Discover who you are without kids in tow
Surviving and thriving when your kids are at your ex’s house is really about focusing on yourself—a challenge for most Solo Moms. After all, practically every minute of our day is spent working on kid things, whether it’s making lunches and doing laundry or chaperoning field trips and making holiday crafts. Taking yourself out of that mommy mindset can be difficult. Whether your kids are away for the weekend, the holidays, or the whole summer, the sudden quiet can be hard to take. To avoid the loneliness of the empty nest, here are some tips for making the most of your kid-free days and nights.
The “coffee cup” list. Unlike the bucket list, which involves big lifelong goals, the “coffee cup” list is full of the little things you like or want to do but never seem to have the time to do, such as watch a movie, go to a concert, read a book, or try a new restaurant, bar, or museum. Make a prioritized list or put each activity on a scrap of paper, and surprise yourself by drawing your “to do” at random out of your favorite ME mug. Keep your coffee cup list full of things that require little or no planning so that you can reach in and pluck out a little something to keep you occupied when the kids are away.
Get healthy. I’m not just talking about going out and joining a gym, though that certainly provides opportunities for both fitness and socializing. Take this opportunity to do yoga or meditate, to get a massage or a pedicure. Pick a new trail to hike; you can join hiking groups and make new friends while exploring. Take your bike out on a ride around town. Ever wanted to learn to rappel or snowboard or skydive? Maybe now is the time. With the house quiet, take a moment to think about self-care, whether it’s relaxing with a glass of wine, enjoying a hot bath, or challenging yourself to some CrossFit. As moms, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. This is your chance to put you first in the health and wellness department.
Take a class. Whether you find a community education class or decide to go back to school to pursue a degree, education provides a great setting for making new friends, learning new things, and improving your life. The year after my husband moved out, I started graduate school. It meant a lot of late nights doing homework, but finishing my degree was insanely satisfying and the classes were amazing. Lots of universities have online degree programs to accommodate our busy lives. Many community organizations offer classes ranging from ballroom dancing to martial arts and from guitar lessons to computer literacy. Find something that is interesting to you, and you’ll meet people who are into the same thing.
Find a new hobby. There are so many things to do when you find yourself with free time. Don’t spend all your time sans kids cleaning the house. Learn to knit or play the guitar, take art classes, or learn a new language. Volunteer for a cause you feel passionately about. I volunteered at our local library, and it gave me a chance to meet fellow bookworms and helped me feel accomplished in the work that I did.
Take a vacation. There’s a whole wide world out there; go explore it! One advantage of having some kid-free time is that you can travel. Get out a map of the state you live in, and make a list of day trips to places you’ve always wanted to see or would like to revisit. Book your dream vacation, a trip to see family, or just a quick jaunt to somewhere exciting. Take a friend or learn to travel on your own. After my divorce, I made a commitment to myself to get comfortable traveling alone so I wouldn’t have an excuse not to go. Now, I look forward to trips on my own just as much as those spent with friends and family. It’s liberating and exhilarating to visit a new place with no constraints—and my active imagination.
Date. Are you ready to start dating again? It can be daunting to face the prospect of a new relationship. But if you’re ready to take the plunge, there’s no better time than when the kids are with your ex. After all, you are a vital, sensual, and amazing woman. Dating can be fun! Whether you’re trying online dating or speed dating, or letting your friends set you up, dating can lead to more than just new friends and/or amazing sex. (That’s right, ladies, you deserve some amazing sex!) It also can lead to self-discovery and new opportunities that you never knew were out there. Check out ESME’s Dating Resource Page to get advice and support as you embark on this new journey.
No matter what you decide to do with your free time, make it about you. Being a Solo Mom is hard and being away from your kids can be sad. Take a step back, and spend some time reconnecting with you, rediscovering who you are as a woman and as a person.
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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