There's no doubt about the importance of self-care, especially if you’re a mother. You can’t take care of your family if you’re not taking care of yourself. But here’s the thing: doing things for yourself usually means you're able to set aside any time for yourself at all. For single moms, finding that time can be close to impossible.
If you're in a relationship and you need a break from parenting, you can tag out with your partner and go off and do whatever you need to do. But if you're a single mom, as I am, you just don't have the luxury of being able to practice self-care. When you want some time to yourself, it takes a lot more planning and far more advance notice. So while self-care is essential to most moms' lives, the conversation about self-care often excludes single mothers.
I’m a single mother, and finding time for myself is difficult, if not impossible. My 3-and-a-half-year-old son and I live with my parents, so while it should be easy for me to find someone to take care of my kid, my father is much older and can't keep up with my high-energy son, while my mother works part-time. So if I want to go out for dinner with a friend or go to a party, I have to work around their schedule.
When I make plans to see my friends, many of them understand my situation, and they don’t mind if my son tags along. But sometimes, I have to show up at work events where my son would not be welcome, so I have to weigh the pros and cons of attending the event before I decide to go. Sometimes, I can convince my dad to watch my son by himself for a few hours by himself before my mom gets home from work, but if I’m a minute later than the time I estimated I’d be home, he starts to text me until I get home. That kind of pressure often makes it not worth going out anywhere.
It’s easy to tout the merits of self-care. But it ignores the reality of how difficult it is for many moms.
It is impossible to carve out time to yourself when your child is asleep, too, especially because my son isn’t in school yet, so he’s pretty much always home. When he's awake during the day, I'm trying to cram in writing, checking social media to keep up with what’s going on in the world, and planning ahead for the week. After he goes to bed, I stay up and try to have a few minutes to myself to watch TV or play games on my phone. But 75 percent of the time, that's impossible. Either he'll wake up or one of my parents will want to talk to me, and there goes the time I've carved out for myself.
My friend who have partners often suggest I just tell my parents to babysit. But I don’t like asking them to babysit more than a couple days a week unless it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t want them to think that I’m dumping my kid on them constantly, and I don’t want my son to think that I don’t want to be around him. It breaks my heart when I tell him that I have to leave him, so I try to overcompensate by spending lots of time with him.
It’s easy to tout the merits of self-care. But it ignores the reality of how difficult it is for many moms, which makes it an inherently privileged concept. I would love to have more time to do things by myself and for myself, but it’s just not feasible. There are only so many hours in the day, and there are so many things that need to be done. I’m lucky that right now, I have the extra hands to help me try and carve out time for myself. But when I move out of my parents' house, I won’t have that safety net.