March 21, 2011

On Being a Single Mom and the Last 48 Hours

The last 48 hours have been all about recuperation, rest, settling down, and getting better.

Half an hour after Alejandro and our dog, Toby, pulled into our driveway Saturday afternoon, we loaded ourselves into the car with snacks, blankets and pj's, prepared for a long evening and headed to Memorial Urgent Care. Danny had a persisting medium grade fever and was more lethargic than I've ever seen him. Kiddo's pretty high energy and all he wanted to do was sleep and cuddle.

At urgent care we ruled out RSV and strep, so now we're just waiting this thing out. Since we were there, I went ahead and checked in, too, to see if they could diagnose a sinus infection. They couldn't. At least not definitively. They did, however, send me home with a prescription for antibiotics, which should help, whether it turns out to be sinus or dental or both. Anyhow, Danny woke up yesterday without a fever, and I declared on Twitter that he was fine and that it must've been teething, but then yesterday afternoon, the fever came back and along with it, a nasty case of diarrhea.

So, our first full day together? Pajamas, church livestreamed online, movies, pedialyte, a few intermingled errands, and diapers. Lots and lots of diapers.

Alejandro and I did manage to get some quality time together after Danny went to bed, though. ;) And although having a sick one is no fun, it was sweet to be together. Now, Alejandro's outside working in the garage, Danny's asleep in my arms and I sit writing to you all from my phone.

The last 48 hours have been a mix of sweet and struggle, but it's getting better by the minute.

As I now attempt to undo everything I changed and adjusted in order to survive and thrive while Alejandro was away, I've been thinking about how I made it through two and a half months without him and how I did  pretty well (if I do say so myself). I want to share a few pieces of advice for women who suddenly find themselves as a single mom, either temporarily or permanently.

Before I share, though, I want to say this: I offer this advice with the utmost humility. I am certainly not any kind of expert. These are just a few things that made a big difference for me. Also, I had the unique opportunity to figure this stuff out WITHOUT the emotional trauma that most women who are suddenly single moms experience. I did not have to grieve the death of my husband. He did not remove his love from my life. I was not facing divorce or financial ruin. I wasn't worried about his injury or death on the battle lines. We got to visit several times while he was away and we were able to chat via phone or skype daily. I got to do this growing experience in the most ideal circumstances.

That said, here are six things that really helped me make it through, because despite all of that, it was NOT always easy.  Come to think of it, it would do me well to keep doing these six things, even now that he is home.  Anyhow, it's not by any means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps.

1. Accept help.

I suck at accepting help. It took a total fall apart moment an hour and a half of crying and a stern lecture from my good friend Melissa before I quit resisting help.  All of the strongest godly leaders I know really struggle to ask for help.  Why is that?  For whatever reason, it seems to be true.  In any case, once I allowed the body of Christ to do what it's meant to do in my life, and step in and a lend hand, I struggled much less.  Amazing how that works.

2. Have a "Me day."

With all the things to do daily, taking time out for myself seemed lowest on the totem pole of priorities, but the truth is that if I went too long without some time to get away and have some time to myself, I was a worse mom anyway. You can't pour out from an empty bucket and a car can't drive with an empty tank of gas.  It's important to fill your own bucket and make sure your gas tank doesn't get to empty.

3. Get an Ergo.

Or whatever your favorite baby-carrier of choice is.  Mine is my Ergo.  I can't even tell you how many times this has saved me.  When Danny was sick and wouldn't let me put him down, I put him on my back and he hung out there while I worked in the kitchen.  When grocery shopping was only half done but Danny was DONE sitting in the shopping cart, I put him in the Ergo.  A good baby carrier is worth its weight in gold.

4.  Have a schedule and stop working when the schedule says to.

Moms and Mary Kay beauty consultants have no end to the amount of work they can get done, so it doesn't matter how early you start or how late you go, there will always be more to do.  So make a schedule.  A reasonable one.  Then follow it.  And STOP at the end of the day, and go to bed when it says to.  Simple enough, but doing this made a world of a difference in my ability to carry on the pace for long periods of time.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself.

5.  As you figure this thing out, let some stuff go.

Something's gotta give, so once you figure out what is on the bottom of the totem pole, let it go and don't sweat it.  I'm not so great at this either.  (That's the understatement of the year.) For me, this time it was my diet and exercise.  There are just only so many things I can do well.  This time the diet and exercise was not one of them.  There will come a time when you'll be able to tackle whatever that thing is for you, but for now, cut yourself some slack and just let it go.

6.  Have a sanctuary.

And go to it.  Often.

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