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Ingredients for a good mom

Categories: Best Practices


Things are so much easier than they were two years ago, when my son was still a baby and I was still a wide eyed single Mom, not quite believing I’d landed in a one of life’s inadvertent destinations: the all-inclusive vacation equivalent of Siberia.

My son is now 3, nearly 4 really - a functioning, self-bum wiping little human full of ideals and chatter and nearly maniac energy. He doesn’t sob wretchedly when I leave him at daycare every morning and he almost always sleeps through the night. I’ve achieved a precarious balance between work, housework, a social life. Sometimes I falter miserably: I noticed while stacking magazines on the toilet the other day that there were cobwebs on the ceiling. And sometimes while Nolan tugs my hand in the forest to show me the banana slug he’s inadvertently crushed disturbingly with his shoe, I am too busy too notice: absorbed in my buzzing Blackberry and a compulsion to answer my work emails tout de suite because, omg, don’t want to drop the ball in this economy, as the sole supporter of my son. On odd occasions, late at night, I lower my head down on my desk and dream of running up the mountain until I can’t feel my legs, far away from that omniscient heavy knowledge that I am perpetually, inexorably responsible for the well being and care of a defenseless little human.

I won’t lie: I’ve had mini-breakdowns over the years.  A little mad crying session in the bathroom of a coffee shop after my son had peed on the floor.  A little sniffling at daycare drop off when a little girl in Nolan’s class asked me why Nolan’s Daddy and I didn’t live together (also - what the…?)  And sometimes, I feel like a bit of an alien: I’m not part of a couple, but I’m not a freewheeling single chick either, I’m in the Purgatory of the social world.

But still, things have been getting consistently better, more hopeful, more efficient.  I feel more patient with my son lately, more anchored in my work.  I get out at least once a week to socialize with friends and I feel - though I know it could be deceptively fleeting - I’ve struck a balance.

The reason, ironically, is that I finally started being selfish.  I started doing things solely for me, no one else: for Kristin the woman, not the Mom, and that has made all the difference:

1) Exercise, every day.  I started working out consistently again after a two year diet of coffee and doritos and jeans that pepetually hung off my bony behind.  At first, I dreaded going, made excuses, moaned internally every time.  But, after two months of running or shredding 5 days a week: I now love it.  I am more centred, balanced and clear and when I get back from a quick 35 minute run at lunch I’m infused with clarity: better able to do my work, equipped with new serenity and patience.  The muscle I’ve gained and the fat I’ve lost are just an awesome bonus.

2) Solo time.  I usually get this while I exercise, but it’s also nice to grab a babysitter for even an hour or two on a Wednesday night to make a trip to the library of the coffee shop. Having even an hour a week of alone time allows me to remember the woman I was before I was Nolan’s Mom.  And, awesomely - recognizing my Kristin-ness makes me a better, more centered Mom.

3) Social gatherings.  I’ve made some girlfriends in my new city: a single Mom, a chic career girl, a snowboarding buddy and the Mom of 3 down the street.  Their camaraderie and various views on the world give me a circumference outside of dirty dishtowels and little toy wrestlers and help me think outside my box - personally, professionally, and humanly.

4) Good food. For a long time, I ate the leftover shrapnels of soggy peanut butter and half-chewed pizza ends rather than cook a whole meal for my son and I.  This winter I’ve discovered the beauty of pre-made soups and pastas: made on Sunday and frozen for the week.  I have pledged that I will not eat drooly crackers from disgusting plates ever again.

5) The company of men.  This one’s a little harder to admit: but the fact that I’ve been meeting new people of the opposite sex has done wonders for my level of stress.  It’s fun to be told you’re pretty, even if you’re a Mom - it is amazing to be told you’re admired and lovely, and it’s even more fun when it’s not your oldest girlfriend who’s saying it.  I’m in no hurry to settle down and get shackled, but I finally feel that it’s OK to explore my options, as long as my son is kept out of it until - if and when - things ever become serious.

Tell me - what is it that you do that makes you a good Mom?  Especially single Moms, I’d love to know what little things you do to retain your sanity.

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12 comments so far...

  • I am not a single mom, but I enjoy reading your blog. I like your ingredients.

    I am still trying to get myself into working out. I am starting with stretching.

    vera babayeva  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 8:29 am

  • I try and arrange a sleepover for my 3yo at grandma’s once a month. That way I can go out with my friends and truly let my hair down without having to worry about making it home at a certain time of the night.
    I’ve also adapted to getting a sitter for a couple hours once a week to allow myself to regain spontaneity. I either head to a coffee shop, or to a girlfriends house to gab. Either way, it’s refreshing and helps my battery recharge.
    If only I could find that male attention you speak of. It sounds lovely!

    Stacy  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 8:43 am

  • Kristin, awesome post. I’m not a single mom but so many times I just feel like one or so close to becoming one, so I can relate. I’m amazed at myself that it took that long - 3.5 years to realize that I will become a better mom once I’m taking care of myself. This should be in every parenting book in bold letters.
    I would never believe until I tried it myself - 30 D. Shred every day, I think the torture of getting through it takes away all my stress and frustration and there’s just nothing left to vent at my family. The day I don’t make it I don’t like to be around myself. Now I have to figure out how to fit in running, once the snow melts I hope.

    Planning even if it’s just for a day ahead. Yesterday I planned 3 20-minute periods just to focus on my son. It would seem that I’m spending all the after-work time with him, but really I’m not - between computer, dinner, errands, going to bed he barely gets any time with me and I spend those minutes trying to calm his wining. Most of my plans are very sketchy, but it works and I get the satisfaction of checking things off as done even if in my head.

    One hour to myself at night. My son goes to bed terribly late, so late that I’m ashamed to admit it here, he is a burst of energy and most often I would fall asleep at about the same time that he is sleeping. Somehow in a past week I managed to make him asleep one hour earlier. I’m committed to use that hour for myself - bath, long shower, lotions, facial creams while I read - I thought there just no time for all that before.
    Food, social aspect and solo time I still need to work on though. Yes and a vacation on my own.

    Maria  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 12:11 pm

  • Vera - Stretching is a workout in itself - I admit it’s one thing I’m not good at doing post-workout.

    Stacy- The sleepover thing is awesome. My ex does have my son overnight once a week and I look forward to it unabashadly. We need those long stretches, right? At least several hours to decompress, to sleep without thinking we may have to get up and be Mommy at any second.

    Maria - you’re so right about the 30 day shred. It’s so fierce and torturous, there’s nothing left - including impatience? I love to hate that DVD.

    Kristin D  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 12:33 pm

  • K, longtime reader, usually post using a different name…comtemplating becoming a single Mom….difficult situation…not sure I know of a way to make it better..also, not sure I want to raise a son in this environment. I enjoy both of your blogs immensely although this space is near and dear to my heart…for obvious reasons.

    My son is currently a year old (birthday this Friday)…and I’ve finally finally FINALLY begun to feel like myself again…I have finally come to a place where I can dedicate time to myself EVERY day and I can excercise EVERY day…it is actually the Shred that kicked this whole state of being into action. I still do it occasionally when I can’t get out of hte house to work out. My favorite activity at the moment is my lunchtime swim…makes me feel like me again.

    I am currently trying to figure out how I would navigate flying solo….should it come to that. I look forward to seeing what other single Moms have to say on this.

    anonymousforareason  |  March 3rd, 2009 at 12:44 pm

  • I am almost a single mom now, but with the added stress of trying to make it work with someone who says he does, but really doesn’t. My daughter is 20 months (the time has flown by!) and I can’t imagine spending less time with her than I do now. I understand that everyone is different and I am glad you have found a balance. I love reading your posts!

    ramseyquipp  |  March 4th, 2009 at 8:55 am

  • OMG! I could have written this myself! Loved every minute of it and I would 100% agree that excercising and social gatherings is what keep me grounded and less stressed as a single parent.

    The company of men is always an added bonus. Like you, I am not dating anyone serious at the moment, but it’s nice to hear that you can still make head turns even though at the end of the day you have cherios stuck to the inside of your purse. Shhh…they’ll never have to know. haha!

    Missy  |  March 4th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

  • Thank you for this post! I’m a single mom of a one-year old and at this point I always feel so guilty about leaving my son with someone to do something for me since I’m a working mom and don’t get a lot of time with him during the week. It’s good to hear that it will get a little easier as he gets older, and that it’s okay for me to take a little more “me” time than the two hours between when he falls asleep at night and I finally crash at the end of a long day! Thanks again for sharing!

    Still a little wide-eyed  |  March 4th, 2009 at 7:44 pm

  • I’m not single, but I don’t see my husband but for one night a week, our date night. He’s in med school; if that explains it. I really respect your posts and think you are dead on and smart. I wish I could get myself out running at least 5 times a week. I usually just manage one or two with my 13 mo old in the jogger. I’ve tried employing the things you’ve mentioned and one additional; which is to wake up 30 minutes earlier than necessary to have peace time before work. I don’t let myself touch the computer, I just breathe deeply, sip coffee, journal, and/ or read an article in a magazine.

    Catherine Sobie  |  March 5th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

  • I have a 19th month old boy, he is my sunshine. When he turned around 16 months, I realized I had not really seen any of my old friends. We used to have monthly game night in my pre-Mommy days. So, now we have girls day/night out the first Saturday of each month. My husband or in-laws watch him for me. We there are up to 5 of us, do something different each time. We take turns with what we are doing. This Saturday, we are going to a free local museum and then out to dinner and drinks. Last time, we went out to lunch and painted pottery. Not everyone always makes it, and sometimes people show up late. Even just seeing your best friends again for an hour is awesome, and grounding.

    Momma Bacon  |  March 6th, 2009 at 6:44 am

  • I Do some of the things you do! I have started run/walking. I have a wednesday history class…. and yoga on thursdays… my social time is church and sometime the afternoon luncheons… thats about it

    Tenyia  |  March 8th, 2009 at 5:23 pm

  • What a great article Kristin…I need to implement some of these things in my life. I used to be ‘good’ @ being selfish, but I’ve now given up all my time to my 13 month old son. I am not a single mom, but I will be living as one soon as my husband leaves for 19 wks of boot camp in May. My exercise regime has suffered, my weight stays the same when I hope for it to drop these last 17 lbs of baby weight. Ugh! I get next to no solo time or social time for that matter. Some things need to change.

    krystyn  |  March 18th, 2009 at 8:57 am