One of the best ways for me to explain the radical life change from single to single with a kid is seeing how this affects me on an average day. Keep in mind that as a single parent, there is really no such thing as an average day. Sometimes you get to work completely clean, on time without incident. Other days, you are sprinting from your car to the office with spit up on your shoulder without a shower or makeup. The average days reside between those two extremes.
To provide comparison, first I will share my single girl life without my son. Remember that before he was born, I became an exercise fanatic and my schedule was insane at best.
Average day of Mommy Shark before my son appeared:
My alarm goes off at 5:15am. I hit the snooze button. It goes off again at 5:24am. My muscles stretch under the covers a few times. After that, I roll over to pop in my thyroid medication and put my feet on the floor. Immediately, I make my bed before my brain tries to convince me to return to sleep. My workout clothes go on next and then a quick visit to the bathroom.
It’s 5:35am and I am stretching outside my house listening to my running playlist. My first thoughts of the day center around where I should run to stay motivated. My route changes constantly to keep me from getting bored. My playlist changes often as well. Boredom and thinking about running while running are the two evils that haunt me in the mornings.
After running 3-5 miles, I finally let myself return to my street where I require my legs to sprint to my car before stopping. I stretch my legs while I study my data using my favorite running app to see if I made any progress. Two days before my son was born, I finally hit my running goal of a below 9-minute mile pace. He will probably be in high school before I see that average again.
It’s after 6am. The house is quiet. I pull out my yoga mat for some stretches. If not, I will feel this run later at work. For 10 minutes, I meditate at the end of my yoga mat focusing on my breath. My thoughts wander at times to trying to become a mother to an upcoming dance performance.
Breakfast finally comes and that’s good because I am always starving in the morning. During my run, my mind focused in on the contents of my pantry. I used that visual to get me up one of those dang hills this morning. Breakfast is followed quickly by a shower with music playing in the background. Clothing choices center around my recent weight loss. I want to wear clothes that show off my flat tummy and toned legs.
Driving to work, I am singing along with the radio with occasional check-ins with NPR for news. Arriving at work means grabbing my purse and walking to the office while chatting with co-workers on the way.
My work day consists of answering help tickets, responding to emails and answering the phone. At least once a week, there are multiple technology fires to put out. All of the sudden these problems take up 100% of my focus and attention. When lunch time rolls around, I stop to nuke my food and eat at my desk while reading the news online and checking up on my social media accounts.
It’s 5pm or some time after. I am not great about leaving work on time. Thank goodness my cell phone alarm gives me a warning before one of my fitness classes is to start. If it’s Monday, it’s yoga night and maybe a massage. Tuesday night is my pilates class followed by a dance class. Wednesday night is another dance class with a standing dinner date with my friend Sara. Thursday night is my night with my trainer and maybe a quick bite out with her after my session. Friday night is a great night to meet up with friends after work for dinner or music.
I get home between 8:30-9:00pm depending on the activity. Dinner at home is something healthy and small since I am about to go to bed. Before bed, I make my lunch for the next day, pick out my clothes, pull out my workout clothes and wash my face. Bedtime means reading until my eyes give out. I turn on my sleep cycle app to measure my sleep quality. My eyes close and the day is done.
Single girl days seem like a blur to me. As a single parent now, I often wonder how I spent all of my time. My days were full of gaps and moments of just daydreaming and dancing around my house. Weekends consisted of sleeping in, hiking, social events with friends and more dance classes.
Knowing my life before my son will help you put the next part into perspective. Here is a similar description of an average day for me as a single parent of a 14-month little boy.
Average day of Mommy Shark after my son appeared:
Most days my alarm is set for 6:00am in the hopes that my son will let me use my elliptical machine for 20 minutes before he rises. If so, I take full advantage of this and practically run on the machine like someone is chasing me. If he wakes before 6am and/or he is sleeping in my bed with me, my alarm moves to 6:30am to gain more sleep. My son typically sleeps between 10-11 hours a night depending on how he feels. Teething and illness are game changers.
If things are going well and I rise at 6am, most times he will let me workout and shower before he rises. On a really good day, I can get completely ready and have to wake him at 7:15am to get his morning started. On a not-so-good day, he wakes with me around 6am. Most days, I can remember to take my medication before I venture into his room. If he is in my bed, he may try to take my medication out of my hands before I have a chance to ingest it. With him in my bed, I usually sleep the last hours of the night on a tiny sliver of bed since he pushes my body further and further to the edges with his feet. The bed gets made, sort of, depending on any overnight accidents.
When he is awake, my focus turns completely to him. I get him out of bed which is most likely wet thanks to him falling asleep while drinking the last bottle of the night. I place him on the ground and strip his bed. Then, I find his clothes and start cleaning him, changing his diaper and getting him dressed for the day.
We move to the kitchen where milk must be in front of him quickly to keep him calm. He is starving. While he drinks and plays with some cereal in front of him, I turn on the coffee maker, feed the cats and do his hair. When he is done, he puts his pacifier back in his mouth to signal that he is done with his milk. We go back to my son’s room now where I re-assemble this crib with dry sheets. He is placed in the crib with a small box of toys while I use the remaining minutes to pull myself together. Most days, he plays with the toys throwing them around the room to try to get my attention to rescue him. If he is tired still, he lays his head back down and goes to sleep. Other days, he is not going for this arrangement and he cries while I shower shouting, “It’s OK, baby. I am almost done.”
My time to get ready can be a max of 30 minutes or as little as 10 minutes. You learn quickly as your form your patterns what are the most important tasks of your morning. You learn too what tasks can be combined together. For instance, you can dry your hair while swishing mouthwash in your mouth. I keep toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup and deodorant in my office desk in case that task must be skipped. You learn how to take a 60-second shower to make yourself presentable.
Depending on his state, I may have to pull my son out of the crib before I am ready. This means cleaning him up again and putting up toys, then returning to the bathroom with him in tow to finish. As I dry my hair, I am also moving around the bathroom trying to keep him in line. He is fascinated by the toilet plunger, toilet paper and diving headfirst into the empty tub. Toys can be quickly placed by his little hands in the toilet bowl. My bathroom trash can is useless since he can empty it into the floor in seconds. If you don’t want it in his mouth, you don’t put it in the bathroom trash can.
When 7:30am arrives, we must be walking out of the door. My son either wants me to hold him through the final stages or he wants to run off chasing the cats. I am either putting on his coat and mine while holding him or chasing in through the house with one sleeve on and one sleeve off. I might remember the coffee in the coffee pot. I never forget my lunchbox and purse that I have stuffed into a backpack to make it easier to carry my son.
Getting into the car takes at least 2 minutes. First, I have to convince my son not to fight me to get snapped into his car seat. His favorite rabbit must be handy along with his pacifier. My stuff gets thrown in the passenger seat in front. Let’s just hope that there is no ice on the windshield this morning. If so, factor in another 5 minutes here to scrape, stop and make faces at the boy.
We are at work with two stops. First stop is daycare. My son is probably asleep again after babbling most of the way to work. Rabbit and the pacifier are not allowed in daycare so ripping them away from him wakes him. He doesn’t understand that you need to remove the harness from his body in the car seat. Instead, he wants you to pick him up immediately. Here I have to convince his arms around the straps. I carry him into daycare and talk to him about how much fun he will have with his friends.
Thank goodness my son loves the staff at his daycare. It’s a five-star teaching facility and the best money I spend each month. He is in the toddler room meaning that I must wash his hands first before he enters the play area. Most days, he wants to splash me while I hold his little hands under the water and apply soap. He rather have an entire stack of paper towels than just one. I dry his hands and put him back on the ground. Now, is today the day we whimper for me a bit or run headfirst for the toys? Most days, I am lucky and it’s the latter.
Yep, I am late. I run back to my car and drive closer to my building. My once leisure walk to my office is typically a mad dash now. Chats with co-workers are now replaced with nods with a quick stride. Once I reach my office, my nose is running thanks to my son’s on-going cold and the sprint from car to building. I am starving. It’s 8:15am and I haven’t eaten since 6pm the night before. My lunch box now contains my breakfast, lunch and random snack food.
Work is the same, thank goodness though I don’t often have a spring in my step like I did in the mornings. If my son gave me 10 minutes to get ready this morning, I am quickly in the bathroom applying makeup trying to convince others that I had more sleep than I appear. During the day, I can recognize who around me had a lot more time to get ready than me. When someone enters my office with full make-up and dressed up, I am immediately apologizing for my look for the day. Most days, I feel lucky to be upright and clean.
Before my son, lunch hours were times that I would spend on social media and eating with friends. Now, it’s all about survival. When my son was an infant, I spend most of my lunch hour in his daycare room feeding him or rocking him as he slept. Once we became a toddler, I could not visit him in person thanks to separation anxiety. It’s hard enough to say goodbye once a day, let alone two. So, I decided to use this time to do things that I could not do with him. I close my door and change my clothes. Now, I do push-ups, squats, Pilates and/or yoga followed by 10-minutes of meditation. Meditation seems harder now because my mind wants to focus on what my child may be doing at that time or my lack of sleep. A quick nuke of my lunch then I gobble down my food in the remaining 10 minutes.
The afternoon is the toughest part of my day. It’s typically full of meetings and the lack of sleep takes it’s toll. I manage to get through the day with random caffeine, snacks and if needed, running up and down the stairs.
It’s 5pm. I always know exactly when 5pm arrives. I am now one of those people who log off their computer exactly at 5pm. Thanks to daycare closing at 5:30pm, I must leave work on-time or pay a fine for picking him up late. I have time to log off, pack up, say goodbye to my co-workers and pull my car around to daycare by 5:20pm. My son is tired. He plays very hard especially if outside time is involved. On sunny days, his clothes are full of mulch and you can see evidence of his lunch and snack on his clothes. He runs over to hug my neck. We can’t leave this room fast since he typically wants to show me a toy that got his attention that day.
Once again, my son fights me into his car seat. He is tired. I arm myself with his rabbit and pacifier to counteract his fights. He stares out the window and then fades back to sleep while I listen to NPR on the way home. Some days, he is awake when he arrive home, other days he is fast asleep. I prepare myself for either full-on energy, crankiness inspired by hunger or a combination of the two.
We are eating dinner by 6pm. In my old life, I would never eat dinner before 9pm after all of my fitness classes. Right now, we need to eat similar things. If not, he will eat his dinner while begging for mine. I have learned to do most of my cooking for the week on Sunday evenings so that prep during the week consists of heating something up. My son does not have the patience or understanding yet of cooking dinner.
Typically he starts eating first then I get my dinner ready. I move his chair over to me so that we are sitting close. His feet are typically resting on my legs. If he has his normal appetite, I finish my dinner before him. If not, I must stop eating, get him cleaned up, pick up all of the thrown food off the floor before he gets down. While I finish dinner, he moves back and forth between wanting me to hold him while I eat or taking the recycling bin apart and spreading it all over the kitchen floor. There is always an empty milk jug in the recycling bin.
I work hard to keep him on the same schedule after work to help him understand when bedtime is. Ideally, we play with his toys until 7pm followed by a bath and a warm bottle of milk. Bath time is typically my favorite meeting of the day. He likes his toys though he hates it when I wash his hair. If he is extra tired at night, bath time is super quick with me apologizing throughout while he cries. It’s hard to be young and tired while forced to get clean.
If I am lucky, he is asleep between 7:30-8:00pm. I am not lucky most of the time so our nights end with him pulling out all of his toys, playing with the tupperware and refiling the contents of the recycling bin again. If he is fighting sleep, I hold him tight to me and don’t let him play anymore. This involves fighting and some crying. Sometimes it takes so much energy that I fall asleep in this process and I wake up with a snoring boy on my lap at 11pm. Then, I put him to sleep, clean up the toys, pack my lunch and collapse into my bed.
If I was lucky and he was asleep by 8pm, I use my remaining energy which is going fast to pack my lunch, prep the coffee marker and sneak in a quick run on my treadmill. Most nights, I don’t have the energy to pick up a book, must less read it.
That’s a typical day in the life of a single gal with a little kid. Please note the differences. I have to work to have any time to myself. When I do get time for myself, I can often too exhausted to enjoy it. My focus as a single gal during the day was solely on me and how I looked to others. Now, I just hope that I am clean without something in my teeth wearing something presentable. My son appears in daycare wearing great outfits thanks to fantastic hand-me-downs. I often look like a rag-a-muffin.