. Remember to schedule downtime for you, and for your kids. Do they really need to do a sport, a club, and a fine art? Really? Let’s just shoot for one extra curricular commitment at a time, shall we? See how that goes and if they really have an inclination to do more and you all agree that you realistically have the time, energy and motivation to do it, then go for it. But keep it real. Doing a bunch of things half-assed is not as beneficial as doing one thing really well.
10. Plan trips. Yes, they cost money. Yes, you will be tired. And no, you can’t place a value on the memories you will make. Impossible. Life is short and you can’t take your money with you. Now is the time to travel, to do goofy things while your kids still think you are cool and aren’t embarrassed to be seen in public with you. Go to Disneyland and take pictures with characters. Go explore an aquarium and plaster your faces all over the tank, marveling at the wonders inside. Ride a roller coaster with your hands up. Go to the beach and jump in the waves. Build sandcastles. Zipline through the jungle. You don’t get this time back, saving it for later may mean ultimately mean never.
So carpe diem already. Start planning. Go with another family and save some serious dinero and sanity but be sure to also schedule a few day or weekend trips in with just your family. I promise you won’t regret it. When thinking about the legacy you’ll leave behind, the memories you are creating for your kids, ask yourself what you want them to remember. For me, I want them to remember that I loved them, that I taught them to be good people and that we, the three of us, took life by the hand and enjoyed every minute of it.
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