Five things to make coping a little easier.

Ever since I published  "An honest letter to the man who abandoned his child" for the whole of the world wide web to read, I have been receiving a number of messages from women who are, or are about to be, in a similar position to myself, whether that's a single parent by choice, abandoned during pregnancy or raising a child alone for another reason- I suppose it's somewhat irrelevant since we are all enduring the same worries, fears and difficulties.

I've been thinking about these women; about the things they have said to me; the stories they have shared, and honestly, I can't believe how many of us are in these situations.

Personally, I'm yet to physically meet anyone whose story is in any way similar to mine so I've never really thought about how I might advise someone else who is going through or is about to go through what I have - until now. 

There have been plenty of times when I have pep talked myself and told myself I can do it and that everything will be ok.

Trust me when I say that this current mindset is something that I have mastered over time and by no means have I always been this strong. When I'm asked "how do you cope?" or "how on earth do you do it by yourself?" my answer is usually "well, I don't have much choice" but actually, it's more than that.

It's a learnt skill and I only really got to the place I'm at now by enduring some of the worst times and having to deal with serious amounts of crap. But, I'm glad because I have  come to find my own ways of coping and -as corny as it might sound- I've actually gotten to know myself pretty damn well since becoming a mum.

 For starters, I've learnt that I have a slight obsessive compulsive tendency which I never knew I had before (though I think it's probably a counteraction to the baby brain- since having a baby I witnessed my memory disintegrating so perhaps I developed a slight case of OCD in an attempt to not be so forgetful)

"Have I got my keys? Better check I've got my keys. Oh, wait, are my keys in the bag? Definitely got my keys?! Let me just check once more. Cool, got them! I'll just double check and then we can go" ...

......andddddd finally I can leave the house.

More importantly, I've learnt about what I can and can't cope with and for those times when I'm not coping so well, I've learnt how to look after myself and how to deal with the hard times in my own little way.

But, I've never shared  my coping mechanisms with another who might have needed it.

So, I suppose now's a better time than ever!

Here are my five top pieces of advice:




1) GET OUTSIDE!


This comes at the very top of my list because, quite frankly, I feel it's the most important. No matter how exhausted, hopeless, fed up or teary you might feel some days; just get out of the house. Go anywhere. Walk to the shop and back. Wander along to the local park. Go splashing in puddles when it's raining and you can't think of a single other thing to do. Grab a coffee. Meet up with friends. Join a mother and toddler group.

Just, whatever you do, don't sit at home letting those four walls consume you.

Sometimes, being shut away from the outside world can be isolating and it can make life as a single parent that whole lot more daunting and lonely. Plus, being stuck in the same environment for hours on end can be just as frustrating for a child as it can be for us adults and a grumpy child is more than likely to equal a grumpy parent.

So,even when you feel like the last thing you want to do is get dressed and brave the outside world; force yourself to get up and get out. A change of scenery, some fresh air and some human interaction (other than with your child) can be so refreshing and is likely to do wonders for your mood. Honestly, I can't stress this enough. On days when I have found myself feeling rubbish and lacking energy or enthusiasm for the day ahead, I've had to really force myself to go out somewhere, even if it was somewhere I didn't particularly want to go, but by the end of it, I've forgotten all about that rubbish mood I had been in earlier on in the day.



2) Make sure you get enough sleep.


This doesn't just apply to those with newborns and young children. There will never be a time when lack of sleep has a positive impact on your mood and more importantly, your patience. I know you are likely to be sick of hearing "sleep when the baby sleeps" and I also know that few people actually do this (I know I didn't) because there's "other things to get done" when the little one is snoozing, but that advice is there for a bloody good reason. I've come to realise that the days when I struggle, feel out of my depth and feel fed up of battling with a strong willed two year old, are the days when I have had little sleep the night before. 

People laugh at me because most nights I go to bed around 8pm (nope, that's not a typo; I really do fall asleep at that hour- sometimes earlier if I've had a particularly full on day with my toddler,) but it's my way of coping and for me, it really makes a difference. My son likes to wake up around 4am/5am most mornings so the days are long and by the end of it I'm losing patience and I'm feeling grumpy and snappy towards him. He is an energetic little boy who needs challenging and stimulating constantly. The only way I can possibly keep up with his needs without any help is if I am well rested and full of energy too. 

I mean, are you really going to have the energy or the patience to explain to your toddler who is screaming, flapping and rolling around on the pavement over something trivial, that it's not a nice way to behave and that they should calm down, hug it out and move on? Doubt it. You're probably going to lose your temper and/or cry with them.

A good nights sleep is the best medicine. Physically and mentally.




3) Take each day as it comes and pick your battles.



I live by this. If I didn't, I'd probably be a nervous wreck. Remember that you are carrying the weight of responsibility of another human's life, alone. You are working your arse off day in, day out to cover all fields of this job called 'parenting' and you have taken the roles of two people, upon one set of shoulders. You are trying to make all of the decisions, alone. Plus, you are trying to make the right decisions. You are attempting to discipline your child whilst also aiming to be fair and gentle and consistent. You are dealing with every tantrum, every upset and every demand. Times will be hard. Your child will test you and drive to you despair and you will feel like giving up some days. You will wish for help and you will want to bite the head off of the person who watches you struggling in the supermarket and steps over the spilled contents of your bag instead of helping you whilst your toddler flees in the opposite direction. (Yes, that did really happen.)

It's OK to feel deflated sometimes and it's OK to give up, stick a film on and zone out for a while some days. But there will be days that will honestly feel like the best days of your life. There will be days you don't want to come to an end. There will be times you couldn't feel stronger, happier, or luckier. Every day is different. And just because today was a write off and you ended up crying yourself to sleep, it doesn't mean that tomorrow won't be one of the greatest days you've ever had. Just because your toddler was hitting and snatching today, doesn't mean that they won't throw their arms around you tomorrow and tell you that they love you. It doesn't mean that your newborn won't laugh for the first time tomorrow, just because they screamed all day today. In those happy moments, yesterday is forgotten about.

Children (toddlers especially) can be testing. So testing. They can also be draining and totally exhausting in every way- which is why you must choose your battles and forget about getting this parenting malarkey down to a T. 

There are boundaries which I am consistent with when it comes to my parenting style with my son and there are standards that I already expect of him (like using his "please" and "thank you's") BUT..... there are definitely things that I will let slide and times that I will let him have his own way for the sake of preventing yet another melt down and for the sake of my sanity. Sometimes, I give in because it's easier. Sometimes, you have to decide which battles are worth fighting and which ones are better left to go over your head. We have got enough on our plates as it is, we shouldn't make things harder for ourselves in an attempt to be " the perfect parent."

When my son wants to dress himself as half Spiderman- half wizard and he insists on accessorizing his outfit with his scooter helmet and jelly shoes- I simply ask myself: Is it worth it?

Yes, he looks ridiculous and he's probably going to be boiling but he will figure that out for himself eventually so... what do I do?  I leave him to it, chuck a spare change of clothes in his bag and off we go!

One tantrum of the day avoided: phew!





4)Get yourself a hobby and allow yourself some 'you' time.


 When you're raising a child, you're most likely devoting 99% of your time to that child and their wants/needs/demands. And as much as you adore your precious little person, you're also going to find yourself burnt out at times.

You need some time for yourself, whether that's when your little one is sleeping or at nursery. Any little bit of free time you have, make sure you spend it on yourself doing whatever it is that makes you feel good. I have ensured that I do not lose my sense of who I am and what I love doing since becoming a parent. Yes, I'm a mum and it's my biggest achievement to date, but I'm still me and I still need to entertain and express myself in more ways than playing peekaboo and reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar a thousand times over. 

Of course, there are limitations when you become a full time parent. I mean, I can't leave my flat past the hour of 6pm because that's when my son goes to bed and I very rarely have a babysitter nearby or even the energy to go out "late." So my hobbies do not include dinner out or going to gigs (sadly.)

But in my child-free time, I occupy myself with reading a book, catching up on some trashy TV or being creative-It's been a part of my personality ever since I was young; whether it's up-cycling furniture, crafting or finding new ways to style my home; it's what I enjoy doing and I'm not about to give it up purely on the basis that I became a mother.

Having some 'me time' allows me to relax and switch off to an extent. It means that when I'm back in 'mum mode' I'm back in full swing. 




And finally...



5) Stop comparing yourself and your situation to others.


 I know how it feels when you look at those "perfect" families, living their lives the way you "should" be. I know it hurts when you are sat in a room full of families made up of two parents and a few perfect kids, whilst you sit there imagining what life might be like if you had their set up; what it would be like to have someone to go home to; someone to hand the baby over to when times are hard.

It's easy to compare but it's also ridiculous.

You do not know that that couple are happily married, just because they are married.

Nobody sees what goes on behind closed doors and one thing's for sure; it's not always harder being the single parent.

 Being single means that the only people you have to worry about are your child and yourself. Surely there's something quite hassle free and peaceful about that. There's nobody to answer to, nobody to disagree with, nobody to argue with about the night feeds because you're doing it all yourself anyway. I have to admit, in that sense, I actually find it quite refreshing.

Nobody has the perfect family or the perfect life; not even those who might pretend to. Stop convincing yourself that the grass is greener, because often it's not.

I would far rather be a lone parent than be with somebody who was wrong for me.

So next time you feel envious of that cute couple with their "perfect" family; remind yourself to think again and bring yourself back down to reality. 

Perhaps in some ways, your situation is a blessing in disguise. Every cloud and all that......





I hope some of you may have found this post helpful or reassuring in some way. Always remember, you're not alone. No matter how lonely life as a single parent might feel at times, there's always a little person looking up to you and that little person loves you more than you will ever know.