As a single parent it can be hard to make time for yourself and the things that nourish and inspire you, especially if you’re parenting completely solo. Frolo asked Habit Coach Joy Jewell how single parents can make a habit out of self care.
Hands up if you’re a single parent and feel like you can’t get a moment of peace in your own home? The demands of single parenting are overwhelming, to say the least. It can feel like you spend your whole day being chased, sometimes quite literally when there are kids involved, and when the kids are finally asleep at the end of the day you need to deal with the carnage they have left in their wake.
We all know the importance of ‘me time’. We all know that we need it to avoid burnout and take care of our bodies and minds. Yet, how many of us actually carve that time out, shifting the focus from our family, our home, our work… onto ourselves? In my experience, not enough.
Making time for yourself has huge benefits. It allows you time to rest and regroup, which reduces stress levels so that you no longer feel like you are constantly under pressure. While taking time out may be the last thing on your mind when you are feeling swamped, it actually helps with those feelings of overwhelm rather than contributing to them.
Not only does rest reduce stress but it actually helps you to get more done. The brain wasn’t created for long periods of focus. Taking time out for yourself helps your brain reboot, so that you are ultimately more productive.
Perhaps the most valuable benefit of prioritising yourself is that it increases your sense of self worth. When you stop putting everyone else ahead of you and make yourself the number one priority, even just for a moment, you are telling yourself that you are just as worthy and deserving of care as everyone else. Make it a daily ritual and you’ll feel more positive, fulfilled and have a greater sense of wellbeing.
The brain wasn’t created for long periods of focus. Taking time out for yourself helps your brain reboot, so that you are ultimately more productive.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there isn’t the time, you’re stretched as it is, life is too busy, too manic. For solo parents in particular, it may feel virtually impossible. When you don’t have another parent to take the kids, it’s easy to feel suffocated by non-negotiable parental duties and lack of alone time.
You might find yourself knowing you need a break but unable to see how that can ever be possible.
‘Maybe when the kids are older’.
What if you could find the time and space for yourself now? Today? Why would you wait?
Creating space for yourself doesn’t have to feel like an impossible task. I have a few simple tips that you can start using today, to find that all important me time.
1 – Change your perspective on ‘rest’
First things first, let go of the guilt surrounding resting.
It’s not unusual for people to find it hard to rest. We tend to think of rest as being unproductive, or lazy. The reality couldn’t be further than the truth – rest is a fundamental and important human need.
If you struggle with the idea of resting then try ‘recharging’ instead. When you take time to recharge you are fuelling yourself. By topping up your energy levels you can create more balance in your life, so that you are better equipped to deal with everything that your life and your kids throw at you.
2 – Let things go
To create time for yourself, you might need to let go of other tasks. Take a moment to really consider what activities you could drop, reduce or get support with in order to free up time. Remember that your me time is un-negotiable, so ask yourself what time drains are taking up too much of your life and how can you make a change?
When it comes to daily chores, remember that you won’t be done unless you say you are. There will always be ‘one more thing’ to do before you take time for yourself. The dishes can wait, you can’t.
Take a moment to really consider what activities you could drop, reduce or get support with in order to free up time.
3 – Delegate, delegate, delegate
If your kids are old enough to get involved with everyday tasks like cooking, tidying, laundry and cleaning then get them involved as soon as you can.
That can be easier said than done, so set them realistic expectations and make it as fun as possible for everyone. I love doing a ‘one song blast’ where everyone gets involved in tidying up at the end of the day for the duration of one good song. It can save ten minutes, which goes straight towards ‘me time’.
4 – Use simple time management techniques
By employing better time management as a single parent, we can consolidate tasks, free up time and feel less hounded by our to do list.
My favourite way to free up time for myself in the evenings is to do what’s called ‘front loading’. Quite simply, it means putting all the worst, most time consuming and least enjoyable tasks at the start of the day or week.
Do any jobs that take two minutes or less as soon as you think of them. No hesitation, just get up and do it straight away.
By getting them done and out the way as soon as possible, you are immediately in a better head space and feel less pressured because you don’t have any dreaded jobs hanging over you. It also ensures that these essential jobs don’t get pushed further and further back, which inevitably means they end up cutting into your evenings and your alone time.
Another way to simply and effortlessly create more time for yourself is to do any jobs that take two minutes or less as soon as you think of them. No hesitation, just get up and do it straight away. This can be a huge game changer for time-starved single parents of small children in particular, because you don’t have to rely on things like nap time to get jobs done. It’s easy, and the time soon adds up. Do it ten times through the day and you’ve found yourself an extra 20 minutes of recharge time when the kids are in bed.
5 – Create a sanctuary
Having a physical space which is free from toys and general kids clutter can be a real life line, particularly for solo parents who are managing the parenting alone. A calm area of the house which is just for you can feel like a tranquil retreat when overwhelm and parenting burnout is at the door.
Consider where you could create space for yourself, it could be your bedroom or a quiet corner of the house with a comfy chair and a cosy blanket to snuggle under. Add creature comforts like a scented candle, stack of books or a journal.
The key to making this work is to communicate with the kids that this is your relaxing space where you can go for some alone time. We can’t create these boundaries if we don’t communicate them, so lovingly let the household know that you have a chill out zone and why it’s important to you.
6 – Show yourself some grace
The most important step in creating time for yourself as a single parent is to practice self compassion. Not every day will be productive, it won’t always be a good day, there will be times when things feel impossible and that your to do list is ganging up on you. That’s when self kindness saves the day.
Allow yourself to take a breath. Give yourself permission to take that break you need, whenever the opportunity arises. Be mindful of quiet moments in the day that you can take advantage of.
Step away from the laundry and sit down with your hot coffee when you can. You owe it to yourself.
Joy Jewell works as a Habit Coach, helping people to build habits that can change their future and that stick around. Find out more about Joy on Instagram at self.hood.