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.