Single Mom: In Pursuit of Self-Care
For the last couple of months I’ve been battling weird bouts of a stomach ailment.
I did what most logical people do these days and sought the advice of a doctor, well, Dr. Google that is, which told me I had Diverticulitis. Or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
So I adjusted my diet and ate more carbs, then less carbs. No coffee and just tea. The BRAT diet will cure it!
Except it didn’t, really.
I even tried to find some pattern that was related to my menstrual cycle or what I had eaten the night before each time it started, which as it turns out were my feelings.
Yes, I’m eating my feelings and they are giving diarrhea.
You’d think that after the second time it happened after a few weeks of regularity, I’d figure out that I needed to take better care of myself. I’m a therapist, after all, and a victim of major psychosomatic symptoms, so my stomach issues were pretty text book.
And to be fair, I thought that I had been doing a pretty decent job, with regular gym visits, earlier bedtimes. I’d cleansed my life of an unhealthy dating relationship.
But yet, I still couldn’t eat regular food.
Then just last week I had a parent visit with my daughter’s art therapist, and wouldn’t you know that all my own drawings (as part of our family evaluation) and all her observations of me wrangling my kids led her to one conclusion:
I need to take better care of myself.
Self-care is a tricky beast to wrangle, because as a parent (and in my case, a single parent), it comes rife with guilt. It’s also an ongoing pursuit and not the end-all-be-all.
Somehow we’ve all come to believe that if we take time for ourselves, whether it’s getting a sitter for a date night, skipping a meeting for a manicure, or engaging in whatever small things we need to do to rejuvenate our spirits, we’re selfish. And we’ve associated selfish as bad, and selfless as good, when really there is no way we can properly care for others, alone or coupled, if we are not well and healthy (and happy) ourselves.
If you’re tired or stressed or overwhelmed, you just aren’t going to be the best parent you could be for your kids. And in my case, I also can’t eat anything other than ramen noodles and bananas.
Considering how much I’m juggling, it’s not surprising.
I’m still working to change the messaging about self-care in my head so that it sounds like I’m being smart not selfish. And really, it is. Because if I’m not well enough to care for my children, then what’s the alternative? Not one that I want to consider.
Make no mistake: Stress is as real as a virus or an infection, and if it’s not treated on a regular basis, it will spread and fester. And inevitably, it will affect your performance, as a parent, and as a person.
We’re not robots, after all. Simply acknowledging your own humanness is probably the healthiest thing you can do to be a good parent to your children, single or not.