#31: Do something weird/new/different…
My last of 31 days of tips is the most fun one: do something weird. Do something really out of the ordinary for you. Break your pattern. You never know what might happen. I learned this one years before I had a child, back when I worked for a wildlife biologist and our work consisted of hours long hikes everyday. We followed a very strict routine but once per week we would purposely break our pattern of following the same path. And every time. EVERY TIME. Something really cool would happen. We would startle up a bobcat, have our path crossed by a snake, see mountain lion tracks, or even find really interesting trash that had made its way to the acres we surveyed. It never failed – and it really stuck with me. So what would happen if you tried something really off your own beaten path?
Something like: take piano lessons, learn a language, take an aromatherapy class, start a Friday night supper tradition with friends, move to another city, go camping in a new spot, learn how to swim, go home from work along a different route, tried a different parenting style for one day, talk to ten strangers in one day, or…any one of my 3o other tips that sounded really weird.
Try it! I’d love to hear what happens!
#30: Celebrate your friends
If there is one thing I’ve learned on this single parent journey is that truly good friends are few and far between. Single mom stigma can change people’s view of you. It’s true. And just becoming a parent in general prevents a lot of people from reaching out to you in the same way they did before. Lucky for us we still love ourselves (see tip #29)! And even luckier – you will find that you still have some really awesome people in your life. Fewer than before – but they are the best of them. It’s so easy to be stressed out and only seeing the negative, but how would it feel to celebrate these really good friends for a bit? Send a thank you love note, throw a dinner or picnic in their honor, or heck go all out and take out a full page ad in the New York Times thanking them! They deserve it.
#29: Love yourself
Be kind(er) to yourself, practice radical self-love, validate your own experience and emotions, prioritize your needs. Aren’t these things we all want to do for ourselves but never get around to? Hats off to you if you are already so kind to yourself! I don’t meet so many people who have really mastered this. Here are some ideas to get you going. Try out something that sounds right to you!
Just pause and take a breath
Create a list of your own life priorities – and see if the life you are living matches up with these
Stop the negative talk when you catch your reflection – realize you are beautiful and you have a beautiful body that serves you everyday
If you have the budget for it schedule regular massages, acupuncture, yoga or meditation classes, etc
If you don’t have the budget for the above, set time aside for a yoga DVD and/or self massage with one of these magical things. These things can even be sourced free or cheap on Freecycle, craigslist, etc…
Try some guided meditations online
Take 5 minutes to do a gratitude journal before bed
Refuse to multi-task
Make yourself a healthy green smoothie
Road-trip to a new place
Go to a poetry slam. Bonus points if you participate!
Get enough sleep. Go to bed earlier.
Literally tell yourself “I love me!”
This entire “31 single parent tips in 31 days” is really about taking care of yourself. I just wanted to call self-love out here in no uncertain terms. How about you? What are your favorite ways to love yourself as much as you do others?
This is something I learned partly from being a single parent and partly from living without a car. I automate delivery of anything I can. I do this using Amazon Prime delivery and I subscribe to items like diapers (bonus: get 20% off all diapers when you sign up for Amazon “Mom”) wipes, laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, handsoap, and even toilet paper. I know how often I need these things and I set my account to have them delivered on schedule. Not only do I not need to haul anything home in the stroller – but I don’t need to keep mental tabs on what we need because I know it is on it’s way at the right time. Other things you can automate to make your life easier (and then spend all that extra time you saved at the beach!):
Have any other ideas you swear by?
#27: Wish others well
Think about the person who bugs you most in the world. Your boss, your ex, your mom, neighbor, that super judgmental mom acquaintance at the park… Now wish that they be safe, happy, healthy, joyful, relaxed, satisfied and at ease. It really lifts your own spirit at the same time. Can’t think of a much better path to be on than that.
#26: Say yes
I know, I know, yesterday I said “say no.” what I’m suggesting here is that you say yes to opportunities to help you build community. To help others as you would want to be helped. Hear of someone in need? Help her/him out if you can. You can probably do more than you think you can. Does a neighbor parent need before school care so they can get to an early work meeting? Why not help out if you are just going through your morning motions at home with your own kid? Hear of a friend who is sick? Why not double your recipe at dinner and take them half? Meet someone who could use a little pep talk? Why not share your words of wisdom – you could really make their day/week/month. I think if you do for others what you would want done for you, you can make the world a better place in small ways.
#25: Say no
As a single parent (or any parent) you learn pretty quickly you don’t have time to say yes to everything anymore. At first it feels like you are missing out on so many fun opportunities but it really comes to feel good to protect your time and try to keep things simple. This also means saying no to your child sometimes. I think that is a good things. I’ve met so many boundary-less adults in my life and I hope I’m raising my child to respect himself and value his own time. He may not see it that way at this point though! We also talk about how “no means no.” A very valuable lesson. The bottom line is that I just can’t do it all anymore – and I’ve come to realize I don’t actually want to either. I’m much clearer now on what is worth my time and it feels really good to stick to that.
#24: Use your ice water
This is a little trick brought to you by my friend CJ who was a single parent for a while. His son is now a thriving, interesting early 20-something. We were at a restaurant with my toddler and when our food came it was too hot for my child. Who was also sooooooo hungry he didn’t know what to do with himself. CJ took a french fry and dunked it into his ice water. Cool enough to eat and just a little wet! We proceeded to do this with other pieces of the meal until it was all cool enough not to be necessary. Since then, this has saved us from many restaurant meltdowns. And it’s so easy. You probably already knew about this trick because you are awesome like that. But it was such a revelation to me I couldn’t not share. If I can save one family from a restaurant meltdown – I’m happy!
#23: Stop multitasking
Focus on one thing at a time and I bet you will actually pack more into your day and have a more meaningful life then when you try to do it all at once. I think another term for this is “be present.” When it comes to my kid, I notice that if I fully give him my full attention he less prone to tantrums throughout the day and also more understanding when I do have to step away for a few minutes for a phone call or something. I think this is a hard one in the time of speedy internet connections and smartphones – and their related addictions – but try it and I think you will like what you see. Think you need your smartphone at your fingertips at all times? Think back to your life before one entered your life and how much more eye contact and deep and uninterrupted conversations with friends you had back then. I will admit to a love of the internet – but keeping away until after my son goes to bed has been a good move for us. We also don’t have a smartphone in our family at this point and I really like it that way. I think multitasking can be a sign of boredom – why not make changes so you aren’t so bored instead of cheaply filling the time? I also understand the need to get things done while your kid is around – especially for single parents – cooking meals, doing dishes, etc – but why not get the family involved. We have some fun memories of my child at around 1 year old standing on a chair and “doing disses.”
Anyone feeling like getting off the smartphone bandwagon? I would love to hear from you!
#22: Keep a journal
Or a blog, or a really honest baby book, or trade letters with a regular pen pal. There is some thing about putting words down in writing that is so grounding and that also helps you have the self awareness needed to make important changes. I’ve gone the blog and baby book route. Here is the baby book I have grown very attached to over the last two years. Occasionally I read back through it and I’m so glad I wrote the good, the bad and the funny down – because I surely would have forgotten some of these stories already. And here is the one I think I will move on to now that I’m running out of room to write in the first one.