Being a parent is challenging in the best of situations; however, when you are a single parent, the most difficult aspect is that there is no one there with which you can share those challenges. In a dual parent home, parenting can be a tag-team effort during difficult times. In a single parent home, if you are not addressing the problems, they are not being addressed. This can lead to an incredible stress level.
Regardless of the situations which cause our stress levels to rise, there are a few considerations that can help all parents with managing their stress levels. These considerations may seem trite when first examined; however, they can have a powerful impact on the quality of your personal life and your abilities to parent well.
Sleep is critical to a parent’s ability to function both physically and emotionally at a product level. Research has always supported healthy sleep habits to benefit personal health. Recent research has shown that this is true in more ways that we ever suspected. Both too little and too much sleep can be harmful. For adults, most research indicates that 6-8 hours of sleep per night is optimal. Sleep, believe it or not, does a lot more than balancing our energy levels and keeping our moods stable. Sleep has a direct effect on our immune system, our heart, and is a factor in diseases such as diabetes and depression. Inadequate sleep can “damage” a person’s physical and emotional health to the point that their parenting skills are severely compromised.
Exercise is an excellent de-stressor! I am not suggesting that you join a gym (unless that is your preference!); however, walking can provide both physical and emotional release. Additionally, it can be an activity in which you include your children if necessary. Many neighborhoods now include walking trails in their plans, providing a close, economical method for engaging in exercise. While walking on your own or with another adult provide an excellent set of benefits, including the children, if it is necessary (or if you prefer!), by depositing the toddler in a stroller you can push, bringing along the youngster on a bike or roller skates, or having teens get into the habit of exercise by walking with you can also provide benefits extending beyond self to include establishing the healthy habit of exercise and emphasizing quality time together.
Socialize! I am not suggesting that you make evening plans for dinner or you join the party circuit. What I am suggesting is that you cultivate a friend or two – at work, or church, or in your neighborhood – with whom you can have lunch, meet for coffee on Saturday morning, or share babysitting. Lunch can be a brown bag deal at a local park. Coffee can be on your front porch. The interaction between adults where you can have an adult conversation is more meaningful than can be imagined. Keeping in touch with the world outside your own home on a level of adult maturity is necessary to parental sanity!
Budget and organization can never to over-rated! It is very hard to budget for and organize our lives as single parents. Getting into the habit of sticking to a budget and organizing our days can be extremely difficult. However, once these ideals are adopted as a way of life, it becomes obvious why they are so beneficial. While it may be painful at first, the rewards are remarkable. Most of us need assistance in budgeting and many cities have assistance programs through United Way or area churches that are available to help us get started. They are well worth the effort to seek out their advice. As for organization, I used to laugh at the charts some of my friends kept on their refrigerator doors that detailed the schedules of each of their children. However, when I realized that they never forgot the snacks for a sports team or were called away from work to run a forgotten project to school, I understood the benefits of those charts. We can all use as much help as we can get.
Indulge. It can be as simple as a bubble bath after the kids are in bed or listening to your favorite radio station while doing the house-cleaning. Allow yourself as many of these little privileges as you can embrace. For example, I love cut flowers. But I will not purchase them because they are a colossal waste of money! After all, they are incredibly expensive and they die in no time. However, many of the grocery stores that include a florist section will discount their bouquets when they begin to wilt. I will indulge myself in a 50% discounted bouquet that I take home to arrange in a smaller vase after discarding those flowers that are already turning brown. For a few days, there is a moment of brightness for which I do not feel I wasted my hard earned cash. For the avid reader who cannot afford to purchase the books on their wish list, check them out at the public library! Sometimes you will have to put your name on a waiting list, but you will assuredly find another good read while you are waiting for the title to become available.
In today’s world and as a single parent, stress is unavoidable. However, if you learn and use healthy methods for dealing with stress, we can keep our life from begin over-run with unnecessary difficult. Additionally, we will be teaching our children better methods for dealing with their own stress as they get older, since example will always be the best teacher.
Give yourself permission to de-stress a little today and every day!