I think that cliff hanger was pretty awesome.
In yesterday’s post, Wolf presented three things (sanity networking, furs for perfumes, and thanks for angels) to help all of us find some alone time. With this half, she will provide us with more specifics.
How to get a moment alone (and what to do with it once you get it) Part 2
Without question, it’s easier to build a network when your children hit preschool or elementary school. You have a built-in community with whom you share common ground. You can help each other in a pinch, including finding a way to get an hour or two to yourself. If your children are younger, you may be able to build your network from mothers you meet on the local playground, after church or synagogue services, or by other means.
- If you don’t have a network, start building one. It won’t happen overnight. We’re talking about getting to know others who will potentially care for your children.
- Is there someone you trust to spend an hour or two with your child? Someone from church, for example? Or a neighbor you’ve gotten to know over the past several years?
- Is it possible to ask that person to stay during naptime – perhaps for an hour? Make it clear that you cannot afford a babysitter at this time, but you would be more than happy to reciprocate.
- Suggest that you spend some time together first. Invite her (and her child or children) to your place – for coffee or tea. Get to know each other and see how it feels.
- The act of sharing some adult time with another parent in your situation will be helpful. You won’t feel so isolated. And then give it a try – cell phone numbers exchanged – and don’t go very far the first time if you prefer. Maybe for a walk in the neighborhood. And eventually, an hour or two for yourself, every other week – or whatever works for you.
- Tap into your blogging community. What other mothers may live near you, or have a sister or cousin or friend who’s in the same boat, who may live in your area?
Is it easy?
No, but it is workable. Am I a trained life coach, psychologist, or educator? Nope. One weary, single mom, offering suggestions from years of experience.
Exchange of services, including for babysitting
Need a way to find a babysitter that won’t cost $10 to $15 / hour? Not sure where to start?
- Try your clergy, your neighbor, your alumni association, a local college. Well, you’re thinking, there’s no trading off kids in that scenario. True enough, but you could trade services.
- Talk to people when you’re out. Be friendly. In line at Starbucks or Caribou. At the library. In the pediatrician’s office. You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who can help, and whom you can help.
Are there skills you might trade with a college or graduate student? Absolutely! Perhaps it’s proofing, editing, Spanish tutoring, web site design suggestions. Believe me – you have skills, and they have value. Exchange them for something of value to yourself. Something like a little “me” time that will keep you healthy and sane.
There really have been angels on my life and the lives of my children. There is a remarkable woman in my neighborhood, a piano teacher, who gives lessons to my younger son. Free of charge. She also made arrangements for us to get a piano at no cost. We didn’t have one, and I certainly couldn’t afford it.
This wonderful individual has been teaching my teenager for 18 months. He adores her; she adores him. She is an angel to both of us, and in his own way, he is an angel for her. Unlike the little ones she’s used to, he wants to be there. He practices for hours each day, has begun composing, and has made remarkable progress in a very short time. She pushes him – hard – and surely she senses that she is influencing his future. Tremendously.
Angels are real. We are each other’s angels.
So what can you do with an hour or two and no money?
Think you can’t renew with an hour or two?
- Even an hour is enough to browse a local bookstore, sit and read (without buying), watch people, write, or simply wander the aisles and poke around whatever is of interest.
- That same amount of time would permit you go to a nearby department store and meander. Try the perfumes. Chat with strangers. Have your make-up done for fun. (It’s free.)
- Or, talk to no one. Sit on a bench with a thermos of coffee you bring from home, and watch the world go by. No one is asking anything of you. (And remember to leave the credit card or check book at home – if I can do it – you can do it!)
- No mall nearby? Take your thermos and a paperback and go. Walk to a nearby park. Sit, sip, watch, read. Breathe. Be part of the world in the most unobtrusive way. Free of charge, while you charge your own battery.
- Perhaps you enjoy massage, but you can’t afford it. Furs for perfume. Perhaps you try a masseuse at a local hairdresser who might exchange a 30-minute session for practice with English as a second language. Or learning to crochet, or bake. Get creative. Trade. Ask.
Another thought? I used to be an avid quilter. I find it relaxing – especially the design and piecing of the top. I always quilted in small bits, and by hand rather than machine. That made my sewing portable, and also, when we use our hands, we seem to naturally unwind.
If you can use your hands to make something, consider it. Knit. Embroider. Knead bread. Try origami. Fold forms from paper and make a mobile for your babies!
A final word on how you spend your time
Even now, with teenagers, I’m a single mom with no “backup.” It’s not as crazy as it was when they were little; it’s crazy differently. I feel like I’m always on duty, or at the very least, on call. But over the past few years, I’ve slowly taken back chunks of time for myself. Probably not enough, or often enough, but I’m doing it. It’s good for my kids, and it’s good for me.
Even if all I do with that time is sit in a bookstore and watch, and write – I’m close enough to be accessible, I’m less isolated because I’m around people and movement – and that is the stuff that nourishes us as people, and fuels us as writers.
Last resort? Host a Latvian. Maybe you’ll find one who can babysit! And yes, hungry foreign students certainly add to the food bill, but the laughter alone is worth its weight in gold. Or rather, dzintars – and the irony in that? It is precious currency indeed, and it means Amber.
Wolf, I am deeply grateful for this thoughtful–and thought provoking–guest post/extensive comment.
I know that I have many angels surrounding me. Many friends who would be willing to step in and give me a break. But, I usually hold back because I don’t want to be a burden. With these ideas, though, I feel a surge in confidence. I like bartering. Both sides win.