Self-Care for Single Adoptive Parents

Parenting a child who has experienced trauma or neglect is a daunting task for any family. When you are the only adult in the home, that task can feel overwhelming in its scope. While it sounds trite, the old adage of “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is especially true for homes where you are “the only cup.”

Re-frame How You View Self-Care

How do you take care of yourself to continue to pour into your children when you are a single parent?  For many, the term self-care has become about pampering, splurging, or indulging in “me time” or “girls’ night out”. While we agree that those times are fun, and maybe even necessary, we also think that the underlying framework needs some tweaking.

The essence of self-care is finding what re-fuels and recharges you and then doing it. That sounds simple enough, right? But the re-frame comes when you consider your whole person and intentionally address your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It might feel overwhelming to view it that way, but there are a few ways to tackle that re-framing task.

Change How You Approach Self-Care

You love your (almost) regular mani-pedi. The spa is soothing and quiet. You fall into the massage chair with a whimper of relief after battling traffic. You left work at the last minute and made it just in time to be the last appointment the technician can take for the day. For that hour and a half, you sit quietly with your thoughts and revel in the pampering. But only after chiding yourself a couple times for waiting until the last minute. Again.

But what if you changed your approach? What if you decided to make a standing appointment and lined up regular child- care for each time? What if you prioritized this specific time and told yourself that you are doing so because it is your favorite, fun way to care for yourself?

By changing your approach from a haphazard mad dash to get to the salon at some point in your crazy week to an intentional appointment in which you prioritize yourself, you are intentionally addressing your own care. That intentionality hits a variety of your needs – mental, emotional, and physical health.

What other areas of your life might a change in approach to self-care be of benefit?

Expand Your Definition of Self-Care

You are committed to healthy eating – you see the benefit of balanced, nutritious family dinners for you and for your child. But cooking dinner has become drudgery. And grocery shopping? Forget about it, right? Every night after work, you find yourself rolling your eyes at the offerings in the freezer. Chicken again? You find yourself relying on unhealthy, convenience options far more often than you’d like.

Meal planning is a skill that often intimidates working parents. However, there are so many resources to help you. What if you took advantage of a meal planning resource like mashup mom or downloaded a meal planning app?  What if you went one step further and looked into meal delivery services if cooking is not your thing? Or if you signed up for a regular grocery shopping service that offers meal suggestions based on your order? Take back control of your time, money, nutritional health, and mental health by expanding your definition of self-care to include meal planning. It takes one more thing off your plate (pun fully intended) and gives you both peace of mind and extra time.

What other ways can you expand your definition of self-care?

Increase the Population of Your Village

If you are a single parent, you don’t have a spouse or a partner with whom you can tag-team when you are feeling depleted or overwhelmed. Child-care so that you can get a break just doesn’t happen frequently enough. Most of the time, you just power through even if you are exhausted and running on empty. Or you cobble together what child-care you can get when you can get it. Again, remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Your child deserves your full investment, and you deserve to be filled up to do that investing.

What if, instead of soldiering on alone, you sought out additional people whom you trust to care for your child and built it into your regular routine? Intentional adults in your life who will invest in him with you? Consider, depending upon your financial means, a few options like these. Make them a regular appointment on your calendar:

  • a local teen to be your mother’s helper
  • a retired person from your faith community
  • another single parent willing to do child-care swaps
  • a regular from a reputable nanny service in your community
  • a family member who can offer weekend care

How can you incorporate additional people into your self-care routine?

Use the Resources You Already Have

Most employers offer vacation time, personal time, or some combination of time off to take care of your family’s needs. Vacation time is essential for building family memories and refreshing yourselves away from the daily grind together. So you hoard vacation days, and for two weeks every year, you enjoy the splurge of a beach vacation or time at Grandma’s lake house. That’s fantastic. What about the other 50 weeks of the year? Do you take available time off for your own mental health? Can you re-allocate vacation time to meet your mental and emotional needs throughout the year, as well?

What if you took one personal day a quarter, while the kids are in school to focus on your self-care? Whether that means a day of solitude at a spa, a day to clean and re-organize your home, or a day with a treasured friend – find what refills you and make it happen. What if you did that work trip out of town but stayed one extra day (since you already have to arrange overnight child-care!) to rest and read that best-seller that you haven’t had time to pick up yet? Booking appointments or making advance reservations heightens the importance of the event, so plan ahead to hold yourself accountable to do it.

What other resources do you have to incorporate regular self-care?

Re-Frame Self-Care to Fit Your Needs

There’s no “one size fits all” for self-care. By its very definition, it will be unique to you and your needs. But by re-framing your view of self-care, you can take these suggestions to find what fits you and your family. You can keep your cup filled so that you can be the healthiest, best parent possible for the children in your home who need you.

For other helpful ideas to get you thinking about self-care, check out this resource from our partner at North American Council for Adoptable Children (NACAC).