The house is quiet as the kids are not home, but I’m feeling sick. In the early days of my single parenting my ex lived overseas and as my family lived interstate I cared for my kids full time. This was my first weekend without them. I had longed for it, planned for it, and now here I was, Sunday afternoon, ill. The cause of being sick – over indulgence. I had tried to pack every desire into the weekend. I had eaten my favourite takeaway meal as I only had me to buy for. I had watched back to back romantic comedy movies, but I think it was the packet of chocolate biscuits, at least one block of chocolate and a packet of red frogs that upset my stomach. As my body ailed, so did my mind and I wallowed in self-pity, focusing on my circumstances and my loneliness
So, I went to sit by my fish pond (not the one above!), one of my favourite places to relax, journal, and for me to hear from God. This is the life lesson that came to me:
- don’t cram every pleasure into time without my kids
- take a balanced approached and ensure I self-care
- re-create by doing something I love
- connect with others to lessen the loneliness and invest a little in me and my future
You may have other things to add to your list or not relate to some of mine, but these have helped me enjoy, be re-invigorated and grow through the time I don’t have my kids. Once my ex moved back to Australia, we began turnabout weekends and this time alone become a source of strength to me and lost its ‘woe is me, I hate my life’ focus.
4 things to do when you don’t have your kids as a single parent
Self-care is not selfish. Self-care allows you to continue in the role as a single parent for the long term. It improves the flow of love and quality of your parenting as you are refreshed and giving of yourself from a full tank. Self-care includes resting, de-stressing, looking after your health (so a few treats, not the whole block of chocolate and packet of lollies in one sitting) and having some re-creation.
Re-creation is another way of looking at recreation. You might think of recreation as something you do for enjoyment when you are not working. Re-creation goes further in doing something that builds you up and fuels you to continue life.
You can re-create by doing a physical activity that also adds to your physical and mental health. If it’s a team sport it may improve your relational health too.
Many re-creation activities like craft work, journaling, doing the crossword or a jigsaw puzzle and playing a musical instrument produce a mental state called ‘flow’. Flow is when you lose track of time and thoughts are focused on what has your attention – so your mind is not wandering or focused on you. Being in a state of ‘flow’ turns down your bodies stress reaction.
You are not designed to do life alone. Loneliness is bad for your health. You need people to support you as part of caring for yourself.
Loneliness has a mixture of social and emotional aspects. The social aspect of loneliness comes due to a disruption in social networks. Emotional loneliness is due to lack and/or loss of intimate relationships. It’s common as a single parent to experience both of these – you may have lost your partner, you may have moved neighbourhoods, a low income can reduce chances to participate in group activities like sport and going out with friends.
There are ways to overcome this without spending money. Can you volunteer somewhere, join a book club through the local library, ring or skype a friend you don’t live near, meet up with friends for morning tea rather than lunch which would be more expensive?
Use your alone time to invest in yourself and your future, to create a vision that doesn’t completely depend on your role as a parent. Find and fill your passion and purpose beyond being a parent to help with this. Mine was writing. This grew from a flow activity of journaling to writing books and courses that became my business His Heart Ministry Training. I joined writing groups, did some courses and invested my time without my children in living my purpose and building my future. Living your purpose is the goal of health.
If you are spiritual, use the alone time for contemplation, meditation or prayer.
So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself and trying to indulge every desire, as I did, use your time without your kids to your advantage. Doing something you enjoy, builds you up and refreshes you. You can learn to reframe it from a painful situation to something you may look forward to.
Putting legs on it
List one thing you can do under each heading and think about if you can combine them. Eg. Journaling for me was self-care, a flow activity and became an investment in myself and my future. I even connected with others through writing groups.
- Re- create
Now schedule it on your calendar.