Is it just me, or is this generation of moms like total babes?! I mean, not even speaking from personal experience -- seriously, like everyone in my mom group, or other mamas I see wandering North County, San Diego are like the modern day Barbie with a baby on their hip as the trendiest accessory to hit the market. Who needs a designer handbag when you have a toddler?!
Most mamas have their personal Ken doll and second babies on the way, and I'm over here in my beach shack with Tanner, trying to eat clean(ish) and working on my abs to stay a babe, ya know, since I'm single now. That being said, as a modern day single mama who gets by with a little help from her friends and neighbors turned family, here's my round-up on ten ways to kill it as a single, late 20-something mama flying solo with a toddler.
1. Enroll your munchkin in pre-school or day care. If you work full time and are used to having your little one in school, take a deep breath, relax, and know school is the best thing for your little one right now. It provides structure and a safety bubble toddlers especially thrive off of. If you're lucky enough to work from home and have a pre-K aged child, go get on a preschool waiting list...like right now. You need a few hours to "relax" outside of your workday -- I mean, go grocery shopping, clean the house, schedule and go to annual appointments, do laundry, fold laundry, put away laundry, then maybe even shower, brush your teeth AND maybe even have enough time to shave your legs. Then do your hair....Yeah right, pick one or two from the list above, because that's all you're going to have time to do between 9am-3pm before the clock strikes 'midnight' and you already have to go pick up your mini me, feeling like you accomplished absolutely nothing.
2. Lean on your best friends and don't be afraid to ask for help. This is something I struggle with, because I don't like to ask for favors. But I've had to, and am so grateful for all the friends who have helped me when times got tough and I really needed a last minute sitter, shoulder to cry on, ear to listen, or PIC to come out and drink champs with me.
3. Have a baby sitter, and a back-up sitter, and a back-up back-up sitter. You need reinforcement when you get called into work early, have to stay late, need a night out with friends (hi, this is survival as a single mom who rarely gets "normal human time"), have to run a baby-free errand, go to a doctor's appointment, or get that well-deserved mani-pedi once every month, error, more like 3-4 months because #whohastimeforthatanymore.
4. Join a mom group (if you haven't already). This is equally as valuable for toddler AND mama. Your little monster gets to blow off steam playing with, or shall I say, parallel playing or hopefully not hitting and biting, the other kids, while you get to gossip, vent, and bond with other mamas going through the same stage of life. Don't isolate yourself. Being the first of a group to go through a separation or divorce can make you feel awkward and like an outcast. Don't let it; if there's one thing about mothers, it's that we're a tribe. We respect and understand and feel for one another. Let other moms give you a hug and be there for you, because out of anyone, they will genuinely want to.
5. If your friends want to set you up, or someone asks you on a date...DO IT. Say yes. Rip off the bandaid. What do you have to lose? I went out with friends for my birthday (for the first time... ever in like three years) and a guy used the line "Can I take you to coffee? What's the worst that can happen -- you get a free cup of coffee and good conversation, right?!" Instead of my gut reaction to kick him in the shins, call him a creep, and run the other way, I thought, whythehellnot and I did it -- I met a total stranger for the first time in almost seven years. Don't worry, I checked in with all my friends letting them know where I was going, his name I creepily stalked obsessively from Google, and ensured everyone I told that I was meeting in a public place -- during the day, obviously. Turns out he wasn't expecting this little minx to come as a package deal with a toddler, but #byeeeeeee thanks for the cup of tea, and the boost of confidence that being a mom can still mean you're a total babe and guys still want your number. Since then, I've signed up on dating apps, and have thoroughly enjoyed the humor in all of it, and have actually gone on a handful of amazing dates and met some pretty interesting, awesome people... who knew Tinder and Bumble could be so...normal. Sure, I've had some horror stories (like being called a mystical unicorn that caused them to fall in love at first sight)... oh boy. Dating is... interesting. Bizarre dates aside, GET OUT THERE. Give yourself a reason to get butterflies, do your hair, do your makeup, shave, and feel vulnerable. Of course, be safe about the situations you put yourself in, but have FUN. Say yes to something you normally wouldn't. Because when you feel whole, you're a better mom. Promise.
6. Find a hobby, or two, and make time for it/them. It can be ANYTHING, and doesn't have to be something that costs money, since all single moms are on a serious budget, no matter what alimony you may collect. Take a painting class, dive into a new workout regimen, join a co-ed league, pick up a new instrument... something that fills your heart and soul and makes you feel alive. The only thing more important than being a good mom is being a good YOU. Finding something to make you feel like you is priceless - makes you a better person, a better mother, and a better woman.
7. Hire a financial planner. Whether you've always been a single mom, or went through a separation and/or divorce, there's a lot of financial responsibility that comes along with a child, and it can be overwhelming to try and figure it all out on your own. Meeting with a professional can help you get your ducks, I mean, pennies, in a row, and draw a map of what needs to go where and when. You can be prepared to categorize and budget, everything from toilet paper to Teddy Grahams.
8. Know it's okay to indulge. Whatever your favorite "cheat" is -- find it and stock it. Champs? Chocolate? Wine? Sour gummy worms? Make it readily available to access after a long day. As they say, days are long and years are short. So cheers to what makes you relax, even if you only get five seconds to do so.
9. Upgrade to a cable service that offers a DVR that tapes to all TVs from one. You'll never, ever have time to watch ANY show on time, especially in quiet. So record them all, and catch up the one night a week you're not doing 100 other things from #1's list. Then insert #8 and put your feet up.
10. Go with the flow, but also have a routine. Kind of a catch-22, but these both save my sanity so much. I have a semi-schedule I try to stick to on non-school days (breakfast, snack, lunch, nap or quiet time, toddler sneaking out of quiet time, so repeat, then offer a snack, play, make dinner, play, bath time, bedtime... finally), but I am never too fussy about when exactly everything has to be. We wake up when we wake up, we eat when we eat, and we attempt a nap when it's a necessity for surviving the rest of the day without 12938 tantrums because of over exhaustion. We eat what we can find in the fridge, cook what's quick, healthy, and easy, and insert as many activities as possible into our day so we don't have down time aka have a toddler tornado plow through the house that makes you lose your mind and bury your clean (what's that?) house. Running low on energy and didn't get to the store today to be Betty Crocker and make a fresh dinner? Those Chef-Boyardee raviolis you swore you'd never feed your perfectly organically-raised baby will do justttt fine. Add some avocado or peas for some greengage and toss a few blueberries on a plate for some fiber and antioxidants and #BOOM. You just nailed dinner and all the food groups.
BONUS, #11 -- Don't ever forget you are doing the best.you.can. You're a beautiful, strong, loving, capable woman whose baby/toddler/child/teen is SO lucky to have you as a mama. Know when times get tough, the tough get going, and there is always magic in beginnings. No one said it would be easy, but it would be worth it. You're worth it. Your son or daughter is worth it. and you deserve all the happiness, love, and success in the world. It may not all come tomorrow, but with patience and strength, you'll survive the turmoil found in the rollercoaster of divorce and shared custody, and come out happier, stronger, and better than ever.