5 Ways being selfish as a single mom helps your kids

Aug 26, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. ET

Being a good example to kids as a single mom sometimes required a little selfishness to recharge. My kids benefit from it. How do you take time for you?

Ask any single mom, especially one with full custody of her kids, if she ever gets any time to herself and you may be met with a smirk, a hearty laugh or a downtrodden look. Many of us, and I am speaking from experience, put ourselves last as moms in general. I think it is just in our nature as women. We care for what needs to be cared for, and we are last on the list. As a single mom, the lack of energy to care for ourselves along with the lack of time collide with the lack of funds and, possibly, opportunities.

I have been asked on trips and to events that I simply can not go on. Whether it be money or babysitters or the kids' schedule, there is no one else to help me out. Sure, my parents come down and help when they can and I have a sitter that I can call on for a few hours. But the sheer stress of planning it all can make it unappealing altogether. Even if it is something I really, really, really want to do. Somehow, it feels so selfish to leave my kids in order to pursue something I want to do.

In fact, it has been well documented that popular opinions say moms should not be selfish at all. I, for a long time, told people that this was my time to raise my kids and I could do for me when they are grown.

For years I felt like I had certainly lived before my kids were born. I traveled, went out, explored and had so much fun on my own time. I earned money and only had to spend it on me and my dog. But now, it seems so irresponsible to pay a sitter to head out to a dinner or birthday party or some other event my kids can not come to.

As I maneuver through single motherhood, though, I have decided it might be OK to be selfish in single motherhood. In fact, it may be one of the most beneficial things I can do. Especially as I raise three daughters who need to learn that taking care of themselves is important too. Plus, by just doing one or two things for me every once in a while, I can offer them a better mother too.

I am more relaxed

Let's face it, kids test our boundaries often. Some days, it seems like it is all that they do. So being able to escape for a few hours to have a meal with a friend or to go shopping alone can restore patience that is on edge.

I am more focused

Because I know that I will be able to get away for a little while, I often tell myself that I need to focus more on my kids when I am with them. Constant requests for attention don't bother me as much. It is the constant "I only get a break at bedtime" motherhood that makes it so hard to focus 100 percent on the kids at all times.

I feel like more than a mom

Though my children are my life, I still feel like there is more to me than being a mom. I am still a woman with an opinion and an adult. Hanging out with three little girls under 8 is awesome. But having complicated discussions about the ways of the world with them is a little inappropriate. Getting out for just a few hours to have an adult conversation only makes me more of a person to my kids than just a mom.

I don't take my loneliness out on my kids

If single moms were honest, they would admit that it can be a lonely lifestyle. Especially for those of us who don't have, nor necessarily want, a significant other in their lives. I have never wanted to trade my time with my kids for any other person, but I have found myself wishing I had someone, and I know that because I have the kids it is a harder endeavor. Just one dinner out without the kids a week, especially with another single mom, can help me recharge and come back less alone feeling and recharged.

My kids see me happy

With a bad divorce and a lot of drama that the kids witnessed, they may have had a hard time seeing a happy mom every day. No matter what I think I am hiding from them, they surely have seen the tears, stress and unhappiness. By taking a little time for myself every once in a while, they can see a happier mom. One who feels her life is well rounded and successful. They deserve that so that they have the same chance to be happy as an adult as well.

Raising kids is a tough thing at times. But if we are honest and realize that we have to be a complete person to be a better mother, it gets just a little easier.

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