Being able to cope with child free days as a single parent has been something I have struggled with in the past. I am so used to spending my days tending to the needs of S and H, with very little time for myself. This has meant that having these couple of days worth of free time each month is a bit of a shock to the system. I have so much I want to do with that time. I enjoy the peace and quiet, with no one to run about after but I am often lacking in motivation to do anything for myself. I think that I feel like this time is out of routine for me and I’m often so exhausted by the build up to these weekends that I have, on occasion, not coped well with the time on my own.
I experience a mixture of feelings on these child free days as a single parent. I start off by relaxing, having a cup of hot tea in the peace and quiet, snuggled up with Floppy dog. I then tend to somehow think that this is a waste of my free time and that I should be doing something productive. I proceed to get overwhelmed by the amount of things I want to fit into those hours while battling with the need to actually have a rest. I am sure I’m not the only single parent to feel like this. As the years have gone by, I have got myself into a better frame of mind with it all and am able to cope much better with this lately. Here are some of the things I have done to help to cope with these child free days as a single parent.
By learning that I am allowed to have a rest on child free days as a single parent
First of all, I need to remember that I should be having a rest sometimes and that I should not be feeling guilty about it. Sitting with that hot cup of tea is just what I need at times. Being a single parent can be challenging, as well as exhausting so having an hour or two just to do absolutely nothing can actually be quite refreshing. I have done this a few times. The more I do it, the easier it gets to feel less guilty about taking time for myself. After all, what is there to feel guilty about? I have even started watching some box sets to ensure I do sit down for a while. Watching series that have subtitles on (I quite enjoyed The Bridge/Bron/Broen) means that I am not able to do my work while watching how a story unfolds.
Go for a walk
If your walks are anything like ours, then maybe you’ll appreciate a wander by the river or into town on your own as much as I do. Walking an ‘independent’ threenager into school and nursery on a regular basis can often lead to prolonged headaches, especially on Fridays or near the end of term. Having a walk into town, at my own pace, without having to stop to find that perfect stick in the park and without the tantrums, makes me remember how relaxing it is to have a walk.
Do something new
Following on from my last point, I also enjoy swimming on my own. Where I can actually swim, rather than supervise little people. I obviously love taking my children swimming but if I do remember the days when I used to have a leisurely swim to unwind after work. I have been considering joining some classes lately. I think it would be fun to start going to a Zumba, Clubercise or some kind of aerobics session on these child free days. My dream is to join a basketball team again one day but this is not something I could commit to at the moment.
Learn something new
This is something I’ve been embracing more than anything on this list. I love learning. I have been reading all sorts of books to improve my skills as well as to learn new things, from photography to self publishing to how to code.
Feel sad, if you need to
Sometimes, things can be overwhelming and if you feel sad about it, allow yourself to be sad. Some people see it as a sign of weakness but it is not. Depending on yours and your child’s relationship with their other parent, you might feel worried about your children going to stay with them. You may feel anxious about being away from your children. Your children may feel upset about going with their other parent. There are all sorts of complications that can arise in this type of situation. The build up to the weekends may be stressful. It is important to have that release, if you need it. And to absolutely not punish yourself for it.
Meet up with friends and family
Sometimes, it is nice to talk to your friends or family with no little people around. Having a chat with a good friend or popping out for lunch with a family member, can help. Speaking to other adults can be a refreshing change.
I am often exhausted from taking on too much. When it is quiet at home and I am free to do what I like, I often have a little nap. Sometimes I even go back to bed after the children have been collected so that I can catch up on my beauty sleep. I feel a lot better for the extra sleep.
With some of my meals needing to be inhaled rather than enjoyed, it is lovely to buy myself a little treat to enjoy in peace. I often have a short walk to the shop to get some fresh bread, smoked salmon, olives and something nice to drink. Sometimes, I even make some cakes on my child free days as a single parent. I sit down, for the whole time that I slowly eat it. And it is wonderful. After years of hating olives, it now seems I can’t get enough of them! It’s acceptable to eat them as a snack, right?
Watch a film
On days where everything has got on top of me and I am sitting and thinking about things, generally because these child free days are the first time I am able to process whatever has happened, I put on a film. I usually put on a comedy or something that is a bit light hearted. A good giggle is often what is needed on some of the days when I am feeling a bit down about the children being away. It is also great to have a funny movie to watch when I am having a good day and the children have happily left to have a fun day out.
Organise an evening out with friends
This has made me feel lots better before. Even the process of organising a night out for the coming weeks can be fun. It is also something to look forward to. I try to arrange these nights for the next time the children are away.
Read a book
I often just read blogs and websites at the moment, which is great but I’ve recently remembered how much I reading books, either on the Kindle or printed books. Escaping into a different world, where there are no interruptions for a few hours, is very relaxing.
I do love spending time with my children but I am starting to learn how to do some things for myself again during the times that they are with their other parent. It was difficult to start with to have child free days as a single parent. I didn’t know what to do. I could not remember a single thing that I used to do before I had children. I think that accepting that they have to spend time with their other parent, as well as embracing a new kind of freedom for yourself is a good way to look at this time. It is wonderful to remember some of the things that you used to do before becoming a parent. Make the most of it!