I am happily married and a Mom of one, however, I am pretty much raising our child on my own as my husband is away for huge chunks of time for his work in Uganda. We laugh that I’m an ‘Unsingle, Single Mom’. Yes, we laugh, but there are times when I struggle to fight back the tears.
Don’t get me wrong! I totally appreciate that my husband being away most of the time is not as hard as being an actual single mum, as I am fortunate enough to still have support from him. However, I hope some of the ideas in this article will be useful to both single mums and ‘unsingle mums’, as my whole philosophy is that we should all support one another in all the circumstances in which we find ourselves parenting.
Having and raising a child is glorious, amazing, wonderful… a gift! It is also equal parts exhausting, overwhelming and crippling with self-doubt. I find at times, when I’m on the phone with my husband, that I can’t share with him that I’m ‘not so great’ and that I am overwhelmed; it doesn’t sound exciting or sexy on our limited phone calls.
I think back to when my daughter was born, why didn’t someone at the hospital tell me that being a Mom can, and will, be isolating and you will have extreme moments of loneliness. A Mom’s struggle to comfortably breastfeed in public is still not normalised. A Mom’s struggle trying to juggle work and be 100% present for the child is not supported. A Mom’s struggle to find herself again postpartum is not supported enough or even at all.
I knew very early on that I was a struggling Mom. That I wasn’t coping properly, that I had lost ‘me’.
I have childcare for my daughter three days a week. On those three days, I lock myself in a bedroom and I work. I’m going to fully admit something here, I love these three days. I feel powerful and creative. I feel an energy buzz that matches my love of coffee. So, why do I feel ‘Mom Guilt’? She is safe, taken care of. These three days I feel a sense of something that was once normal. Why couldn’t I get back to fully feeling and being normal?
I found during my three days of ‘weekly bliss’, I was actually manic doing work. I wasn’t being fully creative because I was exhausted. I still had this ‘itty bitty shitty committee’ nagging inside me telling me that I wasn’t back in my pre-baby skinny jeans, my skin looked awful and, well, my hair was still falling out. Ugh! That killed me. I knew I needed to structure my blissful three days of work into some personal self-work too. Do I think three days is enough, nope. But it’s what I’ve got, and it is also a good start. I knew I needed to make a game plan and try to start implementing this daily with my daughter. I could clearly feel and see, from the outside looking in, I was a sinking ship. This was not healthy.
I know it’s not healthy to live with a self-deprecating narrative in my head, as it stops me being the absolute best for my daughter. I have found that not only is it about being the best for my child, but I also need to be the absolute best for ME. Yes, emphasis on ME. How can I, and how can you, as a parent, whether single or ‘unsingle’, flip the switch to make it successfully through each day in a positive way?
You need to take a step back from your day to really look at what serves you and what you can cut out in order to find quiet time, you time, and even personal work time. You have to look at this without panic. I was doing this at first in panic-mode, but I have slowly found my way. You can achieve great work in small, half-hour increments. Those little half hours do add up.
So, here is what I have learnt and my top tips for navigating parenting on your own:
Bonus and probably the best tip.
I tell my daughter every day that I love her, like a million times. I now also look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, I love you. Does this sound silly? Perhaps, yes. However, I acknowledge I am a priority, I am strong, I am capable, and I am doing a darn good job being an ‘Unsingle, single Mom’. And so are you.
Ashley is a mom, founder of the Bizzimumzi podcast, and Define London fitness studio. She is a former Broadway performer and celebrity trainer. Through Bizzimumzi Ashley has created a welcoming community to share the highs and lows of parenting, and inspire others to feel empowered in their journey. Ashley believes the most perfect picture of parenting is simply when you are trying your best. Bizzimumzi is a safe space that helps parents to inspire, educate and support each other to be the best parent they can be.