I'm A Low-Income Single Mom, And I Deserve Self-Care Too

I’m A Low-Income Single Mom, And I Deserve Self-Care Too

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SA'IYDA SHABAZZ

When you’re a single mom, it’s rare that you have time to yourself. You have to grab moments of peace wherever you can find them.

For some that means staying up when you’re dead tired just because it’s the first time you get to actually sit down and enjoy some silence for the first time that day. For others, it may mean getting up an hour early to sip coffee in silence before the day starts.

All motherhood is selfless, but single motherhood takes that selflessness to another level. Because when you are the one everyone depends on, there is rarely time to take care of yourself. As a single mother, finding the time and money for self care is hard, but it’s essential to our wellbeing and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

Self-care has become a bit of a buzz word in the last few years. While it may sound trendy, at its core, the concept is important. Mothers have to take care of themselves to be able to take care of their families. Single moms have so many things on their plates that they often put themselves at the bottom of the list. That’s if they even make the list at all. This means we are often pouring from an empty cup, and that’s not healthy.

As a single mom, I can’t tell you how many times I forget to take care of myself, simply because I’m not thinking about it. But in the last year or so, I’ve been trying to find those moments for self-care, because I realize it makes me a better mother when I’m taking care of myself. I feel more mentally and emotionally sound, and physically I feel more refreshed and energized. It’s truly a win-win.

I think we have preconceived notions about what self-care is, given what we see and read. Self-care isn’t something that has to be extravagant — in fact, it doesn’t even have to cost money at all. After making sure all the bills are paid and making sure my son has everything he needs, there is never a lot of money left for myself, but the thing I’ve begun doing is taking some of that leftover cash and using it on little  things that will make me happy.

So often, society punishes mothers for taking care of themselves. This is even more true for low-income and single mothers. It’s as if we somehow don’t deserve to treat ourselves as people. And that’s mainly because of our lack of partners or less than ideal financial situation. But we’re already giving so much of ourselves — we can’t continue to hang ourselves out to dry and expect to live up to what kind of mothers (or employees) we want to be.

Most of the time, I don’t need much to make myself happy. Buying a pint of ice cream or the good cheese at the grocery store is enough sometimes. It’s really not about what I’m buying. It’s about the fact that I took the time to think about myself, however briefly.

Self-care is just that — caring for yourself. As I get older, I realize how crucial taking care of myself is. I’m in my 30s now. I have to put forth a little bit more effort to keep up my health and appearance. Making sure I eat lunch is a form of self-care I’m becoming more conscious of. And though it’s a bit pricey, a regular skin care routine is another form of self-care that improves my quality of life.

When I take care of myself, I’m a happier person, and when I’m happy, my son is happy. Burning the candle at both ends, which is what I’m doing most of the time, leaves me tired and cranky and emotionally worn out.  And when I’m in that state of mind, I’m not being the mother I want to be. I’m not being the mother my son deserves. Not that it’s rainbows and sunshine all the time, but he doesn’t deserve me blowing up at him over little things because I’m so tired and stressed.

Single moms are always sacrificing themselves for their kids. But I think we overcompensate for that sacrifice a lot too. Because we’re not giving them a house with two parents, many of us feel like we’re failing them already. Whether or not we admit it, that’s often a thought at the back of our minds. So, we throw ourselves even further into being the parent our kids deserve because we don’t want them to feel like they’re missing out on anything. And that sacrifice costs us our wellbeing more often than not.

Last year,  I splurged on a ticket to a concert I really wanted to go to. It didn’t hurt us financially because I had saved up and took on extra work, and I didn’t realize just how much I needed that night. For a few hours, I got to see my friends and temporarily forget that most of my identity is tied into being someone’s mom. I was just a woman having a good time at a concert. Of course my responsibilities meant that I had to rush home after the show and not go out to karaoke and cocktails with my friends, but again, that’s the sacrifice of motherhood. Still, even though I didn’t get to spend more time out, those few restorative hours carried me for weeks. Everyone noticed how much my mood had improved.

I needed that time away, and I flat out deserved it. I could have used that money for something else, or saved it for a rainy day, but my well-being and humanity are valuable too. So, I felt no guilt.

As a single mom who doesn’t have a lot of money, I don’t have many opportunities to take care of myself the way I should. I’m always going to take care of my son first and that often means that I do without. But that doesn’t mean that when I can, I shouldn’t take care of myself too. Whether it be something as simple as buying myself a latte from Starbucks, or something bigger like taking a weekend away with my friends. If I want to be a present mother for my child, I have to be present for myself. I will continue to practice self-care in whatever form it is available and accessible to me, and I will not feel held down by society’s expectations or standards of single, low-income moms any longer.