Steve Miller said it best. Time keeps on slippin’ slipplin’ slippin, into the future.
When you’re a single parent (or any parent for that matter), everything changes when it comes to your calendar. Not only is your plate full, but your soup bowl is overflowing, your salad bowl can no longer contain the tomatoes, your bread dish is heaping and your glass is spilling all over the table.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the “have to’s” let alone consider any sort of “me time” or maintaining friendships. Eventually you start to convince yourself that in attempting to make everyone happy you’re letting everyone down and the world is frowning on you 24 – 7. In addition to that, depending on how much of the time you have your kids, there is a new level of stress that enters the picture knowing that when you’re on … it’s all you.
And of course with spring comes a new season of sports activities to attend, games to cheer, practices to get to, new grass to mow, weeds to pull, flowers to plant and shrubs to trim. And let’s not forget the fact that school will be out soon which means camps to find, sitters to hire, vacations to plan … all of which means something else will have to be taken off the calendar.
Does this sound familiar?
As parents we want to ensure we don’t deprive our kids of essentials and experiences. But the reality is, at some point something’s gotta give. It’s up to each of us to set the priorities and recognize we’re not super heroes. We can’t do it all. Our first inclination is to simply extend the day getting up at 5 a.m. and going to bed at 2 a.m. But you can only keep that up for so long before you go mental. The reality is we have to be more realistic. It may mean missing a practice, or pushing a deadline, or letting the grass grow another half inch. It may mean working with other parents to help get kids where they need to be when you’re overbooked. It may be, God help me, saying no once in a while.
The world will continue to pull at you from all sides. How you handle it is really up to you. I wrote early on when I first started this blog, that adjusting to life as a single parent isn’t a race. There is no finish line. No matter how you pace yourself, there is always another step to take. ALWAYS. To enjoy each step and not completely burn out it’s important to recognize that simple truth. There is no finish line. Another truth is that whether you’re an introvert or extravert, we all need a chance to recharge. Be aware of when you reach that point and give yourself a chance to replenish your mental, physical and emotional capacity.
For me, I find that when I’m ‘thinking’ about everything that has to happen, I stress out. When I just start doing things I’m fine. Just knowing I’m tackling it, or at least attempting to tackle it, regardless of what “it” is, makes me feel better about things. It’s the first step that kills me. In the Futureheads song “Jupiter,” they state:
The first five thousand miles are the hardest steps to take
Then your autopilot kicks in for the journey’s sake
You’re impossible to break
Impossible to overtake
And it’s true. Once you get going, once you start moving, you start conquering. Eventually you get to a point where you’re system just rolls and you discover you’re capable of things you never imagined. The danger comes when you stop (like I did this weekend). Getting going again can be tough. But the point is, you forget how much you have to do when you start moving. You get focused and your mind can’t dwell on the mountain before you.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
So, sit down, and consider what needs to be done. Make a list (WHAT DID HE SAY?). Yes a list. Then prioritize. Then roll. Get moving. Start checking things off. Maybe start with a small thing. But make sure you have your priorities straight. There will be days when you’re in a client meeting and the school is going to call to let you know your kid just threw up and needs to come home. That’s your cue to say, “you’ll have to excuse me, my kid needs me.” A day will come when they won’t need you any more and you’ll wish they did. So take advantage of these days while you can. Nine out of ten times people will understand. And if the people who are around you DON’T understand, then you need different people around you. But that’s another post.
You will get overwhelmed. Your plate will overflow. It’s part of the gig. But tomorrow will come. Trust it. Do what you can. Just don’t sit and stew over it all. Have your priorities in order. Put your body in gear and start moving forward. Little by little you’ll figure it out so long as you allow yourself to be aware of every moment and soak in the good stuff. The first 5000 miles may be the hardest ones to take, but they can also be the most rewarding.