It’s common for single parents to struggle with the idea of taking time out of their busy days to recharge and focus on themselves. And at first, it may seem counterintuitive to put your needs first - how could that make someone a better parent? But think about it this way: whatever percentage you’re functioning at is exactly how much you can give to your baby. And it’s up to you to make sure that you’re at 100%
The truth is, if you ask any seasoned single-parenting veteran, one of the first pieces of advice they give is to consistently check in on yourself and figure out what you need. It’s not selfish, and it’s totally not a waste of important time - if anything, it’s going to help you get through the rest of your day.
Okay, so this all sounds well and good, but how exactly are you supposed to put this into action? Here are some ways you can start.
Being able to leave your baby with someone that you trust makes it so much easier (and cheaper) for you to get away for an hour or two, or even for a whole night. At this age your baby takes quite a bit of work, but there’s a good chance that you have at least one or two people who might be happy to take her off your loving hands for a little while. This doesn’t just free up your schedule; it helps the people in your life start to build a relationship with her.
Some nights are for laundry, cleaning, meal prep, and whatever else you have to do. But there should absolutely be a night you can look forward to, at whatever interval works for your family, that you can dedicate exclusively to winding down and allowing yourself to relax. Some single parents may be able to fit a night like this in once a week, but even if it’s only every other week, or once a month, taking some time to recharge is important. We’re talking no work, no planning, and as much you-time as you can possibly fit in before you fall asleep. Leave the dishes for the next night.
Just because your baby is a part of your life now doesn’t mean that everything else has to fall by the wayside. It might go a little more slowly, but you still deserve time in the day to think about things you want to create, places you want to go, and people you want to see. This might mean getting up a little earlier, before your baby has opened her eyes, to spend some time focusing on yourself and the future. In the long-run, pursuing your own goals is good for your baby, too - seeing you work towards the things that are important to you will give her a great model for how she will live her own life.
For a little bit of time each day, help your baby get involved with a low-key activity that gives you a little bit of a break from the action. This can be coloring, looking at a book, or generally anything else that helps you re-center yourself and get some time to read, rest, or do anything else that you find relaxing. These kinds of activities can also help your baby build her sense of concentration and self-sufficiency. She won’t be able to focus on quiet activities for too long when she’s young, but as she gets older, she’ll get better and better, and having a dedicated time to practice every day will only help her improve.
You might be able to think of a few parents whose skills impress you to no end. Some of these parents may be real, and others may completely be in your head! No matter how great other parents seem to be at planning meals or dressing their children, make a concerted effort not to compare your experiences or style with theirs. Comparing wastes precious energy, and it will only leave you feeling inadequate - something that you don’t deserve to feel.
What works for one family might not work for another, and you’ve got your own special rhythm going on. Learn from people if you admire what they’re doing, and then just appreciate the differences between parents. And you never know who’s watching you, feeling impressed by all that you do.