Having said that, I have no intention of spending the next 10-15 years without getting any "me time" - this is parenthood, not a prison sentence.
Parents who have the luck of being in a relationship won't find it that hard to have a break at least for a couple of hours once in a while - however their "couple time" is usually the one to suffer. This, unfortunately tends to affect quite a lot of relationships - and might even lead to the situation to be so bad that they end up scrapping the relationship altogether. I had come up with a rough sketch to prevent that prior to my relationship going *poof* - once Creature was a few months old, at least once a week, I would set in place "date night" - and I use the word 'night' very loosely there, since it might be a few hours in the morning or afternoon, not just the evening. "Date night" was to be accompanied by good communication, and I think it would have worked out.
Once things changed, and I found myself facing Single Parenthood, that rough sketch flew out of the window. I started doing a bit of research to find out how other Single Parents cope. I won't have the luxury of another adult being around at night, for example, since I live on my own. So I need to figure out to the best of my abilities how to recognise the signs that something is wrong, and know what to do in advance. Prevention is better than cure, as they say. For a worrywart like me, that certainly seems like one cliche with quite a lot of validity.
After talking to a few friends who are either Single Parents, or their partner is not around most of the time for one reason or another [e.g. working abroad], as well as doing some reading up, I think I may have come up with the beginnings of a rough sketch of a plan. I'm not able to finalise it until Creature is here, of course - and some pieces of info I will need, I need to wait a few weeks or moths to obtain - however, it is a start. So, here you go:
It is late at night, and you run out of formula milk. Or your child has a fever in the middle of the night and you're out of ibuprofen. Or even less dramatic - you have a virus yourself, and you're too busy throwing up to care for your baby. Crap.
These are very common scenarios unfortunately - so you have to be able to deal with the situation accordingly. Some ideas of how to cope include:
- Find out if there's an emergency babysitting service in your area – while these services can be pricey, they can often provide help fairly quickly.
- Develop an "emergency list" of friends and family members you know you can call on.
- Find out where the closest pharmacies are, and what other shops stay open til late. In a place such as Malta, where 24/7 opening hours are extremely rare, it is important to know who to refer to if need be.
Have childcare back-up plans
In Malta, we still have the awesome custom of having babies and children looked after by family members for the vast majority of the time. Whilst I believe it is a good thing, I feel that a back-up plan is always necessary. When I was discussing this with my own mother, she seemed on the verge of taking offence just because I mentioned the words "Day Care."
In truth, it is way cheaper to have family, or perhaps friends, babysit your child - but you have to keep in mind that everyone has their own life to live and there will be times when your usual babysitters won't be available. Or, an emergency arises which involves both them and you. Who will babysit your child then?
I have identified a couple of daycare centres in my area which I'll be checking out soon enough to find out their prices and whatnot. I'm leaning towards a particular one so far from the information I got off their website - purely because they're available 24/7 and provide Home-based babysitting if necessary. Since I don't yet know what shifts I'll be working once I return back to work after maternity leave, knowing they don't have strict hours by when children ought to be picked up - as well as it being within walking distance from home - tends to score this centre a few extra points in my books. I will go into more detail about this later on though - perhaps in another blog entirely dedicated to day cares etc.
Swapping babysitting services with other parents is also another alternative. If you have any friends with children of their own, you may wish to have them babysit your child on one occasion, and then repay back the favour in kind. This means that your children will get play dates! Therefore, you'll have killed two birds with one stone.
Swallow your pride
This is probably the hardest thing to do - however it will be necessary to not only accept help when offered, but to actually ask for it. I have issues with this myself as I feel like I'm being a burden to others if I ask for stuff - however, bit by bit I'm having to grow accustomed to it.
I guess the key to it all is remembering that it is all for your child, at the end of the day - so by asking for/accepting other people's help, you're really just vocalising Baby's needs on his/her behalf.
Build a social network
I find this pretty hard because I've always been an introvert and quite selective on who I make friends with. So I guess I will also have to change this and be less of an anti-social hermit for Creature's sake. I have no idea how it will work out - but I have to try.
Look after yourself
A lot of parents stretch themselves too thin and forget they have needs. I admit that I am guilty of this - I tend to bring other people's needs before mine. However, it is important not to neglect yourself.
I have lived with the attitude of not really caring what happens to me as long as those I care about are safe. Now, Creature's safety and well-being will rely on my own. This means that I have to eat well, and be healthy, not just for his/her sake but for my own sanity as well.
I guess that a modified version of my original plan still needs to be retained. Instead of "Date Night", I will have to come up with a healthy dose of "Me Time" and make sure I don't talk myself out of it. I can already see me as being one of them stereotype parents you see in movies where they tell the babysitter that the emergency contact numbers are on the fridge, and who call several times throughout the night to check in on their child. Ah well, we'll see how it goes when the time comes.