By Jessica Rector
I leave my son in the care of my sister. I know he’s in good hands, but it still tugs at my heart. The floorboard to the room where he sleeps is creaky. From experience, I know when I go in to kiss him bye, he wakes up… and then doesn’t go back to sleep.
It’s really early, so I don’t want him to wake and stay up. To prevent that, I decide not to kiss him bye. As I sit in the airport waiting to board my flight, my heart tugs. Of course I miss him, but I’m also missing the forehead kisses I should have, could have, would have given him. I was being considerate not waking him, yet it tears at me that I didn’t do it. That dang creaky floorboard.
Sitting on the plane, I try to get my mind off of it by closing my eyes. A flight attendant comes over the intercom to say they are de-icing the plane, so we won’t take off for another 10 minutes. The guy across my aisle starts up a conversation with me. We chat a few minutes about where we live, kids, and work.
He asks what I’m doing in New York. I’m out of town for three days for a group business meeting. Then he asks what I do. I mention I own my own business, and the group I’m attending is amazing, because like single moms, entrepreneurs are some of the loneliest people. He says he’s an entrepreneur too so he understands.
I further explain how this group allows me to be around like minded entrepreneurs who are making a difference and are motivated and driven to grow their business in big ways. It will be exhilarating, exciting, and energizing. I’ll be rejuvenated and eager to implement strategies. He says it sounds like fun and a great group. As the conversation comes to an end, we begin take off, and I close my eyes.
I’ll be working, learning, and growing, but let’s be honest, it’s three days off from full-time single motherhood. That, my friend, feels like a vacation. In a job where there are no breaks, time outs, or “give me a few minutes.” Where the job is full-time, all the time, 24 hours a day every day, it feels good to be around adults. More importantly, it feels amazing to be able to make decisions about me and what I want to do or eat.
When you have kids, especially kids not in school yet, you are constantly thinking what do they want to do, play with, or eat, and you adjust your thoughts and behavior accordingly. So, to be able to think, “Hmmm, what sounds good tonight to eat? I can have a burger and fries and not have to make something separate for him,” sounds so ideal. You can go to the bathroom and not worry about a child at your leg, calling you, or whining. You can do your hair and makeup without rushing around like a chicken with your head cut off, because your child isn’t eating, getting dressed, or moving fast enough. You can actually think about you!
WWWWOOOOAAHHH, there’s a novel thought. To think about you! Yes, I love my son. But gosh darn it, I love a good vacation too, even when I’m not on the beach, exploring new cultures, or discovering fascinating parts of the city. When I have to get up earlier, stay out later, and work harder than I do at home, I still enjoy a vacation. Because let’s face it, there is nothing quite as spectacular (no matter how much we love our kids) as time to ourselves in any and every capacity we can get it.
I know it might not be the popular thing to say, but I also know you feel the same way. You love time without the kids, whether it’s running to the store, driving just about anywhere, or getting a root canal. There is no such thing as really running to the store anyways. If you have the kids with you, you wish you could just run in and out, and it takes two hours. If you don’t have kids with you and you could run in and out, you intentionally take two hours, because that’s your mini vacation for the month.
It’s not selfish, it’s a necessity. If you want to keep your wits about you and your easy going temperament, you MUST implement taking care of yourself. Part of self care is keeping your sanity. If you refuse to practice self care, you will get depressed or become easily angered. That’s not good, productive, or fun for anyone. But that won’t show itself all at once. You won’t go from Sunny Sunshine or Debbie Downer in a matter of a minute or even an hour. It will slowly creep up on you. You will start to get easily annoyed. Then that annoyance will turn into frustration, which will eventually turn into yelling about the simplest thing.
Think of it like this. Today when your child picks up his toys, they will look dishelved. You will be annoyed, but let it go. You still feel your annoyance when you’re cooking dinner. Then your child says he doesn’t like what you cooked. You slightly raise your voice saying, “You’re going to eat it anyways.” You’re now frustrated.
Then after dinner, you ask him about his homework. He says he doesn’t really have any. You look through his backpack and find a note from his school about an activity he was supposed to register for. The deadline was that day. As a single mom, you think, “Why am I the only one who has to deal with this?”
Then you scream to your son, “Jaaaaake come here.”
He comes to you and says in a sweet voice, “Mama, I’m here.”
Barely breathing, you continue yelling, “What is this? Why didn’t you tell me about this?
The deadline has passed. What were you thinking?”
He just stands there listening. When you finish, he says, “Mama, I’m sorry. Maybe you can call the school tomorrow and ask them if there’s any way we can still do it. If not, I understand.”You angrily scream, “Fine, go to your room.”
He walks off feeling defeated and sad saying one more time, “Mama, I’m sorry.”
Then you feel it hit you. You know you shouldn’t have gotten that mad. It isn’t even that big of a deal. Why did it hit you like this? You didn’t even feel that mad at first. One thought spiraled into another and into another.
It was a mistake. Just like you forget things, so does he. Registrations, school work, and homework are a lot for a kid to remember. On top of that, he does everything he can to try not to make you angry, because he knows he has to walk on eggshells around you. He never knows when you’ll be nice or mad and yelling. That’s even more for a kid to have to think about, ponder, and consider. That’s extra pressure on him, and no child needs to take care of his mom.
So five minutes here, five minutes there isn’t enough to keep your sanity. You need more. You need to take a long, long bath. Read a book. Take your mind off the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Let your imagination think of what you want to do, what you like, or where you see your future. Think of the man of your dreams and having the family you’ve always wanted.
Stroll the aisle at the stores, even though you aren’t buying anything on that aisle. Sit in your car just a little longer. Ask your dentist if you need to come back more often. Take advantage of every chance you get when you’re childless, because your every day comes too quickly when you’ll have the leg tugging, mommy calling, never-a-minute-to-yourself routine, and you’re going to wish you had a dentist appointment.
As a single mom and founder of The Single Mom Movement, Jessica Rector knows how single moms are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. With targeted private coaching, programs, and school, she connects single moms to happiness, fulfillment, and empowerment by using her proven strategies. Clients praise Jessica for getting massive results after one session.