In a two-parent household, or an extended-family one, there is another adult to help when the going gets tough. When mom has not slept in four nights, the other party can sometimes be bribed to let her sleep in on a Saturday. When she is sick, the other adult can pick up the phone and order the pizza. When a child gets hurt, someone can drive while you cradle your baby on the way to the emergency room. But when there is only one parent, one single mom or one single dad, there is no one to "pass the buck" to. No one to turn to at 3 a.m. when two children are vomiting to hand you a towel and comfort one while you comfort the other. No one to step in when the stress of it all becomes too much.
I have three little girls who all need me all the time at the same time no matter what. The hardest thing I had to adjust to after the divorce was not having that extra adult around at times to help me out. Aside from the fact that he worked long hours as it was, there were moments when he took them with him to the store or just played outside with them while I folded laundry or tended to myself. That does not happen anymore unless it is his weekend. And during the 28 days I have them each month, the desire to "pass the buck" can sometimes be overwhelming.
Since I can’t, I had to come up with ways for me to feel like I was getting a little relief without the other adult being there. Here are a few of my tried-and-true winners below.
Yes. I will get yelled at for this. Probably loudly. But sometimes, that little box with the big characters that are colorful and singing songs every other scene is a single mom’s best friend. I have been known to get to the breaking point. Mommy this and mommy that and she did it and she looked at me meanly and mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy can be silenced by the power button, a DVD and a cookie. Oh yeah… I sometimes give them a cookie with TV too.
I can admit with great pride that I break every rule I am supposed to have in parenting just to get a break for myself. TV is not always my go-to. But when I need that extra hand to calm tears of "I had it first" or the screams of "Did not!", that color box on the wall can work wonders. As long as it is not their permanent babysitter, I am OK with it being my back-up plan.
The most amazing thing I have built for myself is a network of friends and moms of all statuses on my speed dial. Now, true, I can not call my neighbor at 3 a.m. when one has a nightmare, one wets her bed and one gets woken up by all the ruckus. But when I have to help one with homework, the other wants a snack and the third wants me to watch her do her latest gymnastics skill, calling a pal over can be a great help. This kind of help is not "I need a break, come watch them while I leave" relief. But it is another hand, another set of eyes and another opinion on how to cope all wrapped up into one. I have done the "Please come over here I cannot handle all of this at once" phone call and they come running. When they make the call to me, I come running too.
One of the best things I ever did as a mom was taking full advantage of the clearance aisle for arts and crafts any time I can. I now have a cabinet full of markers, crayons, stickers, paints, craft kits and more that I got after holidays, on the scratch and dent shelf or with a coupon. This cabinet is my absolute best friend when I need to redirect a few of the kids in order to pay attention to one. They know where the cabinet is and they know they have to ask to get something. But when all three need me at the same time, I can send a few to the cabinet and they come back and create with little help from me. This is an awesome thing for those "bored" days, the rainy days or the sick days.
When I was first a single mom, I thought I had to be with my kids, always available all the time. I actually could have been accused of hovering. The more I hovered, I learned, the more they "needed" me. It actually was an interesting case study in children vs. mothers. When I was totally visible all the time, they totally visualized things I had to do for them all the time. It was exhausting. The best thing I ever did was read that a break is good for us. "When we emerge from our solitude, we are stronger, more relaxed and calmer," says Rachelle Disbennett-Lee, a personal life coach in Aurora, Colorado. I finally learned that if I literally walked away and let them play by themselves while I curled up with a book or a favorite show, they would not need as much from me. They somehow learned that when mom was taking a break, they were taking a break from asking something of her. Now, I can walk away and into my room for 15 minutes or so and they will play with each other, "Moooom" never escaping their mouths. Unless someone steals a toy. Or does not follow the rules. Or irritates the other. But for the most part, my "passing the buck" is satisfied by that little time alone.
No mom can do it all. But all moms can do most of it most of the time. When you need an extra hand, a new outlook or just a break and don’t have that person to pass the buck to, get creative like I have. Sometimes you don’t need an extra hand. Sometimes you just need to use the things you do have in front of you to control the situation at hand.
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