My daughter turned five at the beginning of this month and I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on the biggest lessons I have learned in five years as a mother.
1. Take care of me first. I was always trying to do everything I could for my daughter but not really stopping to take time to have "me time" or some self-care. I would often feel burned out and irritated. I quickly learned that in order to have me time, I would need to either get up early or stay up later. To me, having "me time" meant being able to do simple things for me such as reading a few chapters of a book in silence, having a long bubble bath, being able to paint my nails without worrying about her picking up the polish and dropping it (yes - this happened), etc. People are quick to say your child comes first and that's what I thought until I learned! If I do not take care of me, who else will? I cannot pour into my daughter if I'm feeling empty. Remember, self-care doesn't always have to require you spending money at the nail shop, spa, or retail stores.
2. Do what I feel is best. Often times, people try to tell you what you need to do for your child and that's okay. People love to give their opinions without being asked. They will even go as far to tell you that you are not being the best you can be. I actually like hearing the advice of others. However, each child is different and what worked for your child 5-10 years ago may or may not work for my child. Who deemed you the child expert anyways because you have a child or multiple children? It is totally okay for me to go through trial and error and figure out what works and what doesn't. With each day comes a new lesson..
3. My daughter values my time and presence. At first, I used to be so caught up in working two jobs to make sure bills were paid, I was able to get nice things, and go where I wanted to go. People would say, do it now while your child is young. I thought it was okay until my daughter used to start whining when I had to go to my night job and it really bothered me. I was only trying to work to make extra cash. I soon found out that no money compares to the happiness of my child and she really values the time we spend together. As my daughter grows older, she is becoming more aware. She had began to realize that I am always working and we rarely have time together. I remember my last time working two hourly jobs. I would literally work my day job, run in the house to warm up her food or just take out the fast food I had purchased on the way home, and log in to start work again for my night job before I would give her a bath and put her to bed, then finish up the night's shift. I did that same routine for nearly six months. It was terrible and I knew it couldn't be life. A few months ago, she asked me if being a mom was hard because I'm always working and don't have a lot of free time. I was thinking what does this child know about free time... It was in that moment that I knew I had to become more present at home. This meant putting down my phone when we eat, talk, play games, or even when we watched her favorite YouTube videos. This is still a struggle since time is so limited in the evenings. I want to get things done but I also know I have to make mommy and daughter time a priority.
4. Consistency is key in terms of parenting. Your child will only do what you allow. Sticking to routines and rules will help with consistency. Your child won't have to wonder what to do in the morning or at night. This is also true with discipline because they will test you! Two things I am struggling with is limiting screen time and making sure she's in bed on time every night. Sometimes I allow my daughter to have her iPad whenever because it allows me to get things done. My tasks vary from day to day so she may or may not be in bed at the same time. I figure I need to just stop what I am doing and make sure that she's staying on schedule. If you don't have a routine, I highly encourage it. You can also check out my morning routine for inspiration! I'm still working on the night time routine but I will definitely share when I have it together!
5. Being a single mom is okay. Sometimes, people act like it's the worst thing ever! It gets very difficult sometimes, but it's not the worst thing ever. I am sure we could list many pros. Personally, I have learned many lessons and gained many skills that I probably wouldn't have if I wasn't a single mom. Throughout this journey, I have learned that women become single moms for many reasons such as divorce, breakups, death, in vitro, and the list goes on.
6. It's okay to ask for help. This is probably my greatest struggle! My mom was a single parent and I knew how hard it was for her, especially having to end up getting raised by my grandmother due to my mom's mental illness but that's another story! I got a working permit at 15 and had my first official job at 16. Did I have to work? No. We were blessed to have the necessities. I realized that if I wanted anything extra, I would have to work for it and I have been working every since! When I went off to college, I didn't have anyone to depend on financially and I also didn't feel like most of my immediately family really understood the college struggle since they had not been. I never wanted to ask anyone for anything and tried to figure things out on my own. It took some wonderful ladies taking me under their wings for me to realize that it was okay to ask for help in college. I am truly thankful for them to this day!! Now that I'm an adult with a kid, I felt like I was going through the same process of not wanting to ask for help, whether it's financially or just to ask someone to babysit. I don't feel like it's their responsibility so I don't like asking, especially being in a place where my immediately family does not exist. Even when it comes down to asking my daughter's father for things, I struggle. A lot of you may be like it's his responsibility just like it's yours, so why should you even have to ask? Don't think about it, just do it. I can't tell you why. It's just a struggle. However, I have found that there are a lot of people who are willing to help. It is just a matter of asking or bringing up the topic!
What are some things that you have learned on this single motherhood journey?? Please share. I love reading and learning from you all!