After having three kids, my self-care quickly took a back seat as it does for so many moms. Long gone were the random pedicure dates with my girlfriends, the long stretches lying in bed looking at magazines, and the time to simply take a mental health day with no one else to care for.
I kept telling myself it was fine; this was my life now, and in time, my kids would be grown, and I could get back to me. I rushed through my days. I bought my kids new clothes and wore underwear with holes in them. I thought I shouldn’t spend the money getting my hair done. There was a time when my anxiety was out of control, and even though my sister told me I needed to get help and gave me her therapist’s number, I made excuse after excuse.
This is time away from my kids.
Nothing terrible has happened, and I should stop being selfish and handle my life.
I started to crash and burn very quickly because I refused to invest in myself. I began to feel my mental health decline after about five years of marriage, after we’d had three kids.
My ex-husband was (and still is) a very hands-on father. He helped out around the house; he encouraged me to go out with my friends or get a manicure. He was more than happy to take time off of work when he could (I wasn’t working at the time), so he could get quality time with his kids and I could catch my breath. He begged me to do this on several occasions, and finally I relented.
Then, when we decided to divorce, it hit me hard that no one else would come in and save me. No one was going to schedule a spa day, therapy session, or remind me to go to bed at a certain hour. No one was going to know what I needed as I would, and I had to stop with the damn excuses and take charge of my mental health.
That meant being intentional about carving out time for self-care.
If you are a single mother and you are good at playing the “I don’t have time/money/means/ help game,” I hear you. I do.
But I’m also telling you if you don’t make changes that allow you to incorporate self-care and take care of yourself, you are going to run yourself into the ground. Time and money are always going to be an issue, but guess what? You are more important. And you need all the strength you can muster when you are a single mother, and it’s not going to come from not taking time for yourself.
Here are some things that helped me tremendously:
Find some divorced friends
This will forever be the best thing I did for myself. I don’t care if it’s someone on Facebook you’ve never met or a high school friend you haven’t seen or talked to in decades. It helps to have someone who has been through it.
Talking about things to someone who truly gets it will always leave you feeling better. It can be a weekly chat, lots of texting, or someone you get together with once a week. My divorced girlfriends (even if they got remarried) were my saving grace.
It is okay for your kids to see you take time away from them and do something for yourself that will help you and, in turn, help them. Therapy is so good, especially when going through a significant life change like divorce. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing either. You may only need it for a few months, but it’s not something to put off if you are struggling.
Find a hobby
There is nothing like a new hobby or passion that can give you a new life. We all need those little things that help us get out of bed in the morning. You are starting over in many ways — why not add something you’ve always wanted to try into the mix?
Stop putting yourself last all the time. You are worthy of a new outfit, a massage, or a weekend away. Once you treat yourself a time or two, you will feel so much better and wonder why it took you this long to invest in yourself.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing, she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.