Calling a babysitter for date night. Raucous discussions around the dinner table. Freedom to go out with girlfriends from time to time. I chose to leave those liberties behind when I moved out, and now my nights are scheduled with kid activities and dinners with my toddler — which, let's face it, can feel more isolating than a dinner alone.
And here's a fun fact: The last time I hired a babysitter for a luxurious night out on the town, I was so exhausted by 9:30 that I stopped in a Wal-Mart parking lot and fell asleep until it was time to drag myself home in a distressing new take on the walk of shame. Epic.
My experience at Wal-Mart made it clear to me that single motherhood is one of the loneliest endeavors that many women will ever face, and that's because there are very real barriers between single moms and adequate social time. Kerri Zane, a single mom lifestyle and co-parenting expert, agrees. "Single moms are short on time, as well as consistent and reliable childcare options," she explained. The result? Far too many dates with wine and Netflix — not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.
Ironically, I'm not alone in my abysmal social experiments. A recent study conducted by Zane, AYI.com and Mom Meet Mom found that single moms long to socialize at least once a month, but that only 43 percent have enjoyed a girls' night in the last year. This social isolation is more than just lonely, though. An additional study published in Women's Health found that the pitiful social lives of single moms are just as unhealthy as alcoholism, smoking 15 cigarettes per day and even obesity. It's not just our social lives that are failing — it's our very well-being.
Look, I get that socializing as a single mom is nearly impossible. Childcare costs way too much and we're all tired at the end of the day. In talking with Zane, though, it's clear that we simply must do something different if we're going to make it out of single motherhood alive and well. "If you don't allow for much-needed me-time, your stress level will increase, which will lead to anxiety and illness," said Zane. "These problems can trickle down to your children, since a mom's patience can run thin with young kids, especially." Zane suggested the following ideas to dabble with adult fun again.
Join an online community. Check out Mom Meet Mom to find local moms and playgroups so you can begin to build your village of support. If you're ready to start dating, you can also check out AYI.com for a grown-up (read: working single parent) dating website.
Create a single mom cohort. If you have luck finding other moms on Mom Meet Mom, start taking turns with babysitting or form a co-op. Remember that a reliable set of moms can remove your need for expensive childcare entirely.
Co-parent wisely. "There are no gold stars for getting 100 percent custody and never getting a break," said Zane. If your ex is emotionally and mentally stable, use him as a babysitting resource for a much-needed break from time to time.
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