“You have your hands FULL!” and “I don’t know how you do it!?!” are two of the most popular phrases I hear out of people’s mouths when I explain my current life.
So what’s my life? Well, I am a military and pilot’s wife, so holding the fort down solo occurs quite often. We have three children, now 6, 5 and 3. I am a professional school counselor turned stay-at-home-mom as of the last year. I am also a full-time graduate student.
Just typing all of that makes me want to take a nap.
A little less than two years ago, I was on the struggle bus on how to handle this life. Let me rephrase that- I was driving the struggle bus! All the stress that had accumulated from years of trying to find balance between working full-time, cranking out three kids in a matter of four years, and dealing with it all as my husband travelled was taking its toll on me. I felt as though I had nowhere to to turn to, as we have no family in the area, so I hit what I thought was the “easy button.” AKA: I drank my face off whenever I could.
Alcohol was my escape, my friend, my crutch, my medication, my everything!
Surprisingly, though, I still made time to workout, eat a fairly healthy diet, and occasionally get together with friends. But it took a couple of hard falls to realize that the booze had to go. I had to find a way to face my life, to stop running from it, and find my sanity among the chaos.
After 630 days of managing to stay both semi-sane AND sober, here is what I found works for me:
Stay one-step ahead
If I know that my husband has a 7 or 10 day mission coming up, I prep as much as I can ahead time. Something as simple as getting a massive amount of groceries or filling up the van with gas helps. Planning out meals and/or prepping them helps. Making sure I don’t schedule appointments for the kids during that time helps. Making sure that all the laundry is caught up prior to his departure helps. My husband will also jump in on this process and take care of yard duties, the garbage or any manly things that need to be done.
It’s these little forward-thinking steps that can make a HUGE difference once you’re in the single-parent-zone.
Keep life simple
More times than not I switch into ultra-basic mode during these stints. What this looks like is the kids eating off of paper plates most of the week to save myself from having to do dishes all the time. I won’t touch the laundry baskets until a kid runs out of underwear (which should lead me to simply buy extra underwear ;). I also prioritize my “To-do” list and follow through with only the absolute necessary items.
Basically, I’ll avoid or simplify certain tasks to make room for the really important things, like spending little chunks of time with my kids when I’m not glued to my own school and adulting responsibilities. The house will eventually get cleaned, and the clothes will get folded. I just need to make sure that all the basics are met. Everyone fed? Yep! Everyone dressed? Yep! Everyone getting to-and-from school and/or activities? Yep! Are assignments for school getting done? Yep! Everyone getting some Mommy love? Yep! Then we’re good!
Make “me-time” a priority
This one is HUGE! It is SO easy to get caught up in the mental and physical stress of these weeks, even if I am rolling out ultra-basic mode. Therefore, you will find me squeezing in “me-time” both first thing in the morning and right before bed.
I wake up at least an hour or two before my kids. During this time, I quietly enjoy my coffee, journaling, catching up on IG, and possibly a quick workout or yoga. With the time left over, I begin checking off items on my “To-do” list. Then at night, I might enjoy a quick 20-minute bath. I’ll read. I’ll maybe indulge in some TV, although that’s not really my thing, but hey! When the hubby’s away, the Bachelor will be played!
Again, this step is incredibly crucial because not so long ago this time was filled with either the thought of booze or with booze. I had to practice and convince myself on the regular that wine o’clock is NOT self-care. It will NOT make me feel better as a wife, mom, or woman. Only me, myself, and I can improve myself. So I make these times an absolute priority when in single-mom-mode.
Gratefully accept any help, support or encouragement
As I mentioned before, we don’t have any family around us. I’ve had to manage these years mostly on my own. However, slowly but surely I’ve learned ways to lean on others.
Even if the budget has been a little tight, I’ll spring for a babysitter so I can connect with friends or attend an event. These are also the weeks that my long-distance friends hear from me the most because I NEED adult interaction and laughter. I also post a lot more on IG because I greatly appreciate the connections with other sober moms and friends. I attend church on Sundays for the personal growth, as well as for Sunday School for the kids. Our family is well known at the gym because the KidsZone is the best gift ever! I happily accept the neighbors stopping us in our driveway to give the kiddos a squeeze. Playdates are also welcomed for the sake of everyone’s sanity.
Much like in sobriety, mommy support is incredibly important. Saying “Yes!” to help is even more so important. Letting others in is beyond OK, as “it takes a village,” right?
Last but most certainly not least is staying active during these single-mom-mode stints. If I did not make the time to exercise, even if it’s a simple yoga session in the morning or a stroller walk with our youngest, I would lose my mind and possibly risk my sober streak.
Exercise is by far my strongest tool in my box. Exercise releases all the emotions and boost my mood almost immediately. It gives me energy when I’m tired. It gives me strength to keep moving forward- figuratively and literally. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the gym takes care of the kids so I can fit this time in (nearly) stress free!
Even if it’s for 15 or 20 minutes a day, finding a physical activity that makes you want to move is an easy, cheap, and powerful sanity saver.
In addition to all these major items, other things that help me are coffee, small bowls of ice cream, naps, and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer!
What are your go-tos to stay sane among the fulfilling chaos that we call motherhood?
Alison Evans is a military wife and stay-at-home mom to three. She is currently working on her second masters (like a crazy person) in Exercise Science, and will be rolling out health and wellness services for other sober mommies in the very near future. For now, you can check out her personal blog www.FromWinetoFine.com to read her other sober ramblings. You can also follow her on IG @teetotallyfit.
Authors - Various