17 self-care tips for solo parents

Jennifer Pinarski is learning that self-care is critical when it comes to solo-parenting.
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Photo: Jennifer Pinarski with Gillian and Isaac.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

As our family heads into the fourth month of me solo-parenting Isaac and Gillian while my husband is away for work, I’d love to be able to say that it has gotten easier. I’d love to be able to say that I’ve established a routine, that the kids have adjusted to our new lifestyle and that I’ve mastered solo parenting. But I haven’t. I feel just as lost and disorganized as I ever have and, while the children seem to be resilient and managing well, each morning they wake up expecting to see their dad sitting at the breakfast table—and of course, he’s not.

As I’ve mentioned before, solo-parenting is much lonelier than I expected. Part of this, I believe, is due to the fact I spend my days making sure that my children are happy, and by the time they are tucked into bed, I am too tired to make sure that I am happy. I’m learning that self-care is critical—but I’m just not sure how to make it happen. I asked my single and solo mom friends how they stay sane and healthy—here are their top tips:

Give yourself a break

More than one mom told me that I’m being too hard on myself, and they’re probably right. Having our house on the real estate market has put extra pressure on me to keep the house tidy which, if you’ve read my blog for awhile, I’d really rather not do. I’ve learned to let a few tasks slide and enlist the help of my kids for age-appropriate chores.

  • Stock the fridge, leave the dishes and breathe! — ‏@DanielleASigne via Twitter
  • Knowing I’m doing better than good. — @supermom411k via Twitter
  • Sleep as much as you can, when you can. Parenting solo is emotionally and physically draining; rest is your best friend. On days when I am exhausted, I go to bed with my kids. On the weekends—since my kids are old enough to stumble out of bed, turn on the TV and pour themselves a bowl of cereal—I give myself permission to sleep in. — @LeeAmandaJ via Twitter

 Talk it over

  • Now three years on my own, widowed with a two-month-old and a two-year old, getting help and advice is brave and is my top tip. Having someone to talk to is a sanity saver. — @narmstrong19 via Twitter

Sweat it out

  • I start to get pretty yelly when it’s just me and the kids and I haven’t made the time for exercise. I schedule workouts, which are usually swimming at lunch or a treadmill run after the kids are in bed. — @sarah_jbd via Twitter
  • Find a gym with a daycare. Workout, shower and a break from the kids. — @4Kids1MomTravel via Twitter

Take a timeout

  • Insist on some quiet time on weekends. — @sarah_jbd via Twitter
  • Hot baths, massage chair, yoga, dancing and lifting weights. — @supermom411k via Twitter
  • I have used bribery for a nap… a nap for me, I might add, not for my daughter. She watches a movie she likes or some iPad time and is not allowed to bug Mommy until the clock shows XYZ. Takes a few goes, but she does it. — @chantalsaville via Twitter

Plan and prep

  • Mostly it’s sticking to routine: Meal planning so I’m not scrambling and scheduling workouts for myself. — @sarah_jbd via Twitter
  • Make meals ahead of time and stick in freezer. — @writerkarma via Twitter
  • Embrace casseroles and the crock pot! Cook 3x/week, enough for two meals each time. Seventh meal = bought or at friends! Casseroles/crockpot also make doing dishes much easier! — @sbbridge7 via Twitter
  • I have set up a plastic box on a reachable fridge shelf that contains the available snacks for the day. If she eats them, that’s it. But the advantage is that I am not getting up like a lemming to get her stuff out of the fridge or cupboard all the livelong day. — @chantalsaville via Twitter

Ask for help

  • As hard as it can be, sometimes you have to ask for help! Embrace the help of trusted friends, neighbours and relatives. — @sbbridge7 via Twitter
  • If you’re co-parenting, embrace the time you don’t have your kids. For some solo parents, they’re on 24/7. If you can afford it, hire a sitter and give yourself a night out, or arrange a swap with another parent and give each other a break. Whether it’s a date night, an evening at the theatre, a film, or catching up with a friend over a glass of wine, it’s important to step away from being a parent and take some time to enjoy yourself—preferably in the company of other adults. Something all parents can benefit from. — @LeeAmandaJ via Twitter
  • Being a single parent can be a lonely experience. Holidays, even as innocuous as Halloween, are reminders you are on your own. Plan in advance to spend time with other friends and their kids during the holidays so you have someone to share the joy (and burden) with. Seek out other single parents and arrange your own festivities, join online social groups geared to solo parents, or call up your best friend and let them know you want the pleasure of their company. — @LeeAmandaJ via Twitter

Don’t sweat the small stuff

  • Decide what’s important and drop stuff that doesn’t matter. You probably don’t really need to clean out the fridge while both kids are home, right? — @chantalsaville via Twitter

Are you a solo or single parent who has a self-care tip to share with me? I’d love to hear it! Tweet me @jenpinarski.

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